This is it! The default fantasy trade deadline has past us and Week 22 is right around the corner, and boy is it ever an important one for head-to-head leagues. Some of you will be starting the playoffs next week, while most of the rest of you will be playing in the final week of the regular season. For those of you that made it to the playoffs, congratulations to you and the best of luck to you on your road to victory. For those of you that are entering the final week of the fantasy regular season, hopefully you are sitting in a playoff of spot. If not, this is the last week to do anything about.
With the trade deadline having past in most leagues, it’s now all up to your ability to scour the waiver-wire in hopes of finding gold. We here at fantasyhockey.com want to help while making sure you are able to do all that you can to be victorious. As always, if you have any questions or need any help at all, just Ask the Fantasy Nation and we will try to provide as much help as possible. Also, be sure to check out the brand new DAILY articles dubbed Pick Six, where Ian Gooding and occasionally others (including myself) will pick six players each day and let you know whether to sit or start them. In the meantime, I’ll be here helping prepare you for this vital week.
The Sidney Crosby injury watch: Crosby has now missed the past 27 games because of his concussion, and all signs say that his return is not at all imminent. Owners have to seriously wonder if he’s even going to come back this season, as it’s looking more and more likely that he will not.
Here is the weekly breakdown for this upcoming week, March 14 – March 20:
4 GAMES: Columbus, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, Phoenix, San Jose, Toronto
3 GAMES: Anaheim, Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Washington
2 GAMES: Edmonton, Pittsburgh
There are again a decent amount of teams that play four games during Week 22 while this time there are two teams unlucky enough to play only twice in a week’s span. This week’s scheduling is going to be one of those roller coaster kind of weeks, with huge ups and downs on the schedule, starting with the fewest games of the week on Monday with only three. The amount of games being played then rockets up to 10 on Tuesday, dropping back down to only four on Wednesday, back up to 11 on Thursday, undulating back to four on Friday, up to 10 again on Saturday, and then finishes off with six games on Sunday. It’s going to be quite the ride, so if you are in a daily roster league be prepared to have to deal with the possibility of benching players on three occasions while scrounging the waiver-wire to fill up your lineup on the rest of the days.
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: Boston, Colorado, NY Islanders, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Washington
These teams are playing all of their games at home this week so they should be rested and practicing: Buffalo, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, Ottawa, Vancouver
STAYING WELL RESTED
Teams that are not scheduled to play in any back-to-back games in Week 17 while also minimizing travel: Calgary, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Vancouver
All of the Home Cooking teams make this list with the exception of Buffalo and the additions of Calgary, the Rangers, and Pittsburgh. Notice that Edmonton and Pittsburgh both have schedules that fit the criteria, however since they are the teams only playing two games they are still probably bench worthy in weekly roster leagues. Dallas is in the midst of a seven-game home stretch while Vancouver is going on a quick home swing for this week only and then they are back on the road.
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: Anaheim, Buffalo, Carolona, Colorado, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, NY Islanders, Phoenix, San Jose, St. Louis, Toronto, Washington
No guarantees, but If you are desperate for some goalie starts, make sure to monitor these teams to 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 (up to and including Thursday):
Washington – 6 wins
Vancouver – 4 wins
St. Louis – 3 wins
Philadelphia – 2 wins
Pittsburgh – 2 wins
Atlanta – 2 wins
Ottawa – 2 wins
It appears that the Sharks, Bruins, and Blackhawks have all cooled down just a bit from their amazing winning streaks as of last week, while Washington has certainly gotten back on track and is now 8-2-0 over there past 10 games. Philadelphia has also gotten back on track after their recent little slump and have now tacked on two in a row. St. Louis has also really picked it up after a recent slump and have been playing good hockey again, conveniently coinciding with the return of #1 net-minder Jaroslav Halak.
Teams that have the longest current streaks in the NHL without collecting a point (up to and including Thursday):
Colorado – 2 losses
Edmonton – 2 losses
Since the Stanley Cup playoffs are just around the corner, it appears that teams are really starting to pick up the intensity and no one has lost more than two games in a row as of right now. This can mean good news for fantasy owners. With that said, though, it still remains a risk to play your Colorado or Edmonton players, especially goaltenders Brian Elliott/Peter Budaj and Nikolai Khabibulin. Nashville, Anaheim, Minnesota, and Carolina are all going to need to pick it up very soon if they are going to want to join the playoff fun.
Now let’s take a look at what should be the most favorable matchups of the week:
Vancouver – Opponents: MIN, COL, PHO – It seems like these guys show up here a lot, don’t they? It’s hard to not recommend the best team in the league, and this week is especially no exception. Their Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule in Week 22 makes them even more appealing since they are playing all of their games on the slowest nights of the week. The Canucks’ last game versus Minnesota ended in a 4-1 win, then they face the coldest team in the league, and then finish off with a team they have outscored a combined 10-3 over their last two matchups, both wins. It’s definitely safe to say, get these guys out there. Manny Malhotra (2g-2a-4pts, +4 over his past four games), Dan Hamhuis (2g-1a-3pts past two games), Sami Salo, or Jannik Hansen could all make for a decent temporary add, while backup Cory Schneider could see a game of action to keep Roberto Luongo fresh for the playoffs.
New Jersey – Opponents: ATL, @OTT, WAS, @CLB – If the Devils are serious about making a push for the playoffs, they have to keep winning. With their recent play and win mentality, this team will be playing all out so you should try to reap the benefits as a fantasy owner. The only real challenge for them this week will be Washington, as they should be able to play winning hockey against the other three opponents. Playing on Sunday should be an added bonus for fantasy owners, since there is the chance of helping with that one last push to get into the playoffs or help you make it to that next round.
New York Rangers – Opponents: NYI, MON, @PIT – The Rangers are currently fighting for their playoff lives, so hopefully that translates to good things for fantasy owners. Starting off the week by playing one of the last place teams in the league certainly can’t hurt. The Habs and Pens will pose more of a challenge, but they should make for some very entertaining and hopefully for fantasy owners high scoring games. Like New Jersey, the Rangers also have the added benefit of playing on Sunday so if you are needing help finishing off your opponent, look to the Rangers for help on that crucial day.
Chicago – Opponents: SJ, @DAL, @PHO – This is more of an honorary mention as all of these opponents are going to be tough, especially considering all of their play as of late and Dallas becoming fully healthy again with the return of Brad Richards. Where their schedule comes in handy in a fantasy sense though is the fact that they play on both Monday and Sunday. So not only can the Hawks get you some points on a very slow night, they may be able to get you some points on the most crucial of days. If you are in need of any help, Chicago may be a team you can turn to in daily roster leagues.
…And the least favorable matchups of the week:
Atlanta – Opponents: @NJ, PHI, @BUF – After spiraling down the standings quite a bit, the Thrashers have finally strung a few good games together this past week. However, with the opponents they have to face in Week 22 I’m not expecting that trend to continue. The Devils have been almost unstoppable the past two months, Philadelphia has found their groove again, and Buffalo will be scratching and clawing for their playoff lives so Week 22 could be very rough for the Thrashers. Considering that they also play all of their games on the three busiest nights of the week, I definitely think you could find some better options out there to fill your roster.
St. Louis – Opponents: @ANA, @LA, @SJ – As mentioned above, the Blues have been playing some better hockey lately. A road trip through California where they play three games in four nights may just be the end of that. The Pacific Division – the division in which all three of their opponents belong to – is the tightest division in the league, making every single game they play critical. With them already having playoff mentality, these are going to be some very tough teams to beat, especially recently surging LA and San Jose. Factor in the back-to-back’s on Wednesday and Thursday, and then playing their final game on the ever busy Saturday, they will be ready to get the heck out California by the end of the week. And because of the busy schedule, I would expect Halak to only get two starts next week.
Ottawa – Opponents: PIT, NJ, TB – Even though the Senators play all of their games at home and Craig Anderson has been playing like he did in the 2010 playoffs, I still don’t like their chances this week against some tough Eastern Conference opponents. Hopefully for fantasy owners I am wrong, but Anderson’s magic may just run out in Week 22. A Crosby-less Pens team has started to play much better lately, New Jersey is still one of the hottest teams in the league, and it’s never fun for you goalies when you have to play the Lightning. I’d be careful this upcoming week.
Edmonton and Pittsburgh – In a week where you need as many of your guys playing as possible, having only two games scheduled can be detrimental to your success. Edmonton also has the disadvantage of playing both of their games on two very busy nights. Pittsburgh is better off for fantasy purposes, getting to play their last game of the week on a Sunday. If you are in daily roster leagues, by all means send your Penguins out there on Sunday, however if you are in weekly leagues I would only start players from either of these teams if you really must.
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 needs to be mentioned on here. Thanks everyone, and good luck next week!
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