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Sleeper teams key to playoff survival

The Detroit Red Wings, at 3-to-1, have been established as theoddsmakers’ favourites to win this year’s Stanley Cup, and the San JoseSharks, at 9-to-2, appear to be the trendy pick.


The Detroit Red Wings, at 3-to-1, have been established as the oddsmakers’ favourites to win this year’s Stanley Cup, and the San Jose Sharks, at 9-to-2, appear to be the trendy pick.

What you need to spice up your post-season, however, is a sleeper team, a longshot most other dudes diss, doubt and dismiss. You need a team that will enter the NHL playoffs tonight as an underdog but will defy the odds and ultimately come out of the proverbial nowhere to emerge triumphant, or at least make it to the final four.

Sleeper teams frequently advance deep into the post-season and, if you’re among the tens of thousands who will be involved in playoff pools, they’ll make or break you.

“Sleeper teams are especially vital this year,” said Digger Turnbull, president of Fantasy Sports Services, Inc., “because, unlike past years, it’s really a wide open race. There’s really no clear-cut team out there that you can say will definitely make it to the finals.”

The key, of course, is picking the right sleeper team.

So here, free of charge from your favourite free daily, are your top three sleeper teams for the 2007-08 playoffs:

Washington Capitals:
The Caps are 14-to-1 longshots to capture the Cup, but they have the one player who can almost singlehandedly beat opponents.

Alex Ovechkin, at 22, is the NHL’s top scorer. And he’s fearless.

“Ovechkin attacks people who attack him,” said Pierre McGuire, an NHL analyst for TSN and NBC. “He creates room for himself. (Former NHLer) Mike Bossy was a great scorer but he needed Bryan Trottier to set him up. Ovechkin doesn’t need anybody. Just give him a stick and a puck and he’ll score. He doesn’t even need gloves … He’s the MVP of the league. Anybody who doesn’t vote for him should have that vote rescinded.”

Minnesota Wild:
Oddsmakers list the Wild as a 20-to-1 longshot to capture the Cup, but, like Ovechkin, Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik is a sniper and Brian Rolston may be the NHL’s top two-way player.
The Wild can easily subdue the Colorado Avalanche in the first round and is capable of defeating any other opponent it’ll face.

New York Rangers:
The Rangers are 12-to-1 longshots, but they still have Jaromir Jagr, who can carry this team deep. Scott Gomez and Chris Drury are clutch performers, too.

If the Rangers can get past goaltender Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils in the first round — yes, a big if — they could just be the sleeper team that ascends to the Stanley Cup.
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