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Ice Chips: The Story So Far

April 19, 2008 | By Mike Chen | comment on this post

We’re almost done with the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but despite the number of 3-1 and 3-2 series, you never want to count anyone out until the series is finally over. However, we can analyze individual play — and see how accurate Ice Chips has been so far.

We wrote: “For example, a lot of people will probably pass over Patrick Marleau because of his pitiful regular season totals, but a quick look shows that he had a respectable past 20 games and he’s one of the leaders in playoff goals over the past three seasons.”

Not a bad one to start with. Not only as Marleau been strong shift-in and shift-out so far against Calgary, he’s also put up considerable numbers every game — and for the first time in his career, he’s looking like he’s worthy of the captain’s C.

Similarly, Brad Richards is reliable in the postseason even though he hasn’t been great in Dallas so far; Richards isn’t worth a top pick right now, but he may slide down and be available in later rounds.

Richards hasn’t lit the world on fire, but he’s proved to be much more valuable than his initial few games indicated.

Look for proven playoff performers. Hello, Chris Drury. Hello, Jarome Iginla.

The Rangers didn’t sign Drury to put up 100 points in the regular season; they wanted him to score in the clutch. However, he’s been held off the scoresheet for the majority of the first-round series against New Jersey. The Rangers’ other key signing, Scott Gomez, has fulfilled his promise though.

As for Iginla, he (along with Dion Phaneuf) is really the only reason why the Calgary Flames have put up such a competitive fight against the San Jose Sharks. Every time Iginla touches the puck, something good happens for Calgary. The Calgary media has been quick to point out that his supporting cast hasn’t really done their job, though.

That’s why a top defenseman should be in your first two picks. Look at Sergei Gonchar, Brian Campbell, Nicklas Lidstrom, Scott Niedermayer, Mark Streit, and guys along those lines.

This is true in theory. In execution? Well…Campbell has looked like a deer in headlights at times, Niedermayer’s team preferred sleeping to playing, while Streit and Andrei Markov haven’t done much either. Phaneuf, however, has been a catalyst for Calgary. Surprise defensive standouts include Andrew Ference of Boston and Patrice “Breeze By” Brisebois of Montreal.

Bet on a favoured team with a goalie that’s been steady all season long like San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov versus Detroit’s groin-pull-o-rama Dominik Hasek.

As of this writing, Nabokov has been a leader on and off the ice for San Jose with its 3-2 series lead against Calgary. Hasek? He’s played some of the worst hockey of his career (his words, not mine) and lost his starting job to Chris Osgood.

Playoffs are a streaky time of year – remember when Alyn McCauley jumped from two-way checker to playoff scoring demon for the Maple Leafs? If someone gets hot, take a gamble – smart risk-taking is the best way to win a playoff pool.

Iginla, Sidney Crosby, Ryane Clowe — which one of these in not like the others? While Clowe is a skilled player, he’s better known as being a big body rather than a scorer. Still, these are the types of players that rise to the occasion during the playoffs. Other notable players who’ve elevated their respective games include Ryan Malone, Mike Knuble, Loui Eriksson, and rookie Brandon Dubinsky.

Also, if Philadelphia makes the playoffs, don’t be fooled by Daniel Briere and his decent point total (check out his awesome –22, though). Briere hasn’t been the same since he lost consistent playing time with Simon Gagne

Whoops.

…if you’re taking someone from Philly, a safe sleeper pick is Vaclav Prospal.

Cha-ching!

Not only do they lose one of their best players indefinitely (Daniel Alfredsson), the Sens can’t figure out if they’re awesome or horrible. They could easily drop out in a four-game sweep in the first round or they could make a deep push; that level of uncertainty means that you’ll want to avoid big names like Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley and use your top forward picks elsewhere.

Double cha-ching!

Where do we go from here? It’s difficult to say that Marc-Andre Fleury will put up the same numbers in the second round that he did against Ottawa. The Senators, though extremely talented, lacked focus and passion. Whoever the Penguins play in the conference semis, it’s simply going to be far more difficult than Pittsburgh’s first-round smackdown of Ottawa.

Barring a minor miracle over the next few days, the Philadelphia Flyers will upset the Washington Capitals, and big kudos have to go to the entire team. It’s been a complete effort with diverse scoring and strong defense. Check for grinders that are putting pucks in the net such as the aforementioned Knuble; they may still be available in your league.

And who’s gone pointless so far? Marian Gaborik of Minnesota and Chris Higgins of Montreal. In fact, Montreal’s top performers, including Alexei Kovalev, haven’t done all that well, but its fourth-line grinders have overachieved, making them perfect fantasy sleepers.

And on a final note, what’s powering the New York Rangers? Not Sean Avery, not Gomez, not Henrik Lundqvist…no, the Blueshirts are fueled by the might of Jaromir Jagr’s soul patch.

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