We've finally reached the end. With the second-to-last week of the NHL season underway, this will be the final installment of NHL.com's waiver wire watch. If your team is still alive, you should be proud that you've made it further than the vast majority of fantasy owners.
If you drafted a team prior to the season that doesn't require any tinkering at this point, then simply ride with the players who got you here. If not, there's absolutely no shame in utilizing streaming options to cap off your fantasy championship run.
Before you make that crucial lineup choice, be sure to consider these trends ahead of your semifinal or championship round:
More games equal more opportunity for points
The Carolina Hurricanes have come up a lot over the past couple of weeks, but for good reason. They are one of two teams (along with the Nashville Predators) that have five games this week. Three of Carolina's five games come against teams outside Stanley Cup Playoff position, and four of the five are at home. Carolina is the highest-scoring team in the NHL since March 1 with 45 goals in 14 games (3.21 per game).
We have to remind you about Hurricanes forward Elias Lindholm (C/RW, 24 percent owned in Yahoo), who's quietly on a 10-game point streak (four goals, seven assists). Sebastian Aho (LW/RW, 40 percent), Lindholm's linemate at even strength and on the power play, is also readily available and riding a six-game point streak (three goals, five assists).
The Predators likely don't have nearly as many options available on your waiver wire, but do have a few low-ownership fliers worth a look. Craig Smith (RW, 4 percent) has seven assists and is plus-8 in his past five games. Colin Wilson (LW, 1 percent) has five assists and is plus-8 in his past three games. Mattias Ekholm (17 percent) is a top-four defenseman for Nashville with point potential down the stretch.
Video: CAR@NJD: Aho slams home Lindholm's great feed
Don't force a move
There are a handful of teams that may appear to have enticing options on the wire, but other trends suggest otherwise. The New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres each have three games next week, and are playing for very little the rest of the season. Subsequently, the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers each play three, and don't offer much value.
The Rangers are virtually locked into the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Their three games are against the San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, all tough draws. New York hasn't scored more than three goals in seven straight, and Mats Zuccarello is the only player over a point-per-game during that stretch. Mika Zibanejad (C/RW, 33 percent owned) and Brady Skjei (D, 28 percent) are the only fantasy-relevant Rangers players who may be available, but being tied for the fewest games remaining League-wide is a major drawback.
Brendan Gallagher (RW, 33 percent) has some upside if his low shooting percentage corrects itself, but the Canadiens don't play enough games for him to make an impact. One of their three games this week is against a favorable opponent (Dallas Stars) but the other two are wild card contenders (Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning). Andrei Markov (D, 46 percent owned) is probably unavailable, but has eight points, 21 shots on goal and is plus-7 in the span.
The Oilers are on track to clinch their first Stanley Cup Playoff berth since 2005-06, but each of their three games this week comes against a Pacific Division contender. They play the Los Angeles Kings, Sharks and Anaheim Ducks at home in what will be the most important stretch of games ever for the majority of Edmonton's roster. Ryan-Nugent Hopkins (C, 18 percent) is beginning to heat up with four points, two PPP and six SOG in his past two games. Andrej Sekera (D, 18 percent) has five points, two PPP and is plus-3 in the same span. But temper expectations and prioritize players with an extra game or two. It also doesn't help the Oilers final game this week is Saturday as opposed to Sunday, when you may need that extra stat line to push you past your opponent.
Video: EDM@COL: Sekera slides home loose puck from in front
Goalie streamers to consider
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen is dealing with an upper-body injury. Should he miss any time the rest of the season, backup Curtis McElhinney (4 percent) would have to finish the job. McElhinney made 30 saves in a 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, and allowed three goals on 22 shots in relief of Andersen against the Sabres on Saturday.
Toronto's three games this week are against the Panthers and Predators (each playing for something), as well as the Detroit Red Wings, who could continue to play spoiler. The road is tough, but McElhinney could be in store for three starts in must-win spots for Toronto.
The Winnipeg Jets goalie situation has been problematic for most of the season, but is starting to come together with less pressure. Connor Hellebuyck (46 percent) was never able to fully grab the No. 1 job, but Michael Hutchinson (8 percent) has come on strong in this recent stretch. Since replacing Hellebuyck in a 5-4 win against the Wild on March 19, Hutchinson is 3-1-0 with a .951 save percentage. The Jets only have three games this week, but one is at the Devils (winnable game) and the other two are at home, where Winnipeg is 19-18-1.
The Washington Capitals continued to ride Braden Holtby last week, but should eventually call upon backup Philipp Grubauer (17 percent) to step in for some starts. The Capitals begin a five-game road trip Tuesday at the Minnesota Wild, and turn around Wednesday at the Colorado Avalanche, a game Grubauer will likely start. Washington could also opt to rest Holtby again Friday against the Coyotes before a crucial matchup with the Blue Jackets on Sunday, but that may be wishful thinking. Still, it wouldn't hurt to get a jumpstart and stash Grubauer for potential starts this week.
Video: NJD@TOR: McElhinney shuts down Henrique's breakaway
- The St. Louis Blues schedule the rest of the season is a cakewalk. This week, the Blues play three of four games against the Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes. There are a few unappealing names (David Perron: LW/RW, 13 percent; Patrik Berglund: C, 5 percent) out there, but consider rookie Ivan Barbashev (C/LW, less than 1 percent). The 21-year-old has two goals, three assists and is plus-2 in the past six games centering the third line. It's risky to pick up an unproven rookie for your semifinal or championship round, but it's definitely some food for thought.
- The Sharks and Wild have carried many fantasy teams this season, but each is limping into the playoffs. Wild leading scorer Mikael Granlund hasn't had a point in four straight games. Top defenseman Ryan Suter has two points and is minus-5 over his past 11 games. Their entire lineup outside of Eric Staal is in a scoring drought, plus Minnesota plays three of its four games this week against playoff contenders. ... San Jose, on the other hand, has totaled seven goals over its six-game losing streak. The offensive struggles are a major concern for owners of Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns. Burns, who was the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy a few weeks ago, hasn't scored a goal in his past 16 games. Pavelski has no goals, one assist and is averaging only one SOG per game during the losing streak. The Sharks play the Rangers and three Pacific Division opponents this week and it's difficult to bench Pavelski or Burns. That said, they could cost you a title if they continue to struggle.
Here are some other players to consider: Mathieu Perreault, C/LW, WPG (30 percent), Patrick Eaves, RW, ANA (29 percent), Bo Horvat, C, VAN (22 percent), Nikita Zaitsev, D, TOR (14 percent), Eddie Lack, G, CAR (8 percent), Noah Hanifin, D, CAR (8 percent), Brock Boeser, RW, VAN (less than 1 percent