Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Puck Stops Here: Playoff Primer

Welcome back to another exciting edition of The Puck Stops Here. Before jumping into hockey I would like to mention a new edition to for the NCAA tournament. Dan Elzer is authoring a new article, Above The Rim. He has already previewed the major conference tournaments, will be adding bracket analysis this Sunday and bracket advice next week. Dan is a former Division 1 basketball player who has a special eye for college basketball, be sure to check here for his advice.

Onto the ice, the NHL regular season is quickly winding down, which means you are either in the play offs or a week away. This week we will focus on playoff strategy as well as a couple players who may be able to help you in your playoff run. Remember, the nuances for head to head playoff hockey changes in comparison to the regular season. There may be ethical qualms with the strategies I mention, and I do not specifically endorse any strategy, but I have seen them work well.

Streaming: Streaming is despised in most fantasy circles, but those who hate it are the ones who are constantly burned by it. Streaming occurs when a player consistently drops and adds players on a daily basis to accumulate stats. Hockey is especially susceptible to this because there isn’t a category that hurts an owner by adding numerous poor players. The more skaters you dress, the more opportunity to accumulate stats. It is unfortunate to say this because it can ruin a league, but this works really well in hockey for the above reason. If you are desperate and lack a conscience then streaming might be enough to win your league. Be careful with this strategy, I have seen people booted from leagues the following year for doing this.

Focus on your opponent: Unlike the regular season, in the playoffs it doesn’t matter if you shut out your opponent or simply win on a tie breaker, winning is all that matters. Watch the standings everyday and adjust your lineup accordingly. If you have a narrow lead in GAA and S% don’t risk it. Take the 2 points, you assure yourself that you will at least tie the goalie stats. Don’t make the mistake of becoming greedy and trying to sweep goalie categories, sure it may work out, but if you lose GAA and S% trying to win W then you lost 2-1. This goes for other categories depending on league format. Use your head and try to hedge your bets. You don’t need to blow out your opponent, just win.

Combo Strategy: It may be too late to do this, but if your leagues are like mine there are 7 offensive categories and 4 goalie categories. If it is possible to trade or there are valuable free agents you can drop your goalies pick up extra skaters and attempt to dominate the offensive categories. At the same time, you can stream goalies. Streaming goalies almost ensures you will lose GAA and S% but you will probably win W and possibly get lucky and pick up a shut out. You will effectively give yourself the best opportunity to win offensive categories while being able to try and get a goalie category or two. This can be very effective, but this is also looked down upon because of the streaming aspect.

Sergei Samsonov, W, Car: I have been very skeptical of Samsonov, which is why he has yet to be mentioned in The Puck Stops Here, but he is slowly making me a believer. Samsonov has 24 points in his last 26 games and is getting plenty of ice time with Carolina’s top units. He is available in most leagues even though he has been very productive. Each time it looks like he is about to struggle, he picks it back up again. I was skeptical because it has been so long since he has been good, but at the same time he used to be really good. He was a top ten draft pick and rookie of the year, if he is still available give Samsonov a chance, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Michel Ouellet, W, TB: Ouellet was touted as a possible sleeper before the season but this view quickly fizzled, as most sleeper picks do. However, since the trade deadline a new Michel Ouellet has been punching his card in Tampa Bay. In the 9 games since the deadline Ouellet has scored 7 goals and 4 assists while tallying a plus 4 +/-. Ouellet definitely has scoring touch; he just needs the proper ice time to let it show. He is currently getting that ice time and is rewarding Tampa with great production. He is worth an add, however if he begins to struggle don’t by shy about dropping him. He has been known for his inconsistency.

Braydon Coburn, D, Phi: I have mentioned Coburn before, but owners still haven’t caught on to his great play. Coburn provides scoring touch with PIM and a great +/-. He is a top 20 defenseman over the entire season and a top 5 defenseman over the last month. Yet, he remains on the waiver wire in most leagues. Take advantage of your opponent’s ineptitude and pick up Coburn, you will be getting #2 defenseman production at almost no cost. I’ve heard of worse things in life.

Good luck with your play off match-ups. One last word on strategy, don’t go down one road and at the same time try to go down another. Pick a strategy and run with it, trying to do too many things will surely result in a failure. Until next time, The Puck Stops Here.

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