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Frozen Fantasy: The Cup Stops Here

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

My playoff pool starts in San Jose. Yes, I’m a little crazy.

But this could be their year.

You’ve heard that before. Cripes, I know I have. Their dopey-dog routine in the postseason has driven me far, far away in the last two seasons. But not this year. I’m taking the leap.

I think.

Playoff pools require nerves of steel and bold selections, particularly in box formats where a lot of owners end up with the same players. You can be a sheep and pick the same players as everyone else – you know, from the safe teams. But does the boy next door ever really get the girl? And have her stay?

Do you know the way to San Jose?

You’ll face ridicule from your fellow owners but do you really care? I’m a big proponent of going out on a limb. I have strong shoulders (you should know that already – I continue to deliver a column every week despite all those trolls in tighty-whiteys posting barbs from their mommies’ basements).

How strong are your shoulders?

There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush of taking a big risk. Well, there is – and it’s succeeding with that risk. The Sharks are a huge risk. But if they win a few rounds – or even the Cup – there’s nothing sweeter than being able to fire off those one-liners about your buddy’s lack of original thought. Or his affinity for sheep.

Ouch.

The Sharks are 24-4-4 since January 15 – it’s the quietest winning streak in the league. No one is talking about them in the context of the Cup. And that means they’ll probably go relatively unpicked in playoff pools.

Take a shot. Or pick another smart sleeper squad. Your net gain could be unbelievable.

Now let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Jason Arnott, C, Washington (16 percent owned) – Arnott is back; get him now. Prior to the injury, he looked like he was channeling his best Collingwood Elvis (I won’t explain the reference – look it up; it’s worth it). He had points in three straight games before his injury and then scored Thursday in his second game back. He’s a great fit in Washington and while they only have four games left, I’m taking four productive games on a hot team over six on a squad like the Avs.

Patrik Berglund, C, St. Louis (15 percent owned) – Berglund can channel a little Mats Sundin every once in a while – he’s that talented. And he has the ability to put together six- and seven-game point streaks. Why is that important? He’s on a three-game run right now (two goals, two assists) and the Blues have five games left. ‘Nuff said.

Matt D’Agostini, RW, St. Louis (14 percent owned) – D’Agostini has somehow managed to keep up his Energizer Bunny routine. He was the eighth-rated skater in standard Yahoo! categories over the week ending Thursday. And he has 13 points in his last 10 games. Four of those points have come on the power play; two of his seven goals in that span were game winners. He’s even plus-6 in that same span. D’Agostini may just deliver quiet multi-category help if you can swallow your pride on this guy. I did.

Jonas Enroth, G, Buffalo (3 percent owned) – Enroth thrives in pressure situations, and right now he’s in the biggest pressure-cooker of his North American career. Ryan Miller took a Dion Phaneuf slapper off his collarbone Tuesday night and while he finished the game, he wasn’t well enough to back-up Enroth on Wednesday. This little Swede may be small but he busts his tail off and he’s a superb athlete. And he could be in line for a handful of starts while Millertime’s “bruise” goes down.

Colin Greening, LW/C, Ottawa (1 percent owned) – Greening’s upside is limited – he profiles as a perfect checking-line plugger. But right now, this plucky Newf is getting a primetime opportunity in Canada’s capital, and he’s showing that the nose for the net he had in college hasn’t disappeared. He had two snipes Thursday to give him four in his last six games; he has five points in that span. The Sens are 8-4-1 over their last 13 games, and Greening will continue to get every opportunity to earn a role for 2011-12. And that means there will be more dirty goals to come in the next four games.

Jonas Gustavsson, G, Toronto (22 percent owned) – The Buds will put the Monster back between the pipes the moment they’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They have to play him – they need to know what they have for next year. He’ll be rusty – his butt has been Velcro-ed to a stool in the press box for weeks. But he was great in his conditioning stint with the AHL Marlies and it’s not like he has forgotten how to play goal. There are very few netminding options on the wire. He’s bound to get some action if you’re desperate for goalie points.

Joffrey Lupul, RW, Toronto (7 percent owned) – Lupul has beautiful hands – they’re quick, soft, and skilled. And two goals and one helper Thursday night give those silky paws six points in his last five games. There are few guys hotter and he’s fighting to maintain a roster spot for next year. This little streak could go on for the Leafs’ last four games. You can’t say that about a lot of your current guys, can you?

Brad Marchand, C, Boston (17 percent owned) – There are times when this guy looks like a hyperactive twerp prone to childish outbursts. But there are others when he stays on the right side of that dangerous line and combines elite talent with sparkplug-like intensity and sandpaper abrasiveness. Those skills are real and he’s playing on the right side of the fence right now. He picked up two points – a shorthanded goal and an even-strength assist – in Thursday’s loss to the Leafs to give him 40 points in his rookie season. He’s on a three-game, four-point streak and the Bruins have five games left heading into Friday’s slate. Every little bit can help.

Dominic Moore, C, Tampa (2 percent owned) – Moore is hot – there’s no other way to put it. He has four goals, including a couple power-play snipes, and five points to go with 16 shots in his last five games. The Bolts have been scuffling but Moore’s quickness, versatility and hockey smarts have put him in the right place at the right time. He may deliver some sneaky fantasy points over the team’s last five games.

Kevin Shattenkirk, D, St. Louis (23 percent owned) – Can you use a smooth-skating, offensive-minded defender who’s on a five-game scoring streak? Shattenkirk has a goal and five helpers in those five games and is thriving in St. Loo. He’s already strung together a nine-game point-streak this season and the Blues have five games left. It’s possible. It’s definitely possible. And so is a 42 or 43 point rookie season.

James van Riemsdyk, LW, Philadelphia (15 percent owned) – JvR exploded Saturday with his first career trick. And while he has been shut out in the last two games, he has five points in his last five games. The Flyers have five games left and this future star could still hit 40 points. Three points in his last five games would get him there and they might just help you, too.

Back to the Sharks.

Maybe they’ve burned you and you can’t go back to that well. So go out on a limb with another sleeper candidate.

You aren’t a sheep… are you?

Personally, I think I’m staying away from the Wings (they’re looking old despite their gaudy totals), Pens (they’re playing over their heads but really just treading water), Kings (who isn’t at this point) and the Bolts (slumping at the wrong time… and that D?). But I am currently eyeballing those Sharks along with the Ducks, Hawks, Caps and Flyers. And even the Rangers – King Henrik could steal a series by himself.

Before I sign off on yet another great season, I’d like to say thanks for reading. You and I don’t always agree but that’s what makes life fun. I’d also like to send a shout out to two readers – Ken and Richard – with whom I had the pleasure of skating with on team Red Deckoning at last weekend’s Clarke Cup. We didn’t win but man, did we have a blast.

Until next year.

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