The NHL playoffs begin on Wednesday April 15 and the march to win Lord Stanley’s mug begins.
Many sports fans call The Stanley Cup the toughest trophy to win in team sports because of the bruising and pounding the players take, playing up to 28 games in less than 60 days.
This year, the race to get into the playoffs was as close as it has been in a long time. Only 15 pts separated the lowest 8th seed from the top first-place seed.
For those who value parody in pro sports, this season was a resounding success for the NHL. For those of us who are trying to draft a winning Fantasy hockey team this playoff season, it makes things a whole lot more challenging.
Fantasy playoff hockey success is heavily dependent on the number of games your Fantasy players are able to play.
Four Teams to Target in NHL Fantasy Playoffs
Here are the 4 teams I believe will reach the Conference Finals, and therefore, they’re the four teams you should be keying on when constructing your NHL Fantasy roster this week.
1. Chicago Blackhawks
If you asked me to make this selection a week ago, I might have written something very different in this space. At the time, Patrick Kane‘s injury status was still unknown, and it was looking very like he was going to miss significant time in this year’s NHL playoffs.
Without Kane, Chicago’s offense just doesn’t click the same way it does with him in the lineup. Kane’s announcement that he is ready for Game 1 of the opening series, adds a boost to the top 6 relevant Fantasy Chicago players.
2. Anaheim Ducks
A lot of people believe Anaheim is strong candidate to be an early round upset victim in this year’s playoffs. I don’t believe so. They may not be overly flashy. Instead they are just a steady team that outplayed their opponents, significantly more than they were outplayed during the regular season.
And while I don’t expect them to get out of the Conference Final, regardless of who they face, I think with home ice advantage, they are a good bet to make it there, given their relatively easier first and second round match ups.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
This part of the new NHL bracket system, in my opinion, could be the toughest to handicap this year. You may need to flip a coin to try figure out who will emerge when Montreal and Ottawa face off, with both teams entering the playoff race with two of the hottest goaltenders over the past 20 games.
For that reason, I don’t feel comfortable selecting Montreal, the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, to make the Conference Finals. With Tampa Bay’s dominant home record this year, having only lost eight regular season games in regulation, I like Tampa Bay against both Detroit and the winner of Montreal and Ottawa.
4. New York Rangers
The Rangers were simply the best team in the NHL this regular season. And while winning the President’s trophy as the NHL’s top team, doesn’t usually parlay into playoff success, this year I believe it does. If you take Ottawa’s rookie goalie sensation Andrew Hammond out of the argument, the Rangers have the best goalie in the league not named Carey Price.
And with a balanced scoring attack, they should be able to fend off snipers from Pittsburgh and the winner of the Washington/Islanders series, and ride their regular season success, all the way to the Conference Finals.
If you are looking for more expert NHL playoff insights, visit The Fake Hockey for topnotch NHL analysis. They also offer a draft guide you can download to help create a winning NHL Fantasy playoff roster.
Steven Stamkos Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels
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