The shortened 48-game regular season has come and gone and now it is time for the playoffs! Just because the regular season is over doesn’t mean fantasy hockey is over. In this article I will be giving a small preview of each first-round series in the EAST and then players on each team that hold good value in fantasy playoff pools.
FACT: This is the first time since 1996 that all Original-6 teams (BOS, CHI, DET, MON, NYR and TOR) have made the playoffs.
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #8 New York Islanders
Penguins – 36-12-0 = 72 Points / 1st in NHL 3.38 Goals per Game; 12th w/ 2.48 Goals against per Game
Islanders – 24-17-7 = 55 Points / 7th w/ 2.81 Goals per Game; 21st w/ 2.83 Goals against per Game
Both teams enter the playoffs having played well down the stretch. Pittsburgh is 8-2-0 in their last 10 while New York was 6-1-3. The Penguins will hope to get Sidney Crosby back who has been out since March 30th with a broken jaw. The Penguins won the season series 3-1 while outscoring the Isles 15-to-9.
Penguins: In a playoff pool the Penguins players are more valuable because they are very-likely going to continue to the second round. Obviously Sidney Crosby, Evegeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla, Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz are going to be hot commodities. Someone like Pascal Dupuis might slide under the radar a bit and would be someone who could hold a ton of fantasy value in the playoffs. He scored 12 points in 13 games down the stretch without Crosby in the lineup.
Islanders: The Islanders probably are not going to win this series but you should be able to get some points out of John Tavares and Matt Moulson before it is over for them. They each had good seasons, but you probably should not dig too deep into the Islanders roster because they are not going to be around for long.
#2 Montreal Canadiens vs. #7 Ottawa Senators
Canadiens – 29-14-5 = 63 Points / 4th w/ 3.04 Goals per Game; 14th w/ 2.58 Goals against per Game
Senators – 25-17-6 = 56 Points / 27th w/ 2.33 Goals per Game; 2nd w/ 2.08 Goals against per Game
Montreal has struggled a bit towards the end of the season, but they won enough games to secure the Northeast Division and the second seed in the Eastern Conference. As for the Senators they really struggled and almost slipped out of the playoffs, but then the got Erik Karlsson back. Karlsson is key for this team and should give the Senators a chance to win this series. Ultimately I think it will come down to Craig Anderson. If he can go save-for-save with Carey Price then the Sens can pull off the upset. They split the season series 2-2 (each with a shooutout win). The Sens outscored Montreal 10-7 in the four contests.
Canadiens: Nobody on this team scored at a point per game pace, but PK Subban finished tied with Kris Letang for the NHL scoring lead amongst defensemen. The Habs do not really have anyone who has a ton of playoff experience or that is known as a playoff performer. However you have to look at their best players like Max Pacioretty and Subban as guys who will need to get it done for the Habs to be successful. Someone like Michael Ryder could be a great value pick. He scored 17 points in 25 games with the Bruins in the 2010-11 NHL Playoffs. Brendan Gallagher is an in-your-face player who is great for the playoffs, so he might be someone to keep an eye on in the late rounds
Senators: Everybody is going to be looking at Karlsson. He is their best player. They have a young team with a lot of offensive skill but no playoff experience. Sergei Gonchar is a solid playoff performer, posting 84 points in 125 career playoff games. Daniel Alfredsson will be leaned on heavily for leadership, but can he get the job done offensively? He posted eight points in six games in a first round loss in 2009-10. I expect Kyle Turris to step up and have a good first round, even if the Sens lose the series. If they win he should be a big part of their success.
#3 Washington Capitals vs. #6 New York Rangers
Capitals – 27-18-3 = 57 Points / t-4th w/ 3.04 Goals per Game; 18th w/ 2.71 Goals against per Game
Rangers – 26-18-4 = 56 Points / 15th w/ 2.62 Goals per Game; 4th w/ 2.25 Goals against per Game
I think the rest of the Eastern Conference is happy to see these two teams playing each other. Both the Rangers and Capitals have gotten hot at the right time. The Rangers were bad until the trade deadline. They made some significant moves including acquiring Ryan Clowe and trading Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets. They went 9-3-1 down the stretch. It is all about Alex Ovechkin for the Caps. They were struggling at one point and then BOOM! Ovie was back and on fire. They are in the worst division in the league which led to their #3 rank in the East but they are red-hot entering the playoffs. They finished 15-3-2 in their last 20 games. These two teams met in the second round last year, the Rangers won the series in seven. They also won the season series 2-1, outscoring the Caps 8-4.
Capitals: The Caps have a good chance to win this Series as long as they continue to get good goaltending from Braden Holtby. Ovechkin and Backstrom are obviously their top guys and will go early. The trio of Mike Ribeiro, Troy Brouwer and Martin Erat will be key for the Capitals. This will be Ribeiro’s first trip to the playoffs since 2007-08 when he scored 17 points in 18 games for the Stars. Brouwer had his best season as a pro this season, scoring 19 goals in 47 games. He could translate his strong season into the playoffs, making him a good sleeper. Erat has never played on a team who has ever really had a good chance to do well in the playoffs. The Caps gave up a lot to get him so they will be expecting big things. Lastly Mike Green has been on a tear. He has 18 points in his last 15 games, he like Alex Ovechkin appear to be back to their old-selves.
Rangers: Rick Nash has only appeared in four playoff games in 2008-09, where he recorded three points. He will go early along with the great playoff performer Brad Richards and the captain Ryan Callahan. Even though Derek Stepan had an amazing year he could drop just because he is not a house hold name just yet. Derek Brassard was acquired in the Gaborik trade and is a young offensive playmaker that could make a difference in his first NHL playoff appearance, giving him some late round value.
#4 Boston Bruins vs. #5 Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston – 28-14-6 = 62 Points / 13th w/ 2.65 Goals per Game; 3rd w/ 2.21 Goals against per Game
Toronto – 26-17-5 = 57 Points / 6th w/ 3.02 Goals per Game; 17th w/ 2.67 Goals against per Game
It is the first time the Maple Leafs have made the playoffs since 2004. Unfortunately for them they have to take on the Boston Bruins in the first round. The Bruins are a strong team that should have finished second in the East, but started to hit some bumps in the road toward the end of the season. The playoffs are an entirely new season and I think they’ll find their game again and should take care of the Leafs. Boston won the season series 3-1, while out scoring the Leafs 9-7.
Bruins: Boston does not have any one player that is a standout superstar. They have a very balanced offensive attack and most of their forwards are good two-way players. Brad Marchand struggled in the playoffs last season but his style of play is made for playoff hockey. Patrice Bergeron is probably Boston’s best forward, he has 42 points in 61 career playoff games. Tyler Seguin has 10 points in 20 games in the playoffs, but he is still just 21 years-old and could take over at any time. Jaromir Jagr is playoff stud. He has 189 points in 180 playoff games and was brought to Boston for that very reason. Milan Lucic has had a terrible season and will look to redeem himself in the playoffs, making him an interesting pick in fantasy. All these players could be great options.
Maple Leafs: This is an interesting team in terms of fantasy playoffs. They need James Reimer to stand on his head if they are going to beat the Bruins. Phil Kessel is an elite goal scorer (10 goals in his last 10 games) and will likely be an early pick. James van Riemsdyk is the only player on this team who was in last years playoffs. He is just 23-years-old so we still don’t know what to expect out of him. The same goes for Nazem Kadri who had a great season in Toronto. Joffrey Lupul should be a safe pick this year. He is a hard working, strong offensive player who is ideal for playoff hockey.
For a Preview of the Western Conference click HERE
EDITORS NOTE: If you have any Fantasy Playoff questions post them into the comments below or tweet us @DailyFaceoff or me directly @Brock_Seguin and we will answer you as quickly as possible! Good Luck to everyone!