The playoff race is heating up. With the trade deadline engulfing the entire league into chaos, just a handful of regular season opportunity remains.
One of the bigger post-deadline stories is the instant rise of the Florida Panthers. The Panthers were one of those teams that were clearly underperforming when coincidingly comparing their roster, and their actual record. The raw talent such as Trocheck, Barkov, Huberdeau, Bjugstad & Yandle are finally finding the chemistry that was expected all season long. Ironically, Florida was one of the least active teams at the deadline, and it certainly seems like they might be the unofficial ‘trade deadline winners.’
The Eastern Conference wild card currently has three top suitors for 2 available spots, the New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets, & Florida Panthers. One of these three will be the odd man out in just a few weeks. To make a guess as to who it might be at this point in time, is entirely premature.
There is no less separation in the West. Four teams are separated by just four points heading into the final few weeks. The Dallas Stars (82 pts) & Los Angeles Kings (79 pts) currently occupy the ‘golden tickets’ to see their season move beyond the standard 82. Meanwhile, the Avalanche & Flames each trail the final wild card spot by a point (both with 78 pts). This too, is another scenario where declaring any one of the four an official Stanley Cup Playoff team, would be an unreliable declaration to say the least.
Fantasy Team of the Week
Columbus Blue Jackets: Columbus just might be streaking at the right time. They find themselves in the middle of a heated wild card race in the Eastern Conference. They recently jumped New Jersey to grab the first wild card spot, however they still have their work cut out, as they have played one more game than the Devils, and four more games than the currently nine seeded, Panthers. Not only could this week ‘assist’ the Jackets assert themselves into a wild card position, but it’s a week fantasy owners should take note of, as they have a modest schedule at hand to say the least. On Monday they host an abysmal Montreal Canadians team, they receive an extra day off when they head to Philadelphia to take on one of their Metropolitan foes, and they finish the week hosting a subpar Ottawa Senators team. Two teams in complete disarray, and another who’s all of a sudden look beatable again. The opponents, the motivation, and the matchups are all in line for Columbus to tally points at will.
Fantasy Goaltender of the Week
Marc-Andre Fleury (Las Vegas Golden Knights): Fleury continues to show he’s one of the most consistent goaltenders in the NHL regular season. His new home opposite side of the country has not dwindled his effectiveness. He boasts a 2.19 GAA in 35 starts for the Golden Knights, who are by far one of the best expansion franchises ever to be assembled. One would have a tough time arguing that Fleury has nothing to do with it. Fleury should at least guard the net twice, and possibly all three games for Vegas this upcoming week, as the Golden Knights don’t play any back to backs against three beatable opponents, but from a Vegas perspective, anyone has been beatable.