Fantasy Chatter: Week 23 – Head-to-Head League Playoff Primer & Sharp’s Drought Halted

IllinoisLotterCup_IceHogs2015Quest for The Cup – photo: @GoIceHogs

The Week Ahead: March 16 – March 22

4 Game slates: ARI, BOS, BUF, MON, STL, VAN
3 Game slates: ANA, CAL, CAR, CHI, CLB, DET, EDM, FLA, LA, MIN, NJ, NYR, OTT, PHI, PIT, SJ, TB, TOR, WASH, WINN
2 Game slates: COL, DAL, NASH, NYI
Back to Back games: ARI, BOS, BUF, CHI, COL, CLB, DET, MON, NJ, NYR, STL, VAN

By Lane Myer

Playoff Time!

Monday begins playoff time in a good percentage of head-to-head leagues. For some they will begin the following Monday. Regardless, it’s time to start focusing in on the schedule. Especially for those in deeper counting stat category leagues where one goal, assist, hit, blocked shot, penalty minute or faceoff win can mean the difference in winning a category and advancing to the second week.

It’s the difficult part of playing in head to head leagues. Should one load up on players who will be playing in 4 games this week? Or should you keep your roster status quo? A lot of that will depend on your league’s roster size and allowable adds per week because if you do advance past the first round you obviously have additional weeks where you’ll need your best players.

Consequently, we’d recommend turning over your fringe players. Meaning those players who are currently on your roster who aren’t much more valuable than what exists on the waiver wire in your league. If your league doesn’t count face-offs or shorthanded points, we’re talking about Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette type players. Borderline fantasy players in standard sized leagues. I would consider dropping those types of players in standard stat category leagues (goals, assists, plus/minus, PPP, and either PIMs or SH points) if those players happen to only have a two game schedule this forthcoming week.

With Vancouver on a 4 game slate, consider fellow fringe players such as Nick Bonino if he’s available. In St Louis, there’s Jori Lehtera. In Boston, perhaps Ryan Spooner or Reilly Smith warrant consideration. Montreal also has a 4 game slate, so this is a good time to scoop up the poor man’s stat category filler that is Brendan Gallagher. Or if you think you’ll need some additional physical stats, it might be a good time to pick up a guy like Brandon Prust.

If you’re in a start two goalies daily league and your primary starter is Brian Elliott, Kari Lehtonen, Pekka Rinne, or Jaroslav Halak you might need to stream a goalie or two if you need to catch up in goalie counting stats given those four starting net-minder’s respective meager two game schedules for the forthcoming week. In that case, it might be a good time to pick up Jake Allen, Niklas Svedberg, Peter Mrazek, or Scott Darling before someone else does. Keith Kinkaid might be the sneakiest pickup this week considering New Jersey has a back to back next weekend against Buffalo and the Isles. One would think Kinkaid would nab the start in the matchup with the lowly Sabres.

Finally, look over your opponents’ roster and calculate some stat forecasting with the schedule in front of you. This is why head-to-head leagues typically suck when playoff time rolls around. Not just because of the 7 game sample of randomness, but also because if your opponent for the week has a decided scheduling advantage on you, it might not matter how good your roster is. If his roster happens to be loaded with 4 game slate players, and some of your best players are Islanders, Blues, Stars, or Avs this week, it’s going to put you at a decided disadvantage.

Thus depending on your league size, and its stat categories, you may need to even the odds in the case that your roster is at the aforementioned scheduling disadvantage. Again, turnover your fringe players with other fringe players who happen to have an extra game or two for the impending week. If your league has a low number of allowable adds/drops per week, burn your adds allotted this week before Monday’s playoffs roll around and stack your roster early. Don’t go crazy dumping very good players because they happen to only have a two game slate this week. After all, just because Montreal has a four game schedule it doesn’t mean Pacioretty is necessarily going to record more points than Seguin. He’ll just have a greater opportunity to do so. Also, if your league happens to score a number of ratio stats, having a scheduling advantage might not matter anyway. If your league counts GAA, SV%, shooting%, and faceoff% as at least half of your stat categories, then the scheduling disadvantage is obviously not going to be as much of a concern.

Goalie Watch

*Note: Stats & usage updated through Saturday night

* Anaheim: As Bruce Boudreau alluded to, it appears if Frederik Andersen receives the start on Sunday the Ducks’ bench boss will indeed split their 4 starts for the week with each net-keeper manning the cage twice.

  • Andersen – 46 starts, 2.37 GAA, .915 SV%
  • Gibson – 14 starts, 2.54 GAA, .919 SV%

TTMI Counsel: Despite Gibson holding the Wild to a goal Friday night, it couldn’t halt his 5 point save% drop as the result of getting torched by the Flames for 6 big ones earlier in the week. Meanwhile, Andersen kept his ratios essentially even from last week as the result of allowing 2 goals to Vancouver, though he only faced 16 shots.

* Buffalo only faced two matchups this week with Anders Lindback netting both starts. It went about as well as it could be expected with Lindback only failing to stop 4 shots over those two starts, though both efforts resulted in losses.

  • Lindback – 4 starts, 3.16 GAA, .914 SV%
  • Hackett – 2 starts, 5.22 GAA, .867 SV%

* Calgary: As expected, Karri Ramo carried 2 of Calgary’s 3 starts and although he allowed 3 goals to Anaheim in his first start this week, it appears that after the two month post All-Star break run where Ramos compiled a stellar 1.91 GAA and a .941 SV% is coming to an end in March. In an admittedly small 4 game March sample, Ramos has posted a terrible 3.38 GAA and a below average .908 SV%. Yet thanks to his teammates, it’s resulted in 3 wins on the month thus far. Conversely, Hiller somehow managed to give up 3 goals to the foundering Leafs squad and has now allowed 3 or more goals in 5 of his last 7 starts.

  • Hiller – 38 starts, 2.43 GAA, .915 SV%
  • Ramo – 25 starts, 2.58 GAA, .913 SV%

TTMI Counsel: As the result of Ramo coughing up 10 goals over his last 2.5 games, the nearly dead even ratio battle between Calgary’s two options have been gapped. Unless you’re desperate for wins or goalie counting stats, you’ll probably want to choose your matchups wisely when starting either Calgary option in goal.

* Carolina: Assuming Anton Khudobin is awarded the start in the second half of Carolina’s back-to-back on Sunday, the Hurricanes’ will complete another week halving the crease over Carolina’s last 12 starts.

  • Ward – 43 starts, 2.44 GAA, .910 SV%
  • Khudobin – 24 starts, 2.69 GAA, .902%

TTMI Counsel: Although it didn’t result in a win, Ward was solid this week allowing just 4 goals (all on the PP) in his 2 starts which injected his ratios with another slight bump back up towards league average. Khudobin didn’t fare as well after coughing up 4 large to the Stars in his start. Since Khudobin’s Girls of Novorossiya calendar rolled over to February, he’s allowed 23 goals in 7 starts and that stretch actually includes one shutout.

* Dallas: It seems Lindy Ruff has given up hope on Jhonas Enroth claiming the starter’s role in Big D as Kari Lehtonen has gotten back on a bit of roll recording 4 wins over his last 5 starts along with a 2.40 GAA and .904 SV% in March. It’s still barely league average net-minding, but if the month ended today his 2.40 GAA in March would be his lowest in any month this season.

  • Lehtonen – 56 starts, 2.92 GAA, .905 SV%
  • Enroth – 5 starts, 3.35 GAA, .873 SV%

TTMI Counsel: At this time last week, Enroth had started 5 of Dallas’ last 8 games.   Barring an unexpected start on Sunday in a non back-to-back scenario, Enroth will ride the pine in 4 straight games since allowing 4 goals to Tampa on March 7th. Lehtonen is again worth a look, but choose those matchups wisely. The defense top to bottom in Dallas is terrible checking in at 3.23 goals allowed per game (27th in the NHL) on an average of 30.3 shots per game (22nd in the NHL).

Trending: The Waiver Wire

– Marcus Johansson has regained his spot on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom making him an easy pickup in the interim if one is in need of PP points as he’s also skating first PP unit minutes as well. Johansson averages over 16 minutes per game with a tidy 3+ minutes of PP TOI per game. Since moving back to the top line, Johansson has recorded 3 goals (1 PP) in 4 games though no assists. His ice-time has spiked to over 18.3 minutes over the last 3 games where he’s also generated 8 shots. Generally known for his passing and playmaking, he’s oddly only recorded 2 assists over his last 12 games. Perhaps there’s more to come with moving back up to the top line.

– Craig Smith apparently is just too commonly named for people as despite being a top 70 overall fantasy player this season, he’s still only 46% owned. Smith made our undervalued team prior to the season and has generated 20 shots over the last 6 games while recording 4 goals, 3 assists and a +4 over the last 10. If you play in leagues that count shots on goal, he has 212 (13th in the NHL) which is more than teammate and noted gunner, James Neal. Smith sees both second line and second PP unit deployment in Nashville and averages 15.3 minutes per game with 2.5 of those minutes on the man-advantage. I wouldn’t recommend picking him up in head to head leagues for next week’s action as Nashville is only scheduled for two games.

Ryan Spooner made an appearance in Deep Cuts two weeks ago, and after a 6 game points streak he lands on the wire by way of 3 goals and 4 assists over the aforementioned 6 game stretch. Spooner is still skating on the first line in Boston centering Lucic and Pastrnak as well as the first PP unit with 2.45 minutes per game.   Spooner also averages just over a minute per game on the PK and is 47% at the dot on the season.

– Justin Williams, noted possession entity and rich man’s version of Bryan Bickell, has managed a goal, 5 assists (2 PP), and a +4 on only 8 shots over LA’s last 4 games. Williams has been bouncing around the Kings’ third and fourth lines at even strength but maintains his slot on LA’s second PP unit. The future Florida Panther (just a hunch) averages 15.4 minutes per game with just under 2 minutes on the man-advantage. At 36% owned in Yahoo leagues, it’s Williams’ production on the PP that has saved him from fantasy irrelevance as 13 of Williams’ 35 points have been recorded via the man-advantage.   Jaromir Jagr’s future replacement doesn’t contribute much in the way of real-time stats with only 25 this and 21 blocks in 66 games, but he has chipped in 2 GWG on the season.

Deep (League) Cuts

– David Booth sighting! Five goals and an assist (all at even strength) on 18 shots and a +2 over Toronto’s last 5 has allowed Booth to climb up to the Leafs’ second line at both even strength and the PP. Booth had been fantasy irrelevant all season with only 12 points and less than a minute total on the man-advantage all season. Booth has a total of only 4:01 of PP time, but almost 3.30 of his PP TOI has come within the last 6 games. Booth has kicked in 72 hits in 47 games and skates just over a minute per game on the PK, though it’s only translated into 1 shorthanded assist on the season.

– Elias Lindholm checks in riding a 3 goal and 3 PP assist run over Carolina’s last 3 games despite only taking 6b shots. If it weren’t for his -19 rating, Lindholm would be having a very solid fantasy season, though he still garners a good amount of value in keeper and especially dynasty leagues. Of Lindholm’s 33 points, 13 of them have been generated via the man-advantage. Lindholm averages 16.2 minutes per game including 2.3 minutes on the PP of which he’s spent the last 3 games skating on Carolina’s first PP unit. Lindholm has also chipped in 88 hits in 62 games this season.

– Matt Nieto has tallied 3 goals, an assist, 11 shots, and a +3 over San Jose’s last 4 matchups while skating second line minutes at an average over 16 minutes per game. San Jose has been rotating their second PP unit line quite a bit lately with Nieto, Wingels, Hertl, and Tierney all receiving a shot   Thus it’s only an average of an even 1 minute of PP time per game, though he also skates on the kill at an average of a minute per game. Once he cools off, you’ll want to drop Nieto for the next hot streak. Nieto is also clearly not a fan of the contact with only 17 hits in 58 games.

Victor Rask has recorded 2 goals (1 PP), 4 assists, and a +5 over the Canes’ last 3 contests while also winning 22 of 32 face-offs. That run took Rask over 51% on the season at the dot. Like the aforementioned Elias Lindholm, Rask has been moved up to Carolina’s top PP unit along with Eric Staal where he averages 2.3 minutes per game on the man-advantage. Though Rask skated on the third line at even strength, he still averages over 16 minutes per game. He doesn’t contribute much in hits or blocks and he only averages one shift per game on the penalty kill, but for leagues that count face-offs, he might make for a solid add at least until he cools off.

Fantasy Hawk Factor

Second Line Heroes Watch (for the week)

  • Sharp – 2 goals (1 PP), 0 assists, 11 shots, +3
  • Saad – 1 goal, 1 assist, 7 shots, +1
  • Vermette – 0 goals, 2 assists, 3 shots, +1
  • Teravainen – 0 goals, 2 assists, 5 shots, +2

First Release

  • Toews – 0 goals, 1 assist, 5 shots, +1
  • Hossa – 1 (EN) goal, 2 assists, 10 shots, +1
  • Versteeg – 0 goals, 1 assist, 2 shots, even

Blackhawk Goal Scoring Slump Watch

  • Carcillo – Goalless over the last 18 games (10 shots)
  • Hjalmarsson – 1 goal over the last 53 games
  • Keith – 1 goal over the last 19 games (33 shots)
  • Oduya – Goalless over the last 19 games (20 shots)
  • Richards – 1 goal over the last 25 games (62 shots)
  • Rozsival – Goalless over the last 33 games (28 shots)
  • Seabrook – 1 goal over the last 32 games (77 shots)
  • Shaw – 1 goal over the last 20 games (34 shots)
  • Teravainen – Goalless over the last 5 games (11 shots)
  • Timonen – Goalless over the last 5 games (3 shots)
  • Vermette – Goalless over the last 5 games (6 shots)
  • Versteeg – Goalless over the last 7 games (6 shots)

– Corey Crawford topped off another strong week albeit in only two starts failing to stop just 3 shots to the Desert Dogs and Sharks respectively. Crow has now allowed just 7 goals over his last 6 starts continuing his March of Dominance thwarting 158/165 shots – good for a 1.38 GAA and .958 SV%.

– Patrick Sharp, hooray! The two goal outburst for The Shooter Saturday afternoon in San Jose was the first time Sharp has dented the goal side of the scoresheet since January 28th and ended his 19 game goalless drought. Sharp’s first tally in San Jose was of the even strength variety, a rarity this season as Sharp’s last even strength goal was tallied in Minnesota on January 8th (a span of 66 shots). Of note, Sharp spent the week skating on the second PP unit with Andrew Shaw (for some reason) filling Sharp’s spot on the first unit.

– Joining Sharp in the passing of goal scoring funks were Duncan Keith (18 games), Brad Richards (23 games), and Andrew Shaw (18 games).

Teuvo Watch: Teravainen, despite the defensive gaff last Sunday night, has clearly gained the trust of the mustachioed bench boss as Teuvo averaged over 16 minutes per game in the two starts this week. Teravainen’s raw stats were a solid 2 assists on 5 shots and a +2 along with a dime on Brad Richards’ game winner in the desert. It seems that Coach Q may be flipping Teravainen and Sharp between the second and third lines as long as Brandon Saad is skating on the second line. Teravainen again flashed strong possession numbers (+24 Corsi For, +19 Fenwick For) while also compiling over 7 minutes of PP TOI resulting in the aforementioned PP assist on Richards’ game winner in Arizona.

– Kris Versteeg once again had a difficult time generating shots despite continued deployment on the first line with Toews and Hossa. Over the last 7 games, Versteeg has only managed 6 shots total, along with just 1 assist. Versteeg’s struggles apparently haven’t gone unnoticed as he lost his role on the second PP unit in San Jose, though he did record nearly 2 minutes on the man-advantage in Arizona.

——————————————–

Lane Myer

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5 Responses to Fantasy Chatter: Week 23 – Head-to-Head League Playoff Primer & Sharp’s Drought Halted

  1. Good stuff as usual Lane. I really zeroed in on games played per team this week. Tjat feature at the begginning of your piece led me to drop Brock and Boychuck. They only have one game the rest of the week. I might regret it next week afterI get by Block, but its all about numbers in this league.

    I’ve got one move left and would like to pick up someone different than Rakell, but hes got two or more games left this week. It may be time to pick up a goon that has three games left this week for the penalty minutes. R
    beating Chris in Fantasy hockey reminds me of beating my dad a chess for the first time.

      • Like my dad, you’ll be thinking, “How can I lose to this idiot?”

        • in fairness, some of us have been awash in the tears of Chris Block-grade fantasy disappointment for years…so it’s really no big deal to knock off The Overlord…should it come to that. He did beat me in the finals two or three years ago but it was one of those situations where my top player (Crosby) was out thanks to David Steckel’s elbow, and Block had the distinct scheduling advantage. Did I mention how much H2H leagues suck when it comes to playoff time?

          Probably a wise move to dump Nelson. He only has 12 points in the last 35 games partially due to the Isles’ rotating he and Nielsen from the second to third lines. Plus Okposo’s injury took Anders Lee off of the second line where he and Nelson had formed a pretty good duo.

  2. Pingback: Fantasy Chatter: Week 24 – Roto Crunch Time, Deep Cuts Rookie Bias Edition & Brandon Pirri – Goal Machine | Puck Chatter / The Third Man In

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