Fantasy Hockey Playoff Advice: Players to Watch and Strategy to Use
As we near the final month of the season the NHL playoff race is really heating up. With three teams in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference and two teams within 5 points of 8th in the East, the final few weeks of the season are poised to nail biters. So, this begs the question, what does this mean for fantasy poolies?
Here are a few key pieces of fantasy hockey advice for the homestretch of the NHL season: typically teams who are only a few points out the playoffs and teams on the cusp of losing their playoff position tend to play a tighter style than usual. This can result in low scoring contests in games involving teams in this type of position. You will also want to keep a close eye on key injuries as players take their game to the next level, injuries can often occur. The last thing you want is an injured player on your roster leading into your fantasy hockey playoffs. Lastly, players on teams that are jockeying for home ice advantage (vying for the 4th seed or higher) are often great picks to rack up potential points.
In the West, the Chicago Blackhawks have moved into fourth place in the Western Conference race winning 8 straight games. Hawks stars Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Dave Bolland have been on fire over the last 2 weeks and look to continue their hot streaks. As Calgary tries to continue their move from mediocrity to playoff team, Jarome Iginla, a clutch performer should continue to carry the Flames on his back. The St. Louis Blues have all but fallen out of the playoff race as they trail the Kings by 10 points which takes some of the pressure off of the team and allows their new acquisitions settle into a new system. Look for Chris Stewart to stay hot, playing on the first line with David Backes and Andy McDonald who is also playing well of late.
Western Conference Fantasy Hockey Players to Watch:
Matt Calvert (CLB): 10 pts in last 10 games
Anze Kopitar (LA): 1G, 6A in last 5 games
Loui Eriksson (DAL): 3G, 2A in last 5 games
Sam Gagner (EDM): 5 pts in 4 games after the loss of Taylor Hall to injury
Nicklas Lidstrom (DET): 6 pts in last 5 games
Jose Theodore (MIN): 2W, 7GA in last 4 games
Corey Crawford (CHI): 5 wins in 5 games
The Eastern Conference playoff race is not as tight as the West, but may prove to be quite interesting in the final days of the season. With Buffalo, Toronto, Carolina, and New York looking to oust each other from a playoff spot, watch for a lot of low scoring/overtime games. In contrast, Washington, Boston, and New Jersey have all been on fire of late all putting together impressive winning streaks. In hopes of salvaging a poor season, Ilya Kovalchuck and Brian Rolston (who insanely was not claimed off of waivers earlier this season) have been tearing up the ice for several weeks now and show no signs of slowing down. Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals seems to be rounding into playoff form with 7 points in his last 5 games. Washington has struggled offensively this year, so a revitalized Ovechkin makes them a dangerous playoff team. The Boston Bruins also seem poised to give Philadelphia and Washington a run for their money after winning 7 of their last 10 games. This is due in large part to a balance attack lead by Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Milan Lucic.
Eastern Conference Fantasy Hockey Players to Watch:
Ryan Callahan (NYR): 7 pts in last 5 games
Andrei Kostitsyn (MTL): 6 pts in last 4 games
Dustin Byfuglien (ATL): resurgence of late with 1G, 3A in last 4 games
Phil Kessel (TOR): 2G, 3A in last 5 games
Carey Price (MTL): 3 wins in last 3 games, 1 SO
Martin Brodeur (NJ): 4 wins in last 4 games