For those of you doing well in your head to head leagues, this is the most important post of the year. This is my annual playoff manifesto where I break down every team’s schedule for the last four weeks of the season, starting on March 11th. I tell you who are the best teams and players to stream from, who you should look to trade for or away if your deadline hasn’t passed (although it is more focused on streamers), and it allows you to plan ahead with ease. For those who haven’t read it in the past, the numbers in the parentheses are how many games the team plays in each of those weeks, with the last number being the last week in the season and preceding accordingly. This is going to be a massive post so let’s get right to the 2019 Playoff Manifesto!
Tampa Bay Lightning (3,4,2,4) – Our first schedule breakdown is for the best team in the league. This schedule is fine. There are only two back-to-backs, and one of them is in the last week of the season. Tampa will have the #1 overall seed long locked up by then, so there’s a chance they’re resting guys. The one good thing is that if you play two week long playoff matchups like I suggest, they finish the semifinals with 3 games in 4 nights. They also play on two light days that week, making them one of the best teams to stream from that week with the Jets and Canucks. Reminder that a light day is any day with four or less games on the schedule (the list of those days is at the bottom of this post). Thirteen games is average.
Boston Bruins (3,3,4,3) – For their holds, their schedule is average with 13 games. For streaming, this schedule really sucks. They have only one back-to-back over these four weeks, their schedule is very road heavy, and they only play on one light day. This hurts a lot for guys like Marcus Johansson and perhaps Danton Heinen. It also gives both goalies more upside and a lower floor because of the lack of back-to-backs, one of them can start more games than usual if they get hot.
Toronto Maple Leafs (4,3,3,4) – This is one of the best overall schedules. They play seven games over each two week period, they have three back-to-backs, and they play on three light days. The Leafs should also be pushing to get home ice against Boston. Frederik Andersen has a good chance to being the #1 goalie over the last month of the season. Zach Hyman, Andreas Johnsson, and Kasperi Kapanen are all strong streamers who get an additional boost. There are two sets of 3 games in 4 days that have a light day included which will be the best time to use these guys.
Montreal Canadiens (3,4,3,3) – For their holds, 13 games is fine. For streaming, this schedule is among the worst. There is only back-to-back set, and the Canadiens don’t play on one light day over the last four weeks. Now, that one back-to-back is the last two days of the semifinals, meaning Andrew Shaw could be a prime candidate if you’re in need of PIM or hits. Otherwise, unless somebody on the team becomes a hot schmotato, I’m probably going to be looking elsewhere. I do expect Carey Price to play 11-12 of these 13 games so he has potential to be a difference maker.
Buffalo Sabres (4,2,5,3) – If you’re lucky enough to make the finals, you’re going to want some Sabres action. They’re one of the only teams with 8 games over the last two weeks, including a massive 5 game week that could be your last week if your league doesn’t play the last week of the season. Three sets of back-to-backs make this a great streaming schedule, and 14 games is tied for the best as well. Add in that they play Ottawa and Detroit twice each over the last two weeks, and I’m going to say the Sabres have the best overall schedule for fantasy purposes. Rasmus Dahlin is coming on and should finish extremely well. I’d take a chance on Brandon Montour if you need help on the blue line. Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, and Sam Reinhart all have massive upside and make for great trade targets. It’s hard to say what you’ll get from the goalies, but Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark can be difference makers given the matchups against bottom teams. This is a team to target.
Florida Panthers (3,3,4,3) – There are two back-to-backs for the Panthers, including a rare Saturday-Sunday in week one of the playoffs. Eight of the first ten are on the road which isn’t ideal, but they play the three CA teams and Montreal at least. They start off the finals with three games in four nights which could make Frank Vatrano a great option. Samuel Montembeault made his NHL debut this past weekend and it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets some action down the stretch. Whether I use him or not comes down to the matchups.
Detroit Red Wings (3,3,4,3) – Detroit is a team full of streams (and Dylan Larkin) and this schedule sucks for streaming. They have only one back-to-back and they don’t play on any light days. The good news is that the back-to-back is against Buffalo and New Jersey, two teams that we actually want to use players against. Anthony Mantha is back on the first line with Larkin which makes him my first choice, with Andreas Athanasiou next. The wild card is Filip Zadina, but he’s a pass for now.
Ottawa Senators (3,3,3,4) – Playing on two light days is nice, and it’s great that the Senators have four games the last week of the season. The problem is that they’re absolutely awful. At this point, I’m not sure I want to holding any of their guys, even Thomas Chabot. In redrafts, he’s really close to the borderline now. I’d use those light days to really target players on the teams playing against Ottawa. The only players I’d consider using now are Chabot and Brady Tkachuk. Honestly, the reason you should look closely at Ottawa’s schedule is to figure out how you maximize streamers against them. They are historically bad right now and it won’t get any better over the last five weeks.
New York Islanders (4,4,3,3) – The Islanders schedule is as good as it gets for the semifinals. Eight games, four in each week, two back-to-backs, both of which are SAT-SUN. Sure, they don’t play on any light days, but that’s still excellent. The finals schedule, however, is poor. No back-to-backs, they have no excellent matchups, and only six games. I could see both goalies getting a fair amount of work, and I’d continue to use both every time out. Someone like Brock Nelson could end up making a big difference in the semifinals.. and then I wouldn’t use him again in the finals.
Washington Capitals (3,4,3,3) – One back-to-back for the Capitals, which overlaps with their one light day. Great spot to use Jakub Vrana. Otherwise, there’s not really much here. There are a lot of tough matchups over the four weeks, including three games with Tampa. Given the battle for the division title and home ice in the first round, I’m expecting the studs to get a big workload down the stretch. I’d feel really good if I owned any of the top end Capitals.
Carolina Hurricanes (3,4,4,3) – It seems like the Hurricanes have a great playoff schedule every year, and this one is no different. They have three sets of back-to-backs, all of which are 3 games in 4 nights on either end. The only thing keeping them back is zero days of light games. Fourteen games is tied for the most, and it’s balanced with 7 in each matchup. Justin Williams is currently on the first line. If that lasts, he’ll be an elite streamer in the fantasy playoffs. For those of you in slightly deeper leagues, Jordan Staal could also bring some value if he sticks with Ferland and Teravainen.
Pittsburgh Penguins (4,3,3,3) – No light games and only one back-to-back puts the Penguins on the bottom end of the spectrum. The good news is if you have their studs, they will be battling for the playoffs and should receive huge minutes. Where this schedule could be good is if you have a small moves limit per week, or are close to running out of games. The Penguins play Detroit twice and the Rangers in the last week of the season. It depends on the health of players by then, but Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad could be big over the last week. That said, you won’t need those guys on the last day of the season as only one team doesn’t play (and they’re terrible, more on them later).
Columbus Blue Jackets (4,3,4,3) – This is one of the best schedules for both studs and streaming. First off, 14 games is as good as it gets. There are also four back-to-backs. The Blue Jackets open the fantasy playoffs with a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back, then finish the week with a Friday-Saturday back-to-back. They also have one to close week three, before a back-to-back to close the season, one of five teams to finish the season with games on Friday and Saturday. Ryan Dzingel, Josh Anderson, and Oliver Bjorkstrand all have a chance to get hot and be great streamers. It’s also easy to use these guys for the two nights (or 4 when they have 3 in 4) and then cut them for somebody else entering a back-to-back.
Philadelphia Flyers (4,4,3,3) – One back-to-back in each of the first three weeks makes the Flyers a great team to use for streaming. It’s also great that they open week 1 against the Senators on Monday, making Flyers a great option right off the bat. Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny are both primed for big finishes. I would also own Travis Sanheim in most formats right now. He’s playing great hockey right now and has been rewarded with moving to the first pair and PP2.
New York Rangers (4,2,4,4) – First, the bad. The Rangers have only two games in the semifinals and they’re on Tuesday/Saturday. It’s going to be tough to hold anyone, even Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, during the semifinals. Look, these guys are both awesome, but you need to be going all out to get yourself into the finals. If you open up a big lead early, I’m fine with holding them, but that’s about the only scenario. I’d drop them Tuesday night and then get them back on Friday, because you’ll get that Saturday game and then for their incredible finals schedule. Among those eight games in the finals are three games on light days, including a back-to-back to close the season. Vladislav Namestnikov, Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey are all getting solid volume right now and will be great streamers to close. Also, Tony DeAngelo should be owned in all formats right now.
New Jersey Devils (4,3,3,3) – The Devils are a nice option in week one with four games, including a back-to-back having a light day. The bad thing is that all of the games are on the road, but they also play a few bad teams. After that, three games a week with one back-to-back sucks. However, does it really matter? The only player I’d even use right now is Nico Hischier. I’d drop him down to an elite streamer now instead of a hold. I could see keeping him for the first week of the playoffs, but after that, I can’t see using a Devil for the rest of the season.
Winnipeg Jets (3,4,3,4) – The Jets have an excellent schedule. Seven games in each round. Two sets of back-to-backs, including one during the final week of the season. A handful of bottom feeders. As long as the Jets are pushing to distance themselves from Nashville, this could be great for Connor Hellebuyck (once he gets passed his sickness). I would consider Kevin Hayes must-own as he’s between Connor and Ehlers. I don’t mind taking a shot on Tyler Myers until one of Byfuglien or Morrissey gets back.
Nashville Predators (3,3,3,3) – The good news is that the Predators play a bunch of bad teams. The bad news is 12 games is the lowest of everyone and there’s no 4 game week. There’s zero light games and only one back-to-back. This is atrocious in terms of streaming and obviously not good for the studs given the smaller amount of games. If Pekka Rinne can get back in form, this sets up well for him, but that’s about it.
St. Louis Blues (4,3,3,4) – This is another great schedule. Seven games each round, three sets of back-to-backs, one of which is an amazing Wed-Thurs the last week of the season to close with three in four. There are also a bunch of bottom feeders on their schedule. I don’t expect Jordan Binnington to be great next season, but there’s no reason why he can’t continue this level of play for the rest of the season. As for who I’d stream, it depends on how things shape up over the next week. In faceoff leagues, Tyler Bozak is a great option. In standard leagues, Alex Steen and Robert Thomas could end up being the best options.
Dallas Stars (4,3,4,3) – The Stars are also among the best schedules. They have three back-to-backs, including one to finish the season. There are a bunch of poor defenses on their schedule which makes me like their studs quite a bit. As for streamers, there’s one guy leading the charge right now: Roope Hintz. Hintz has been playing with Seguin and Radulov lately and it’s stayed that way even with Benn returning to the lineup. I don’t really have more to say on the Stars because I don’t like any of their other options.
Minnesota Wild (4,3,3,3) – The Wild have found a resurgence since their moves at the trade deadline. They have a pretty great streaming schedule in the semifinals and a bad one for the finals. They have a back-to-back in each of the semifinal weeks, including a Friday-Saturday to close the semis when there are only two games on Friday. There are plenty of streamers to choose from, and Devan Dubnyk could finally step up and have a big finish. Ryan Donato is already on the fringe of holding as he’s on the first line and absolutely killing it. Kevin Fiala and Luke Kunin are both solid options that I’m sure I’ll use over the first two weeks. With no back-to-backs in the finals, I have a hard time seeing myself streaming these guys unless they’re absolutely on fire.
Colorado Avalanche (3,4,2,4) – This schedule isn’t quite as bad as it appears for streaming because one of the two games during their two game week is a light day. Then they have a back-to-back shortly thereafter to start the final week. Alex Kerfoot is currently on the first line with MacKinnon and Rantanen. While I hate his player type (shoot the puck!), he’s still worth using in that role. Also, Derick Brassard has started off well since his move to Denver. I’d use him as well.
Chicago Blackhawks (3,4,3,4) – This schedule gives the Sabres a run for their money for the top spot. The only reason it’s a drop down is that there are only two back-to-backs. However, they have four games on light days, including both in the final week of the season. The question is who will be playing in the top six with the studs (at this point I count Dylan Strome in that group). Right now, Brandon Saad is with Kane and Toews while Dominik Kahun is with Strome and DeBrincat. If that holds, those two are among the best streamers out there. If you own a Blackhawks stud, be very excited.
Calgary Flames (3,3,4,3) – Pretty solid schedule here for not being a 14 game team. There’s a back-to-back the first week, games with Ottawa and Vancouver week two, four games week 3 (including the bad CA teams) with a light day, then a back-to-back the last Sunday and Monday before playing on a light day that Wednesday against the Ducks. Since the Flames didn’t make any big moves at the deadline, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik remain the best options. With so many soft games on the schedule, Mike Smith is worth owning again, but I’m not counting out David Rittich from regaining the top spot. I can see the Flames changing goalies multiple times in the playoffs.
San Jose Sharks (4,3,4,3) – The Sharks get to open the fantasy playoffs with a back-to-back which is great. Their three game week after that is outstanding; they play on a light Monday, then get a back-to-back with the Kings and Ducks, with the Ducks game being a light day. That will be a prime spot to stream Joonas Donskoi, Kevin Labanc, Aaron Dell, and whoever else is playing well at the time. The only concern is that they may be locked into second place in the division by the last week of the season but otherwise, this is a damn nice setup.
Vegas Golden Knights (2,3,4,3) – The semifinals schedule is obviously trash. They don’t play until Friday week one, although they do have a Sunday-Monday back-to-back with the Monday being a light day. However, the schedule in the finals is great. For the semifinals, I wouldn’t be holding many of their skaters. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty are a lock right now, and probably Jonathan Marchessault. Otherwise, I would cut bait because you need the volume. Then, if you make the finals, you can get great use out of the rest of the Golden Knights.
Arizona Coyotes (4,4,3,3) – I wish the Coyotes didn’t have so many injuries because their schedule is amazing for the semifinals. They start with three games in four nights, then have the Oilers on the weekend before playing on a light day. After that, it’s a couple nights off before three games in four nights to close the semifinals. Darcy Kuemper has been terrific lately and has plenty of upside as the Desert Dogs fight for the playoffs. As for streaming, well, it’s gambles on players like Nick Cousins and Brad Richardson. They have no back-to-backs in the finals so any consideration of streaming Coyotes will end in the semis.
Edmonton Oilers (4,3,3,4) – The options on Edmonton are so limited that I almost don’t want to talk about them. They do play the first day of the semis and follow that up by playing New Jersey on Wednesday, a light day. There’s two back-to-backs after that and some games against really bad teams like Ottawa, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. As for who you’ll be able to use, well, it depends on the day. Right now, that guy would be Zack Kassian, especially if you need hits and PIM, because he’s with McJesus. Will he be in a week? It’s impossible to say.
Vancouver Canucks (3,4,3,3) – Despite having one less game than some teams in the semifinals, the Canucks have the best streaming schedule over these two weeks. They play on three of the four light days over those two weeks, the most of any team. They also play on the 17th, so you can own their guys for the four days and cover two light days, with those games against Dallas, Chicago, and Ottawa, the last two obviously being extremely appealing. Six of their ten March games from that point are against teams that I would consider bad which helps the studs as well. As far as who to stream, Josh Leivo seems like a prime candidate with Adam Gaudette and Nikolay Goldobin behind them. They are shuffling lines a ton so that is subject to change. Also, Troy Stecher isn’t anything special, but he’s playing insane minutes right now and should be owned in deeper leagues.
Anaheim Ducks (4,3,3,2) – The Ducks suck and I don’t want to stream anyone from them. They play on four light days, three of which are against really good teams, so use players against them. The other is against the Kings on the second last day of the season, so perhaps their players will be worth using then. Honestly, there isn’t a person on this team that I’d hold right now besides John Gibson and I would only use him in good matchups. If you are holding onto Ryan Getzlaf or Rickard Rakell, well, I probably wouldn’t. In a deep league, I can understand, but you can let go of them with about a week left once the schedule dies down. They’re also the only team that doesn’t play on the last day of the season.
Los Angeles Kings (2,3,4,4,) – Talk about a horrible schedule for the semifinals. Sure, they play on one light day, but they only have five games total, and I’m not exactly rushing to use Kings players against the Jets on that light day. However, in the finals, they do have eight games, including a light day on the second last night of the season against the Ducks. For the semis, I’d probably only hold Kopitar and Doughty. Come the finals, I’d use Dustin Brown, Tyler Toffoli, and Ilya Kovalchuk when they’re playing teams like the Blackhawks and Ducks.
All Light Days (with 4 or less games):
Wed, 3/13 – CHI-TOR, NJ-EDM, NYR-VAN
Mon, 3/18 – ARZ-TB, VAN-CHI, WIN-LA, VGK-SJ
Wed, 3/20 – TOR-BUF, TB-WAS, OTT-VAN, WIN-ANA
Fri, 3/22 – MIN-WAS, SJ-ANA
Wed, 3/27 – TOR-PHI, NYR-BOS, DAL-CAL, VGK-COL
Wed, 4/3 – OTT-NYR, STL-CHI, CAL-ANA
Fri, 4/5 – CBJ-NYR, DAL-CHI, LA-
Since there’s not as much use for daily notes over the last couple weeks of the season, please let me know if you would like for me to preview the week ahead as a Monday post as a companion to this. I will still have daily notes during the week, with my next set coming on Wednesday since there are only two games tonight. As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below. I’m well over 3500 words at this point which is just a massive post, so I’m wrapping it up here. Take care!