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April 21, 2013
Shots On Goal
The Rundown, Week 14

by Ryan Schwepfinger

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It has become a lot easier to predict a low-scoring matchup than a high-scoring goal-fest this season.

What do I mean? Just take a look at the matchup tables. You will see more dark blue than anything else. With 13 weeks of data recorded for the 2013 season, the strongest correlation among any combination of close-game Fenwick to one of goals for or against has been the link of possession to preventing goals. Of the top 10 possession teams, eight of them are also top 10 in keeping the puck out of their own net. That is why there are more dark blue-coded games on the tables than ever before.

Last season, only six of the top 10 possession teams also ranked top 10 in goal prevention (and six ranked top-10 in goal scoring, an even split). Is scoring down? Is the league more top-heavy in defensive ability? Not necessarily.

This season, there have been 3,629 goals scored through 664 games played, or about 5.5 goals per game. Last season, there were 6,726 goals in a full 1,230 game season—nearly the exact same ratio.

Within those numbers, the top 10 teams contributed 1,361 goals, or 37.5% of all goals. Last season, the top 10 scoring teams notched 2,512 goals (37.3%).

What about being top-heavy on team defense? This season, the best 10 goal prevention teams allowed 28.7% of all goals scored. Last year? 29.2%.

Shutouts? Nearly identical as well. There have been 97 shutouts thus far this season, or a 14.6% shutout rate. Last season, there were 176 shutouts, translating to 14.3%.

The stronger correlation might be another sample size byproduct of the shortened season. Still, it is the fantasy owner's task to navigate these matchup waters, particularly with a championship on the line. The final weeks are all about category management and streaming from the waiver wire, especially in head-to-head leagues.

Do not count out the importance of managing the real-life NHL schedule. With nowhere to go after this week, be aggressive. For weekly-lineup leaguers, Boston, Detroit, Ottawa, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, and Edmonton are the teams with four-game weeks. That extra game you can get out of those teams might make the difference.

For those players who can make daily transactions, a further scheduling breakdown: for all intents and purposes, this is a six-day week (excluding the rescheduled Ottawa/Boston game next Sunday). Nearly every team plays two games in the season's final three days. There are four teams that do not—Buffalo, San Jose, Winnipeg, and Los Angeles. For streamers, avoid those teams past Wednesday, as the game volume just is not there. Naturally, target Ottawa and Boston, as they each close with that "bonus" game on Sunday.

On the flip side, far fewer teams play two out of three days at the beginning of the week. This presents a more unheralded opportunity; creative streamers can take advantage of this and get an early jump. The teams to target early are Winnipeg, Detroit, Chicago, San Jose, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Phoenix, Edmonton, and Los Angeles.

In summation, 26 teams close with two games in three days, but only nine teams start the week that way. Thus, the biggest streaming advantage is likely to be found at the beginning of the week, with the exception of Boston and Ottawa.

The bottom line: at this point of the season, we largely know what we are getting out of a specific team or player. For rotisserie players, if you have a close deficit in a certain category to make up, tailor your roster immediately to fit that hole. The same can be said if you are in a two-week head-to-head championship game and you have a week's worth of statistics accumulated already.

Single-week head-to-head players need to be more agile. Since you start from scratch tomorrow, jump on categories where you have been weak all season long at the beginning. Look at your opponent's roster and judge where he or she is weak. Target categories you think you can win in advance and go for it. Once you have accumulated some category statistics by midweek, tailor your pickups to fill holes.

One final note: all season, I have recommended player acquisition based on a full body of work. This week, all moves should be made with a specific category in mind. Even the most one-dimensional of players are in play.

Matchup summary for this week:

Cold Matchups: Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, New York Rangers, San Jose, Vancouver, Detroit (New Jersey, Ottawa, Pittsburgh).

Hot Matchups: Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Colorado (Toronto, Edmonton, Nashville, Washington, Dallas, Philadelphia, Calgary, Florida).

Cold Offenses: Buffalo, Columbus, Nashville, Colorado (Edmonton, Minnesota, Florida, Phoenix). Note: in general, play your goaltenders against these teams.

Hot Offenses: Los Angeles, Chicago, Montreal (Boston, Carolina, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg).

To the final tables of the season, with heavy emphasis on the schedule and how you can use it to your advantage in the chase for a title, particularly with goaltending:

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
  4/22 4/23 4/24 4/25 4/26 4/27 4/28
BOS   @PHI   TBL   @WSH OTT
TOR     @TBL @FLA   MTL  
WPG @BUF @WSH   MTL      
NYI   @CAR   @PHI @BUF    
CBJ       @DAL   NSH  
DET PHX   LAK NSH   @DAL  
STL   COL   CGY   CHI  
MIN   LAK     EDM @COL  
FLA   NYR   TOR   @TBL  
OTT PIT     @WSH   PHI @BOS

With Toronto having clinched a playoff spot, they may give Ben Scrivens a go on one of the midweek games in the Sunshine State. Proceed with caution. When in doubt, one of the simplest tips on deciding whether or not to play a goaltender is to check the Vegas line on the game's over/under. The vast majority of hockey games are listed at 5.5. Sometimes, the over/under will be 5—those are the goaltender games we want (predicted lower scoring). Games featuring a Southeast Division team are rarely low scoring, and the same can be said about games featuring Toronto. Tampa Bay and Toronto are similarly built, high-scoring/low-possession (a nightmare for save percentage)—and Florida averages nearly a goal per game more at home than on the road. Similarly, I would not target a Tampa Bay goaltender for either of their back-to-back games.

Elsewhere, it is difficult to predict backup goaltenders playing given the fact that many teams here are in playoff chases and have not yet clinched. The Jets, Islanders, Red Wings, Senators, and Wild all fit this mold. Games to watch: Winnipeg at Buffalo (Monday), either of the Islanders' back-to-back games, Detroit at Nashville (Thursday), Ottawa vs. Philadelphia (Saturday), or my personal favorite, either of the Wild's games to close the week. If Minnesota is locked into a specific seed by then, watch Darcy Kuemper and his likelihood to play if you need a great goaltender matchup off of the waiver wire.

As far as skaters go, these are the teams to target, particularly down the stretch. I am very intrigued by the Islanders, who are playing so well lately and close with a great schedule. The best part about their surge is that you can likely acquire many of their secondary scorers off of the wire—that is not the case with other teams here, such as Boston or Detroit. Brad Boyes should be owned far more than he is, considering his top line status. Look towards Michael Grabner/Josh Bailey for goals, or Frans Nielsen/Kyle Okposo for assists. Andrew MacDonald is a tremendous source of blocked shots if your league counts them, and has brought his plus/minus all the way back to -3 on the virtue of a +10 rating over the past month.

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
  4/22 4/23 4/24 4/25 4/26 4/27 4/28
TBL     TOR @BOS   FLA  
CHI @VAN   @EDM   CGY @STL  
SJS   DAL @PHX     @LAK  
VAN CHI     ANA   @EDM  
ANA @EDM     @VAN   PHX  
NSH   CGY   @DET   @CBJ  
PIT @OTT BUF   @NJD   CAR  
NYR   @FLA   @CAR   NJD  
MTL   @NJD   @WPG   @TOR  
BUF WPG @PIT     NYI    

Ray Emery vs. Calgary on Friday is a great opportunity if he is available to you. Anaheim plays in Edmonton both today and tomorrow—consider whoever does not get the start today to play tomorrow. I mentioned Tomas Vokoun's likelihood to start against Buffalo last week, and I am still interested now that the game has moved to Tuesday. Buffalo's situation and matchups are not appealing enough for me to consider Jhonas Enroth for either of their back-to-backs.

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
  4/22 4/23 4/24 4/25 4/26 4/27 4/28
PHX @DET   SJS   COL @ANA  
CGY   @NSH   @STL @CHI    
CAR   NYI   NYR   @PIT  
PHI   BOS   NYI   @OTT  
WSH   WPG   OTT   BOS  
EDM ANA   CHI   @MIN VAN  
NJD   MTL   PIT   @NYR  
COL   @STL     @PHX MIN  
LAK   @MIN @DET     SJS  
DAL   @SJS   CBJ   DET  

Much like last week, inherently, most of these games are difficult goaltender matchups. Phoenix is a longshot to make the playoffs, and if they are clearly out of it by the end of the week, see who gets the start against Colorado on Friday.

Otherwise, not much to work with here, especially for skaters—there is no reason to pluck anybody from the bottom 20 schedules when you can get better matchups at the top.

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