Sometimes it just works out where your worst week of the season comes in the playoffs. Looking through my teams' semifinals performances, that was the case this year. As much as I enjoy the competition, there's not much I can do if other managers simply have a better week. This is a long way of saying that if you come up a step short of competing for a title, you kind of just have to shrug it off and give stick-taps to your opponent.
That said, it's not a totally lost week. I've still got a couple of championship bids on the way, so it's time to focus on getting those wins. At this time of the year, it's easy to get sidetracked with March Madness and MLB Opening Day, but if you're in the finals, keep your eye on hockey.
There's nothing better than when an old friend comes around just when you need them. Right now, that's Bryan Rust, who put up three points against the Bruins on Saturday. He's picked up seven points over his last eight outings, and with a move back onto Sidney Crosby's line, Rust could keep it going. One thing to hone in on for fantasy adds the rest of the way is finding players on teams that still have something to play for. With the Penguins in the thick of a wild-card race, Rust fits the bill perfectly.
While his six-game point streak ended Saturday in Nashville, Sammy Blais has looked good since rejoining the Blues. He's earned 18 points in 26 contests since he was included in the return from the Rangers in the Vladimir Tarasenko trade. Those 18 points alone would be a career high without factoring in his five helpers over 40 games with the Rangers to start the season. During his late-March streak, he had two goals and seven assists over six games. The Blues' forward group has dealt with injuries lately, and the elevated role has suited Blais nicely.
David Perron has suddenly burst to life for the Red Wings with four goals and five assists over his last eight games. He's picked up four power-play points in that span. He spent a lot of the season in a middle-six role, but he's been getting some top-line time lately. The Red Wings' schedule is fairly offense-friendly next week, though you might want to cycle away from him during the second half of two-week fantasy championship matches.
If you've been waiting for the honeymoon phase between Ivan Barbashev and Jack Eichel to wear off, it's not happened yet. Barbashev has a five-game point streak with a goal and four assists in that span. The 27-year-old's 13 points in 17 outings with Vegas is a very similar pace to the 60 points in 81 contests he posted in 2021-22. It's tough to say if he's more of a middle-six forward benefiting from bigger minutes, or a true top-six forward that was miscast in St. Louis. Either way, he can help bolster your offense in pursuit of a fantasy title, and he'll chip in some hits too.
A five-game point drought took some of the shine off of Mattias Ekholm's hot start to his Oilers career, but he bounced back with two assists in Saturday's win over the Ducks. The biggest number that stands out on his line is a plus-18 rating, all of which has been accumulated over 16 games since he got out of Nashville. He's solid in hits and blocked shots, and he's even seeing a trace of power-play time with the Oilers, but he's the kind of solid all-around defenseman that's still widely undervalued (43 percent rostered in Yahoo!).
Another Oiler making some waves lately is Kailer Yamamoto. He didn't get involved in Saturday's dismantling of the Ducks, but he has two goals and five assists over his last eight games. His offense is as streaky as it gets, but I'm always willing to look at someone getting top-six minutes in Edmonton. The Oilers have a game in Anaheim on Wednesday -- he's a streaming option for that one and Saturday in San Jose if nothing else.
There's been no slowing down Morgan Frost lately -- he has five goals and six assists over his last eight games. The Flyers had a streak of scoring at least three goals in nine straight games snapped Sunday versus the Penguins, but there's some offense to be had here even if they're rarely on the right side of results. The return of Travis Konecny has helped Frost, as the two linked up for a goal in Sunday's loss, and having both going benefits the team's offense. The Flyers have some tough games ahead, but they end the season versus the Blue Jackets and Blackhawks, so keep Frost on your radar if you need a boost in the middle of your championship matchup.
For many of the same reasons just listed, Tony DeAngelo is worth searching for on the waiver wire. The blueliner has a goal and seven helpers over his last nine games, with four of those points coming on the power play. Head coach John Tortorella has taken in a couple of recent games away from the bench, leaving the in-game management to his assistants. That arrangement might not stick, but DeAngelo putting up points should help him avoid any surprise scratches to close out the campaign.
Most of the headlines from the Wild are about Matthew Boldy, and that's fair. He's on an impressive goal-scoring surge and that deserves attention. Flying under the radar, as usual, is Marcus Johansson, who has been an effective playmaker to complement Boldy's newfound shooting confidence. With three goals and nine assists over 15 games with the Wild this season, Johansson is playing some of the best hockey of his career in a second-line role. This is a team that has hardly skipped a beat since Kirill Kaprizov (lower body) got hurt, and it's been because middle-six forwards like Boldy and Johansson have stepped up.
If you want to pick up players from the league's best teams to close out the campaign, it could get tricky. A lot of teams, notably the Bruins and the Maple Leafs, are choosing to be cautious with even smaller injuries now in preparation for the playoffs. While that's frustrating for fantasy managers that have players like Mitch Marner, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci or Morgan Rielly, it opens up opportunities for guys like Pavel Zacha. Since the start of March, Zacha has 12 points over 17 contests. He's seen time on and off throughout the year with David Pastrnak. Zacha's flexible enough to do well in a variety of roles, so it's definitely worth looking for him, especially if you're wary one of your other players might take a game off.
In Toronto, Calle Jarnkrok seems to be that player that can move around to fill whichever gap there is in the lineup. He snapped his recent three-game point drought with a goal Sunday versus the Red Wings, and he's getting even-strength minutes with Auston Matthews. Jarnkrok had nine points and a plus-6 rating over 14 games in March. That's better than he usually produces, but his role gives him some benefit of the doubt for now.
For help in goal, it's about playing matchups now. Antti Raanta is just about the best option available -- after Frederik Andersen starts Sunday versus the Islanders, the Hurricanes are expected to alternate their goalies. If it's a strict rotation, that lines up Raanta for games against the Senators, Sabres and Red Wings to close out the campaign. He shut out the Canadiens on Saturday, which was his return from a lower-body injury that cost him over three weeks.
With only one back-to-back left on the Oilers' slate, Jack Campbell doesn't have a ton of appeal. I view him as a streaming option for Wednesday against the Ducks -- the same team he posted a 36-save shutout against Saturday. Maybe he gets one more start in the final week of the campaign if the Oilers solidify their playoff positioning. They have two games against the Sharks and one against the Avalanche in their last three. If Campbell gets a look against San Jose, he could again be worth a streaming look.
It's worth checking on both of the Kraken's netminders for at least the first week of the fantasy championship. Starting Monday, they play the Coyotes three times in an eight-day span, and they also face the Canucks and the Blackhawks in that busy stretch. I'd expect each of them to get at least two starts, so both Martin Jones and Philipp Grubauer could have some appeal as they look to pad their numbers against lottery teams. Jones has the momentum with four goals allowed on 44 shots over his last three outings, but Grubauer should still be considered the primary starter, especially as head coach Dave Hakstol will be hoping one gets hot going into the playoffs.
As the season winds down, it's key to avoid getting complacent with your team. There are areas to improve -- that's likely where I fell short in my own semifinals matchups. I need to be bolder in making moves come playoff time.
There's also not much you can do if your goalie leaks a half-dozen early in the week. The two-week title matchups give you more time to bounce back, but there's no undo button. Make your best lineup decisions and hope for the best. Good luck this week, and I'll have my last column of the year up next Monday for some last-minute adjustments in pursuit of fantasy glory.