Hard to believe that we are here but it is the final week of the regular season of NHL action. This will be an exciting week will so much still so up in the air with the playoff races. We kick the week off with a solid five-game slate tonight with some top playoff contenders on the docket. Let’s take a look at some of the top and bargain buys for today’s schedule of games:
Brian Elliott – STL vs ARI – $8,600 – Elliott had been fantastic in his first few games back from injury but was lit up on Friday night, taking the no-decision in the Blues 6-5 loss to the Bruins when he allowed five goals in two periods. He got the night off over the weekend against the Avs, but Jake Allen exited with an injury and Elliott should get the nod tonight against the Yotes. Even with his performance on Friday night that spiked his GAA over the 2.00, Elliott still sits second in the league in GAA at 2.03 behind Ben Bishop and is still tops in the league in SV% with a .931 SV%. The Blues are still in the mix for the top seed in the West, sitting only two points behind the Stars in both that and the divisional race. He’s high-priced tonight but players shouldn’t be wary about putting Elliott in their lineups tonight if they can afford to pay up to put him in.
Jonathan Bernier – TOR vs FLA – $7,100 – He has not had a solid season this year, part of which was derailed by injury, but Bernier has been very solid as of late for the Panthers and has not allowed more than two goals against in any game in his last six games. He’s 4-2-0 in those six games, and five of them have been against playoff teams. He faces the Panthers tonight for the third time in this current stretch, going 1-1-0 and allowing two goals against in both games that have come in the last two weeks. The Leafs are playing the part of spoiler right now and have been playing solid hockey lately. Don’t look at his numbers on the year, he’s one of the hottest goalies playing tonight and is one of the more inexpensive starting options who will give you solid lineup flexibility.
Others to Consider: Henrik Lundqvist ($8,500), Ben Bishop ($8,400), Jonathan Quick ($8,200)
Victor Hedman – TB @ NYI – $6,200 – Hedman has been one of the highest-scoring defensemen in the league over the last two weeks with seven points in his last six games. Hedman has two multi-point games in his last three games and overall he has points in six of his last 10 games. He is capable of being one of the best offensive blueliners in the league and has over the second-half of the season picked up his production, upping his totals now to 46 points. He has three goals and six assists in those last 10 games and his all-around production has been fantastic producing 14 blocks and 24 SOG. The Lightning face the Islanders tonight in Brooklyn and last week against the Isles in Tampa Bay Hedman put up a goal and added two shots and a block.
Aaron Ekblad – FLA @ TOR – $4,900 – Ekblad is quickly developing into one of the best, young offensive defensemen in the league. At the ripe old age of 20, Ekblad is top-10 in the league among defensemen with 14 goals this year, besting his rookie total of 12, and adding 18 helpers on the year. His 32 points are short of his 39 from last year, but he has been better all-around with more shots and blocks this year. Ekblad has put up points in two straight for the Panthers, had a mutli-point game against the Canadiens on Saturday, and has put five shots on goal while adding a blocked shot. The points in his last two snapped a six-game pointless run and the Panthers have a must-win tonight against the Leafs. Ekblad has no points in three games against Toronto this season, but has found some offensive form in his last few games and is a good value tonight in a favorable matchup.
David Savard – CLS vs NYR – $4,300 – Savard has had his ups and downs this season, one that has been plagued by health issues. He is however having one of his best offensive seasons despite missing as much time as he has, almost 20 games this year. He is up to 24 points on the year, and has hit the 20-assist mark for the second time in his career. Savard, playing on the Blue Jackets second defensive pair and running the point on their second power-play unit, has picked up points in his last two games. He had a helper against the Islanders Thursday night and then dished out a pair of assists on Saturday against the Hurricanes. The Jackets have a tough matchup tonight against the Rangers but Savard has managed an assist in three prior meetings this season and he comes in at a solid price.
Others to Consider: Alex Pietrangelo ($5,900), Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($6,100), Jake Muzzin ($5,600), Ryan McDonagh ($5,100), Seth Jones ($5,100), Nick Leddy ($4,600), Jason Garrison ($3,200)
Aleksander Barkov, C – FLA @ TOR – $6,900 – I have written about Barkov and his linemates this season as one of the most underrated line stacks in the league. The Panthers have been one of the more surprising contenders in the NHL this season and when he has been healthy and playing Barkov has arguably been their best player. Barkov sits fourth on the team with 55 points, seven behind Jaromir Jagr for the team lead, and among the players in the top-10 on the team he has played the league amount of games with only 62 to date. He has been on fire as of late with nine points in his last five games, picking up points in each game and having his best outing of the season on Saturday night against the Canadiens. Barkov posted arguably his best outing of the season against Montreal when he netted two goals and added two helpers to boot, while putting six shots on goal for the second straight game. On his five-game run he has three goals, six assists, two PPP and 17 shots on goal. The Panthers have a tough matchup tonight with the pesky Maple Leafs and Jonathan Bernier, but Barkov notched an assist against the Leafs last week and has two points in three games against TOR this season.
Derek Stepan, C – NYR @ CLS – $5,900 – Stepan has not had a great season for the Rangers but his last six-game stretch has begun to turn things around and he is heating up at a crucial time for NY, who now find themselves in the reach of the Wild Card teams chasing them. Step has points in five of his last six games and has been doing a ton of damage on the man-advantage. Stepan has nine points overall in his last six games and he has put up a power-play point in four of the five games that he has scored (2 PPG, 2 PPA). Three of the five games have been of the multi-point variety and he is up to 47 points on the season and is back on-pace to break 50-points. He has been a point-per-game player this season against Columbus with three points in as many games, and has dominated the Blue Jackets historically in his career with 13 points in 12 career games.
Paul Stastny, C – STL vs ARI – $4,900 – Stastny had himself a fantastic month of March posting 14 points in 12 March outings. He hasn’t left off with the calendar change to April with three points in his first two games of the month. He doesn’t score much, only 10 this season and three in his last 10 games, but Stastny is one of the savviest playmakers in the league when he’s healthy and his 12 assists in his last 10 outings prove that. Stastny has put up 15 points in his last 10 games, scoring in eight of them, and he also has been consistently finding the scoresheet multiple times with six multi-point games in the eight games he’s netted points. He’s currently riding a five-game point streak and has a fantastic matchup tonight against the Coyotes in a must-win for the Blues who are chasing the Stars in the divisional race.
“The Lightning face the Islanders tonight in Brooklyn, against whom he managed a goal 10 days ago in Tampa”
Nikita Kucherov, RW – TB @ NYI – $7,000 – Kucherov now takes up the mantle of the offensive force for the Lightning with the unfortunate news that Steven Stamkos will miss the rest of the season and playoffs with surgery to deal with a bloodclot. Kucherov sits tied with Stammer for the team lead with 64 points and snapped a two-game pointless streak by posting a goal and two assists against the Devils on Sunday while putting four SOG. The Lightning face the Islanders tonight in Brooklyn, against whom he managed a goal 10 days ago in Tampa. The Lightning are short-handed with Stamkos and Anton Stralman on the shelf so expect Kucherov and the very effective “Triplets” line to anchor the offense going forward.
Brandon Saad, RW – CLS vs NYR – $5,700 – The Blue Jackets have not had the season that many were pegging for them, some even had them as an outside wild card for the Stanley Cup from the East. They will be good soon and Saad will be an anchor of that team. In his first year with Columbus he has found a good chemistry with Alex Wennberg after not gelling enough with Ryan Johansen before the latter’s trade to the Predators. Playing for the first-time in an offense without Toews, Kane and the rest of the Blackhawks top-six Saad is on the cusp of his second career 50-point season and that was helped greatly by his first career hat-trick over the weekend. The goal trifecta upped his season total to 28, a new career-high, and he is solidly shooting a career-best 12.5% with 224 SOG. Saad has points in five of his last six games and has four goals and 10 shots in his last two games. Columbus has a tough matchup tonight against the Rangers, but Saad has been solid against NY this season with a goal and six shots in three meetings.
Others to Consider: John Tavares ($7,500), Vladimir Tarasenko ($7,400), Jeff Carter ($6,400), Jaromir Jagr ($6,000), Derick Brassard ($5,800), Boone Jenner ($5,500), Ondrej Palat ($5,200), Chris Kreider ($4,700), Max Domi ($4,800), William Nylander ($4,200), Alex Tanguay ($3,600), Sonny Milano ($2,600).
Make sure to check out the Cheat Sheet and NHL Line Stacks posts today and as always for any DFS Hockey questions or comments this season, find me on Twitter at: @JHarding_Hockey