The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
by Ian Gooding on 04/23/12 at 01:57 AM ET
If you are like me and trust the oddsmakers, you would have loaded up on Penguins and Canucks in your playoff pool this year. However, an infinite number of betting lines and playoff pools have gone topsy-turvy with the surprise early exits of the two teams that many predicted would meet in the Stanley Cup Final. If we want to find out what this Stanley Cup Final series would have been like, you’ll need to play it out on NHL 12; or if you seldom touch video games (like me), on your table hockey game.
Before we look ahead, let’s look back at what went wrong for these two favorites.
For the Penguins, it was all about keeping the puck out of the net. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury couldn’t bail out a suspect defense, leading to numbers that were an absolute horror show to playoff poolies (4.63 GAA, .834 SV%). If Fleury is the guy for Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics, he will need to put this six-game series behind him. The silver lining is that if a goalie like Roberto Luongo can put shaky playoff outings behind him the season after, then so should Fleury. However, Fleury was the prime victim of a series that averaged over nine goals per game.
In a series with that much scoring, you can’t fault the Penguins’ forwards. With eight points each, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin made the most out of their limited shelf life for playoff poolies. Jordan Staal was the Penguins’ offensive star of the series, however, with six goals and nine points, including a hat trick in the 10-3 fend-off-elimination game. There is no doubt that the Penguins will be addressing defense and team toughness in the offseason as they attempt to find a way to enact payback to the hated Flyers next season.
As for the Canucks, one of the league’s top offenses couldn’t get it in gear against an elite-level goalie for the second consecutive playoff series (first Tim Thomas, then Jonathan Quick). An argument could be made that the Canucks wouldn’t have fallen to 0-3 in the series if Daniel Sedin was in the lineup from the start. But after a Stanley Cup Final in which the Canucks could only muster eight goals in seven games, they could hardly solve Quick with a marginally better eight goals in five games. The inability of the Canucks to score against top-level goaltending has to factor into their future playoff series, reducing the playoff pool values of players like the Sedins, Ryan Kesler, and Alex Burrows.
Just who that goalie will be for the next playoff series remains to be seen. Many Vancouver hockey experts now safely assume that Schneider will be the starting goalie next season and that the organization will part ways with Luongo. However, there is the challenge of trading Luongo’s elephant-sized long-term contract, which could mean that both goalies could still be in tow next season. So those who assume that Luongo is done in Vancouver need to keep in mind the difficulty of trading the contract, and those who assume that the contract is too large to trade shouldn’t put it past Mike Gillis to make a deal with a team desperate for goaltending like Columbus, Tampa Bay, or even Toronto (if they’re willing to admit it). Schneider will be a lot easier to trade, and Gillis may have to resort to that option if no one bites on Luongo. Or to complicate matters, both goalies could start training camp with the Canucks next season. You decide. But we can all agree that whatever plays out in the offseason will be significant in determining the fantasy values of both goalies next season.
Should the Flyers make it to the Stanley Cup Final, there should be little doubt that Claude Giroux would be the leading scorer of the playoffs. Thanks to the goal explosion of the Battle of Pennsylvania, Giroux now has a five-point lead in playoff scoring over the second-place Staal. And what can be said about Danny Briere? After scoring seven goals in 11 playoff games last season, Briere has scored five goals in six games so far this season. Briere should be a fixture on playoff pool teams every season, regardless of which seed the Flyers are and how well his regular season went.
The Flyers could very well be a team that represents the East in the Stanley Cup Final, but how much faith can Flyers fans and playoff poolies hold in Ilya Bryzgalov? If you throw out a stellar Game 6 clincher, Bryz was beatable in the first round with a 3.89 GAA and .871 SV% - not exactly Conn Smythe numbers. The reality of the situation is that the expensive goalie will need to be all-universe and stop talking about the universe if the Flyers want to make it out of the second round, let alone win the Stanley Cup.
As for the Kings, two players fuelled their upset victory over the back-to-back President’s Trophy-winning Canucks: Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick. Brown scored four goals in the first-round series, including two shorthanded goals in Game 2. But this series has elevated Quick to superstardom on a national stage, as he was able to record a 1.59 GAA and .953 SV% against one of the league’s top offenses. Expect a lot of low-scoring, tight-checking 1-0 and 2-1 games as the Kings face off against Brian Elliott and the St. Louis Blues in the second round. If you’re looking for offense, you’ll probably want to pick players from one of the other three series.
To wrap this up, I can probably forget about winning either of my playoff pool entries this season, thanks to my uncanny ability to pick players who are now packing up for the offseason. But there is a silver lining to my fantasy season: I finished eighth in a multiple-choice style hockey pool with over 2000 entries from across Canada, netting me a cool $250. But I guess like my Canucks, success was only meant to be in the regular season.
For more of my thoughts on the playoffs (including my words of advice to those who live to see the Canucks die), you can follow me on Twitter.
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About The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
My name is Ian Gooding, and this is The Goods on Fantasy Hockey. Given my ability to understand numbers, write sentences, and follow hockey, it’s not a surprise to those who know me that I became a fantasy hockey writer. I started writing about fantasy hockey in 2006 for fantasyhockey.com and became the site’s content editor in 2007. Looking to expand my audience, I joined Kukla’s Korner in the summer of 2011 to create the site’s first fantasy hockey blog.
A few times each week, I’ll provide an article called “Pick Six” where I will write about six players that should either be in your fantasy team’s starting lineup or bench for the upcoming game. As well, I’ll provide the fantasy takes on important hockey developments. You can also email me your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter.