You may have noticed some weird schedules this past week, where some teams only had one or two games with big long stretches of nothing. That’s a result of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA, where the players negotiated a mandatory 5 day break midway through the season.
Basically, at some point in the middle of the season, each NHL team has to set aside 5 full days without games or practices. Just the way that the schedule works out right now, we’re seeing a lot of teams taking that break.
I’ve hyped it before, but the Weekly NHL Games tracker on Daily Faceoff is a good resource for staying aware for what teams are playing in the fantasy week. This week, for instance, the Coyotes, Rangers and Maple Leafs are all off until Friday, and the Flyers start next week off with a 5 day break. When you’re looking to pickup free agents, be aware of the upcoming schedule so that you don’t inadvertently grab someone who is headed to the beach.
Best Forward: James Van Riemsdyk 22.8 (Brett D)
Best Defenseman: Nathan Beaulieu 16.0 (Davin)
Best Goalie: Ryan Miller 20.0 (Davin)
Best Individual Performance: Paul Stastny 12.5 (Justin)
Worst Forward: Andrew Ladd -0.1 (Chris)
Worst Defenseman: Jason Demers -1.4 (Brock)
Worst Goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy -4.5 (Jace)
Worst Individual Performance: Frederik Andersen -2.7 (Justin)
Well well well, isn’t that interesting. A loss by Jace and wins from Rhys, Cal and Brett R leaves us with four teams all at 9-4 on the season, creating a weird sort of log-jam at the top. Cal’s win makes it 8 in a row for him.
Davin’s win moves him up to 6-7, while Brett D and Brennan’s losses sink them back to 5-8. Justin picks up his 3rd win of the year, bringing him into a tie with Frank at 3-10.
A big win for Brock brings him up to 8-5, just under the 9-4 cap where we see four teams.
Projected Playoff Bracket
#1 Brett R (9-4) vs #4 Jace (9-4)
#2 Rhys (9-4) vs #3 Cal (9-4)
In the Hunt
Sohayl (6-7), Chris (6-7), Davin (6-7)
With his loss this week, Jace actually drops down to the 4th seed, as Brett R takes over in 1st place and Rhys and Cal leapfrog up into the 2 and 3 seeds.
Brock is still very much in the hunt for a spot, especially with Rhys and Cal and then Rhys and Jace playing each other in the next few weeks. Even if Brock loses this week to Brett R, two losses in the other division will help him enormously.
For Sohayl, Chris and Davin, they’ll need a pretty significant winning streak to have a reasonable shot at the playoffs. The good news: there’s still a number of in-division games to play, so they can make up ground fast.
Sohayl has been solidly middle-of-the pack in both the standings and in total fantasy points all year. With 7 matchups left to go, and after a heartbreakingly narrow loss to Rhys this week, what can he do to push his way into the playoff bracket?
Best Forward: Auston Matthews 157.1
Best Defenseman: Zach Werenski 93.5
Best Goaltender: Tuukka Rask 124.5
Notable Injuries: Alex Galchenyuk, Aleksander Barkov, Ben Bishop
There’s no question that a couple of hot starts are the reason to Sohayl’s success early in the season. Obviously Auston Matthews (drafted with his first pick) has been outstanding, but the surprise domination of the Columbus Blue Jackets has been huge for Sohayl. Seriously, who could have predicted that Alex Wennberg (free agent) and Zach Werenski (25th round pick) would be as good as they’ve been?
Despite some pretty significant injuries, Sohayl has been able to strike gold with essentially free players multiple times this year, adding Justin Schultz, Adam Lowry, and Christian Dvorak to a roster that is consistently challenging for the win.
There have been a few whiffs though – After holding on to Jesse Puljujarvi all year, Sohayl finally dumped him after the Oilers assigned him to the AHL. Noah Hanifin has been a bit of a disappointment on an otherwise excellent Carolina defence, and after starting the year on fire, Pavel Buchnevich seems to be destined for the AHL after he comes back from injury.
Success for Sohayl in the last half of the season will depend on a few things. First, he needs his big guns to keep producing at a high clip. If Matthews slows down, if the Blue Jackets go cold, if the situation in Colorado deteriorates even more resulting in a slump for Nathan MacKinnon, Sohayl could be in trouble. On the other side, he has 3 excellent players currently on IR – getting back any one of Galchenyuk, Barkov or Bishop will be a huge shot in the arm.
Strengths: A, PIM, PPP, W, SO
Weaknesses: FOW, SOG
Keep ‘Em: Tuukka Rask, Mike Hoffman, Auston Matthews, Zach Werenski
Dump ‘Em: Pavel Buchnevich
Target: high shooting, high face-off centers, anyone not in a Blue Jackets sweater
Watching the Waiver Wire
One waiver claim this week as Chris picks up Brian Gionta from waivers.
Best Unsigned Forward: Andreas Athanasiou 14.1
Best Unsigned Defenseman: Adam Clendening 7.8
Best Unsigned Goalie: Jared Coreau 9.6
Best Unsigned Individual Performance: Jared Coreau 10.4
From the “Wait, who?” file, we find goalie Jared Coreau of the Detroit Red Wings. With Jimmy Howard on IR, (and a healthy Petr Mrazek sporting a terribly .895 SV%), Coreau has been the go-to goaltender for the Wings as of late. His performance has been spotty, with 3 W, .903 SV% and 3.14 GAA in six appearances this year. But one of those games was a 34 save shutout, so he’s obviously got the skills. If you’re hurting for goaltending, he could be worth a look.
Andreas Athanasiou has been the hottest forward on an admittedly bad Detroit Red Wings team. He’s got 7 G 5 A on the year, with 5 points in his last two games. He’s only played 25 games this season, but as a center primary, you may have to cut someone good to take a chance on him.
Points from defensemen can be hard to come by, so when you see a guy like Niklas Hjalmarsson heating up, it might be time to strike. H picked up a goal and an assist against Nashville on the weekend, and he’ll consistently pickup a shot or two a game.
Boy have we got some significant matchups this week. First is Rhys (9-4) vs Cal (9-4) in what could very well be a playoff preview. Rhys was the victor in their Week 3 matchup, but since the Cal has been the best team in the league.
Also big is Brett R (9-4) vs Brock (8-5). Brock is only one game back of Brett R in the West, and the easiest way to make the playoffs is the end up first in the Division. Because Brock took their first meeting in Week 3, a win will give him the first tie-breaker, a huge advantage with so many teams clustered at the top.
Finally we have Jace (9-4) vs Chris (6-7), Frank (3-10) vs Brett D (5-8), Brennan (5-8) vs Davin (6-7), and Justin (3-10) vs Sohayl (6-7).