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Who to Start and Who to Sit in Fantasy Hockey (Week of March 14)

Jason Chen breaks down everything you need to know about the upcoming week of fantasy hockey, including why a few of the bottom teams in the NHL could bring huge value.
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With only one game on Monday and four on Wednesday, there are 14 teams playing back-to-back in Week 21, including the Coyotes, who do it twice. That means plenty of backups will get into the action this week, and teams with timeshares will have to split the starts even if one of their goalies performs better than the other.

Goaltending is arguably the most difficult position to manage in fantasy every season, but it’s become a big theme recently with several playoff-bound teams facing conundrums in net, while teams bound for the lottery seem to really relish playing the spoiler.

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 21

Start

Arizona Coyotes

The Yotes are one of eight teams to play four games this week, and it’s a very bifurcated schedule with back-to-backs on Monday and Tuesday and then Saturday and Sunday. They’ll get plenty of rest in between, and since they split the starts between Karel Vejmelka and Scott Wedgewood anyway, there’s no need to worry which goalie will lose starts to the backup. Other than Saturday’s matchup against the Penguins – the Coyotes have beaten them just twice since 2015 – it should be a relatively easy schedule with Ottawa, Montréal and San Jose, three teams with quagmires in net. The loss of Jakob Chychrun will hurt, but that in turns means Shayne Gostisbehere and underrated Swiss rookie J.J. Moser will get more playing time, especially on the power play.

Montréal Canadiens

Their 3-2-1 record over the past two weeks is more evidence to show how much they’ve improved under Martin St. Louis, and their current .339 P% isn’t reflective of where they’re at right now. There are three juicy matchups at home this week, including the Coyotes sans Chychrun; the Stars, who generally aren’t very good on the road; and the Sens, whose goaltending is usually a mess unless Anton Forsberg is in net. Other than targeting the usual suspects in Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, take a look at Rem Pitlick (averaging 16:19 TOI/GP with the Habs) and Chris Wideman, who both now feature prominently on their power play, and also Artturi Lehkonen, who has six points in his past five games.

Ottawa Senators

The Sens’ point differential against their opponents is negligible (.002), which makes their offensive players very appealing in Week 21. Tim Stützle and Josh Norris have been playing at a point-per-game pace since March 1, and Colin White has four helpers in seven games. The return of their centers really balances out their lineup, and it’s similarly raised the production of their lesser teammates, including Alex Formenton (2 goals in 7 games) on Stützle’s line and Nick Paul and Zach Sanford (combined 3 goals in 7 games) on White’s line. Arizona, Columbus, Philadelphia and Montréal should provide ample scoring opportunities.

Vancouver Canucks

Of the eight teams playing four games, the Canucks are the only one to play all four at home. With Vegas and Edmonton faltering, the Canucks managed to earn just one of four possible points against tired teams in Washington and Tampa, and their strong efforts were undermined by small but costly stretches of poor play. Two major considerations for the Canucks as fantasy options this week: Elias Pettersson was a surprise late scratch due to injury Sunday against Tampa, and the struggling Jaroslav Halák will likely make an appearance during their weekend back-to-back, most likely on Sunday against Buffalo. The Canucks called up farmhand Sheldon Rempal to replace Pettersson, but it’s a stopgap solution and the team will continue to rely on J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser on offense. Two names to keep an eye are Conor Garland and Tanner Pearson, both of whom assisted on Miller’s goal on Sunday. Garland, in particular, seems to have established some chemistry with the Canucks’ best player and he’s one of their best puck hounds. Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Höglander are good prospects, but don’t get a lot of ice time under Bruce Boudreau.

Sit

Los Angeles Kings

The Tuesday matchup against the Avs is definitely scary and likely a scheduled loss, but what should be wins against the Sharks on Thursday and the Knights on Saturday suddenly seem like poor bets. Drew Doughty was placed on injured reserve and it’ll really test the Kings’ defense, especially with Jonathan Quick struggling lately. The schedule matrix indicates the Kings and their opponents are quite evenly matched overall, but it doesn’t feel like it. Arthur Kaliyev might be worth a look with four points in seven games taking over for the injured Viktor Arvidsson in the top six, but note that their first line of Anže Kopitar, Alex Iafallo and Adrian Kempe have produced zero goals, two assists and a minus-9 rating in their past seven games.

New York Rangers

The Rangers have a four-game week and a positive point differential relative to their opponents, but that’s largely because they play the Ducks on Tuesday and the Islanders on Thursday, two teams they should have no problem beating. The trouble starts during their weekend back-to-back in Tampa Bay and Carolina, who should both be rested following road games and boast two of the best home records in the league. The Rangers rank first on the schedule matrix but it comes with caveats during the final two days of Week 21 which may decide matchups in head-to-head leagues. \

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