It can be hard to pivot away from the strategy that helped carry you this far and into the playoffs, but often you have no choice but to leave behind the ways that got you this far and adopt a more drastic approach in the playoffs. When your season starts you must be patient. Have patience with the elite veteran you know will get up to speed to actually get up to speed and start producing. Have patience with for the budding superstar you know will produce, he just needs time to adjust to the North American style. That works if you have the discipline, but now it’s do or die and the moves you make are as critical to your success as the moves you don’t make. Now you need to act and learning to know when it’s time to cut bait on a guy you really, really don’t want to. It gets a bit hairy in keeper leagues when you have to decide between now and next year, but in redraft leagues it gets pretty simple, pretty quickly; as the clock ticks down on your first round matchup you may have to bite the bullet and ditch your idle big guns for long shot streamers, and that’s okay so long as you make the right moves.
I’m forced to go back to the example of the immensely talented Vladimir Tarasenko. Vladdy has had an amazing breakout season and you love life because he likely carried you this far, but now you’re stuck. Why? Because he already played one of the two games he’s going to play this week and despite his ability to blow up for a two-goal, three point game at any moment there’s a good chance he won’t. If he doesn’t do really well in that next game, he’s not going to do squat to help you advance to the next round. Is it time to cut bait? Yes and no. If it’s Saturday and you have four moves left for the week and you’re hurting for stats you need to use those moves to stack your lineup for Sunday. Ideally you’ll want to scope out what’s happening on Friday and stack your lineups as best you can for both Saturday and Sunday if possible. The key here is to know who to cut and when.
Your league type is key to knowing what moves to make. Are you in a keeper league? Then don’t drop a guy like Tarasenko even if it means getting knocked out of the playoffs this year, trust me, you’ll be happy you did next season. I know it’s tough to let your season slip away, but you can’t mortgage your future in a keeper league for the hail mary now. Think bigger, suck it up and build for the future. In redraft leagues he’s not going to do you much good in the second round if you, you know, don’t make the second round. If you can’t find anyone else to cut you’ll have to bite the bullet and drop him for a streamer and hope you’ll have the good problem of racing to try and pick him back up after he clears waivers next week. It’s not a wonderful prospect to consider, but it’s often necessary. Don’t be afraid to lose elite talent in a last ditch effort to stay alive; it may be the only chance you have to advance, just make sure you’re in the right environment to do it. So don’t be a wuss! Do it and deal with the consequences in the next round, just so long as it won’t kill you next year. Savvy? I hope so. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Good news, everyone! Kevin Shattenkirk is expected to suit up and play this weekend. Temper your expectations because he’s returning from abdominal surgery so he might be rusty and sluggish compared to what you’re used to from the Norris quality rearguard, but he’s so good and it’s so late in the season you can’t leave him on IR to wait and see what he does, so get him back in your lineups ASAP.
More good news, everyone! Pavel Datsyuk should also be back in his lineup on Saturday and unlike Shats you can expect Pavel to be flying at 100% so make sure he’s active and starting.
The good news keeps on coming! Brandon Dubinsky should return to the lineup for the Jackets today so get him back in your lineups as well.
Craig Anderson is traveling with the team again but there’s no word on whether or not he’ll start over the recently beaten down Andrew Hammond so keep a close eye on who will get the next start for the Sens.
Frederik Andersen, G (W, 27 SV, 2 GA, .931%) – The goalie merry-go-round continues in Anaheim as Freddy steered aside 27 of 29 shots to hold on for a 3-2 victory in OT last night. He stood tall all night and looked every bit the starter. Given John Gibson’s recent mini-slide and the fact that this is the first decent start by either netminder in about a week Andersen may be in line for the next start for the Ducks as well.
Tuukka Rask, G (L, 29 SV, 3 GA, .906%) – Tuukka’s inconsistent play continues with the loss last night. He wasn’t exactly bad per se; he just wasn’t good enough to help his team win. There’s nothing you can do with Tuukka but start him, so start him you shall come rain or shine.
Patrick Maroon, LW (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – A bunch of folks picked up Maroon because he was bumped up to the top line with Ryan Getzlaf, C (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) and Corey Perry, LW (1 G, 5 SOG, +2) but he was dropped off that line last night for the first time in a while. He spent most of his time on the third line with Jakob Silfverberg, LW (+1, 2 SOG) and Rickard Rakell, C (+1, 1 SOG) which isn’t bad, but it’s not nearly as good as that cozy wing on the top line. Jiri Sekac, LW (1 SOG) took his place and that might stick, so beware, Maroon’s production is likely to dry up pretty quickly now.
Ryan Spooner, C (1 G, 3 SOG, -1) – Spooner’s time in the Bruins’ top six is probably coming to an end with the return of David Krejci his value takes a hit. Given his limited experience it’s going to be a fairly large hit, I’d wager. He wasn’t exactly blowing it up lately, but he does have four points (1 G, 3 A) over his last five games so there is still some value here. If he does stick in the top six once Krejci returns, his value remains about the same or even gets a boost, but otherwise it might be time to bail.
Mike Smith, G (W, 32 SV, 3 GA, .914%) – In his last start Smith coughed up four goals to the Wings in a winning effort. That’s not something you can say often, but hey, he won. It seems to be that if Smith wins a game, his peripherals are garbage and if he loses a game, they’re great. That’s not good, but then again neither is he.
Matt Hackett, G (L, 38 SV, 4 GA, .905%) – I saw a bunch of people spot starting Hackett last night. Lol, you cray.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Ugh, so hard not to love this guy but so easy to hate his team. Maybe they’ll get lucky and draft Connor McDavid and have that dream line of McDavid, Max Domi and Anthony Duclair next year and they’ll start to see light at the end of the tunnel of mediocrity that the ‘yotes have called home since Jeremy Roenick retired. Ouch.
Brian Gionta, RW (1 G, 1 A, 7 SOG) – There’s almost no one of note left on the Sabres, but Gionta is making a play for fantasy relevance lately with six points (3 G, 3 A) over his last five games. His plus/minus is going to hurt, but if you can absorb it, he’s scoring right now and he’s basically the only real option they have to lead the “offense” in Buffalo, so he’s worth streaming late in the week if you need a push into the next round.
Braden Holtby, G (W, 29 SV, 2 GA, .935%) – With a win last night Holtby’s season line improves to an immaculate 36-19-9/2.18/.925 in 65 games played. This is the season I expected out of him in 2014, but better late than never. As for 2015, well, expect more of the same. He’s a beast.
Jaroslav Halak, G (L, 34 SV, 3 GA, .919%) – I knew Halak wasn’t as good as his early season performance indicated and sure enough over the course of the season his inconsistency grew and his numbers suffered. He hasn’t been bad, really, he’s just not an elite option.
Tyler Toffoli, C (1 G, 5 SOG) – Toffy and the Kings are rolling right now, like they usually do late in the season, and he’s worth starting in most formats. He has two goals in his last three games and generally looks good out there so expect more of the same over the next week or so as the Kings fight for their playoff lives.
Anze Kopitar, C (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Igor is putting this team on his back right now. He has eight points (2 G, 6 A) over his last five games and 15 points over his last 13 this month. 16 goals isn’t exactly what you hoped for when you drafted him in the early rounds of your draft this season, but if you’ve survived this long he’s doing you a solid and coming through when it counts the most. I expect him to return to form for a full season and put up a huge year in 2015.
Cam Ward, G (W, 27 SV, 2 GA, .931%) – Did anyone even benefit from this performance? Considering you’d have to own Ward, and start him, and own Ward and still be alive in the playoffs to do it, I’d wager the answer is no. No one benefited from this.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G (L, 23 SV, 5 GA, .821%) – A lot of people were hurt by this performance, though. Flower coughs up five goals on just 28 shots to the lowly Canes and he comes up for his owners at a critical point in the first round of the playoffs. You have to start him again if he gets the call this weekend to try and bring down his peripherals for the week, but it’s still not going to be pretty unless he pitches a shutout in his next start. My condolences Fleury owners, this one was brutal.
Eric Staal, C (1 G, 2 A, 5 SOG) – Staal’s season was mostly lost to injuries and playing for the Hurricanes, but he does have 10 points (2 G, 8 A) over his last 12 games and four points (1 G, 3 A) over his last two, so he’s scoring again lately and that’s worth keeping in your lineup. If he was dropped by a team long ago knocked out of the playoffs he’s absolutely worth streaming but beware the minor hit you’ll take to your plus/minus, he might have 10 points this month but he also sports a minus-3.
Brandon Pirri, C (2 G, 6 SOG, +1) – I debated picking up Pirri for this game and I regret not doing it. I didn’t think he’d pot another two goals, but I figured he’d contribute something. I touched on him in a post earlier this week and what I said then still stands; you need to pick him up and ride this hot streak to the end. The Cats are fighting for their playoff lives and Pirri is skating on fresh legs.
Jonathan Huberdeau, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) – The same goes for Hoob, who continues to thrive skating with Jaromir Jagr, RW (1 A, 1 SOG, +2) who the Cats are interested in re-signing. When asked whether he had another year left in the tank Jagr replied that he felt like he had seven more left. I don’t doubt it.
Aleksander Barkov, C (2 A, 3 SOG, +2, 2 PIM) – Barky has five points (1 G, 4 A) over his last five and like most Cats he’s worth owning right now. He’ll even give you a few faceoff wins to go along with his helpers, but the scoring can be a bit inconsistent.
Cam Talbot, G (W, 23 SV, 1 GA, .958%) – After coughing up four goals on 35 shots to the Kings in a 4-2 loss on Tuesday Prince Talbot recovered nicely and shut down the red hot Senators for the 5-1 victory last night. He steered aside 23 of 24 shots in the process and despite the return of Henrik Lundqvist to the bench and the lineup this weekend you can expect Talbot to take one of the two games the Rangers have this weekend.
Andrew Hammond, G (L, 17 SV, 5 GA, .773%) – The writing was on the wall for this one and Hammy got rocked for five goals on just 23 shots before getting yanked late in the second period. There was no way he could continue the level of play that likely elevated many of the teams he’s on to the fantasy playoffs so you knew you were going to get burnt by him eventually. That being said, the Sens really have no one else to turn to in goal for the rest of the season so despite the fact that Chris Driedger, G (10 SV, 0 GA, 1.000%) came in to hold fort and did a fine job, I’d wager we’ll see the Hamburgler back between the pipes for the Sens in their next tilt. How well that start goes remains to be seen, but usually when an upstart goalie finally comes back down to earth like this, they stay there, so start him with extreme caution.
Chris Kreider, LW (2 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – With a three point, two-goal game last night Kreids hit the 20-goal marker for the first time in his short career. This game pushes his season line to 20/20/40/+19 in 71 games played with a host of other tasty stats in various categories across the board. You can expect him to take another step forward next season and reach the 50-60 point range with lots of hits, blocks and penalty minutes to go with it. I’m all about Kreider in 2015.
Derek Stepan, C (2 A, 3 SOG, +3, 2 PIM) – There was a long 13 game scoreless drought for Step that tested the patience of many of his owners, but he’s coming out of it in a big way lately with five points (2 G, 3 A) over his last three games. The point should keep coming now that the flood gates are re-opened so get him back in your lineup and keep him there.
Mats Zuccarello, RW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – It’s becoming clear that Zucc is a late season performer. He was pretty bleh to start the season last year and came on strong to finish as the Rangers’ leading scorer and he’s doing something very similar this season. Over the first half of the season he put up 17 points (6 G, 11 A) in 33 games. That’s bad. Over the last three months he’s followed that up with 27 points (8 G, 19 A) in his last 38 games with six of those points coming over his last four games. If he ever puts together a complete season he’s going to be a monster producer.
Justin Abdelkader, LW (1 G, 3 SOG, -1) – I get a special sense of satisfaction when I recommend a player for a specific purpose and he fulfills that shiz with flying colors. In that vein, here’s Abs with his third goal in as many games since I said you should pick him up for some gooooooal scorin’. He has five points (3 G, 2 A) over his last three to go with 10 penalty minutes, 16 shots on goal and nine hits. That’s baller and he should be owned and started everywhere at the moment.
Tomas Jurco, RW (1 G, 2 SOG) – Jurco isn’t worth adding right now but he did score a goal last night and I just wanted to give him a mention to keep him on your radar. He’s going to be something solid in a few years; he’s just not there yet. The upside here is very high, though and the Wings like to let their prospects develop slowly so you have to give him more time.
Jimmy Howard, G (7 SV, 3 GA, .700%) – You had to start Howie after he coughed up four goals to the Coyotes in his last start so don’t feel bad for his suck job last night. He coughed up three goals on just 10 shots and didn’t return to the net for the second period. Instead, rookie upstart Petr Mrazek, G (L, 17 SV, 2 GA, .895%) came in and fared better, but not by much. After two horrible starts by Howie and the Wings all but guaranteed a playoff spot, I’d wager Mrazek is going to get the next start.
Ben Bishop, G (L, 8 SV, 3 GA, .727%) – Man, it wasn’t a pretty night for goaltending and Bish joined Fleury, Howard and Hammond with a terrible game. He stopped just eight of 11 shots before getting yanked in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy, G (8 SV, 0 GA, 1.000%) who came in and shut the door for the Bolts. It wasn’t enough for the win with Pekka Rinne, G (W, 28 SV, 2 GA, .933%) at the other end of the ice, but it was probably enough to get another start soon.
Mike Ribiero, C (1 G, 1 SOG) – Ribs has faded almost completely away over the last few months and hit rock bottom with just five points in his last 12 games in March including the three points he’s scored over the last two games. Last night’s tally was a total fluke, a Roman Josi, D (1 A, +2, 2 PIM) slapper found its way to Ribs’ stick and deflected in. At this point I wouldn’t own him with your team but if the last two games turn into a third and fourth with points he might be finding some life worth streaming.
Ondrej Pavelec, G (W, 39 SV, 2 GA, .951%) – Pavs puts up yet another stellar game to help lift the Jets closer to a playoff berth. He’s been absolutely brilliant lately and is finishing the season so strongly he may end up starting 2015 as the starter yet again. I don’t think he’ll be this good next season, so expect Michael Hutchinson to get his fair share of starts in 2015, but man, Pavs is white hot right now and if he’s out there or you own him, make sure he’s in your lineups moving forward.
Dustin Tokarski, G (L, 17 SV, 5 GA, .773%) – I warned against testing fate with a Toker start here despite the strong road record and here’s why. He stopped just 17 of 23 shots and generally looked horrible out there. Expect Carey Price to take the rest of the starts this season for the Habs.
Dustin Byfuglien, D (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Big Buff returns to action and scores a goal in his first game since March 4th. It goes without saying that now that he’s active he is a must start but I just said it anyway to be clear.
Blake Wheeler, RW (1 G, 1 SOG, 4 PIM) – The line of Wheels, Mark Scheifele, C (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG) and Drew Stafford, RW (1 A, 3 SOG) is on fire lately and they kept it up last night posting four points to lead the Jets to victory once again. Every guy on this line should be owned and in your starting lineups in deep leagues. Hell, they should probably get consideration for a starting job in most leagues right now.
Reto Berra, G (W, 33 SV, 1 GA, .971%) – In what might be his best stretch of play all season Berra came in to relieve Semyon Varlamov on Wednesday against the Oil and did a great job stopping 26 of 27 shots in the loss. Last night he was given a rare start and did not waste it steering aside 33 of 34 shots for the 4-1 victory over the Canucks. He might not have wasted the effort but it was mostly wasted in the fantasy world where almost no one started the guy. And this on a night where Cam Ward did really well and almost every big gun in net fell flat on their collective faces. Ah, fantasy hockey, she’s a fickle bitch but we love her just the same.
Gabriel Landeskog, LW (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) – Landy continues his stellar play with another two-point performance last night. He’s had three multi-point games in his last five, good for seven points (3 G, 4 A) over that span. He also has 24 points in his last 24 games and with every passing awesome performance I get more and more excited about his 2015 campaign where I fully expect him to take a step up to the elite.
Yannick Weber, D (1 G, 3 SOG, -1) – Weber extended his point streak to four games with a tally on three shots last night. He has five points (3 G, 2 A) over that span with a point on the power play in each game. That’s beast. While he might not be your typical scoring defenseman he’s scoring right now and that’s all that matters. If you need some scoring help on your blue line he’s worth streaming for aid.