Not only are many NHL teams involved in securing a playoff spot at the moment, many fantasy teams are in the midst of an important playoff round. This dual storyline is keeping many hockey fans interested with just two weeks remaining in the regular season. Hopefully you’re still involved in some way in your fantasy hockey league, even if you’re playing for the seventh-place trophy. Either way, let’s preview the schedule for fantasy teams for the week of March 30 to April 5.
Teams with 4 games
Buffalo, Chicago, Colorado, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington
Teams with 3 games
Arizona, Boston, Calgary, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Jersey, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose
Teams with 2 games
Anaheim, Minnesota, Nashville, NY Islanders, Winnipeg
Busy nights next week
Saturday features 13 games. Only Anaheim, Chicago, Montreal, and St. Louis do not play on Saturday.
Slow nights next week
Wednesday has four games. Games seem relatively spread out this week.
Best schedules of the week
Buffalo (@AZ, vs. TOR, vs. CHI, @NYI)
I really don’t think I should pick the Sabres in this spot, but the schedule doesn’t lie. The Swords have matchups against two teams that are almost equally incompetent in Arizona and Toronto. In fact, the Sabres almost pulled out a victory against the Coyotes on Thursday, losing 4-3 at home in front of their fans, some of who were cheering for a loss.
Steering away from the fantasy game for a moment, I recently had a thought about the Sabres and the draft: Assuming they hold on to the 30th-place slot, they will receive no worse than the second overall pick in the draft. According to NHL Lottery Simulator, the Sabres have a 20 percent chance of landing the first overall pick. That means that the Sabres have an 80 percent chance of not landing the first overall pick, but instead falling to the second overall pick.
Assuming that Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are chosen first and second overall, respectively, the Sabres will most likely receive the second overall pick and use it to pick Eichel. So then who will receive McDavid? Your guess is as good as mine. Mix the teams in a hat, or click the link to the simulator above and play for yourself.
So are there any Sabres worth adding to your team for next week? You could legitimately consider captain Brian Gionta, whose numbers have spiked recently. Gionta, a one-time 89-point scorer with the Devils, has scored seven points (3g-4a) over his last six games. In fact, the three goals have come over his last two games. On any other team, Gionta would probably be a third-line forward, but playing for the Sabres means that he regularly plays well over 20 minutes per game right now.
Chicago (vs. LA, vs. VAN, @BUF, vs. STL)
The Blackhawks play three of their four games next week at the United Center, where they are 22-10-5 this season. The new Chicago stadium is always an intimidating place to play, which the Kings, Canucks and Blues know all too well.
In spite of a down season that has included an injury and a nasty rumor, Patrick Sharp has rebounded nicely this week with three points (1g-2a) in his last three games. If Sharp is not in your fantasy good books right now, keep in mind the strong schedule next week and the recently improved play. Keeper leaguers should also be aware that he could be playing for a different team next season (Bob McKenzie via Nichols on Hockey) – one that might have plenty of cap room, but not nearly as many offensive weapons as the ‘Hawks.
One possible waiver-wire pickup from the ‘Hawks next week, particularly in deeper leagues, is Andrew Shaw. Although he was held without a point against Columbus on Friday, Shaw has heated up recently with three goals in his last three games. He was rewarded for his recent play with 18 minutes of ice time in that game against Columbus.
Worst schedules of the week
Minnesota (vs. NYR, vs. DET)
The odds of the Wild making the playoffs at this point seem extremely good. Their home record this season is 21-11-5, so this doesn’t necessarily mean they will struggle to earn wins next week. However, the Wild play just two games next week, both against teams that occupy playoff spots.
In spite of the short week, all fantasy owners should be starting Devan Dubnyk right now, unless they are solely chasing wins in a rotisserie league. A winner of four games in a row, Dubnyk is now an incredible 25-6-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .938 save percentage since joining the Wild. Dubnyk is pretty well schedule and matchup-proof right now.
The kind of Wild player to bench next week? Try someone like Chris Stewart. Since being traded to the Wild himself, Stewart has a respectable seven points (3g-4a) in 13 games. However, Stewart has averaged only 15 minutes of ice time per game, while none of his seven points have been on the power play.
Winnipeg (vs. NYR, vs. VAN)
The Jets are in a similar situation to the Wild. They are also a strong bet to make the playoffs with an identical 21-11-5 home record. They too play two games at home, both against teams that currently hold playoff spots.
As mentioned in the Thursday Night Boxscore Blitz, fantasy teams need to be starting Ondrej Pavelec while he is on a roll. Pavelec’s recent success could mean that Michael Hutchinson owners may want to look for other options in net next week. That might seem ironic, given that Hutchinson was one of the best waiver-wire pickups of the season. However, Hutchinson has rode the pine for all but one of the Jets’ last seven games.
In spite of the short week next week, the Jets are heading in the right direction injury-wise. Dustin Byfuglien returned to the lineup on Thursday. Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault are both targeting next Saturday’s game against Vancouver (Winnipeg Sun). But given the fact that neither forward is a guarantee to return to the lineup next week, fantasy owners will probably want to wait until the following week to add or activate Little and Perreault. The Jets play four games in what will be the final week of the regular season.
Good luck next week!