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Who to Start and Who to Sit in Fantasy Hockey (Week of April 18)

It’s the final head-to-head week of the fantasy hockey season and, hopefully, you’ve made it this far. Jason Chen looks at some important players, teams and trends to look out for this week.
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It’s the final head-to-head week of the fantasy hockey season. Hopefully, you’ve made it this far.

Week 26 will combine the final two weeks of the season, which was further extended until May 1 due to the rescheduled Kraken at Jets season finale. The remaining teams, however, have as many as six or seven games to complete, which means it’ll be a compact schedule and every single team other than the Jets will have at least one back-to-back.

Analyzing the schedule will be more important than usual as default Yahoo leagues allow only five adds per week, and it would probably be more prudent to use those in the second week of Week 26, or otherwise add players on teams with seven or eight games early in the first week and hope that injuries or other hard-to-predict factors don’t make an impact.

Friday the 29th will feature every single team except the Canes and Kings, who will have finished their seasons the day prior. Benching good players will be an inevitability for most fantasy managers, and that may also be the case for Tuesday the 26th (13 games) and Saturday the 22nd (12 games). Only two days will feature one game: Monday the 25th with Flyers at Blackhawks, which might be a high-scoring affair, and May 1st with the Kraken at Jets makeup game.

An update will be provided Monday the 25th for the latter half of Week 26 to note any significant changes that may have happened. Good luck the rest of the way. Thanks for following along all season.

Legend:
P% = season points percentage
Opp. P% = opponents’ season points percentage
Diff. = difference between P% and Opp. P%
Green is good. Red is bad
All advanced stats courtesy naturalstatrick.com.

Week 26

Start

Carolina Hurricanes

More specifically, Antti Raanta, who will receive the bulk of the shares with Frederik Andersen’s injury status still unknown, but also new backup Pyotr Kochetkov, drafted 36th overall in 2019 after a brilliant World Juniors for Russia and was named the AHL’s Rookie of the Month for March. Kochetkov went 7-0-1 with a 1.74 GAA and .937 Sv%, and may make his first appearance this weekend in a back-to-back in New Jersey and Long Island. He will be the fifth goalie to play for the Canes this season, but given his pedigree and recent performance should be miles better than Alex Lyon or Jack LaFontaine.

Ottawa Senators

The Sens flirt with “Sit” territory because they have the most brutal of the condensed schedules with three back-to-backs, all of which require travel, and between the back-to-backs play once in four days. It’ll be hard to find a rhythm, and Anton Forsberg will likely split half the starts, and without him in net, the Sens’ chances of winning fall pretty dramatically; Forsberg’s 19 wins is more than double the combined total (9) from Matt Murray, Filip Gustavsson and Mads Sogaard. However, all of their matchups – chiefly Columbus, Montréal, Jersey and Philly – could end up being very high-scoring contests. The Panthers matchup could be, too, with 19 goals scored between the two in their previous three meetings, including an 8-2 win for the Sens. Josh Norris and Brady Tkachuk are still very solid options, but Tim Stützle has been excellent with 12 points in seven games and Drake Batherson is healthy. Their forward depth still leaves a little to be desired, but note they’ve called up Zach Senyshyn to replace the injured Mathieu Joseph, even though Senyshyn continues to struggled having scored zero goals in 13 games with Belleville.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Tristan Jarry’s injury has paved the way for Casey DeSmith to be the starter, and it’s surprisingly not that big of a drop-off. Since March 1, Jarry has started 15 games to DeSmith’s seven, but both have matching .915 save percentages and their goals-against average is separated by just 0.03 goals. The Pens have already clinched a playoff spot, which takes some pressure off, but they still need to ward off their divisional rival Capitals, who sit in the last wild-card spot and trail by three points with two games in hand; losing the third spot in the Metro could be the difference between facing the Panthers or not. DeSmith figures to get the bulk of the starts, giving him a big boost in fantasy value, and note that Evgeni Malkin is eligible to play in four of their final five games and should give their lineup a big boost on offense.

Sit

New York Islanders

Their opponents’ combined points percentage of .643 is the highest in Week 26, and there are no pushover games. Even the other two teams facing the toughest competition, Red Wings at .630 and the Predators at .623, having at least a few easy matchups, including two games against the Devils for the Wings and a Coyotes matchup for the Preds. The weakest team the Isles will face are the Sabres, who should be well-rested playing just their second game in six nights with an offense that has improved without Jack Eichel. Ilya Sorokin has been very good this season but no goalie runs a Panthers-Rangers-Canes-Caps-Lightning gauntlet and comes out unscathed, and it’s going to put more pressure on their already below-average offense that has been led by Zach Parise (!) lately with four goals in four games.

Seattle Kraken

They have a league-high eight games remaining but they’ve been a terrible fantasy option all season. At no point were any of their goalies reliable for any stretch longer than a few games, and none of their forwards are clear-cut first-line players. The lone option of note is Matty Beniers, who has stepped in as their top center right away, which is always an indictment of how thin their roster is. The Kraken rank No. 1 on the schedule matrix purely based on games played, and note in the second half of Week 26 they are the only team to play four games. 

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