All NHL teams now have less than 40 games to go. Here are my predictions for the second half the season, with a hockey pool slant of course:
1. Atlanta and New Jersey will make the playoffs, with the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference going to either Montreal or Tampa Bay. Toronto will miss the playoffs, so if I'm building my keeper league team to win some playoff money, I'm not trading for any Leafs. They have a losing record on the road and 19 of their last 36 games are away from ACC.
2. Alexander Ovechkin will win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals this season. I admit, I'm hedging my bets after my disastrous pre-season prediction that Sidney Crosby and Jeff Carter would beat him in the scoring race (because of lack of a supporting cast), but I really do believe Ovechkin will end up on top of the goal race. Ilya Kovalchuk will give him a good run, but in the end I think Ovechkin will play 82 games, whereas Kovalchuk and Simon Gagne are both decent candidates to miss two or three games with minor injuries. That will be the difference.
3. Still on the topic of the goal-scoring race, there will be a new arrival in the top five goal scorers when it's all said and done. Jonathan Cheechoo has been on fire since the arrival of Joe Thornton in San Jose and his new superstar center will help him take a run at 55 goals. Currently, he sits tenth with 25.
4. l use Point 3 three as a segue into Point 4: Thornton will win the scoring title this year. This was another pre-season prediction I had, but it bears repeating because he currently sits in fourth place, six points out of first. His production has increased almost 10 per cent since his arrival in San Jose and his numbers as a Bruin were already good. That being said, if Thornton played the entire season in San Jose at the same production rate, he would have five more points. The Sharks also have 38 games to play versus 35 for the New York Rangers (Jaromir Jagr) and 34 for Atlanta (Kovalchuk).
5. BIG second half production, compared to their first half, from the following: Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow (no coincidence here), Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi, Brendan Morrison (thanks to Naslund and Bertuzzi), Jason Allison, Nik Antropov (he'll get at least 25 points in the second half due to Allison), Ryan Smyth, Joffrey Lupul, Patrice Bergeron, Michel Ouellet, Martin Brodeur, Martin St-Louis, Brad Richards, Petr Sykora and the aforementioned Ovechkin and Cheechoo. These guys may have been doing well in the first forty-plus games, but expect their performance to increase going forward.
6. LOW second half production, compared to the first half, from: Bryan McCabe, Mike Modano, Craig Conroy, Joe Sakic, Jason Arnott, Michael Nylander, Jason Williams, Teemu Selanne, Marc Savard, Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rolston. They might have a decent final stretch, but do not expect them to continue scoring at the same rate.
7. Nik Lidstrom, Wade Redden and Marek Zidlicky will creep into the top five in scoring amongst defensemen. One of them will win. This is easy for me to say while McCabe nurses a groin injury.
8. I will be laughed at for at least two of the things that I stated above, in about three months timeÂ…
Injuries, from a fantasy pool perspective: Technically, I can classify this as an injury. Pittsburgh's Zigmund Palffy retired as a result of chronic pain in his shoulder. His retirement caught the hockey world by surprise, but let's look at the fantasy impact. First crack as his spot on the top line goes to Konstantin Koltsov. Coach Michel Therrien seems to think Koltsov will work well with Sidney Crosby and Tomas Surovy. I don't believe he will, but I've been wrong before. The next right winger who will get the chance is Ouellet. He's already shown he can scoreÂ…
Farm Report: After scoring eight points in six American League games prior to his impressive World Junior Hockey Championship performance, Minnesota prospect Roman Voloshenko has slowed somewhat upon his return to the Houston Aeros. The 19-year-old has just one point in four games.
Darryl Dobbs' Fantasy Hockey Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Wednesday and Friday afternoon. Also find the top 250 roto-player rankings at the first of every month (email me for the rankings).
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