By Janet Eagleson
RotoWire Senior Hockey Writer
I love this time of year. Prepping for the playoffs. Playing in them in fantasy head-to-head.
Oh, what a finish.
The Ducks’ 2-1 OT win over the Kings on Friday night was a perfect example.
It also happened to be one of the year’s best NHL games. Hands down. It was heavy, playoff-style hockey. Right through the OT.
I hope you caught at least some of it. It was worth the late night.
And both teams have the Avs (four games left) and Blues (six games left) keeping pace right behind them.
It’s going down to the wire. Just like Friday’s thriller. And just like your fantasy leagues, too.
What a thrill. I just love this time of the year.
Now, let’s look at who caught my eye entering this week.
Francois Beauchemin, D, Anaheim (1 percent Yahoo owned) – Sure, Big Beauch is long in the tooth. But that isn’t stopping him from picking up the pace as the season comes to a close. Beauchemin has four points, including three helpers, in his last four games. He knows how to win and he knows how to finish strong. And he can help if you need a wee boost before season’s end.
Anthony Beauvillier, LW/C, NY Islanders (5 percent) – Beauvillier sniped a goal and added an assist Friday night against the Leafs. That gave the young forward six points, including four goals, in his last five games. Two of those points came on the power play. And he’s firing pucks at a healthy rate. The Isles are playing for jobs in 2018-19. Beauvillier is out to show he has the chops to move up the lineup. Win-win.
Kevin Connauton, D, Arizona (1 percent) – Connauton is white hot. He has three goals in his last two games and four points in his last three. This will not last – Connauton is a 28-year-old journeyman who still hasn’t played a full season in the NHL. But his kind of hot is exactly what desperate owners need now.
Darren Helm, LW/RW/C, Detroit (1 percent) – Helm is a PK-specialist, but that doesn’t mean he’s just a one-trick pony. He skated with the speedy Dylan Larkin on Tuesday night and delivered a three-point game against the Pens. Helm won’t score like that all the time. But if he truly gels with Larkin, Helm could provide some cheap fantasy value with four games left.
Chad Johnson, G, Buffalo (4 percent) – Robin Lehner went down with an injury Thursday night. Johnson didn’t exactly shine in relief, but desperate times call for desperate fantasy measures. The Sabres play four more games this season. Johnson could start them all and might just get a win in there. His GAA and save percentage shouldn’t hurt you at this point.
Bobby Ryan, LW/RW, Ottawa (11 percent) – Ryan’s best is behind him. But he hasn’t lost his amazing hands and ability to snipe. Ryan had three goals and six points in the four games heading into action Thursday night before the Panthers held him off the board. He has a lot to do to prove he’s worth even a portion of his $7.25 million annual contract. Ryan won’t accomplish that with just four games left. But he’ll sure try.
Derek Ryan, RW/C, Carolina (1 percent) – Ryan is a fourth-line center who’s available in just about every league. In the past, bottom-line guys would have been your sin-bin specialists. But Ryan has five points and a plus-5 rating in his last three games. It won’t last, but he is looking to finish strong. A free-agent contract swings in the balance. Use that to your advantage.
Andrej Sekera, D, Edmonton (1 percent) – Sekera has missed half the season. And he has struggled to find his offensive footing in the other games. But in four games since his return from a foot injury, Sekera has three helpers, including one with the man advantage. A little may go a long way on your roster. Sekera could be the guy who delivers that for you.
Jordan Weal, LW/C, Philadelphia (0 percent) – At the end of last season, this former point-per-game AHLer looked like he’d finally taken the big step to the NHL. He looked sharp on a line with Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula, earning a contract extension and a full-time gig this year. Unfortunately, Weal’s 2017-18 has been largely forgettable and he was recently banished to the press box. But heading into action Sunday, he has four points (one goal, three assists) in his last three games. Weal is back with Filppula and Simmonds and is once again showing off his skills. He might help.
Back to a strong finish.
There are a lot of teams still in the hunt. Florida might still make it with a strong push. St. Louis isn’t far away.
The first round of the NHL playoffs is always the best. But there’s going to be some incredible hockey this coming week, too.
The end of the season. What a finish. And if it goes my way, I’ll have a head-to-head title in a week’s time.
Until next year.
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