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Michael Del Zotto
Defense is arguably the toughest position to predict– especially for the playoffs. You never know if a team is going to go in shutdown mode or completely overhaul their powerplay. Often times, success will come out of unexpected performers like last year’s Andrew Ference and Eric Brewer.
Entering the playoffs, Zdeno Chara is a sure thing to dominate both offensively and defensively. Chara once again finished in the top five in scoring for a defenseman and should help his Bruins advance past the Capitals. Keeping with the trend, both Alexander Edler and Kevin Bieksa should continue to produce in the lethal Canucks offense. Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk could be the two best young defensemen in hockey so it should be fun to watch what they can do for the second seed Blues. Lastly, Del Zotto on a power play unit with Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Derek Stepan has worked all season; no reason to discount his value now.
This second tier is comprised of regular season studs that may not be facing the most optimistic playoff matchups. Both the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh and Nashville-Detroit series will eliminate some elite defenders at their position which discounts all parties involved. We ask you, the fantasy hockey general manager, to use your own judgment whether to take Kris Letang or Kimmo Timonen, Nicklas Lidstrom/Niklas Kronwall or Ryan Suter/Shea Weber. One guy who looks poised to explode is Keith Yandle, who has a similar ceiling as Erik Karlsson.
Speaking of Karlsson, the Norris Trophy candidate is bumped down to the third tier simply because facing the Rangers in the first round is a very tough task. Other regular season standouts like Dennis Wideman, Dan Boyle and Brian Campbell all take a bump in value since they might only last 4-7 games. Drew Doughty gets put in a good position on this tier mainly because of his talent level. Should Jonathan Quick and company be able to upset the Canucks, Doughty likely would have elevated his offensive game.
Duncan Keith, Mike Green and Brent Burns make up their own tier as players capable of doing more but put in awkward scenarios. Green has barely produced since returning from injury but remains a rare defender capable of scoring 20 goals or 70 points. Similarly, Keith might not be a Norris Trophy winner this year but he certainly knows how to win games in the postseason. Burns had an up-and-down first season in San Jose but he still posted double digits in goals for the third time in his career.
Our final tier is our workhorses. These four play big minutes on good teams, picking up points more due to their circumstances. Ekman-Larsson plays on a lethal top power play unit alongside Radim Vrbata, Ray Whitney, Shane Doan and Michal Hanzal, giving him a good boost in value. Carle is typically on the second power play unit in Philadelphia, with players like Jaromir Jagr, Matt Read and Brayden Schenn. Likewise, Brent Seabrook has been a minute eater for most of his career, grabbing secondary assists from his talented teammates. McDonagh isn’t a bad player to take a flier on since the Rangers have a favorable seeding and he plays tons of minutes with their dynamic top line.
We hope you enjoyed our latest entry as much as we enjoyed writing it. If there are glaring omissions let your voice be heard in the comments. Regardless, make sure to take all of the advice in and continue to check our renowned starting goalies section, which is updated all hours of the day until puck drop. You can also follow us on Twitter @DailyFaceoff