Looking Ahead: Week 23

03/19/2011 2:37 AM -  Garrett Rees

Well ladies and gents, it’s officially playoff time!  For those of you that are still reading, I’m assuming you are still in this thing, so good luck down the stretch.  For those of you lucky enough to be both in the playoffs and not playing this week enjoy your time off and I’ll see you for round two.

Playoff time usually means one thing in regards to managing your team: maxing out player adds for the week.  Don’t be afraid to drop someone if you feel that adding someone that plays will help your overall chances of winning. 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 about who to add, drop, bench, or start.  Also, be sure to check out the daily Pick Six posts, 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 round of the playoffs.

The Sidney Crosby injury watch: Finally some good news!  Sid has now skated three times in four days, giving everyone a glimmer of hope that he will make a return sooner than later.  Despite this optimism, there is still the reality that his timetable of return and him being able to make it back before the fantasy hockey season is over is still very doubtful.  Crosby is still not fully practicing but rather taking it half-paced without too much exertion and especially no contact yet.  The fact that he is paving his way towards recovery is still a very good thing for the Penguins and the NHL.

WEEKLY BREAKDOWN

Here is the breakdown for this upcoming week, March 21 – March 27:

4 GAMES: Boston, Florida, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh

3 GAMES: Anaheim, Atlanta, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Detroit, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Phoenix, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington

2 GAMES: Chicago, Dallas, Minnesota

The amount of teams playing two games throughout the week has risen to three this week, and that trend couldn’t be developing at a worse time for some managers considering that this is an important playoff week.  But that won’t be the only frustrating thing about this week, as it will be another rollercoaster ride again.  Monday sees only a measly two games for the Week 23 low, so be prepared.  Calgary, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh are the only teams that are going to be on the ice on Monday, so look there if you are needing to hit the waiver-wire to fill a roster spot or two.  The rest of the week plays out with ten games on Tuesday, four games on Wednesday, nine games on Thursday, five games on Friday, a week high 12 games on Saturday, and then is finished off with only four games on Sunday.  As you can see, just like last week there are going to be days where you are most likely going to have to bench players and days where your starting roster is going to be rather bare.  Why couldn’t the NHL have been consistent with their scheduling now when it matters most instead of a few weeks ago?  I guess those in charge of scheduling NHL games were not sympathetic with fantasy hockey managers that made the playoffs.

If by the weekend you find yourself behind your competition and you need to give your team that extra little boost on the final day of the week, look to pick up players from Atlanta, Boston, Columbus, Florida, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or Vancouver.

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: Anaheim, Calgary, Florida, New Jersey, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington.

Home Cooking

These teams are playing all of their games at home this week so they should be rested and practicing: Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, Phoenix.

Staying Well Rested

Teams that are not scheduled to play in any back-to-back games in Week 17 while also minimizing travel:  Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, LA, Minnesota, Nashville, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Phoenix

Chicago, Dallas, and Minnesota should all be extra rested this week, as mentioned above, they are the only teams that are playing two games.  Colorado, NY Islanders, and NY Rangers all made the cut as well and will each play one game next week on the road.  It’s a good possibility that the number one netminders of all of these teams are going to play every game during Week 23.

Backups to See Action?

All of these teams are scheduled 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, Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary (Monday’s game is the second game of back-to-backs), Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Tampa Bay, 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. A good place to find this important starting goalie information is in the fantasyhockey.com forums.

Going Streaking

Teams that have the best win streaks currently in the NHL:

Vancouver – 7 wins (snapped Friday against Phoenix)

Phoenix – 5 wins

Detroit – 4 wins

Pittsburgh – 2 wins

NY Rangers – 2 wins

San Jose – 2 wins

The Canucks remain to be the team to beat and are the first and only team so far to have clinched a playoff spot and a division title.  Detroit is also on their way to clinching their division, while the Western Conference playoff race remains as tight as ever with San Jose, Phoenix, LA, Dallas, Chicago, Calgary, Nashville, and Anaheim all with winning records over their past ten games.  Washington’s nine-game win streak just ended with their recent loss to Detroit, dropping their record to a still very impressive 12-3-0 over their past 15 games.  Things are looking even brighter for them now that top center Nicklas Backstrom returned from injury on Friday after missing five straight games, the first games he has ever missed in his career so far.

Spiraling

Teams that have the longest current streaks in the NHL without collecting a point:

Colorado – 6 losses

Minnesota – 4 losses

Edmonton – 2 losses

Colorado continues to struggle and have won only one game in their past 21 overall.  Owners of Brian Elliott and Peter Budaj have got to be thoroughly frustrated and should be looking for other options while owners of any Avalanche at this point need to expect bad +/- ratings.  It looks like they are aiming for that #1 draft pick in the 2011 NHL draft; however, that position is still thoroughly filled by the Edmonton Oilers, who are now 3-6-1 over their past 10 games.  Even with top player Mikko Koivu now back in the lineup, the Wild are still struggling to string together wins and are 3-6-1 over their past 10 games.  They are going to need to start winning fast if they want to make it to the playoffs, which is now looking more and more unlikely.

Strong Schedules

Now let’s take a look at what should be the most favorable matchups of the week:

Pittsburgh – Opponents: @DET, @PHI, NJ, FLA – I wouldn’t expect Crosby to be able to make it to any of these games, but the Pens have started to find some chemistry without their two superstars.  Hopefully for fantasy owners they can keep building on that chemistry through Week 23, as it’s going to be a tough, busy week.  There is still plenty of opportunity for fantasy production, though. They are one of the four teams that play on Monday, which happens to be the second game of back-to-backs.  They then have another set of back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday versus a sliding Philly team and the Devils.  Their final game of the week is on Sunday, and should prove to be a much easier game than the other three.  Since they are one of the five teams that play four games and play on both Monday and Sunday, I’d be looking to get these guys out there in any format.

Vancouver – Opponents: @DET, @ATL, @CLB – I know, I know.  These guys are on here again?  Got to give it to GM Mike Gillis, he sure likes to make it easy for fantasy hockey managers.  This is going to be quite the road swing for the Canucks with long travel in between each game, however they have a day off before every game so that should definitely help with any fatigue they may be dealing with.  The definite plus here is that they play their games on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday – a great schedule for fantasy owners in daily roster leagues.   You know what to do with these guys by now.  Get them out there already.

Weak Schedules

…And the least favorable matchups of the week:

Minnesota – Opponents: TOR, STL – Combine their current losing streak with playing only two games on the two busiest nights of the week, and it’s not hard to see that the Wild are bench worthy during Week 23 in weekly leagues.  They play both games at home, but they only play Toronto on Tuesday and St. Louis on Saturday.  It’s not the toughest schedule in world; however, I’m sure there are plenty of better options out there.  Play your Wild players only if you must as they don’t look as if they are going to do much for your playoff chances.

Calgary – Opponents: @SJ, @EDM – The Flames have a similar schedule to Minnesota with only two games on the two busiest nights of the week; however, they play both of their games on the road.  The first game is going to be a very tough, critical matchup against the surging Sharks.  Their last game of the week isn’t going to be nearly as hard as they will be matching up against the last place team in the league.  Those in daily roster leagues will definitely want to get their Flames out there on their Saturday matchup, but those in weekly leagues will most likely want to stay away presuming you have better options on the bench.  That goes for everyone except Jarome Iginla.  With the way he has been scoring lately, I think you should know what to do with him.

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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