The NHL regular season will come to end in just over two weeks, so in fantasy, that means your playoff matchup this coming week is the most important week of your season.
Making it past the quarterfinals this week, or perhaps you finished with a top two record giving you a bye this week, is a huge accomplishment, but the goal at the beginning of the season was to win your pool, so winning your semifinal matchup, and eventually the final, is why you play this game.
Here are ten players to watch this week that should give you an advantage over your opponent and hopefully propel you to the championship round.
Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel:
Stats: 15 goals, 27 assists, 142 shots
Schedule this week: NJ, @WAS, NYI, @OTT
Kessel is a streaky player, and he’s on a good one now with five goals and three assists in last four. Expect Kessel to keep the hot streak going this week, with a good matchup to end the week against a Sens team he’s scored 21 goals against (most against any opponent)
Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin:
Stats: 27 goals, 19 assists, 193 shots
Schedule this week: TOR, @OTT, @MTL
Ovechkin should remain on his current hot streak as the Capitals continue to push towards a division crown and playoff spot. In his career against the Maple Leafs, Senators and Canadiens, Ovechkin has 57 goals in 85 games.
Islanders forward Josh Bailey:
Stats: 9 goals, 7 assists, 62 shots
Schedule this week: FLA, @TOR, @WPG
Bailey has played well recently on a line with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo with four goals and three assists in seven games this month. The former first round pick of the Islanders in 2008 has favourable matchups this week against a weak Panthers and Jets squad.
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith:
Stats: 13-11-4, 2.60 GAA, .909 save%
Schedule this week: SJ, @STL, @CHI
Smith and the Coyotes are now just two points behind the Stars for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and since his return from an upper-body injury, has looked like the Smith of old. He has just the one win this past week, but his 1.64 GAA and .948 save% are encouraging signs to ride with him and the Coyotes until the end. He has had success against the Sharks in his career, posting four shutouts in ten starts, including one this season, a 33 save effort back in February.
Stars goalie Richard Bachman:
Stats: 6-3-0, 3.18 GAA, .884 save%
Schedule this week: @CHI, VAN, @STL, @LA
A huge week awaits the young netminder, as starter Kari Lehtonen is still out with a groin injury. The Stars are hot right now with five straight wins, and Bachman is not disappointing owners with three wins this week and a 1.09 GAA.
Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen:
Stats: 9 goals, 7 assists, 67 shots
Schedule this week: MTL, @BOS, BUF
Since being acquired at the deadline, Jokinen looks the like the player the Hurricanes had back in the 2009-10 season when he scored 30 goals. He has three goals and two assists in four games as a Penguin and playing on the second line with Brenden Morrow and Pascal Dupuis shows the confidence the coaches have in him. Sometimes the change of scenery is the key to the players success, and in this case, it should continue the next two weeks.
Stars forward Vernon Fiddler:
Stats: 3 goals, 13 assists, 46 shots
Schedule this week: @CHI, VAN, @STL, @LA
Fiddler has had a week most fantasy owners didn’t think he had in him. Two goals, five assists and a plus four rating have made him a top five pickup of the week in some leagues. Fiddler will continue to play on a line with Erik Cole and Eric Nystrom as the suddenly hot Stars continue their playoff push. Usually players like this really fizzle out after one good week, but the Stars are hungry for the playoffs despite dealing Jaromir Jagr to the Bruins and Derek Roy to the Canucks.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty:
Stats: 5 goals, 15 assists, 99 shots
Schedule this week: @SJ, CLB, DAL
Doughty has finally started to reward owners with points after not scoring a goal in his first 28 games. He has three goals over the week with one assist and three power-play points, so he may be starting to find his groove again. He’s still way off his incredible season in 2009-10 when he scored 16 goals and 43 assists, but he plays Columbus this week, a team he’s scored 18 points against in his career.
Blues goalie Brian Elliott:
Stats: 8-6-1, 2.68 GAA, .892 Save%
Schedule this week: VAN, PHX, DAL, @COL
Elliott has been on fire since being recalled from his conditioning stint after Jaroslav Halak went down with another injury. This past week, he has three wins, all via the shutout, against the Red Wings, Preds, and Wild. With four games this week, expect him to earn three of them with a good matchup against Colorado to end the week.
Bruins forward Gregory Campbell:
Stats: 4 goals, 8 assists, 46 shots
Schedule this week: OTT, BUF, PIT, FLA
Campbell has been the biggest beneficiary of the Jaromir Jagr acquisition, scoring two goals and recording three assists while on a line with the future Hall of Famer. Over that time Jagr has six assists, and with the two expected to play on a line together for the foreseeable future, Campbell is must start this week. The Bruins have a favourable sked this week as well, facing a Buffalo and Florida team that have no shot at the playoffs.
Top 5 pickups in Yahoo!
1. Teddy Purcell (TB)
2. Alex Chiasson (DAL)
3. Viktor Stalberg (CHI)
4. Bryan Bickell (CHI)
5. Patrice Bergeron (BOS)
Top 5 drops in Yahoo!
1. Alex Tanguay (CGY)
2. Joffrey Lupul (TOR)
3. Brad Marchand (BOS)
4. Jake Allen (STL)
5. Ben Bishop (TB)
If you any fantasy questions this season, let me know in the comment section, and good luck this week.