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Fantasy mailbag: Go all-in on Panthers; prioritize schedule

Luongo, Bjugstad must-start players in fantasy playoffs; Allen has highest ceiling among middle-tier goalies

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

All season long, NHL.com will answer your fantasy mailbag questions. Whether you're in a year-long league or play DFS, we'll answer the most relevant questions based on Yahoo transaction trends, DraftKings value and any other developments (production, lineup, injuries) around the League. Send your questions to @NHLJensen on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

 

@D_Bischoff: Do you think it makes sense to pick up Nick Bjugstad and drop Josh Bailey for the remainder of the season; @MiazyK: Who do you have a better feeling about next week, Roberto Luongo and his three home games or Tuukka Rask and his three road games?

Bjugstad (C/RW, 30 percent) has 17 points and is plus-9 with 54 shots on goal in his past 17 games, and the Florida Panthers are on an incredible run. Barring an injury to Luongo or elite center Aleksander Barkov, I don't see this letting up anytime soon given how favorable the remaining schedule is in terms of games remaining, home/road split, and games against non-contenders. Bjugstad may not be on the first power-play unit, but his even-strength exposure to Barkov is too good to pass up. The same goes for linemate Evgenii Dadonov (LW/RW, 58 percent), who's worth owning in nearly every format because he's on the first power-play unit.

Meanwhile, the New York Islanders are in disarray, and it's safe to say top-liners John Tavares, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey peaked earlier in the season. Lee and Bailey are definitely droppable in standard formats if the right replacement is out there. Bailey has three points (two goals, one assist) and is minus-4 with no power-play points in his past nine games.

I've gotten a bunch of questions about whether to start Luongo over Andrei Vasilevskiy, Rask and Frederik Andersen the rest of the way. Vasilevskiy and the Tampa Bay Lightning have nearly as favorable and as home-heavy a schedule as the Panthers do, but it's hard to resist the Luongo fantasy hype. The oldest goaltender in the NHL (38) is healthy and dominant (7-1-1, .934 save percentage since returning from injury), and his team looks more dangerous than when it won the Atlantic Division two seasons ago. Luongo also has some support behind him with backup James Reimer, and fatigue is one of the main concerns surrounding Vasilevskiy (13 goals allowed in past three games) as the Stanley Cup Playoffs loom.

Video: MTL@FLA: Luongo gloves down Petry's breakaway attempt

 

@Ommmzzz: Over the next two weeks, which teams are the best to have player ownership from and why?

Over the next two weeks, the fantasy playoff quarterfinals and semifinals in most head-to-head leagues, three desirable teams from a schedule standpoint are the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens (eight games each over two-week span, tied for most in NHL). Skaters Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C), Tanner Pearson (LW), Alec Martinez (D), Brendan Gallagher (RW), Alex Galchenyuk (C/LW), Paul Byron (LW/RW; after Max Pacioretty injury) and Jeff Petry (D) should be taken seriously as short-term streaming options.

The Panthers (nine games, most in NHL), Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators (eight each) have the most games over the final two weeks of the regular season, for those fantasy owners who expect to be playing in the championship round. Bjugstad, Reimer, center David Krejci, defenseman Nick Holden (after injury to Charlie McAvoy), and centers Matt Duchene and Jean-Gabriel Pageau are worth rostering from these teams.

Be sure to keep our fantasy schedule cheat sheet bookmarked; we will be making plenty more updates the rest of the way.

 

@CMMoreland: Phillip Grubauer seems to be taking more and more starts with Braden Holtby struggling and the Washington Capitals possibly looking to rest with a Stanley Cup Playoff spot all but locked up. Is Grubauer worth a pickup with Ben Bishop out? Feeling iffy about Kari Lehtonen as a replacement.

Grubauer (18 percent owned, 112th in Yahoo) got the road start for the Capitals against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday and was respectable, stopping 26 of 28 shots in a 3-1 loss. Holtby is in one of his worst funks since becoming the full-time starter in Washington, and Grubauer could easily capitalize.

The backup goalie is 6-3-0 with a .937 save percentage since the turn of the calendar year and is a creative outside replacement for any recently injured goalie (Bishop, Mike Smith, Matt Murray, Antti Raanta, etc.). Grubauer could become a restricted free agent July 1, and the Capitals just might use this as an opportunity to see what his long-term ceiling may be.

Video: WSH@LAK: Grubauer uses the glove to stone Carter

 

@jetsdude8: Biggest issue facing the @NHLJets?

Injuries. This is maybe the deepest team in the NHL other than the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, but injuries to center Mark Scheifele (upper body), defenseman Jacob Trouba (ankle) and goalie Steve Mason (lower body) pose a threat to their chances at a deep playoff run.

For fantasy purposes, I still trust the Jets immensely. The line of Patrik Laine, Paul Stastny and Nikolaj Ehlers is lights-out, and Blake Wheeler has shifted back to center after the Scheifele injury like he did earlier in the season. Stastny (37 percent) is a must-own forward in standard leagues given his linemates. Starting goaltender Connor Hellebuyck could use some rest but may not get too much if Mason's injury is serious. The Jets have two remaining back-to-back sets.

 

@wweiler: Cory Schneider, Petr Mrazek, or Jake Allen for ROS? Pick two; @stone_advil: Schneider hasn't won since December and has a difficult schedule coming up. Time to cut ties? Varlamov and Jake Allen are available in my league.

Schneider's losing streak is hard to fathom considering the New Jersey Devils are in playoff position this late in the season. I expect it to end sooner than later, but the real concern is that the Devils play eight of their final 14 games on the road and 12 against contending teams.

Video: WPG@NJD: Schneider slides across to stone Stastny

Each of these goaltenders brings his share of concerns from a fantasy standpoint, but the one that sticks out is Allen given how his season has transpired. With Carter Hutton (neck) day to day after outperforming Allen and stealing starts, the stage could be set for Allen to finish strong like he did last season (11-2-2, .942 SV% in final 15 games). Mrazek and Varlamov may have deeper offenses on their side, but Allen has the highest ceiling of this bunch. I would go Allen, Mrazek, Varlamov and Schneider, in that order.

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