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Slapshot Fantasy

A tactical guide to winning your fantasy hockey playoffs

26 March 2016: Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) tussles with St. Louis Blues right wing Troy Brouwer (36) at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. where the St. Louis Blues defeated the Washington Capitals, 4-0.(Photograph by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

Given how much of a factor chance is in the crucial weeks of the fantasy hockey playoffs, controlling what you can is absolutely crucial. That doesn’t change the fact that strategy in fantasy hockey more or less boils down to educated guesses, sound investments, research, and quite a bit of luck.

So what strategic changes can you make when the playoffs roll around?

To put it simply, when all the chips are on the table, conservative tactics almost always take a back seat to maximizing both the number of games your assets can play while looking for the best matchups available.

Locking in Goalie Stats

If your league has a requisite number of games for goalie stats to count, try to lock in your stats once you have more than half of the categories won, especially before the weekend. Although it is plainly a conservative move, when it comes to goaltender statistics one rotten game or one brilliant game is capable of flipping the switch from a win to a loss.

Should your opponent suffer a miserable start from one of his goaltenders early in the week and you find that you have already met the minimum number of starts that you need, locking in “good” goaltender stats is often the best path to victory. If it takes a shutout or a 40 save, one goal against performance to beat you, you’re far more likely to win.

Strength of Schedule

October 09 2015: Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets makes a save during the game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Rangers at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire)

Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets makes a save during the game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Rangers. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire)

A player’s strength of schedule matters throughout the entire fantasy season, but it becomes especially important in the playoffs. In particular, it’s very relevant when it comes to the decision of when to start goaltenders and choosing which players should get the nod on high volume game days.

What matters most after the talent level of a player on your fantasy roster is the quality of the team they play for and the team they are playing against on any given night. If you’ve a player on your roster playing against the Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, or Edmonton Oilers they should be getting tapped before anyone that isn’t an undeniably elite fantasy asset.

Almost every fantasy team is made up of exclusively good hockey players. What often will set players on your roster apart is their opponent on any given game night — which is why strength of schedule could be the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs.

Streaming Players

The sportsmanship behind dropping and adding your players when things aren’t going your way Friday through Sunday might be dubious, but the more games players on your team play, the better almost all of your stats will be. The obvious exceptions are categories like plus-minus, save percentage, and goals against average.

There is a reason why many leagues and fantasy league hosts place a limit on the number of roster moves a manager can make in any given week. Winning by streaming your players at the end of the week regardless of how things are going might not be a particularly classy move, but it is a stroke that will greatly improve your chances of winning.

If nothing else, it is something that you should be aware of in the event that your opponent in the fantasy playoffs decides to win by any means necessary. In week-long battles, if there’s an opportunity for the Hail Mary attempt, you should expect someone to make it.

After all, all’s fair in love and fantasy hockey.

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