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Fantasy Hockey: Head-to-Head Primer for Week 4

Who should you start? Who should you avoid? The sample sizes are growing, so there's even more to keep an eye on to win your weekly fantasy battles. Here are the most important topics you need to be aware of this week.
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Detroit Red Wings

The Florida Panthers’ unbeaten streak was snapped in a shootout loss to the Bruins on Saturday, which means the Carolina Hurricanes remain the league’s only perfect team. Both teams only have two games in Week 4, which includes a matchup against each other for the first time of the season on Saturday, a game that could see the Hurricanes tie the league record for best record to start with 10 straight wins (assuming they don’t have any trouble in Chicago on Wednesday). It’ll be must-watch TV.

The Calgary Flames (4-0-0), Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0) and Nashville Predators (2-0-0) also capped off flawless Week 3’s, doing it in vastly different ways. It’ll be a slightly lighter schedule in Week 4 with seven teams playing only two games, compared to three such teams in Week 3 and not including the Islanders, who played only once.

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Legend:
1w P% = rolling one-week points percentage
2w P% = rolling two-week points percentage
P% = season points percentage
Opp. P% = opponents’ season points percentage
Diff. = difference between P% and Opp. P% to signify quality of competition
All advanced stats courtesy naturalstatrick.com.

Week 4

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START

Calgary Flames

Jacob Markstrom has not allowed a goal in 134:35 and tied his career-high of three shutouts in just six games this season. The Flames now enter the second month of the season in first place in the Pacific, putting them in a good position to make the playoffs, and if their recent run is representative of their peak, they’re going to be a very good team for the rest of the season and a sure-fire pick to finish at least third in the division. How many games does Darryl Sutter play Markstrom this year? Gotta be close to 70, right?

The Flames also own the sixth-best shot differential at 5.1 shots per game and fourth-best goal differential at 1.75 goals per game, so even if Markstrom’s play slips a little bit, those are encouraging signs that the Flames can keep winning games. All three of their games are at home this week, including Saturday against the Rangers, who will be playing the second half of a back-to-back.

Detroit Red Wings

The Wings are really fun to watch. Not only do they boast incredible young talent, they’ve been competitive and held their own every night, and even gave the Panthers a scare by forcing overtime and nearly winning. The big difference has been their goal scoring; over the past two seasons, no team has been worse than the Red Wings’ 2.18 GF/GP. Their games are much more competitive now, and it’s conceivable they finish the week above .500 yet again visiting the struggling Habs and the overachieving Sabres, and then getting a home date against the Knights, who will be playing the second half of a back-to-back and their fourth road game in six days.

Toronto Maple Leafs

I think Mitch Marner scoring his first goal – an unassisted goal off a good forecheck that also required a little luck – was a huge weight off his shoulders. Ilya Mikheyev remains injured but the Leafs are pretty much at full strength with Petr Mrazek back in the fold, and the lineup has remained fairly consistent with Auston Matthews being the only forward who has missed games.

The Leafs are one of the few underperforming teams so far, but a three-game homestand in Week 4 could really help them get back on track. Vegas and Tampa are both missing key players due to injury, and if the Leafs can cap it off with a victory on national TV against Boston, maybe they can even go back to overhyping their Cup chances once again. Their 5v5 possession numbers are excellent, ranking first in Corsi%, sixth in Fenwick% and fifth in xGF%. Marner (3.9 S%) and Matthews (4.0 S%) are shooting at unsustainably low percentages, and a regression back to the mean will happen sooner than later.

Matt Duchene, C/RW, and Ryan Johansen, C, Nashville

Other than their gold jerseys, the Preds are exceedingly average; since the 2019-20 season, the Preds rank 17th in points (150), 16th in points percentage (.564), 18th in goals per game (2.89) and 16th in goals allowed per game (2.93). The Preds stick around but they’re generally not very memorable – the games, not the fanbase – but the one thing that has stuck out this season has been their power play, which ranks seventh at 26.9 percent.

Fun stat: Duchene’s three power-play points in eight games this season already ties his total from last season when he played 34 games. Part of it is getting more ice time, but both Duchene and Johansen are off to really good starts when expectations going into the season were perhaps at the lowest of their careers. They’re tied third and second, respectively, in scoring on the team behind only Roman Josi, and their upcoming six-game road trip should give us a good idea if we should hop on their wagon. Both players are available in over 85 percent of Yahoo leagues, and their uptrend deserves at least a mental note. The Central race has not begun as unanticipated and the Preds’ recent three-game winning streak puts them back in the thick of the race and tied for third in the division with the powerhouse Avs.

AVOID

Los Angeles Kings

If their goaltending wasn’t good, they had no chance this season. Cal Petersen and Jonathan Quick have combined for a .897 Sv% and the Kings only play twice this week, including one game against the Blues and their second-ranked power play. The Kings won their last game 5-2, but it was against the lifeless Habs, and it’s very hard to win games when Matt Roy and Tobias Bjornfot lead your defensemen in ice time. Viktor Arvidsson, who was supposed to provide more offense from the top six, has only two goals in eight games and could potentially miss one or both games this week after being placed in COVID protocol.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks play all three games in Week 4 at home, but they’re facing the Blues, whom they’ve beaten only once in regulation since the 2019-20 season, and two similar teams punching above their own weight in the Sabres and Devils. Although they managed to pull off an overtime win against the Jets on Saturday, the Sharks have eight players and head coach Bob Boughner in COVID protocol as of Sunday night. We don’t know what the long-term effects are just yet, and nearly all of the players in the league are vaccinated, but a few teams last season – including the Stars, Devils, Sabres and Canucks – had their schedules disrupted due to the pandemic and never seemed to fully recover during the rest of the season. 

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