With three weeks remaining in the season, most fantasy H2H leagues begin their playoffs now. For those old school Yahoo leagues that are accustomed to having a two-week final matchup, your playoffs may have begun last week. For everyone who has made the playoffs, it’s time to think strategically. Just because a star has been a star for you all season does not mean that he will be a star when you need him most. In this article, I am going to take a look at what happened last season and hopefully provide the groundwork for you to make some difficult decisions.
From March 21 – April 10 last season, most teams played 10 games. I decided to look at players who had scored at least five points during this stretch and found there were only 24 players who scored above a point-per-game average. There are some elite players on this list, but there are also some names you might not expect. At LW for example, Simon Gagne was available in most leagues down the stretch. Would you have valued him higher than Bobby Ryan for the final three weeks of the season? Probably not, but Gagne ended up tallying 12 points to Ryan’s 11. During this time, Scott Hartnell and Dany Heatley only had six points each in their final 11 games.
Taking this one step further, let’s look at power play points. Corey Perry, a guy who scored almost two points per game down the stretch, tallied only seven power play points during the last three weeks of the season. In fact, only 15 total players scored more than four, with five of those players being defensemen. If you’re looking for a player to pitch in enormous amounts of PPP, use the figures below to be realistic about what you are expecting.
Maybe points and power play points are not the only things you are concerned about. Looking at the top 100 shooters, the average shot total was 29. Players like Mike Cammalleri and Jeff Carter may not have been scoring many points, but they were certainly tallying shots on goal. Tyler Kennedy and Michael Frolik are players who should have been fairly easy to pick up who would have made major contributions in this category. Again, note the range (30-35) to expect as a reasonable cap for the non-superstars. While one of these guys might heat up in the shots category, it’s unlikely they exceed the 35 mark.
Lastly, we’ll look at penalty minutes. While most fantasy GM’s are looking for a way to consistently win the PIM category, even into the playoffs, the stats below might change your mind. In the last three weeks of last season, 58 total players had 10 or more penalty minutes (average of 15.5). Only 13 of those exceeded 20 PIM and many of the top contributors were either not typically owned in fantasy leagues (Crombeen, Prust, Reddox, Godard) or not players who typically contribute in this area (Boyle, Richardson). Sure there are players on this list who you would expect (Bertuzzi, Martin, Downie, Subban), but how many other names would you expect on this list that are not here [Ott (0), Kunitz (0), Burrows (10), Hartnell (12)]. Players like Lecavalier (10) and Giroux (12) were doing just as well in this category. So does it make sense to try to use a PIM specialist in the playoff rounds? You might be better off focusing on your offense.
So, all of this is interesting for sure, but how can we make it actionable? Let’s look at each of the categories again, and see this time if we can identify some potential pickups from the Eastern Conference.
Points – Ideally, we would be looking for a player who can score 11 or more points. That might be difficult considering the data we reviewed, so if we can land a player who might score eight or more down the stretch, that’s a pretty solid pickup. Some players that might fit this bill would be Max Pacioretty (12 points in his last nine games), Teddy Purcell (nine in his last eight), Tyler Ennis (nine in his last nine), Jordan Caron (eight in his last 10), and Blake Wheeler (eight in his last six).
Power Play Points – Remember that seven was the biggest number last season. Guys like Malkin, Crosby, Letang, Kovalchuk, and Giroux all play 90% or more of their teams PP ice time and will be hard to get. Some other players that might be slightly easier to obtain include Kimmo Timonen (plays 90% of Flyers PP ice time since Mar. 1 and is the top D with Pronger out), Teddy Purcell (has played 79.1% of TB’s PP ice time since Mar. 1), Michael Del Zotto (cold lately, but still manning the top PP unit for the second-best team in the league), Jakub Voracek (six points in his last eight games and seeing as much PP ice time as Scott Hartnell), and Steve Sullivan (skates on Pittsburgh’s rarely used PP2 line, but may pick up a few stray PPP as Crosby or Malkin lingers on the ice).
Shots – Getting 30-35 shots out of a player would be huge this late in the year. For a late season addition, 25 or more is a pretty solid effort. From Mar. 1 – 18, Evander Kane leads the league with 5.5 shots per game, but he is likely already taken in your league. Here are some others you might be able to get your hands on – Andrew Ladd (24 shots in his last six games; likely taken but maybe still available), Chad LaRose (32 shots in his last eight games and skating with Skinner and Jokinen), Chris Kunitz (with Crosby back in the lineup, Kunitz has 13 shots in his last three games, including eight vs. Philadelphia yesterday), Tyler Kennedy (10 shots in the three games since Crosby has returned), and Kyle Turris (21 shots in his last nine games; slowed recently but may be in line for a late-season surge similar to Bobby Butler a year ago).
Penalty minutes – This late in the season, PIM players like Hartnell and Downie might be a little tamer than we have seen in earlier parts of the season. Getting that big 10 minute misconduct may be a lot more difficult than you would expect. If you really want to try to add this presence, some guys who might help you out are Matt Martin (out of the playoff race, no holding back), Travis Hamonic (ditto Martin, except Hamonic provides offensive potential, scoring six points in his last nine games), P.K. Subban (young kid, out of the playoff race, short fuse), and Brandon Prust (top of the standings, games not as critical).
Which players in each category would you add to this list? Let me know below!