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Who to Start and Who to Sit in Fantasy Hockey (Week of March 7)

Jason Chen looks at the teams you need to focus on this week in fantasy hockey, including why Vancouver and Columbus will give you big value.
Elias Pettersson

It’s a very busy week with 55 games for Week 20, including 10 each on Saturday and Sunday, 11 on Tuesday and 13 on Thursday. No team will be busier than the Flames, who play a league-high five games, including back-to-backs on Monday and Tuesday and then over the weekend. For that reason, they’re ranked No. 1 on the schedule matrix, and it’s just the third time that’s happened this season over a Monday-Sunday period.

The Ducks had the same setup in Week 9, where they went 3-1-1 even though all the games were on the road, while the Oilers went 4-1-0 in Week 17. That’s an encouraging sign because it shows that fatigue may not be a huge factor, and four of the Flames’ five games are at home until Sunday’s game in Colorado. The opponents – which include the hated Oilers on Monday and the Lightning on Thursday – will be plenty tough, and if the Flames want to escape Week 20 with a winning record, they will need Dan Vladar to put in at least one or two strong performances.

The Stars and Sharks are the teams to avoid, though note Jason Roberton and the Stars’ top line has been one of the league’s best this season, and likely to be stronger plays than any player on the Sabres or Coyotes. The Sharks play a home-and-home series against the Kings, but will likely roll with Zach Sawchenko and Alex Stalock in net, who lost 8-0 in his season debut.

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 20

Start

Columbus Blue Jackets

Since Patrik Laine returned on Dec. 30, the Jackets have scored 94 goals in 28 games, seventh-best in the league and rank 12th in GF/GP. Another big week for their offense seems ripe, and the return of Zach Werenski over the weekend also bodes well. They face the Leafs and Wild at home in Week 20, two of the weakest teams in net recently; the Islanders on Long Island, where they aren’t particularly good; and the Knights on Sunday, who have been struggling to score and whose goaltending has been largely underwhelming this season. Boone Jenner has been playing at a point-per-game pace as Laine’s center with Gustav Nyquist on the side, but also don’t overlook Jack Roslovic, who hasn’t lived up to the hype but centers the second line right now, or Max Domi, who has two helpers in his past three games and should be showcased as potential trade bait.

Vancouver Canucks

Thatcher Demko just seemed overworked by the end, and following Saturday’s win against the Leafs, the Canucks get three days’ rest before facing the Habs on Wednesday. All three of their games will be played at home in Week 20, and even though they’ll likely face Andrei Vasilevskiy on Sunday, their offense should be able to put fear in all 32 teams. Elias Pettersson’s game has really picked up with 15 points in his past 12 games and J.T. Miller continues his MVP-caliber campaign with 63 points, ranked 11th in the league. The Habs have won games but not really because of their goaltending, and the Caps will be playing their third game in four nights on Thursday with a brewing goaltending battle between Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov.

Sit

Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kähkönen, G, Wild

The Wild are 1-6-0 over the past two weeks and since Feb. 1 have allowed a league-high 57 goals, five more than the Leafs and six more than the Sabres. The top players for the Wild will be just fine, but they can’t keep relying on them every game. Their defense is still too thin, but the major problem has been in net – Talbot and Kähkönen are literally stuck out in the wilderness with a combined .894 Sv% and 46 goals against since Feb. 1, and they’re just far too risky for fantasy managers protecting a lead in the league standings or in playoff matchups for head-to-head leagues. The pressure is on; Sunday’s defeat at the hands of the Stars means they’re tied for third place in the Central with the Preds just one point behind.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Knights went 3-1-0 last week but it just wasn’t convincing. Thanks to Jack Eichel’s power-play goal with six seconds left in Sunday’s game against the Sens, the Knights ended up with a paltry plus-1 goal differential for the week. Max Pacioretty is back, but his lengthy injury history this season is something to keep an eye on, and there’s a ton of pressure on the Knights now that the Pacific Division race is wide open. Robin Lehner has played better, and this might be a first for the Knights, but they look as vulnerable as ever. They have four straight games on the road and rank sixth on the schedule matrix, but I would be wary of sneaky-good offensive performances from the Sabres and Jackets. 

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