Ramblings: The fantasy playoffs get off to a roaring start.
What an explosive start to the fantasy playoffs. I’ve been hyping three teams leading up to this week, the Hurricanes, the Flames and the Penguins because they boast the most favourable schedule for fantasy owners.
The Hurricanes lit up the Islanders for eight goals, including five from their defensemen, although that’s a little misleading. They got five goals from Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin who shredded the Islanders near and far.
Slavin, who I scooped up to help me with blocked shots, netted a hat-trick, including a shorthanded marker. He also contributed an assist. You shouldn’t expect this from Slavin going forward, although not for lack of talent. I firmly believe that he’s got the skills to offer more but right now he just isn’t a power play option for Carolina.
The Hurricanes give their PP minutes to Faulk (two goals) and Noah Hanifin (two assists). Those guys are pretty good too! Faulk extended his scoring streak to five games. What an excellent time for him to get hot.
Jeff Skinner also had a two-goal game. He’s been quiet in the second half but has five points in six games since returning from injury. This is a good sign for Skinner and for his linemates Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm, both of whom I’ve discussed as potential waiver grabs for the fantasy playoffs. Both produced assists last night. Lindholm is up to 26 points in his last 29 games, while Rask has eight in the last 10.
By no means do I expect that it will be all french fries and gravy for the Hurricanes but they do have four more games remaining this week, including a rematch against the Islanders tonight. Considering that their three games against the Islanders have been 7-4, 5-4, and 8-4 wins, I cannot wait to see what they have for an encore.
They’ll play a fifth time on April 6th. Mark it on the calendar.
Further reason to jump on the Hurricanes is that they have more games left to play (16) than anyone else in the league so it’s not just this week that they’ll help you. Just do not use their goalies!
The Penguins and Flames squared off against one another and were appealing to fantasy owners because they both came into this week on hot streaks but also boasted the Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday schedule that is optimal for lineup configurations.
The Flames extended their winning streak to 10 games, beating the Penguins in the shootout. It took a herculean effort from Brian Elliott to get the job done but as he has been so many times around this time of year Elliott was up to the task stopping 32 of 35. That extends his personal winning streak to nine games. I keep saying that he’s going to win a lot of leagues for people.
I’ve been hyping up the Flames’ 3M line with Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk and for good reason. Tkachuk would be in the Calder Trophy mix in any other year, while Backlund might be leading the Selke Trophy charge. Naturally, they drew the Crosby line as a matchup and got caved in. Life won’t get any easier on Wednesday when they face the Bruins as they’ll be looking at a matchup against Bergeron.
Fortunately, Johnny Gaudreau was on hand to punk some fools:
Gaudreau goal pic.twitter.com/O9mTL9fe6O— steph (@myregularface) March 14, 2017
Literally all five Penguins on the ice (including the goaltender) take a stab at stopping Gaudreau and come up empty. Obviously Ron Hainsey is the focus and boy does it look silly when he grasps at that phantom but his teammates did no better. Personally, I liked Nick Bonino coming sliding in from off the screen like this was a game on NHL ’17.
Gaudreau’s been on fire on this winning streak with 14 points in 10 games but that was his first power-play point of the run. The last thing teams need is for Gaudreau to start scoring with the man-advantage.
As mentioned, Sidney Crosby’s line was a load last night. I never want to see them deviate from having Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel on his wings. Back-to-back two-point games for those undervalued wingers. If you can’t grab Sheary in your league, grab Guentzel. If you can grab Sheary, grab both. The only issue with these two is that they don’t see top unit PP time but big whoop. They are producing big points without it.
This line might get thrown into the blender if/when Patric Hornqvist returns, but the beauty of Hornqvist’s game is that he can play on lower lines. Hornqvist’s biggest value is as the net-front guy on the top PP unit. Chris Kunitz is manning that spot right now and notched an assist last night.
Because the sun rose and set yesterday the Penguins had to sacrifice a defenseman to the injury gods. Mark Streit, come on down! He took a shot to the mid-section and was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons. Official word is that he has a lower-body injury so the Penguins don’t have much information for us.
Brad Marchand had one hell of a night, dragging the Bruins from down 3-2 to a 6-3 win with a third period hat-trick, including this ludicrous display:
Brad Marchand makes it happen himself pic.twitter.com/jQX9BIi67a— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 14, 2017
Marchand is now tied with Crosby for the league lead in goals and for second in the league in points, one back of Connor McDavid. I mean good gravy what a season. We always talk about guys having big seasons in contract years, well this would have been a contract year, except Marchand signed his extension before the season began. Can you imagine his contract demands had he not?
Also, when does Marchand start getting Hart Trophy buzz? It’s McDavid’s trophy to lose but holy crap is the scoring race ever getting tight. There’s more to the Hart than just leading the league in scoring but it’s a huge factor and you cannot pretend for a second like the guys at the top of the list aren’t carrying their teams. There is only one pair of teammates in the top 10 in scoring: Crosby and Malkin.
Anyhow, not much has changed with regard to the Bruins. Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak are your go-to options. David Krejci and David Backes have some value in slightly deeper formats and Torey Krug is the stud on the blueline. Tuukka Rask is 8-3-0 with a 2.00 GAA and a 0.926 SV% since Claude Julien was fired.
I dropped out on Bo Horvat this week. Just not enough games for the Canucks. Maybe next week, although their four-game slate is all on the road and against Central division playoff teams (plus the Jets!) Horvat has just one point in the last four games. Too small a sample to say anything but we’re at the point in the season where a guy like Horvat has to score every night for me to keep him rostered over players who fit my lineup better.
The Sedins had it rolling early last night:
Oh look the Sedins! pic.twitter.com/6T01MOHptP— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) March 14, 2017
They each notched a pair of assists on Markus Granlund goals. Granlund is up to 19 goals on the season. Who’d have thunk it?
The Blue Jackets were without Nick Foligno due to illness. Safe to assume he won’t miss much time. Columbus didn’t wind up needing him as the team stepped up to thump former goalie Steve Mason who had been playing well going into last night’s game. Relying on Flyer goaltending is just a risky proposition at this point. My biggest regret of the season is hanging in there with Mason for the long haul. I really thought he’d turn it around as so many others have.
With Foligno out, Boone Jenner took his spot on the top power play unit. He looked pretty good there as well, flashing some nifty moves coming out of the corner. Jenner would have a future in that role if Foligno weren’t locked up for another four years.
The Oliver Bjorkstrand/Sam Gagner pairing continues to produce fireworks. Gagner has eight points on a six-game scoring streak, while Bjorkstrand has five points in his last five games. Scott Hartnell hasn’t done much as the third member of that line so keep your focus on the diminutive duo.
Rotisserie-leaguers, take note: Josh Anderson returned from injury and produced three minor penalties to help make up for lost time. There are better options – including teammate Brandon Dubinsky, who scored last night to give him 16 points in 20 games since the All-Star break – but Anderson is 27th in the league in PIM.
Alexander Wennberg has one point in his last eight games. I’ve been threatening to ax him for weeks. I night finally drop the guillotine. He has 20 points in 33 games since January 1 and doesn’t do anything in the peripherals.
Brayden Schenn ended a four-game scoreless run with a power-play goal. He has the league lead in PPGs with 15 on the year.
Travis Konecny scored a pair last night, including this beauty:
The Flyers will need a few more like Konecny considering the dependence of their top scorers on PP production. The good news: Konecny only turned 20 in the past week. He has four points in five games since returning from injury.
Jacob Trouba missed last night’s game with an upper-body injury. I suspect this might be related to the bloody fight he had with Sam Bennett over the weekend. No word on how long he’ll be out but he is considered day-to-day.
With Trouba out, you knew it was going to be a nightmare for Connor Hellebuyck against the Predators. Sure enough, it was a 5-4 overtime loss.
James Neal scored the overtime winner, his 20th goal of the season:
James Neal has scored 20 goals in each of his nine NHL seasons.— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) March 14, 2017
As frustrating as Neal has been to own since moving on from Pittsburgh, you still have to be impressed with that run. I mean, 20 goals is a damned good floor.
Adam Lowry has some value in deep multi-category leagues, especially with all the PP time he has been skating of late. The ceiling isn’t exactly high. He has nine points in 18 games since the All-Star break, but that’s decent production in really deep settings. He is flashing some skills as a net-front man, but he’ll always be most valuable in fantasy because he picks up big hit totals.
Keep an eye on Lowry’s shot volume as well. He’s got 31 SOG in those 18 games post-All-Star. Picking up steam.
Brayden Point continues to produce in his cameo alongside Nikita Kucherov. Who knew getting minutes alongside a top-10 scorer could be so valuable? He’s also clicking as the bumper on the top PP unit, one that is humming right now. Two goals for Point last night. Take notice.
Alain Vigneault confirmed that they will ride Antti Raanta regardless of situation:
#NYR Vigneault on Raanta starting: "Our back-to-backs are spread out. He played well yesterday, feels good today. That's what we're doing."— Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) March 13, 2017
I made a late audible and elected not to start Raanta last night. Good call, as he let in three goals on 16 shots. I’ll be using Raanta down the stretch but not on the back half of the three sets of back-to-backs that are upcoming. At least I won’t be if I can help it.
After being held scoreless in eight games before sitting out with injury, Michael Grabner has returned with three points in two games. The streaky scorer is back on his game.
Colton Parayko returned to the lineup skating 19 minutes. He was held scoreless.
Tyler Toffoli has points in back-to-back games for the first time since returning from injury. He still has only seven in 17 in that stretch. Drop him.
Arizona vs. Colorado – If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?
Mark Stone has been ruled out of action for the extent of Ottawa’s homestand. That puts his return at Sunday at the earliest. This was the week to make hay with your Senators during the fantasy playoffs as their Week Two and Week Three schedule is thin and road heavy. Also, Stone is the Senators’ best forward. Big loss for the team and for fantasy owners alike.
Dorion also says on TSN 1200 that Turris will likely return tomorrow vs Bolts and Bobby Ryan will hopefully play this week. #Sens— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) March 13, 2017
I made an appearance on Nick Alberga’s Fantasy Fix podcast, give it a listen.
Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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