Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Puck Stops Here: March Madness

Well it’s that time of year again. It’s for all the marbles now. Teams are being eliminated every weekend as we move closer to a champion. No I am not talking about NCAA March Madness, but fantasy hockey playoffs. For most fantasy hockey managers the playoffs began this week. I don’t care if you made it as the last seed or the first; this is the moment of truth. Paying a little extra attention can mean the difference between tweaking your fantasy baseball roster or a playing for a championship.

Before getting to some players who may be able to help you advance, here are some tips to think about that are specifically useful during head to head playoffs. Your opponent will surely post a message filled with four letter expletives, but streaming is usually a successful tactic where poor performance doesn’t really hurt. Streaming was essentially made for hockey. I recommend rules against it in all leagues, but if it isn’t illegal and you have some expendable players, use it. The team that plays the most games usually wins. By streaming you get the most games. If you use it, don’t say I didn’t warn you. One of my leagues even kicked a person out for streaming.

For those of you with bye weeks, this is not the time to forget about your team. You should still be scouring box scores and making sure you are paying attention. Too many times I have seen someone not pay attention and, when its too late, realize one of his guys is day-to-day. Day-to-day in fantasy playoffs is killer. As I said above, you need as many games played as possible, don’t waste a roster spot on an iffy day-to-day player.

I have just a couple last tactics for you to consider. Don’t carry a defenseman that isn’t producing. Chances are you can find a forward out producing most of your defensemen. If you play the scheduling game well enough you can take advantage of this. Lastly, take a chance on a Carcillo type player when you roster isn’t full. If you hit the jackpot, one big PIM night will almost guarantee you that category in a given week.

Antoine Vermette’s move to the Columbus Blue Jackets has lit a fire in him and he is really producing. In his five games with the Jackets, he has three goals and three assists in five games including two power play points. He has also been a plus two since the move, which would have been higher if the Jackets didn’t run into the scorching Red Wings on Sunday. Vermette can definitely add some value to a playoff team and should be added in exchange for anything expendable.

One of my favorite up and coming NHL stars is playing well again. David Booth just barely misses the cut as a fantasy regular, but his recent hot streak can’t be ignored. In his last five games he has five goals and four assists in five games. He hasn’t found any consistency yet, but when he is hot, he is really hot. He was hot in late December and early January and during that stretch he was very valuable. He looks to be heating up again and would be very valuable if he stays hot. Don’t forget, Florida is depending on him with Horton injured, so he will continue to get plenty of ice time.

Much like Booth, Kyle Okposo has shown flashes of a budding star, but he hasn’t been able to produce consistently. The super sophomore has found himself on another hot streak with points in six straight games including four goals. Of great significance, in two of those games he combined for 15 shots. Naturally, many of the younger players are becoming accustomed to the NHL and are producing more. Ride Okposo’s hot streak while it lasts.

Time for a few quick notes. I still can’t figure out why Jason Blake is available in 30% of leagues. He is the 50th ranked player in fantasy hockey over the last month. Even in shallow leagues he is ownable...Back to the Ryan Miller watch. He is skating again, but I still doubt he gets back in time to be fantasy relevant. However, he is worth keeping an eye on...I mentioned Alex Burrows last week and he continues to produce. He has produced eight consecutive games with either at least one point or two penalty minutes. Go get him.

As always, feel free to post any comments or questions you may have. Until next week, The Puck Stops Here.

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