The NHL season is winding down and most leagues are in the throes of the fantasy playoffs. If you’re battling for a championship over the next few weeks, read on to get the edge on your competitors.
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I typically avoid examining team schedules in this space since I would much prefer to focus on larger big-picture trends, but even I must admit there’s a place for that sort of granular analysis over small samples such as the playoffs. Here are a few things I gleaned after perusing the remainder of the NHL calendar:
- The Ducks have played a league-high 75 games entering action Wednesday and only three of their remaining contests will take place on home ice. If you’re currently rostering any borderline fantasy assets from Anaheim such as Jakob Silfverberg, Simon Despres or Patrick Maroon you may wish to trade them in for more active players unless your league permits daily transactions.
- There remain a handful of teams who still have 10 games to play in the season, but none are hotter than the Ottawa Senators, who have won seven straight and are 9-0-1 in their last 10. If you’re an Andrew Hammond owner then you obviously knew this already, but you may not have realized how well a few of their offensive leaders have fared during this span. Since the start of March, the venerable Erik Karlsson leads all NHL defensemen in scoring with 12 points while rookie winger Mark Stone has also posted 12 points to pace the Senators forwards. The cases of Hammond and Stone present a good opportunity to further discuss playoff strategy when it comes to hot streaks. For both of the aforementioned surprises, I can’t confidently state that they will enjoy long, productive careers, but that’s not really a concern of mine over the next few weeks. Hammond appears to be the undisputed starter for as long as he can stay upright and Stone has clearly found chemistry playing on a line with Kyle Turris and Alex Chiasson so I’m riding both of them from here on out.
- Most of the fantasy world has stopped paying attention to the league’s bottom-feeders, but the Hurricanes may offer some value to savvy owners down the stretch. They have 10 games left on their schedule (5 Home, 5 Away) and have received some impressive offense of late from youngsters Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask, neither of whom is owned in greater than 5 percent of Yahoo leagues. Looking only at the month of March, Rask has posted three goals and six assists for nine points in 11 games while also adding 26 shots on goal and an unlikely plus-3 rating while Lindholm has been just as impressive, recording 5-3-8 and 27 shots of his own.
As I step away from the schedule analysis and look more closely at specific players and teams, I’m impressed by what’s been going in Columbus. Despite the team’s struggles this season, Scott Hartnell and Nick Foligno stand out as players who have continued to perform for their appreciative fantasy owners. Hartnell has very quietly topped 25 goals for the third time in his career and stands a decent chance of reaching the 60-point plateau, which is an impressive feat considering he’s also just 4 penalty minutes shy of posting his 10th 100-PIM campaign.
In the same vein as my Andrew Hammond/Mark Stone point from earlier, I think we’re definitely witnessing Nick Foligno’s career season, as he has already posted personal bests in Goals, Assists, Plus/Minus, Power Play Goals/Assists/Points and Shots on Goal, but while I don’t ever expect him to duplicate it, I have no reason to believe his production will fall off a cliff over the final few weeks. Start him with confidence and worry about next year when it comes.
I can already picture it. Owners of star goaltenders such as Pekka Rinne, Carey Price, Braden Holtby and Ben Bishop ride their netminders to fantasy success all season only to see their workhorses get rested towards the end of the season as their teams prepare for extended playoff runs. Yes, a number of owners stand to be frustrated when this happens, but if you own a stud goalkeeper you can get ahead of the game and grab their backup in anticipation of such an event. Even better, if you’re not the owner of a stud, but you need a jolt between the pipes in your fantasy championship, what better time to fire up that Tokarski or Vasilevskiy you’ve been waiting to use? It’s time to get creative, folks, and a backup goaltender who may get a start or two in early April is likely more valuable to your squad than the starter on a bad team.
Bargain Bin Finds
As always, this space is reserved to highlight players owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Andrej Sekera (15 percent) – Sekera’s move to the Kings didn’t turn too many heads in the fantasy community and in truth, he hasn’t exactly been an offensive juggernaut since joining Los Angeles, but they did pay a hefty price to acquire him and his ice time figures suggest he’s a big part of their plans. With the defending champs fighting tooth and nail to secure a spot in the postseason, Sekera is a player I would feel comfortable owning in deep leagues.
Drew Stafford (15 percent) – Kudos to those who predicted a return to fantasy viability for Stafford after he was dealt to Winnipeg at the trade deadline because I certainly didn’t see this coming. The 15 points in 18 games are a little misleading since he’s scoring on better than 17 percent of his shots with the Jets, but the rest of his peripherals support the improved production.
Cam Atkinson (11 percent) – Another week, another shout out for our #goldenboy. The talented winger has registered four points in as many games since the Atkinson Owners Support Group last convened and I think the sky is the limit! Maybe a little hyperbole there, but you know how irrational I can be when we begin discussing my favorite Blue Jacket.