Week 20 is already upon us! This season has flown by so far, and there are only three more weeks of the regular season ahead of us in most cases while February is coming to a close. This past week we have seen a flurry of trades and as the NHL trade deadline inches closer and closer I’d expect to see a lot more before then.
Speaking of trades, there were some notable ones for fantasy hockey purposes last week. The Dallas Stars made a highly debated trade with the Penguins, shipping off defenseman Matt Niskanen and power forward James Neal for the puck-moving defenseman Alex Goligoski. I discuss this in greater detail in my latest blog post. The Penguins weren’t done enhancing their forward crew though and also brought back Alex Kovalev from the Senators. Other trades that occurred saw Anaheim and Tampa Bay swapping goaltenders Dan Ellis and Curtis McElhinney, the Canadiens adding Brent Sopel and Nigel Dawes, and the Hurricanes getting back Cory Stillman. The NHL trade deadline is officially set for Monday, February 28 at 3 pm EST. If history bears anything, we should see quite a bit more trades occur by then. If you want to keep up to date with the trades when they happen, I’d keep an eye on NHL.com’s Trade Tracker.
So, seeing as there are only three weeks of regular season fantasy hockey left and the fantasy trade deadline is rapidly approaching, I would pay attention to these trades as they may provide some major fantasy implications. If you are trying to fix certain parts of your teams to get ready for the playoffs as well, you should mimic what is going on in the NHL and start thinking of some trades to do yourself. If you need help with any trades or offers, check out the forum Ask the Fantasy Nation and we will do our best to help you. In the meantime, I’ll be here helping prepare you for the upcoming week.
The Sidney Crosby injury watch: As has been the case for a while now, it’s still unknown whether Crosby will make it back by the end of the season. Ian Gooding talks about the crazy possibility of doing the unthinkable and dropping Sidney Crosby in his latest The Goods: Fantasy Hockey Mailbag.
Lastly, for those of you in keeper leagues, new fantasyhockey.com contributor Mike Tedone provides some excellent keeper information in the latest updates of Keeper Korner, one talking about Six Guys to Sell High and the other Six Guys to Buy Low. Got to say I enjoyed seeing one of my personal favorite players Jamie Benn mentioned in there amongst plenty of others.
Here is the weekly breakdown for this upcoming week, February 28– March 6:
4 GAMES: Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, Florida, Minnesota, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Vancouver
3 GAMES: Anaheim, Atlanta, Boston, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Washington
2 GAMES: Colorado
It looks like the odd-team out this week is Colorado, as they are the only team that is playing only two games. With all of the other busy schedules during Week 20, including nine teams playing four games, you may want to stay away if you are in weekly leagues. I’ll discuss this more below. For now, though, let’s break down the schedule. It looks like it might be a frustrating week for owners, especially considering how relatively consistent the past few weeks have been. There are going to be constant highs and lows, starting off with an incredibly light schedule of only two games on Monday. The schedule then rockets up on Tuesday with ten games followed by five games on Wednesday before playing a week-high eleven games on Thursday. There are then five games on Friday, ten games on Saturday, and finally six games on Sunday. As you can see, it’s probably going to make for a frustrating week for fantasy owners since there are going to be days where your starting lineups are going to be rather empty followed be days where most of your players are going to be playing games, forcing tough decisions on who to start. I’ll try to help make those decisions a little easier for you. For starters, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Minnesota are the four teams playing on Monday, so aim for players that are on these teams if you are wanting to maximize your games played on that awfully slow night.
On The Road Again
These teams are playing all of their games on the road, so be aware that fatigue may play a factor in their play this week: Buffalo, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Montreal, Nashville, and Pittsburgh.
Buffalo and Detroit both play four games on the road, with Detroit in the midst of a five-game road trip while Buffalo is beginning a seven-game road that trip that runs through next week. This is an important week for Dallas, as they are playing all Pacific Division foes and they will need wins if they want to stay in the tough Western Conference playoff race. Buffalo is in a similar situation, where they could be right back into the playoffs with a solid week. Expect both of these teams to be playing their hearts out despite the constant traveling.
These teams are playing all of their games at home this week so they should be rested and practicing: Anaheim, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and San Jose.
Like the last couple of weeks, there are only four teams in Week 20 that have the benefit of playing all of their games at home. San Jose is starting a six-game homestand after a three-day layover from their previous road trip, so they should be decently rested for the upcoming week. Atlanta is at the tail end of a five-game homestand and they haven’t had a back-to-back game scheduled since January 22-23, so they should definitely be well rested in Week 20. Los Angeles is in the middle of a six-game home swing while Anaheim should be well rested since they are in the middle of a seven-game stay at home. Anaheim is going to need the rest, as they are facing two very tough Western Conference opponents and a team in desperation mode to stay in the playoff race.
Staying Well Rested
Teams that are not scheduled to play in any back-to-back games in Week 17 while also minimizing travel: Anaheim, Atlanta, Edmonton, Los Angeles, New Jersey, San Jose, and Washington.
No surprise here that all four of the Home Cooking teams are on this list, and I added Edmonton, New Jersey, and Washington, who are each playing their last game of the week on the road. Leaving the difficulty of their opponents out of it, these teams should be able to practice plenty and play hard every night.
Backups to See Action?
All of these teams are schedule to play in back-to-back games this upcoming week, so there are good chances that these teams’ respective backup goaltenders could see some action: Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Minnesota, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Vancouver.
No guarantees, but If you are desperate for some goalie starts, make sure to monitor these teams and try to determine if/when their backups are playing so you can snag them off of the waiver-wire if available.
Teams that have the best win streaks currently in the NHL:
New Jersey – 8 wins (snapped on Friday against Tampa Bay)
San Jose – 6 wins
Boston – 3 wins
Chicago – 3 wins
New Jersey has remained to be the league’s hottest team by now winning eight games in a row (until Friday) and going an amazing 16-2-2 since mid-January, with some credit going to Johan Hedberg and Ilya Kovalchuk, who have been red hot. You can’t seem to go wrong by playing these guys lately. The Sharks have been the hottest team in the West lately, going from just out of the playoffs to the top of the Pacific Division rather quickly. They are now 8-2-0 in their last 10 and have gone 14-2-1 ever since a six-game losing streak. Other teams currently playing well are Columbus (8-1-1 over last 10), Phoenix (8-2-0 last 10, but lost last two games), Los Angeles (7-1-2 last 10), Philadelphia (7-2-1 last 10), and Toronto (6-2-2).
Teams that have the longest current streaks in the NHL without collecting a point:
Atlanta – 4 losses (collected one point in a shootout loss on Friday)
Anaheim – 4 losses (collected one point in an overtime loss on Friday)
Nashville – 3 losses
The two teams with the worst records last week, Colorado and Dallas, both finally ended their lengthy losing streaks; however, they still need to pick it up. Colorado is still only 2-12-1 over the past 15 games while Dallas is only 3-10-1 ever since they allowed seven goals each in two consecutive losses. Because of Dallas’ poor play of late, Brad Richards may or may not be a member of the Dallas Stars by the time Week 20 rolls around. Other teams that are falling in the standings are Atlanta (1-7-2 over their last 10 games), Pittsburgh (2-6-2 past 10), Montreal (3-5-2 past 10), NY Rangers (4-6-0), and Ottawa (3-6-1), and St. Louis (5-4-1, while they are also only 2-3-0 since trading off Erik Johnson and acquiring Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk.
Now let’s take a look at what should be the most favorable matchups of the week:
San Jose – Opponents: COL, DET, DAL – As mentioned above, San Jose is playing all of their games at home and they are the hottest team in the West right now, so I had to put these guys on here. They get to play the two teams with the worst recent records in the West and also entertaining the Red Wings. The only downside of their schedule is they play on the busiest nights of the week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), but that shouldn’t deter you from playing your San Jose players.
Atlanta – Opponents: MON, OTT, FLA – The thrashers have been spiraling lately and will need to pick it up to retain a playoff spot. Week 20 sounds like the time to do it. First up are the struggling Canadiens on Tuesday, then the last-place Senators on Thursday followed by the Panthers on Saturday. Like the Sharks they are playing on all of the busy days, which may deter you from playing these guys. However, if they are going to start playing well again, I expect that Week 20 is where it will start.
Calgary – Opponenets: @STL, @CHI, CLB, NAS – The Flames have been cooling down a bit lately, however they should get back on track in Week 20. First up are the struggling Blues, who have been letting in a good amount of goals lately (besides of course on Friday), on Tuesday followed by the Blackhawks on Wednesday. They then play the Blue Jackets and Predators on Friday and Sunday. Playing on only one busy day is a definite plus for fantasy owners. I’d get these guys out there.
Washington – Opponents: NYI, STL, @FLA – As mentioned in the Staying Well Rested section, the Caps have a pretty cushy schedule next week and they are playing some nice opponents as well. They play the lowly Islanders, the spiraling Blues, and the Panthers on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday respectively. The Caps have been playing better as of late, and I expect them to have a productive Week 20.
…And the least favorable matchups of the week:
Colorado – Opponents: @SJ, EDM – Not a shocker that these guys are on here. First up in the week is going to a very tough matchup versus the red hot Sharks on Tuesday, then they play the Oilers on Saturday, who they just recently lost to 5-1. Brian Elliott still really hasn’t found his way with his new team, and it’s anyone’s guess whether Peter Budaj or Elliott will start these games so I would definitely stay away from this team’s goalies in Week 20. In fact, I’d stay away from this team completely in weekly lineup leagues.
Anaheim – Opponents: DET, DAL, VAN – I mentioned these guys above so I’ll keep it brief. This team desperately needs Jonas Hiller to come back. One positive about this week is they play all of their games on the non-busy nights. Bad news is, this week is probably going to be rough. I wouldn’t be surprised to see returning NHLer Ray Emery get a start this week.
Columbus – Opponents: @VAN, @EDM, @CAL – Not only does this team play every game on the road with a back-to-back scheduled, they have to play the best team in the league and another that has been winning a lot lately. Mathieu Garon should see a game of action, most likely versus Edmonton.
Nashville – Opponents: @EDM, @VAN, @CAL – Not only have the Preds been sliding lately, but they are playing the exact same opponents as the Blue Jackets which doesn’t bode well for the them. Injuries have been an issue lately, and just got worse with Steve Sullivan recently going on IR. I’d think about whether or not to start anyone on this team not named Pekka Rinne.
As always post any comments or questions below. I’d love to hear from you. Also, please feel free to post about any teams/players that you feel should be mentioned on here. Thanks everyone, and good luck next week!
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