Make your final segment picks in Playoff Hockey Challenge

Scott Cullen
5/30/2013 2:43:32 PM
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Now that two rounds of the NHL playoffs are complete and 12 teams have been eliminated, there is a small pool of players from which to choose for the final segment of the Playoff Hockey Challenge.

Here is a look at some of the top performers from Round Two and where some value may still remain for last two rounds on the way to the Stanley Cup.

First, the best of the second round:

Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles (4-3, 1.43 GAA, .951 SV%, 7 GP) - Performing much like he did as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for last year's playoffs, Quick was the difference against San Jose.

Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh (1 G, 9 A, +4, 5 GP) - Last year's top scoring defenceman in the playoffs was the Kings' Drew Doughty, who had 16 points. Letang has 16 points halfway through the four-round run to the Cup.

James Neal, LW, Pittsburgh (5 G, 4 A, +3, 5 GP) - Neal hadn't done much until the last two games against Ottawa, when he talled five goals and two assists. That's part of the challenge going up against the Penguins. It's possible to keep some in check for a while but, eventually, they bust loose.

Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh (4 G, 2 A, even, 5 GP) - A hat trick in Game Two accounted for a lot of Crosby's production, but 15 points in 10 playoff games is a pretty smooth transition for a guy who missed the last quarter of the regular season.

Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh (2 G, 3 A, +3, 5 GP) - In one of the two games that he was held off the scoresheet against Ottawa, Malkin still managed 10 shots on goal. Always dangerous, particularly with the Penguins' full complement of wingers.

Brad Marchand, LW, Boston (2 G, 4 A, +1, 5 GP) - Marchand didn't have a great first round, managing three assists in seven games against Toronto, but Boston won anyway. However, he was the Bruins' top scorer in Round Two and will have to be a factor against Pittsburgh if the Bruins are going to advance.

Torey Krug, D, Boston (4 G, 1 A, +3, 5 GP) - Injuries along the blueline forced the Bruins to call-up Krug, a 5-foot-9 blueliner who had 45 points in 63 AHL games in his first year out of Michigan State.  Now the question is, can he keep his spot once the Bruins' defence is healthy?

Slava Voynov, D, Los Angeles (2 G, 3 A, +2, 7 GP) - Voynov leads all defencemen with four goals and is tied with San Jose's Logan Couture for the overall lead with three game-winners.

Gregory Campbell, C, Boston (3 G, 1 A, +5, 5 GP) - A checking centre, Campbell had one point in Round One, before four points in the last four games against the Rangers. That's a difference-making peformance from a guy who played fewer than 13 minutes per game.

Jeff Carter, RW, Los Angeles (2 G, 3 A, +3, 7 GP) - Offence hasn't come easily to the Kings, so they've been fortunate to have Quick play so well, but Carter has been their most dangerous shooter, leading the team with five goals and tied for the team lead with 39 shots on goal in the first two rounds.

Mike Richards, C, Los Angeles (2 G, 3 A, +3, 7 GP) - Richards had very similar production to Carter in the second round, though he's more playmaker and doesn't generate the same kind of shot totals.

Kyle Turris, C, Ottawa (3 G, 1 A, even, 5 GP) - An impressive postseason showing, which included six goals and nine points in 10 games, was admittedly boosted by three points in the Senators' last two lopsided losses against Pittsburgh.

Colin Greening, LW, Ottawa (3 G, 1 A, even, 5 GP) - The big winger had a three-game goal-scoring streak to open the second round and earned more ice time as a result, with his two highest ice-time totals of the season coming in games Three and Five against Pittsburgh.

When you make your picks in the Playoff Hockey Challenge, remember that your roster will stay fixed for the last two rounds. That means picking only the players that you think will play enough games to have value over two rounds. In the most likely scenario, that will mean limiting your picks to players from two teams, one to represent the East and one to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final.

There is plenty of room in the budget to target top players, though the trick will be selecting the right players on the right teams. It's one thing to know you want Drew Doughty and Zdeno Chara to be on your defence, but if Los Angeles and Boston don't advance, it ultimately won't do you much good.

There is certainly risk in taking someone like Torey Krug, for example, because he could get bumped from the lineup, but if you want to save money to spend elsewhere, Krug costs ($6.2) the same as non-scoring options like Kings defencemen Matt Greene and Robyn Regehr.

With fewer productive defence options, the real opportunity to make astute moves lies at forward, where someone like David Krejci, the playoffs' leading scorer, comes at the same cost ($7.2) as Dustin Brown. You have to be siding with the Bruins to get past the Penguins for it to matter, but that's one potential value play.

Wingers Jarome Iginla ($7.5) and Nathan Horton ($7.1) both come at relatively reasonable prices too. Pascal Dupuis ($6.4) remains underrated considering his production and regular spot on Sidney Crosby's wing.

Some players that haven't lived up to their pricing yet include Bruins RW Jaromir Jagr (0 G, 4 A in 12 GP), Tyler Seguin (1 G, 3 A in 12 GP) and Jonathan Toews (1 G, 5 A in 12 GP).

Get your picks in before puck drop on Saturday and track your team right to the end.

Quick Burns Sharks Kings (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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