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 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #8 Minnesota Wild
Blackhawks – 36-7-5 = 77 Points / 2nd in NHL w/ 3.38 Goals for per Game; 1st w/ 2.02 Goals against per Game
Wild – 26-19-3 = 55 Points / 22nd w/ 2.46 Goals per Game; t-15th w/ 2.60 Goals against per Game
The Blackhawks have been dominant all season long and it is not likely likely going to stop now. Entering the season their one question mark was their goaltending. However those questions have been put to rest now that the combination of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery posted the lowest goals-against this season. The Wild expected more than an eighth place finish when they signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter this offseason. They are struggling to score without Danny Heatley and Jason Pominville, which will likely spell their demise in this series. Chicago won the season series 2-1, outscoring the Wild 8-5.
Blackhawks: The Hawks players are likely going to come off the board quickly because they are favorites for the Cup. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp are going to get their points. You should be able to find some value in players like Brandon Saad who has come on strong this season and Dave Bolland, who has missed the last three games but could be back on Tuesday. He has been a good playoff performer in his career, posting 37 points in 49 games. And you can’t forget about Duncan Keith who would have posted his fifth straigh 40+ point season if it were an 82-game season.
Wild: Parise, Suter and Mikko Koivu all had successful seasons. The Wild have not had much secondary scoring thus far and they will need some of their bottom-6 to step up if they are going to pull off the upset. Parise, Suter and Koivu will likely be the only ones worth drafting.
#2 Anaheim Ducks vs. #7 Detroit Red Wings
Ducks – 30-12-6 = 66 Points / 8th w/ 2.79 Goals per game; t-9th w/ 2.40 Goals against per Game
Red Wings – 24-16-8 = 56 Points / t-19th w/ 2.54 Goals per Game; 5th w/ 2.29 Goals against per Game
The Detroit Red Wings won four straight down the stretch to extend their playoff streak to 22 years. They will take on an Anaheim team who has been consistent all season. Detroit struggled to score for most of the season but when they got desperate, their star players showed up. Both teams have good experienced players mixed with inexperienced young players and good goaltending. Jimmy Howard won four straight with a 0.75 GAA and .969 SV% and two shutouts to clinch a playoff berth while the Ducks have used both Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth all season. The Red Wings won the season series 2-1 while outscoring the Ducks 9-7.
Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan will attract a lot of attention after strong seasons. Veterans Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne could be great mid-round pickups as they’ve been great playoff players in the past. However there is not too many other players that jump off the page at you. It is not going to be an easy series for the Ducks and they will need either Hiller or Fasth to step up and match Howard.
Red Wings: The Wings top line of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader has caught fire as of late. Abdelkader provides a physical force on a highly skilled line. Datsyk and Zetterberg combined for four goals and 14 assists in the final four games of the seasson. Johan Franzen struggled at times this season but he scored seven goals and six assists in the last 13 games. He has always been a great playoff performer (73 points in 88 games) so catching fire at the right time might be all the Red Wings need to pull off the upset. Vallteri Filppula is another player who struggled but started playing well late in the season. Young players like Damian Brunner and Gustav Nyquist will make great late value picks should the Red Wings make it out of the first round. And one of the most important players to the Red Wings is Niklas Kronwall, who yet again had a great year. He has 40 points in 79 career playoff games.
#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 San Jose Sharks
Canucks – 26-15-7 = 59 Points / t-19th w/ 2.54 Goals per Game; t-9th w/ 2.40 Goals against per Game
Sharks – 25-16-7 = 57 Points / 24th w/ 2.42 Goals per Game; 6th w/ 2.33 Goals against per Game
This is a battle between two strong West Coast teams. It should be a physical series with a lot of offense but at the same time great goaltending. Should Cory Schneider be healthy he will start for the Canucks and he has had a great year (17-93, 2.11 GAA, .927 SV%). As for the Sharks, Antti Niemi has had a Vezina worthy season himself (24-12-6, 2.16 GAA, 924 SV%). The Sharks dominated the season series winning all three games vs. Vancouver, outscoring them 9-5 in the process.
Canucks: Obviously the Canucks have Daniel and Henrik Sedin who will be early picks. But after them they have a handful of players who are not standouts offensively but should provide you with some mid-round offense. Mason Raymond, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy are players that will all get the job done. If they don’t then the Canucks will not make it past the Sharks.
Sharks: The Sharks are an interesting playoff team because they were sellers at the Trade Deadline but still made the playoffs. They got rid of veterans Ryan Clowe and Douglas Murray who are both good playoff players. They still have plenty of talent on their roster. Obviously Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are there and will pile on the offense. However the two most intriguing players on this team are Logan Couture and Brent Burns. Couture scored five goals and three assists in his last seven games. Burns was moved to forward mid-season and has looked dominant. He has posted four goals and six assists in his last 13 games.
#4 St Louis Blues vs. #5 Los Angeles Kings
Blues – 29-17-2 = 60 Points / 18th w/ 2.56 Goals per Game; t-7th w/ 2.38 Goals against per Game
Kings – 27-16-5 = 59 Points / 10th w/ 2.73 Goals per Game; t-7th w/ 2.38 Goals against per Game
This is a rematch of a second-round matchup last season. The Kings swept the Blues in that series and also swept them 3-0 in the season series, outscoring them 14-7. So the Blues are 0-7 in their last seven vs Los Angeles but they will start the series at home. The Blues enter the playoffs having winning 15 of 18 games in April, while the Kings are 10-4-3 in their last 17. It should be a good physical series, meaning you would expect it to be a defensive series. However they combined to average seven goals per game in all three regular season meetings.
Blues: The Blues are not really a team that you want to build your fantasy playoff team around. They have a lot of good two-way players but no body that really lights up the score sheet. If you have to take defensemen in your league then Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester (in his first playoffs) have a lot of value. As far as their forwards go… Which one do you take first? David Perron, T.J Oshie, David Backes, Chris Stewart the list goes on and on. However it is impossible to predict which one of them is going to be the one who steps up.
Kings: The Kings entered the playoffs as the eighth seed last year and went on to win the Stanley Cup. They are a dangerous team come playoff time. They can play big, physical teams and won’t get worn down. They can also play with the small, fast, skilled teams. Jeff Carter is a goal scoring machine. He scored 26 goals in 48 games this season and he had 13 points in 20 games in the playoffs last year. Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar were great last year scoring 20 in 20, while Drew Doughty had 16 from the blueline. All these guys are good players and will be worth drafting, because the Kings could make another run.
For a Preview of the Eastern 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!