This is it.
The last week of the NHL regular season. Your fantasy fate will likely be decided by this time next week, so without further ado, let’s dive in to what the final week of the NHL regular season has in store.
Fantasy Forecaster: April 25 to May 1
There are bound to be some shenanigans afoot next week as teams start to clinch their playoff seeding. For starters, some teams will have only two games remaining and an opportunity to potentially rest some key players for the postseason. If the Toronto Maple Leafs win both of their games this weekend and the Tampa Bay Lightning lose one, for example, then the Leafs are locked into their playoff position regardless of what happens in either of next week’s contests. Does that mean Auston Matthews will keep resting his injury? Will Jack Campbell bother playing in either game?
It’s difficult to manage for all the different if-this-then-that scenarios as the nuances of the playoff picture are fully revealed. But suffice it to say that hungry teams are safer than comfortable ones if you need to make up some ground in these waning days. The bubble in the Western Conference could have active jostling right up until next Friday, for example.
The Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Maple Leafs are the teams with only two games.
Seattle Kraken: There is some suggestion that the Matty Beniers, Ryan Donato and Jordan Eberle top line is getting a little bit lucky through four games (Corsi percentage is 38% and they’ve scored three goals in only 44 minutes), but the Kraken have three games next week. So if you are desperate to make up some counting stats, stop here first and look at Beniers, Eberle and Donato in that order from the offense.
You will also find plenty of defensive options for your lineup here. Adam Larsson has averaged 2.0 fantasy points per game (FPPG) for the past three weeks, with Vince Dunn hitting 2.1 FPPG during the past two weeks.
Vegas Golden Knights: I don’t know what to make of this mess in the Knights crease, but the team will be fighting tooth and nail next week to crawl back into the playoff picture. The pulling of starter Robin Lehner after one period of a tied game is exactly the kind of shenanigans that won’t help a fantasy hockey team down the stretch. That said, this offense will be under immense pressure to produce. The Knights play the Stars, Blackhawks and Blues in three games that could all matter. With the Stars and Predators both getting a freebie next week against the Coyotes, the Knights can’t afford to lose.
The line combinations have been messy and the superstars are all slumping. That said, I’ll have Jack Eichel, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty in any lineup I can for this opportunity. Chandler Stephenson and Evgenii Dadonov are the options more likely to be available in your league, but I don’t know how to guess which line combo will get used and stick. That said, Stephenson has been a mainstay on the power play, so I’d lean toward starting him.
Alex Chiasson, W, Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks could very well be pushing for the postseason down to the final whistle, so they are one of the hungry teams to target. Beyond the obvious key names, Chiasson has been on an absolute fantasy tear. Since being elevated to a scoring line with J.T. Miller and given a role on the power play, Chiasson has been pouring in the points. During the past three weeks, he’s averaged 3.0 FPPG – the exact same mark as Connor McDavid and Matthew Tkachuk.
Jordan Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes: Staal seemingly saved all his fantasy goodness for the final few weeks of the season. Even though he sits at a lowly 1.4 FPPG for the season (well outside fantasy consideration), he’s sitting at a rock solid 2.8 FPPG over the past three weeks. His line with Jesper Fast and Nino Niederreiter is a sneaky fifth-best in the NHL this season with 33 goals at 5-on-5 and ranks fifth in goals percentage for lines with at least 200 minutes (per MoneyPuck.com).
Antti Raanta, G, Carolina Hurricanes: With Frederik Andersen looking like he’ll be out until the postseason, Raanta is likely in line for both starts next week. While the matchup with the Rangers could be a dangerous one as the teams battle for the Metropolitan Division crown, the final game against the Devils should be a gimme. Raanta has rolled off two wins with Andersen sidelined and should continue to benefit from playing for the best defensive team (lowest Corsi against in the NHL).
Troy Terry, W, Anaheim Ducks: While Terry might not be available in your league anymore with his roster ship climbing to 85%, check out his linemates. Adam Henrique has posted 2.1 FPPG during the past two weeks and Ryan Getzlaf will be looking to go out with a bang in the final game of his career. The trio is among the top 30 NHL lines this season for goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (minimum 200 minutes). It’s too bad they didn’t discover their chemistry earlier this season.
Ducks retake the lead on Terry’s 2nd goal
Ducks retake the lead on Terry’s 2nd goal