It’s the first week without a single re-scheduled game, so that’s going to feel a little weird. But every team except for the Isles (of course) have played at least 50 games, and with the trade deadline approaching, this is where the playoff races really start to heat up in fantasy leagues, too.
A few interesting developments over the last week: the Leafs, Rangers and Flames showed that they were still a tier below the true elite, and the Bruins and Kings look like legitimate playoff teams and could big buyers at the deadline. This is important to know because these are the teams that might make transactions during the week that change the fantasy values of certain players.
Week 19 will feature eight teams that play a league-high four games, with the Bruins and Sens playing all four on the road. The Panthers, Preds, Pens and Coyotes get a lighter week with just two games apiece, and the Pens’ schedule is extra quirky since both of their games are played back-to-back. Saturday will feature the most action with 10 games, while Tuesday and Thursday each have nine, and with eight games on Sunday, also provides ample opportunity for last-minute pickups for fantasy managers in tight matchups.
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.
Los Angeles Kings
Of the eight teams playing four games in Week 19, they’re the only team that won’t have any back-to-backs. That means Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen will likely get two starts apiece, and despite road games in Dallas, Columbus and Buffalo, they should not suffer any ill effects from travel. Quick (.918 Sv%, 1.96 GAA) has been the better goalie over the past two weeks, but the real strength has been their balanced scoring; five players have scored at least two goals and every player except for Olli Määttä has scored a point.
Adrian Kempe is having the best season of his career and remains a solid choice behind Anže Kopitar, but note also that the second line with Phillip Danault between Trevor Moore and Viktor Arvidsson have combined for 16 points in six games, and with a 62.5 percent xGoals % has been the Kings’ best line all season, according to moneypuck.com’s models. Quinton Byfield is the big name fantasy managers will gravitate toward but note that he’s just averaging 10 minutes per game and in a third-line role has yet to make a significant impact just yet. A better play would be Arthur Kaliyev, who plays on the fourth line but so far has shown more ability to score in the NHL and also plays a role on the second power-play unit.
Jaccob Slavin, D, Hurricanes
Tony DeAngelo is out for a month and it leaves a huge void on the blue line for the Canes’ top power play. He was having an excellent season, but now it’s on Slavin to keep their top-10 power play going. Slavin is a stronger two-way player but lacks the dynamic offensive talent that DeAngelo brings to the table. However, it’s the opportunity that counts, and being able to quarterback a power play with four of the Canes’ top forwards should at least give Slavin a slight boost in fantasy. Note that Ethan Bear also saw time on the power play Sunday against the Oilers, but is considered to be the second option behind Slavin.
Damon Severson, D, Devils
Perhaps they’re just easing Dougie Hamilton back in, but it was interesting to see Severson log more time on the power play Friday against the Blackhawks. It was a barn burner with 13 goals scored and the Devils had just two power-play opportunities, but Severson’s 2:10 edged Hamilton’s 1:04, and also finished with two helpers to Hamilton’s one. There’s no urgency for the Devils right now because the playoffs are well out of reach, so Severson remains the play here until the Devils show otherwise.
Vegas Golden Knights
I’m just not really sure about this year’s Knights squad, and neither should you. While Jack Eichel looks better and better every game, they just don’t feel like a dominant team, though admittedly they’ve set the bar really, really high since their inaugural season. Other than a matchup against the rival Sharks on Tuesday, one which the Knights should dominate, it’s a tough slog ahead with a back-to-back on Thursday and Friday with a little travel, then a date with the Sens on Sunday, who keep surprising.
The big question for the Knights will be in net because it doesn’t look like Laurent Brossoit is capable of really holding the fort while Robin Lehner recovers. Brossoit sports a winning 9-6-3 record and his .923 5v5 Sv% (min. 500 TOI) ranks 20th out of 61 goalies, according to naturalstattrick.com, but that number has dipped since he took over the starting job on Feb. 16, and in his past four games has dipped to .914. They’ve lost five of their past six and do not have either Max Pacioretty or Mark Stone at the moment, and Alec Martinez has yet to return. One of the brightest spots has again been Chandler Stephenson, who has settled nicely on Eichel’s wing and provides some help in the circle as Eichel continues to get back to full strength, and Nicolas Roy deserves a mention, too, centering the third line and seeing opportunities with the top power-play unit. Evgenii Dadonov, on the other hand, has been a real disappointment for two straight seasons now.
Evan Bouchard, D, Oilers
Bouchard’s ice time under Dave Tippett: 21:42
Bouchard’s ice time under Jay Woodcroft: 14:41
That change is drastic, and it’s also without Duncan Keith in the lineup. It’s pretty evident that Woodcroft doesn’t trust Bouchard at all, who is also the only Oilers defenseman with a minus rating since he took over. This is where the analytics and the eye test really don’t match up; according to naturalstattrick.com, Bouchard’s 55.88 5v5 CF% is the second-best on the team, slightly ahead of Darnell Nurse, but being able to generate more shot attempts than your opponent really only tells part of the story.
The other part of the story is the eye test, and Bouchard has been awful in both his overall defensive play and taking care of the puck. He’s allowed forwards to blow past him on multiple occasions, has trouble handling the puck on the blue line and generally causes as many facepalms as their mediocre goaltending. Maybe it’s just fatigue, but note that Tyson Barrie leads all Oilers defensemen in PP TOI/GP with 2:18, followed by Nurse (1:58) then Bouchard (1:52).