Fantasy Hockey League Tips!

August 19, 2009 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

The Strategy

Fantasy hockey league season is almost upon us once again and it is time to scour the rosters of each team in search of that elusive perfect fantasy hockey combination.

There are many different ways to score fantasy leagues and just as many, if not more, strategies to utilize when selecting players for your fantasy hockey team this season.

Now, before you go blindly into your draft selecting Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Lidstrom, and Brodeur, be sure to fully understand how your draft is scored and how many players from each position that you are required or allowed to choose.

Understand The Scoring System

During the 2004-2005 season I participated in one fantasy league where 1 point was awarded for each goal or assist. There were no restrictions on the number of players from each position and players could be selected by more than one person in the draft. Each draft entrant was required to select any 20 players in the NHL for their team.

The key in the scoring of this draft was that goaltenders received 5 points for a win and 10 points for a shutout. So, guess what one enterprising guy did? You got it… He selected 20 goalies! He was well within the rules set out by the draft and was all but guaranteed to get at least 5 points per night. There were a few nights when he racked up 40-50 points and needless to say, he won the draft hands down.

Of course, each league is scored differently but it is always important to understand the rules. It is especially important in a situation where each NHL player can only be selected by one team in the fantasy league.

Don’t Forget The Goalie!

In this scenario, it is almost always the case where the top scoring forwards will be selected first. However, it has been my experience that when points are given for goaltender performance, it is always necessary to select the best goaltender available within the first two picks of the draft.

There are years where a forward of defenseman may surprise everyone and rack up a tone of points. However, it is very rare that a goaltender comes out of nowhere and wins substantially more games than in previous years, unless the goalie has switched teams in the off season.

Yes, Martin Brodeur is a great goaltender, but his team in New Jersey has definitely helped him achieve an extraordinary amount of wins and shutouts over the past decade. The same holds true for any of the Detroit goaltenders. These are skilled goaltenders, but fantasy players earn points, in the majority of leagues, for wins and shutouts.

In rare cases, there may be points awarded for save percentage. In this case you may want to select someone like Niklas Backstrom, who typically faces a lot of shots. In any event, picking a goaltender early in the draft that has a strong defense in front of him, is traditionally a good move.

What About The Goons?

When points are awarded for penalty minutes in a fantasy league, it is highly unlikely that this is the only category that points are awarded for. Therefore, taking Daniel Carcillo just to own the penalty minute category probably isn’t a good idea; unless you can pick him up in the last round.

As we know, points are typically awarded in fantasy leagues for goals and assists, so one must take that into consideration when selecting players when attempting to earn a few penalty minute points. So who should you choose?

According to last season’s statistics, good choices for a player who spends some time in the sin bin, but also contributes offensively are David Backes and Scott Hartnell. I have surprised many other fantasy players over the years by selecting this type of a player in the early rounds of a fantasy draft. More often than not, this strategy has paid off in the end.

This is especially rewarding when your “penalty minute pick” has an especially good offensive year. Milan Lucic is a player in this category that I believe has the potential for more offensive upside. This might make Lucic worthy of an early-mid round selection, while still padding that penalty minute category.

You are now prepared to go out and draft an unbeatable fantasy hockey team!

Don’t forget to drop us a note during the season to tell us how you are doing in your fantasy league!

Conference Final Impressions & Predictions for Cup Finals

May 28, 2009 by Kyle  
Filed under Hockey Columns

2008-2009 Stanley Cup PlayoffsConference Final Impressions

I don’t know if these conference finals were all that fans expected them to be, but they have sure paved the way for what promises to be a terrific championchip series.

Carolina (6) vs Pittsburgh (4)

I suppose I’m glad to say that I had this series mostly right. I thought the Pens would be too much up front, and they were. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were a 2-man army that completely dismantled what was left of the Hurricanes. I thought Carolina would have had a little more juice left, but Eric Staal had hit empty after his 7 game marathon with Zdeno Chara. And needless to say, if Staal is not bringing his A game every night, the Canes just don’t have the depth to compete, no matter how much magic they may have, or how much the hockey gods were smiling on them. The only hope they had was for Cam Ward to be utterly spectacular, but he was shelled in games 2 and 3 and may have lost all confidence. It even looked as though his teammates knew that their run was over. Let’s remember that they were an overachieving team that went through 2 grueling 7-game series with the Devils and Bruins, neither of which they were expected to win. A tip of the hat to the Hurricanes for a good run this season, but they were soundly beaten by a team that looks possessed right now, especially Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin . Suddenly the Habs fan in me doesn’t feel so bad. A team was swept in more dominating fashion than the Canadiens were.

 

Chicago (4) vs Detroit (2)

What can be said about the Red Wings? in my lifetime I don’t think I’ve seen such a complete and competent team. They simply do everything right, even with Pavel DatsyukNik Lidstrom and Draper out of the lineup. Marian Hossa stepped up in games 4 and 5 to lead the offensive charge in the absence of Datsyuk. Chris Osgood is proving that he can indeed be a clutch goalie, with a huge performance in game 5. From top to bottom, the Red Wings get it. They know their roles well, they know how to win and they are smarter than any team out there. I salute the young Blackhawks for their tremendous season. Patrick KaneJonathan ToewsPatrick SharpKris Versteeg and Martin Havlat  will be a formidable core for a long, long time. And they’re supported with tons of other great young talent on the blue line that will ensure Chicago’s restablishment on the hockey map. Next season the Red Wings may not be so lucky, but then again, when have the Wings ever depended on luck for their success?

 

Stanley Cup Final Predictions

 

Ready for round 2? What a difference a year makes. A year ago these same 2 teams were about to face off in the Cup finals. The NHL’s Golden Boy was standing at the brink of immortality, but unfortunately for Pittsburgh, they were guilty of watching the Red Wings more than they played them, otherwise things may have been different. Still, they pushed the Wings to 6 games and managed to make it interesting, but I don’t think anyone outside of Pittsburgh really thought they’d be knocking off the Wings.

 

Fast forward to June 2009. What’s changed? For starters, the Penguins now have the experience of having been there. They won’t be caught admiring the Red Wings smoothness this year. Their roster has also been significantly turned over: Marian Hossa is now on the other side, but they have brought in Ruslan Fedotenko (who has a cup ring), veteran scorers Bill Guerin and Miroslav Satan , the effective Chris Kunitz and the pesky Matt Cooke . More importantly, Crosby, Malkin, Staal and Fleury, the nucleus of this team is another year older, another year better and another year hungrier. Oh, and did I mention that aside from Sergei Gonchar ’s wobbly knee (which he still manages to play effectively on), the Penguins are remarkably healthy for this time of year.

 

I’m not going to dismiss the Cup champs so easily. They were my picks to reach the Cup finals from the start, so I’m not surprised they’re here now. Year after year I wonder when this team will finally run out of steam, but they never do. They always reload, they always rebound and they’re always in the championship conversation. The issue for the Red Wings this year will be their health. Their captain, and best defenceman Niklas Lidstrom is hurt, and at 38 years of age, may not heal so quickly as he once did. Pavel Datsyuk is also hampered with a nagging injury that has limited his production this spring. Kris Draper, who always brings leadership and shut-down ability is also banged up. Nevertheless, guys like Dan Cleary , Darren Helm , Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen are always there when the cards are down on the table. They provide the “unsung hero” goals that the Red Wings seem to have lived off of this playoff year.

 

If anyone was paying attention, they’d notice that the 2-man army of Crosby and Malkin was only improving as the playoffs wore on. No team, not even the Red Wings can match these 2 right now. They’re on a mission and if there’s a team that may be able to limit their damage, it’s the Red Wings and their team play concept. Not to be outdone, rookie coach Dan Bylsma has the Penguins playing a very strong brand of team defense. Outside of Gonchar, the rest of the Penguins defense corps is mostly no-names who keep it simple and move the puck to their unstoppable forwards. If the Wings can manage to break down their defense, they will still need to beat Marc-André Fleury, who was rock-solid against the (depleted) Hurricanes team. Fleury also managed to be the difference in the opening series against the Flyers.

 

In the end, I believe this will boil down to how much further Crosby and Malkin can continue to dominate. Can they complete their mission? If they continue at the rate they’re going, we will have new Cup champs. If they are matched by the Red Wings stars, or if the Wings manage to reduce their effectiveness at all, we will see the first repeat since the same Red Wings last did it from 96-98.
I believe we are in for another long series, but this one will be different. The Penguins won’t be star struck and may be poised to jump on the champs early in the series. The Wings are much older and are only getting 2 days rest between series. Is that enough to refocus, recharge and heal up before the Cup finals? Time will tell. The Wings have been through this before and I’m sure the focus will be there. Will their legs follow? Can Osgood stop the dynamic duo? He may need to be the Wings best player if they’re to repeat, and I’m not so sure he can do it.

 

As with all great players, they want the ultimate prize. And they usually find ways to get their hands on it. I’m sure Sidney Crosby will be more than happy to let Ovechkin win the Rocket Richard Trophy, the Hart Trophy, and any other individual accolade that there is. But come late June at the awards ceremony, Crosby will desperately want to present himself as a Cup winner. If he’s felt stung by being supplanted as the league’s best player, he’ll bring the hardware to prove everyone that they are wrong, as if his performance head-to-head with Ovechkin in the 2nd round was not enough already.

 

Another storyline to follow is that of Marian Hossa’s. A year ago the Penguins gave away an awful lot to get him out of Atlanta. Obviously they fell short of their goal, and Hossa subsequently left as a free agent…to Detroit. It’s either going to prove to be a good decision for Hossa, or it will haunt him forever. Maybe he will be our generation’s Marcel Dionne, a great player who could not win the Cup.

 

When the smoke clears I see Pittsburgh winning in 6. I see Shades of the mid-80′s, as the young Oilers fell once to the mighty Islanders, then faced them again the next year and beat them to win their first cup. The rest is history, as we all know the Oilers went on to become the last true hockey dynasty. I believe the stars are aligned for the Penguins to climb the mountain and establish themselves as the league’s best team.

 

No matter what, I can’t see how this will end up being a boring Stanley Cup final. This is great for hockey and great for 2 markets that have their own struggles.

 

Let’s drop the puck! Saturday can’t get here fast enough!