Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby will again be popular early picks in this year's playoff pools. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
The post-season kicks off in eight days, which is fantastic when you consider that we almost didn't have a post-season at all. This year’s playoff pools are generating more buzz than ever before, as the legions of fans who refused to bother with fantasy hockey in any form after the ridiculous lockout suddenly realized they missed the action. They missed picking their players and following them. They missed making adjustments to their lineups, or talking trade with a friend. The post-season represents the next opportunity to “get back into the game.”
Granted, playoff pools are much more casual and far less involved than regular season fantasy hockey, but at this point the fantasy addicts are desperate. Even if it's just a taste, they want back in.
On Thursday, I will look at some dark horses in the Western Conference and next Monday I will review the East. To set those pieces up, here are some things for you to consider for your fantasy draft.
1. This is common knowledge at this point, as I've advised this almost annually here since 2002, but for the newcomers to the game - you want to limit your focus. Depending on how many players are drafted, I will stick to two, three, four or five teams for my players and completely ignore the other teams.
2. For bigger pools with deeper rosters, I'll focus on two teams per conference - and then with my last two picks I will take the two best players from a team that nobody has touched yet. This tip is gold - and has either won or had me right in the mix for at least four of my past 10 playoff pools. Almost a third of the time, this team – the one nobody else would touch - gets into the second round. And since I have their two best players, I'm getting 10 or 12 points from them. Nobody else in the pool managed 10 or 12 points from each of their last two picks.
3. Don't go into the draft committed to a team. Everyone is going to want Penguins and Blackhawks. That doesn't mean that, if you pick 12th overall, you go after Tyler Kennedy or Viktor Stalberg. Face facts - the Penguins will be gone. The Blackhawks will be gone. Forget them. Move on. Pick Ryan Getzlaf or Alex Ovechkin. Get the star from the best two teams still available. Then build around those teams. While the vultures split the Pittsburgh and Chicago bones 10 different ways, you can build a pretty good group, albeit from lesser favorites.
I sell an Interactive Playoff Draft List over at my website and in it I can run an infinite amount of playoff scenarios. What I usually do is print off three lists with three different groups of teams in the Final 4. Depending on where I draft and who I draft first, I throw away two of my lists in the second round and go by the list that is most favorable to me based on who I picked first.
4. Have fun. Make sure you get into one draft-style office pool with friends or co-workers. But also join some free pools online. They're easy, relatively quick, and you never know - you could find yourself contending for a prize in June. All for the cost of 10 minutes of your time.
Recent notable performances
Players who step up during crunch time, will often step up again. It's in their blood. Here are some noteworthy reminders of the 2012 and 2011 post-seasons.
• Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown tied for the lead in scoring last year with 20 points in 20 games. Both were plus-16 and each scored eight goals. Brown had 59 shots to Kopitar's 56.
• Drew Doughty led all defensemen in scoring with 16 points in 20 games.
• Only five players had more than 15 points last year in the post-season. Fourteen players had more than 15 points in 2011.
• While 46 players topped eight points in 2011, that number dropped to 34 in 2012. In a typical 12-person, 12-player hockey pool you will want at least 10 of your players to reach that mark if you to win.
• Toronto's James van Riemsdyk scored seven goals in 11 games for the Flyers in 2011.
• Anaheim's Saku Koivu had seven points in six games in 2011. He's the type of player to take his game to another level this time of year.
• St. Louis forward Patrik Berglund had seven points in nine games last year. He has the size and skill that is made for the playoffs and is one to watch.
• If your pool gives extra weight to goals as opposed to assists, you may want to ignore Jaromir Jagr. Not only does he have just two goals since joining the Bruins, but he scored just one goal in 11 games a year ago. The assists will still be there, though.
• Just nine rookies in the past two years tallied more than five points. Rookies make great last picks, just be careful about selecting them.
• By the way, those nine rookies are: Brad Marchand, Logan Couture, Tyler Seguin, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Marcus Johansson, Adam Henrique, Brayden Schenn, Dwight King and Chris Kreider.
• In 2011, Ryane Clowe had 15 points in 17 games, Chris Kelly had 13 in 25, Michael Ryder 17 in 25.
• In 2012, Andy McDonald had 10 points in nine games, while Trevor Lewis had nine in 20.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.
Want more fantasy insider information or to contact The Dobber? Check out dobberhockey.com or follow him on Twitter at @DobberHockey.