There is only one more week left in the NHL season, which means Stanley Cup Playoff Pools are starting to take shape. Winning a playoff pool is one of the hardest pools to win, as you not only need to correctly predict the finalist but also the key players to draft.
Even though itís hard to predict playoffs there are a few certainties that you can count on.
First expect an upset in the first round. Teams that are battling for those final playoff spots are already in playoff mode, while teams that have clinched a playoff spot early tend to sit back to finish out the season. Teams sit back by resting their stars players or donít play with the same intensity, as they want to be rested and healthy for playoffs. That strategy backfires at least once in each playoff, so count on a top three seed team being knocked out in the first round.
Secondly, a player on the second or third line will likely see their production jump drastically during a playoff run. Playoff pools are not won by simply taking the best player available, yes those players will get their points but its drafting that player who unexpectedly scores at a much higher rate in the playoffs than during the regular season. Two great examples of this are Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings and Ville Leino of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Over the last three seasons Franzen has averaged 0.73, 0.78 and 0.83 points per game. During the playoffs of those seasons Franzen increased his production to 1.50, 1.00 and 1.13 points per game. So on an average Franzen increased his production 0.43, thatís almost half a point increase.
Leino on the other hand saw a huge increase in production during the Flyers run last season. Last year Leino scored just 11 points in 55 games with the Red Wings and Flyers, thatís a very low 0.20 points per game. Come playoff time Leino explodes for 21 points in 19 games, scoring at a 1.11 point per game rate. Thatís a whopping 0.91 point per game increase, yes you read that right, almost a full point per game increase during the playoffs.
My gut tells me that we will see the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals battle in the Eastern Conference. Over in the West I think it will be the Red Wings against the Vancouver Canucks. I predict that the Capitals are going to beat the Canucks in game six of the finals. With that prediction I will be drafting players from those four teams for my playoff pool.
It is nearly impossible to predict who will be the top scorers in playoffs or which teams are in the finals but the best advice I can give is always, always go with your gut feeling. So pick the four teams you think will make the Conference Finals and draft players from those teams. Remember its not about drafting the best player available but players that you feel will still be playing later into the playoffs.