Believe it or not, we’re inside a month – 28 days – from the end of another NHL regular season.
For those of you still in denial over Anaheim’s beatdown of Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night, I’m here for you. How random, unforeseen and demoralizing was that from a fantasy perspective? Ridiculous.
The pressure is definitely on for those currently on the Grand Prize Leaderboard for the Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool. At this point, you can pretty much smell the ultimate grand prize: the all-new 2019 Ram 1500. From here on out, every roster decision you make could be make or break.
Time to examine the week of Mar. 11 – 17:
1. 53 games in total; 15 teams lead the way with four games each (ANA, ARI, BUF, CBJ, DAL, EDM, MIN, NJD, NYI, NYR, PHI, PIT, SJS, STL, & TOR). Load up.
2. If you’re looking to capitalize on schedule manipulation, target players on Edmonton, New York (NYR), Philadelphia and Toronto. As per usual, Tuesday (8), Thursday (10) and Saturday (12) are the busiest days of action.
Edmonton Oilers – Mon (NYR), Wed (NJD), Sat (@ARI), Sun (@VGK)
New York Rangers – Mon (@EDM), Wed (@VAN), Fri (@CGY), Sat (@MIN)
Philadelphia Flyers – Mon (OTT), Thurs (WSH), Fri (@TOR), Sun (@PIT)
Toronto Maple Leafs – Mon (TBL), Wed (CHI), Fri (PHI), Sat (@OTT)
3. Keep riding the Anaheim Ducks. Uncharacteristically, Bob Murray’s squad has scored 15 goals over the past three games after tallying just 10-total in their previous seven. Low-ownership names to jump on: Troy Terry, Adam Henrique and Corey Perry.
4. Ditto for the Minnesota Wild. Jason Zucker, Ryan Donato and Kevin Fiala should be on your radar. The Wild are 6-3-3 since the Bruce Boudreau Guarantee.
5. The Coyotes are another team to lean on this week. Although the word is definitely out on goalie Darcy Kuemper, there are plenty of useful files up front. You can find substantial under-the-radar value in the likes of Alex Galchenyuk and Christian Dvorak right now.
6. On the other side of the spectrum, Los Angeles and Vegas play just twice. For my money, everyone on the Kings is fair game to be dropped. Be more cautious if you own any core pieces on the Golden Knights. There’s just too much value to risk there from cutting someone.
7. Be on high alert if you own any Tampa Bay Lightning stock. Unsurprisingly, they became the first team to clinch a playoff berth on Friday night. Considering they’ve pretty much locked up both the Atlantic Division title and the Presidents’ Trophy, it wouldn’t shock me if ‘load management’ became a thing there. As already evident by his start Saturday night against Detroit, expect plenty of Louis Domingue down the stretch.
8. With Vladimir Tarasenko currently sidelined due to an upper-body injury, you should consider picking up Jaden Schwartz. The 26-year-old is the likeliest candidate to fill-in on St. Louis’ top-line with Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn. Be alert.
9. If Schwartz can’t rise to the occasion, rookie Robert Thomas may emerge as a legitimate option for promotion too. The 19-year-old has two goals and five points over his last five outings. Monitor.
10. One more on the Blues, be mindful of Jake Allen. The 28-year-old netminder has allowed just nine goals over his last five appearances to go along with two shutouts. Thursday (Mar. 7) and Saturday (Mar. 9) actually marked his first set of back-to-back starts since early January.
Of note, Jordan Binnington has surrendered seven goals on the last 47 shots.
11. Tough time to lose Gabriel Landeskog. In need of a quick-fix replacement? Internally, J.T. Compher or Derick Brassard could fit the bill. External looks: Andreas Athanasiou, Michael Grabner and Jakub Vrana, among others. Keep tabs on who’s hot.
12. Dare I say Zack Kassian is worth a flier? A recent promotion to Edmonton’s number-one line prompted a career best four-game goal streak for the 28-year-old. Sadly, that run came to an end in Saturday night’s loss to the Maple Leafs. Ladies and gentlemen, the McDavid effect! Ty Rattie says ‘hello!’
13. Shout out to a pair of Ottawa newcomers – surprisingly, Brian Gibbons and Oscar Lindberg have provided bearable fantasy output since being acquired by the Senators. Stream away!
14. Also, don’t be afraid to move on from star Senators defenceman Thomas Chabot. The fantasy playoffs are no time to exercise patience. Two formidable replacement candidates: Travis Sanheim (PHI) and Nate Schmidt (VGK).
15. Move on from Micheal Ferland. Unfortunately, the Manitoba native just can’t stay healthy and that in turn has caused his fantasy stock to plummet exponentially. Watch closely.
16. Stay clear of New Jersey. The injury ravaged Devils have mustered just 11 goals over the past eight games. It’s understandable considering the growing list of walking wounded there. Kyle Palmieri and Blake Coleman are back but who knows how healthy they truly are. Stay away.
17. Top-20 ranked winger David Pastrnak is back skating for the Boston Bruins after suffering that bizarre thumb injury a couple of weeks back. Stay tuned for an update on a potential return in the coming days.
18. Dump Robin Lehner. There’s strong belief that the Islanders goaltender is dealing with a suspected concussion. Play the streaming game on the waiver wire.
19. Rest assured, Leafs backup Garret Sparks will see plenty of action to wrap up the regular season. Toronto is pretty much locked into another first round matchup with Boston; home ice is still on the table, however.
Head coach Mike Babcock recently backtracked on comments that suggested that the target number of starts for Frederik Andersen was around 56 games. Regardless, they’ll want to keep him fresh for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
20. All eyes are now firmly on Vancouver Canucks blue chip defenceman Quinn Hughes. Michigan was eliminated from the Big Ten playoffs on Saturday, paving the way for the 18-year-old American to potentially sign and join the Canucks as early as this week. Stay locked on this situation!