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Fantasy Hockey Gauntlet - Week Twenty-Three: Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks

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Troy Langefeld runs the fantasy hockey gauntlet for week twenty-three of the NHL season!

The fabled Battle of Alberta might be the key to your championship aspirations this week - Photo Credit
The fabled Battle of Alberta might be the key to your championship aspirations this week - Photo Credit
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

If you missed out on the early entries into my weekly series, you can find it all right here: Fake Teams Fantasy Hockey.

In the snake draft league - This was Made in Kariya - Wanderers (3rd seed) was able to dispatch FletcherG's team (6th) 6-3 and Clowe's Bench Pass (5th) sent Couture Clash (4th) packing by a score of 7-2. This sets up semifinal matchups between Too Bad So Saad (1st) and Clowe's Bench Pass (5th) and myself, four&half (2nd), and Wanderers (3rd). In the auction draft league - Don't Toews me bro! - Homer Knows Hockey (5th) pulled of an 'upset' by beating Slackshot (4th) 6-3 and Jomo & the Smoothies (3rd) is getting hot at the right time as he dismantled Night Slugs (6th) 10-0. The semifinals will therefore be Trevor Philips Ind. (1st) versus Homer Knows Hockey (5th) and myself, four&half (2nd), against the red hot Jomo & the Smoothies (3rd).

Overall, it was a pretty boring week for me. Having quarterfinal bye's in three leagues, I didn't have nearly as much to pay attention to as usual. In the two leagues that were finishing up the regular season, my place in the standings was already finalized and so I was instead looking ahead to potential playoff matchups. I finished with a 0-2-0 record in those two leagues and finished my regular season head to head matchups for the year with a 78-38-11 record. My matchup winning percentage was 0.657 for the year among all leagues versus my category (points) winning percentage of 0.573. All in all I'd say that it was a success as it landed me five playoff matchups out of six and three out of a possible three first round byes. The only league last week that I actually played in a playoff matchup came down to the wire, but I won, meaning that I have not only made the playoffs in five of six leagues, but I've made semifinals in five of six. Any top four finish is alright with me when you consider the unpredictability that is inherent in a postseason matchup. I'm still hoping to add five trophies to the cabinet though, preferably all gold!

Week Twenty-Two (March 23-29) Preview:

Most of us are firmly in our semifinal matchups by now, with the odd league starting them next week. Every week in the playoffs is a crapshoot and you have to do everything you can to win this week. Not next week in the finals, you need to do it this week to get into the finals. It's something that many people overlook or do incorrectly, but is incredibly important. Injured players should no longer be rostered if they are a detriment to your team. Keeper league players might be in a bit of a pickle with that rule, but you're going to have to make tough decisions here. The imminent return of a day-to -day player is another tough call and you'll just have to weigh the pro's and con's of keeping them. Good luck to you through the remainder of the fantasy hockey playoffs!

4 Game Week: Anaheim, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, New York IslandersNew York Rangers, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Winnipeg
2 Game Week: Philadelphia, St. Louis
All other teams at 3 games

Calgary and Chicago are the two teams that play on all four off nights and should be your priority additions this week, however both of their teams offer little in free agency in most leagues. Dallas and Edmonton each play three games on off nights and will likely offer better selection to add from. It's funny to think that the two deadbeat Alberta teams who have been the laughing stock of the NHL for a couple years could be the key to winning your semifinal matchups this week.

Waiver Pickups:

Kris Russell - D - CGY (39% owned): The Flames are perfect for fantasy this week. They play a fantasy perfect schedule of Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Four games, no back to backs, all off nights. Fantasy gold. Unfortunately, there are only five players in Calgary who should be owned in all leagues this week as they are not a team that receives much or very reliable secondary scoring. Unfortunately, Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Dennis Wideman are all owned in too many leagues for me to put in here (but if they are available in any of you leagues pick them up right now). This leaves Kris Russell. Russell has been one of the top fantasy blueliners since captain Mark Giordano's injury and remains a must add, even without the beautiful schedule that he plays this week. It boggles my mind that he is still this widely available, he's long gone in all of my leagues. His two goals and eight assists in the eleven games without Gio play in any league. Great schedule, playing amazing, go make the add right now.

Brad Richards - C/LW - CHI (43%), Antoine Vermette - C/LW - CHI (22%), Kris Versteeg - LW/RW - CHI (17%), Andrew Shaw - C - CHI (12%), Teuvo Teravainen - C/LW - CHI (2%), and Bryan Bickell - LW - CHI (2%): Chicago has the same sexy schedule as Calgary with far more options available. But this is a bit of a messy situation. With superstar Patrick Kane's injury, they've overloaded their top line instead of spreading the wealth. As such, the best options are long gone such as Captain Serious Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp (who's finally playing well again), Brandon Saad, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook. Saad, who was on the top line all season, has been demoted to the second line with the promotion of Sharp and will take a hit in fantasy. That said, this is still a decent second line with Saad, Vermette, and Teravainen. The problem is that the third line is just as good with Richards, Versteeg, and Bickell. Throw in Shaw, who is on the fourth line but gets quality minutes on the powerplay, and there are many options out there for you. My top recommendations? Assuming Saad is already gone, I'd follow the powerplay minutes. Richards and Shaw both receive a lot of ice time on the man advantage. Vermette, Versteeg, and Teravainen all receive a little bit but not nearly as much. Shaw is a good source of penalty minutes as well, but being on the fourth line, he receives the least ice time. Ultimately, you're going to have to hope that you guessed right on which player you decide to take a flier on. The important thing here though is that you just need a filler. Someone to play on an off night instead of benching someone else. ANY stats they get produce a net POSITIVE GAIN (except the obvious if they receive a negative rating). Scoring would obviously help, but it isn't necessary. If they take some shots and maybe a penalty, then they've done their job.

Ales Hemsky - RW - DAL (20%), Antoine Roussel - LW - DAL (14%), Cody Eakin - C - DAL (4%), Shawn Horcoff - C/LW - DAL (1%), Patrick Eaves - RW - DAL (1%), and Brett Ritchie - RW - DAL (1%): Dallas plays four times this week, including three off nights. I know that there is nothing sexy here. After the big three of Jaime Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Jason Spezza there isn't much left. But so you know, Cody Eakin has been consistently playing on the top line with Benn and Seguin and Hemsky has been consistently on Spezza's line. Everyone else on the Spezza and Hemsky line seems to moving around with Roussel and Eaves getting turns lately. Your powerplay time guys are Hemsky, Horcoff, Eaves, and Ritchie. Ritchie specifically is getting a lot of time on the man advantage and he's getting the good minutes with Benn, Seguin, and Spezza. Roussel is your floor guy as he is likely to get penalty minutes.

John Klingberg - D - DAL (33%): Alex Goligoski is owned too much for this column, but if he's not owned, grab him too. That said, Klingberg is the guy I'd still prefer. Goligoski has been better lately and is the one we all expected to be a stud at the beginning of the year, but Klingberg is the one receiving most of the minutes manning the point on the powerplay. He's a great addition this week.

Nail Yakupov - RW - EDM (32%), Teddy Purcell - RW - EDM (3%), Benoit Pouliot - LW - EDM (3%), and Derek Roy - C - EDM (2%): The big three of Taylor Hall (just returned from injury), Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are the only must owns in Oilers fantasy. In fact they are typically the only one's who should ever be owned as the team is atrocious. But this week, they get a pass (so long as you can live with a likely negative rating). The entire team has been scoring lately and hasn't been the joke we're accustomed to. With three games this week, and all on off nights, they're worth taking a look at. Pouliot has been playing on the top line with Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, but who knows how long that will last for now that Hall is back. The second line of Yakupov, Roy, and Purcell has been good lately as well. A lot of their value recently is being driven by the success of their powerplay, all of which are receiving considerable time on there.

Justin Schultz - D - EDM (35%): Defenseman who play powerplay aren't easy to find and, again with the preferable schedule, this makes Schultz a must own this week. Despite his woes for the year, he's been decent in the last couple weeks. The continued powerplay success means everything to his fantasy value though.

Ondrej Pavelec - G - WPG (56%): Is it cheating to be mentioning him here? Yes, he's over owned for my articles. Should the reigning NHL first star of the week be unowned in your league? Probably not. He's stolen the job back from Michael Hutchinson and Pavs has been known to go on stretches of very hot play before. Ride him, it's playoffs. But drop him quickly at the first sign of a bad thing.

Eddie Lack - G - VAN (40%): There is nothing special about his schedule, but he is a starting goalie who has been playing well enough to be owned. Three of his last four games have been one goal against, 0.960+ SV% wins. The other? He got shelled. Still, he's starting nearly every game and by and large his sample of work has been very good lately.

Karri Ramo - G - CGY (25%): I think there is a very good chance that Ramo starts the majority of the four Flames games this week. And with them playing on all off nights, that means that you'll likely won't run into a situation where you are required to bench a goalie this week. Which means lots of chances for wins and ton of saves. I wouldn't be surprised to see him start all four games right now as he has clearly been the better goalie between him and Jonas Hiller and the Flames can't afford anything but their best effort every night in a tight Western playoff battle. This might be your pickup of the week.

Hopefully there is enough here to help you get through the week and secure a playoff spot, but if not, here is a preview towards next week.

Week Twenty-Four (March 30 - April 5) Preview:

4 Game Week: Buffalo, Chicago, Colorado, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington
2 Game Week: Anaheim, Minnesota, Nashville, New York Islanders, Winnipeg
All other teams at 3 games

Buffalo, Chicago, Colorado, Montreal, St. Louis each play three times on off nights (all of them while playing four games on the week) making them ideal teams to target players from for next week.

My NHL Schedule:

The NHL Schedule has not been revised for anything since last week but can be found here: 2014-15 NHL Schedule . Don't forget to change the time zone to your appropriate time zone. The one thing I ask of you is that you do not take my schedule and use it for your own personal gains. Please do not sell it, you can direct people here to find it, but do not sell it.

I'm new to the twitterverse, but I'd love to hear your feedback and questions. Follow me on Twitter @HockeyGauntlet for more of my thoughts and all of your fantasy hockey needs.