This column, and all of Dobber's work, can also be read on The Hockey News, ESPN.com and MSN.ca.
It is no secret that the power play is the most important element of offense in the playoffs. This makes the participants of the power play the most fantasy worthy in terms of playoff pools. Defensemen who quarterback the PP actually see their production rise by as much as 40 per cent. This makes moving them up your draft list a no-brainer. In part two of a two-part piece, FPL will take a look at the Eastern Conference quarterbacks.
This team was looking all season long for a suitable power-play quarterback and they finally found one in February in Alexei Zhitnik. After they decided that Braydon Coburn was not ready, while Steve McCarthy and Niklas Havelid proved unsuitable, the Thrashers went out and got Zhitnik. If you like Atlanta players for your playoff pool, then Zhitnik should be right up there on your list. He has 14 points in 15 games since joining the team and while that would be a little high in terms of what to expect in the postseason, it won’t be that far off if the team gets out of the first round. He is the only option on the blue line with this team as far as fantasy hockey is concerned.
The Sabres have several options on the point, the best of which is Brian Campbell. That being said, Campbell regressed significantly last postseason, posting just six assists (and no goals) in 18 playoff games. In fact, Henrik Tallinder was the rearguard who stepped up for them, tallying eight points in just 14 contests. Teppo Numminen, Toni Lydman and Dimitri Kalinin can all put up seven or eight points in a prolonged playoff run. Jaroslav Spacek can put up as much as a dozen. My favorite dark horse is rookie Nathan Paetsch. The 24-year-old rookie will have to prove himself in the first round. If he does that, coach Lindy Ruff will use him in more and more situations and you could see him surprise. Paetsch had a run this season of 17 points in 24 games, but that was when Spacek and Lydman were both sidelined with injuries and Paetsch got the ice time that he needed.
Seeing as Sheldon Souray is currently tied for the NHL record for power play goals by defensemen, it’s safe to say that he will contribute on with the man advantage in the postseason. Andrei Markov is also having a career season and his production should also go up a little when the playoffs begin. The only other offensive rearguard that may put up decent numbers is Mark Streit, but he has played a lot as a winger lately and does not really quarterback the power play.
Paul Martin has had a disappointing year this year by fantasy standards, but Brian Rafalski set a new career high. The latter had a fantastic playoff last year, garnering nine points in nine games while the former slipped in