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Everything you need to know about starting and dominating your NHL playoff pool

·5 min read
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If you’re looking to add a little more intrigue to the already entertaining and nerve-wracking experience that is the Stanley Cup playoffs, then I highly suggest starting up or joining a hockey playoff pool.

Whether you’re a first-timer or a veteran when it comes to playoff pools, here are some tips and tricks you’ll find useful.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 11: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals skates with the puck against the Boston Bruins in the first period at Capital One Arena on May 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)
Will Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals get past the Boston Bruins in Round 1? (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Starting a playoff pool

There are a number of services out there that allow you to host your playoff pool. When you settle on one that you like, you’ll have to input a number of settings before you can start inviting your friends and co-workers. Here are my suggestions:

Salary cap or no salary cap?

A lot of services offer the option to construct your team within a salary cap. All players will have a certain point value attached to them and managers will have to build their team without going over the limit. Most services also offer the option to allow people to pick their teams freely, and this is the option I prefer. Likely, not everyone in your family or at your office is a massive hockey fan, and sometimes the salary cap element can be intimidating to someone who’s new to pools or may not follow hockey closely. Creating a pool without a salary cap allows everyone to pick their teams without feeling overwhelmed.

Scoring settings

All services will allow you to customize your scoring settings. You can include a number of stats like goals, assists, plus-minus, overtime goals, hits, shots, wins, shutouts, saves and much more. For each stat you select, you’ll need to assign a point value to it. Again, knowing not everyone is a hockey superfan, I tend to make the scoring settings as easy to follow as possible for everyone. Here’s a setup I use for the pools I host:

Player stats

Goals = 3 points

Assists = 2 points

OT goals = 1 point

Goalie stats

Wins = 3 points

Shutouts = 2 points

Assists = 2 points

Making it easy for everyone to follow along and keep track of their players’ performance as they’re watching the game always seems to raise interest in the pool. All services will automatically compute the points for you, so don’t worry about having to add in the totals yourself.

Roster Size

After determining your scoring settings, the next step is figuring out how many players each team will roster. There’s really no wrong way to do this, but I wouldn’t make your teams any bigger than the size of an actual NHL team, meaning a maximum of 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies. For the pools I organize, I typically size it up at nine forwards, four defensemen and two goalies. Feel free to play around and customize it to your liking.

League dues

My only word of advice on league dues is make sure you collect them before the pool starts. Nobody wants to invite a situation where you’re chasing someone down for their entry fee halfway through the playoffs. Just collect everybody’s payment up front so you don’t have to worry.

Strategy

Now that we’ve got the admin stuff out of the way, let’s focus on the best way to construct your team.

This year there is one strategy that all poolies should be looking to implement. When creating your team, remember that more games played means more opportunities to accumulate points. Given the nature of this NHL season, one team from each of the divisions will be represented in the final four. My suggestion is to fill out an NHL playoff bracket before you sit down to curate your team. This allows you to visualize which teams you believe will make it into the final four. I recommend you compile your roster exclusively of the premier players from these four teams, seeing as they are the four you predict to make it the furthest in the postseason and thus players you foresee having the most opportunities to pile on the points. Here’s how I filled out one of my teams (nine forwards, four defense, two goalies) as an example.

Boston Bruins

F Patrice Bergeron

F Brad Marchand

F David Pastrnak

D Charlie McAvoy

G Tuukka Rask

Carolina Hurricanes

F Sebastian Aho

F Andrei Svechnikov

D Dougie Hamilton

G Alex Nedeljkovic

Toronto Maple Leafs

F Mitch Marner

F Auston Matthews

Vegas Golden Knights

F Max Pacioretty

F Mark Stone

D Alex Pietrangelo

D Shea Theodore. 

Because I have the Bruins, Hurricanes, Maple Leafs and Golden Knights emerging from their respective divisions, I built my squad exclusively with members of those teams. This really is the best strategy to implement, although I wouldn’t fault you for including Connor McDavid on any of your teams even if you don’t have the Edmonton Oilers making the final four. Given how well he’s been playing, he’s the only player I’m willing to make an exception for. There’s a possibility that even if McDavid and the Oilers don’t make it beyond Round 2, he could still lead the playoffs in points, he’s been that good.

Now that you’ve finished reading this, you’re ready to start and dominate your own playoff pool! Best of luck, and don’t forget to get those league dues up front.

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