Looking Ahead to the Fantasy Playoffs

Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. This week I’m taking a quick break from the normal Trade Targets article to take a look ahead to fantasy hockey playoff schedules. Before we dive in, be sure to check out the Apples & Ginos community on Discord and the Apples & Ginos Patreon for even more content including a weekly waiver wire article detailing all the best streamers and pickups for the upcoming week. I’m in the Discord every day and would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about the fantasy playoffs, the correct day-to-day roster construction in an 18-team start-four-goalies league, or any other strategy elements you can think of. Let’s get it!

Playoff Schedules: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

Playoff schedules for fantasy are the last few weeks of the season. If you’re playing on Yahoo, you can go to League -> Settings and find a line that looks something like this:

This tells you during which weeks your league’s playoffs will occur. The reason this matters is because some teams will play considerably more games than others during your playoffs, and it’s not inconceivable that your Alexander Ovechkin could potentially be outscored by your opponent’s Tage Thompson if Buffalo plays four more games than Washington during this stretch (as they do Weeks 23-25 this season).

If you’re comfortably riding a 1st place team you may go so far as to expect a bye in the first week of the playoffs and focus solely on the last two weeks of the playoff period. I’d have to have a very comfortable lead to feel safe assuming that position with so many weeks still left in the season, but it’s definitely worth at least having in the back of your mind at this point.

How Much Should I Be Worried About My Roster’s Playoff Schedule?

Like many things in fantasy hockey, this is a question on a spectrum with shades of grey for each unique situation rather than a singular, black and white ultimatum. If your team is not an absolute lock to make the playoffs, you probably shouldn’t be thinking about it at all. To win the championship you first have to make it to the dance, and while it would be nice to have the luxury of thinking ahead and preparing for the playoffs, securing your invitation to the postseason should be your only directive until it’s no longer in doubt.

On the other hand if you’re sitting pretty and it would take an avalanche to dislodge you from your location atop your league’s standings, now is a solid time to start looking ahead as the bubble teams below you start looking for short-term fixes to secure their playoff spots. You can take advantage of players who have a bad schedule for one week which could hurt a bubble team but actually have a very solid playoff schedule which is all you’re really interested in. Realistically this should be a win-win for both teams; the bubble team gets a boost on their way to the playoffs while hoping to catch a break or find a waiver wire star along the way to increase their title odds, and the top end team solidifies their playoff picture.

Going one level deeper, if your league has a 6-team playoff and two teams get byes in the first round, you should really be doing everything in your power to secure one of those byes if it’s at all within the realm of possibility. It’s hard to overstate what a huge advantage it is to have a full extra week of adds to set yourself up as well as possible for the final two weeks. Players who normally would never be dropped may appear on the waiver wire that week as the other four playoff managers pull out all the stops to get to the next round. Even if that doesn’t happen you can frontload your streamers for the following week into Monday/Tuesday streams and flip them into say a Thursday/Friday/Sunday streamer for the back half of the week, resulting in a five-game week for your streaming spot(s) where in a normal week you might have only been able to get four games. These are the types of advantages that can absolutely decide playoff matchups and getting that bye-week head start is a massive advantage that is worth selling out for.

Best Schedules & Targets

I’ve used Yahoo’s Games by Team page to build a Google sheet that shows all the best and worst playoff schedules:

I’m going to split these schedules into Weeks 23-25 and Weeks 24-26. Yahoo default is 24-26 but a lot of leagues (including mine) use 23-25 due to the uncertainties in the final week like teams with nothing left to play for resting their star players.

Weeks 23-25:

St. Louis and Buffalo are the only two teams who play 12 games in these three weeks (4 games each week). St. Louis has 7 of those on off-nights while Buffalo has 6 off-nights. A clear tier back from those two teams you have NYI (11 games & 4 off-nights), WPG (10 & 7), LAK (10 & 5), SEA (10 & 5), TBL (10 & 5), MIN (11 & 3), and CAR (11 & 3). You’ll have to do some work looking at your team to decide whether you want the extra total games or extra off-nights, but there’s no shortage of options here. I’m interested in acquiring Vladimir Tarasenko or Jordan Kyrou at cost and/or finding a way to roster two of Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner, and Alex Tuch for my playoffs. Brock Nelson, Andrew Copp, Adrian Kempe, Jared McCann, Mark Giordano, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Hartman, & Kevin Fiala would all be targets from that second tier of teams for me.

Weeks 24-26:

This group of teams is far more evenly spread. You have DAL/MIN/STL/TBL who each have 14 games and 4 off-nights, but SEA with 13 & 6 or one of ARI/WSH with 13 & 5 each are both viable looks. Outside of the obvious stars (Hintz, Robertson, Kaprizov, Kucherov, Ovechkin) that not many managers will be looking to move and the names that I already mentioned for weeks 23-25, you can cast an eye at Clayton Keller and Nicklas Backstrom, who shouldn’t run an exorbitant price but will still produce for you.

Worst Schedules & Sells

Weeks 23-25:

There are three teams that only play 8 games (with 3 off-nights each) in Weeks 23-25: Vancouver, Vegas, and Washington. Ideally you’d avoid the 9-game teams as well: CHI/COL/NSH/NJD/OTT have those below-average schedules. JT Miller, Shea Theodore, Jack Eichel, and Evgeny Kuznetsov come to mind as solid sells from the first three teams that have the name brand value to bring back a player of significant value in return. I’d be at least entertaining the idea of moving Alex DeBrincat, Nazem Kadri, Devon Toews, Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, and Jack Hughes given their team’s lack of games here.

Weeks 24-26:

There are only three teams with just 11 games in these weeks: Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Vegas. There are seven more teams with 12 games: BUF/CHI/EDM/NYR/PIT/VAN/WPG. These range from 1 off-night (PIT) to 7 off-nights (WPG), so evaluate your core players and see if you need those off nights or not before sending your Jets players to the shadow realm. From the main group of 3 to avoid, I’m actively trying to trade away Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, John Gibson, Anze Kopitar, and both Shea Theodore and Jack Eichel as previously mentioned.

What these trades might look like for you obviously depends on who you’re getting back: I’d trade Duchene for Thompson or Skinner straight up and not lose any sleep over it (going from 9 games to 12 games), but I don’t know that I’m moving Jack Hughes for one of those two. This is certainly dependent on your league’s format, which is why you absolutely need to get into the Discord server so we can talk specifics about your team and get you set up to win your league’s ‘ship this year.

That’s all for this one folks, I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter and join the Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have. If you want to learn more about any of the advanced stats I mentioned in this article, be sure to check out my article on applying advanced stats to fantasy hockey, or check out Natural Stat Trick’s advanced stats glossary.

Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!


Soundtrack to my writing: The 1975 by The 1975

Advanced stats credit: Natural Stat Trick

Published by Apples & Ginos

Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey Advice

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