For those of you in head-to-head leagues, you're at the most crucial point of the fantasy season, with maybe a week or two remaining before your own playoffs begin. For those of you in rotisserie leagues and points leagues, you only have a couple more weeks before the fantasy season ends, so now's your chance to make a bold move -- don't hesitate to take some risks.
This time of the season is always the hardest period to manage our fantasy teams because we simply don't know if we can rely on the players that have brought us to this point. If the Capitals clinch, will Bruce Boudreau rest Alex Ovechkin, whose hard-nosed physical style must take some toll on him throughout the season? Do the Canucks give Ryan Kesler and the Sedins less ice time so they'll be more rested come playoff time? We just don't know.
Every fantasy owner will be faced with similar questions during the next few weeks, and you just have to hope your stars will perform close to how they have all year long. If you do notice a significant change in ice time from your players, check out this list of under-the-radar players that could be available -- they are worthy of ownership in most leagues and could produce more than some of the well-known players that will get rested.
While we can't predict what each coach will do, one thing we do know is that most teams don't give in unless they are 100 percent locked into a specific playoff position. As of now, the only team that is close to locking in an official playoff seed is the Canucks, who have a solid 11-point cushion on top of the Western Conference. While it's no guarantee that they'll secure home-ice throughout the playoffs, you should expect them to rest some of their players down the stretch, specifically Roberto Luongo.
Goalies will see the largest change in value during the upcoming weeks. Nearly every team that makes the playoffs will ride their No. 1 in every postseason game, so they'll want him well-rested before that time comes. Luongo owners will probably see the biggest effect of any fantasy player. You can already see that backup Cory Schneider is getting more action than usual -- he's started three of Vancouver's last six games. Luongo is still obviously an elite netminder, but is he more valuable than a guy like Henrik Lundqvist, who will likely start nearly every game for the Rangers as they battle for a playoff spot in the tight Eastern Conference? Doubtful.
Guys like Lundqvist, Nashville's Pekka Rinne, Buffalo's Ryan Miller, Carolina's Cam Ward and Dallas' Kari Lehtonen will most likely be in the net for just about every game leading up to the playoffs. These bubble teams can't afford to lose any points, so expect them to ride their starting goalies. The Flyers and Capitals (the top two teams in the Eastern Conference) both use split goaltender combinations, so you can expect things to stay relatively the same for the remainder of the way. But you should expect the Canucks, Red Wings, Bruins, Penguins and Sharks will all rest their No. 1 goalies if they have the chance to. Each of their goalies have started approximately 80 percent of their teams games this season, so they'll want, and get, the rest before the playoffs if that option is available.
The most important thing fantasy owners can do during this adjustment period is monitor how their goalie's teams are doing. Pay attention to the standings and research if your goalie is expected to get some rest if their team clinches a playoff spot.
Below is NHL.com's updated goalie rankings, which takes into consideration that some netminders will get more rest than others. These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward. The plus or minus for each player is based on our last set of rankings from Feb. 15. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings.)
Goalies that dropped out of last segment's top-25: Jonas Hiller, Ondrej Pavelec, Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov, Brian Boucher
Contact Matt Cubeta at MCubeta@nhl.com