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Playoff perception vs. reality: Western Conference

Tuesday, 07.17.2012 / 12:00 PM
Pete Jensen  - NHL.com Staff Writer

While the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs marks the end of the fantasy hockey season each year, individual postseason performances often have lasting impacts from a fantasy standpoint heading into the following season.

In some cases, notable playoff showings -- such as those by Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, Henrik Lundqvist, Claude Giroux, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby this spring -- come from top-tier regular season fantasy producers, boosting their already strong fantasy profiles heading into next season. But, when digging deeper into the playoffs in hindsight, it's impossible to ignore the memorable performances that were less expected -- for better or worse.

So how much should a player's strong or weak postseason numbers affect his impending fantasy value? When walking this fine line as a fantasy owner, it's important to consider the perception surrounding a player, but also take those assessments with a grain of salt.

After all, a player's regular-season tendencies are what matter most, fantasy-wise.

NHL.com now takes a look at two of the most compelling names from each Western Conference team in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We'll evaluate each player's postseason and determine whether or not the perception of their performances is reality -- in terms of fantasy value.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

NO. 1 SEED: VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Roberto Luongo, G

Impression: Negative

Verdict: Reality

Analysis: Won 30-plus games for the seventh straight season, but allowed seven goals in two playoff outings before giving way to Cory Schneider. Will split time if he stays in Vancouver, but value will hinge on potential trade destination.

Ryan Kesler, F

Impression: Negative

Verdict: Perception

Analysis: Struggled all year after offseason hip surgery and a shoulder injury sustained later in the season, tallying 19 less goals and 24 fewer points in only five less regular-season games. Kesler's postseason numbers (0 G, 3 A, minus-1 in 5 games) won't help his value, but he remains a bounce-back candidate when he fully recovers from his latest surgery.

NO. 2 SEED: ST. LOUIS BLUES

T.J. Oshie, F

Impression: Negative

Verdict: Perception

Analysis: Blues' top line (Perron-Backes-Oshie) mustered only 12 combined points in nine playoff games. However, Oshie (0 G, 3 A, minus-2, 14 hits in postseason) followed up an injury-plagued '10-11 season with a 54-point, plus-15, 130-hit, 188-shot campaign -- making him a well-rounded fantasy asset entering next season.

Andy McDonald, F

Impression: Positive

Verdict: Reality

Analysis: Overcame lengthy regular-season absence due to career-threatening concussion by notching 10 points in nine playoff games for St. Louis. Injury history remains a concern, but he's a sure-fire 20-plus goal, 50-plus point winger when healthy.

NO. 3 SEED: PHOENIX COYOTES

Mike Smith, G

Impression: Positive

Verdict: Reality

Analysis: Burst onto scene in first year with Phoenix (38 wins, 8 SO), and carried over momentum with brilliant postseason (1.99 GAA, .944 SV%, 3 SO in 16 games). Former Tampa Bay backup suddenly warrants top-five consideration among fantasy goalies entering 2012-13.

Mikkel Boedker, F

Impression: Positive

Verdict: Reality

Analysis: Regular season numbers (11 G, 13 A, minus-2, 86 SOG, 108 hits in 82 games) resembled rookie campaign in 2008-09 (11 G, 17 A, minus-6, 116 SOG, 77 hits in 78 games), but 22-year-old's postseason (4 G, 4 A, plus-1, 32 SOG, 34 hits in 16 games) was most impressive. Primed for 150-plus hit season, and should reach 20-goal plateau.

NO. 4 SEED: NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Shea Weber, D

Impression: Negative

Verdict: Perception

Analysis: Slumped offensively in playoffs (2 G, 1 A, minus-1 in 10 games), but still contributed in key areas (2 PPP, 9 PIM, 33 SOG, 23 hits). While adjustments must be made after Ryan Suter's departure, Weber's role should expand, leading to another top-5 finish among fantasy d-men in 2012-13.

Mike Fisher, F

Impression: Negative

Verdict: Reality

Analysis: Operating alongside Martin Erat -- a crafty distributor -- expanded his game, but could not rise to occasion in playoffs (1 G, 3 A, minus-4 in 10 games). Reliable regular season goal-scorer who brings hits and shots to the table, but has never amassed 60 points in a single season.

NO. 5 SEED: DETROIT RED WINGS

Jimmy Howard, G

Impression: Negative

Verdict: Perception

Analysis: Held Nashville to three goals or less in each of five postseason outings (2.64 GAA, .888 save percentage), but came out on losing end four times. If healthy next season, though, expect a fourth consecutive 35-plus win season for Howard.

Henrik Zetterberg, F

Impression: Negative

Verdict: Reality

Analysis: Saw an 11-point regular season drop in production after preseason top-10 overall fantasy ranking. He was inconsistent in the WCQF against Nashville (2 G, 1 A, minus-3 in 5 games), raising more concern for his value entering 2012-13.

NO. 6 SEED: CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Jonathan Toews, F

Impression: Positive

Verdict: Reality

Analysis: Returned in time for playoffs after missing final 22 games of regular season (concussion). Played entire series, posting strong totals (2 G, 2 A, plus-4, 19 shots). Will certainly be among first 10 players selected in majority of fantasy drafts.

Patrick Sharp, F

Impression: Negative

Verdict: Perception

Analysis: Only scored once in six playoff games with a minus-2 rating, but line shifts after Marian Hossa injury could have disrupted offensive flow. Finished regular season one point shy of second straight 70-point campaign, so value as elite point-producer should remain intact.

NO. 7 SEED: SAN JOSE SHARKS

Patrick Marleau, F

Impression: Negative

Verdict: Reality

Analysis: Held pointless in a postseason for the first time of his career (minus-1, 9 SOG in 5 games). Still a premier PP producer, but registered his lowest regular season point total since 2007-08 and should be outside top-50 overall entering next season.

Joe Pavelski, F

Impression: Negative

Verdict: Perception

Analysis: Scored a career-best 31 goals in 2011-12, but came up empty with no points and a minus-3 in five playoff games. He remains in his prime with experienced point-producers around him, so a third-straight 60-point season should still be expected.

NO. 8 SEED: LOS ANGELES KINGS

Dustin Brown, F

Impression: Positive

Verdict: Reality

Analysis: Dealt with trade rumors near deadline, but hit full stride in playoffs (8 G, 12 A, plus-16, League-leading 93 hits in 20 postseason games) to lead Kings' to Stanley Cup title. Emerged as one of League's most complete forwards entering 2012-13.

Drew Doughty, D

Impression: Positive

Verdict: Reality

Analysis: Regular season numbers slipped for the second consecutive year, but playoff production mirrored 59-point season in 2009-10. Led all d-men in points (16) during postseason -- cementing himself as a top-10 fantasy blueliner entering next season.

Contact NHL.com Fantasy Insider Pete Jensen at PJensen@NHL.com.

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