PHF Fantasy Trends: Week 15

Fantasy playoffs have begun! A brief primer, and then our usual review of last week’s stars and sleepers, and the lay of the land for this weekend.

By J Gray

With two more weekends of the regular PHF season remaining, fantasy playoffs have begun for fantasy leagues with 6+ teams. If you didn’t make the top 6 in your league, I’m sorry, it just wasn’t your year. You’re not alone, though—for three of the teams in the PHF, their playoff hopes were also dashed this past weekend. For fantasy managers, there were some high scoring games, and there are more of those to come! Let’s dive right in.

How do these playoffs work?

Here’s a handy graphic:

For the non-visual learners, I’ll break it down.

If you play in a league with 6 or more teams, your playoffs started last week. The top two teams got a bye. The team with the third-best record in the league played the team with the sixth-best record, and the fourth-seeded teams played the fifth-seeded team. The winner of Seed 3 vs. Seed 6 will play Seed 1 this week, the winner of 4 vs. 6 will play Seed 2 this week. Next week, the winners of those matchups will play each other to crown a league champion.

If you play in a league with 5 teams, your playoffs start this week! The top four teams make it through. A polite round of applause for the first out. The team with the best record will match up with the team with the fourth-best record, and the second and third seeds will compete as well. Next week, the winners of those two matchups will compete for the title.

If you play in a league with 4 teams, your playoffs start next week! It’s the same set-up as the five-team league, with no fifth team to be eliminated first. This week, Seed 1 will play Seed 4 and Seed 2 will play Seed 3. Next week, those winners play for keeps.

If you play in a league with 2 or 3 teams, this is the final week of your regular season. If you have 3 teams, one of you will be eliminated at the conclusion of this week. Next week, the remaining 2 teams will play a sudden-death week for the championship. 

Last week’s stars

The biggest stars of this week were two goalies who faced off in each game of the back-to-back series. Tricia Deguire topped the fantasy charts with 18 points off 1 win and 5 goals allowed on 55 shots. She also logged 2 fantasy points for an assist! Her opponent, Samantha Ridgewell, would have taken the top spot if not for that assist, coming in at 16.8 fantasy points on 1 win and 7 goals allowed on 72 shots.

Our top forward of the week was Jade Downie-Landry, with 18 fantasy points on the back of 3 goals, including a game-winner and a powerplay goal, and 8 SOG.

Not far behind her were Shiann Darkangelo and Mikyla Grant-Mentis with 15.5 fantasy points each. Darkangelo continued dominating the league on the faceoff dot with 27-15 in two games. She also contributed 2 even-strength goals, 1 assist, and 9 SOG against the Whitecaps. Meanwhile, Grant-Mentis had 3 goals, including a shortie, and 10 SOG against the Force.

Among defenders, Minttu Tuominen led the pack with 2 goals, one of them on the powerplay, 1 assist, and 5 SOG for 11.5 fantasy points. The next most valuable defender, with 7.5 fantasy points, was Tuominen’s teammate Emilie Harley, who contributed a PPG, an assist, and 3 SOG.

Weekend opponents Whitney Dove and Christine Deaudelin both earned 5 fantasy points, Dove with an assist and 5 SOG minus a penalty, and Deaudelin with 10 SOG.

Sleeper picks

This may not count as a sleeper pick after last weekend, but I did not expect to see Beauts netminder Samantha Ridgewell get both of the starts this weekend. Her shutout win in Minnesota last weekend earned her another start, and her near-perfect win in the first game against Montréal showed that she came to the Beauts ready to play despite signing late in the season. Any fantasy GMs who predicted the selection this past weekend got their return.

Who would you expect to score a hat trick in just over five minutes? Would it be the top scorer on a team, or the player who previously had 5 goals in 19 games? Justine Reyes of the Connecticut Whale is not someone who never scores, but her 12.5 fantasy points this week on the back of her impressive performance on Sunday had her in the top 10 fantasy scorers among forwards this weekend. Not bad.

The Whitecaps signed forward Taylor Wente for the rest of the season just before the trade deadline. The Minnesota native did not play last season, but before that she was an alternate captain at the University of Minnesota. She earned 7 fantasy points this weekend with a cumulative 8-2 on the faceoff—another reminder that faceoff success can be just as valuable as goals!

Upcoming schedule and fantasy strategy

With only two weeks left in the regular season, four PHF teams are gunning for playoff positioning, while three teams are looking to play spoiler.

Up in Montréal, the Beauts eliminated the Force from playoff contention with a win on Saturday, and then were themselves eliminated by the Force as the home team came back with a vengeance on Sunday. It’s a funny world.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut Whale sealed the deal with a win over the Metropolitan Riveters. Although the Minnesota Whitecaps lost their second game versus Toronto, the regulation loss by the Riveters mathematically clinched the final playoff spot for the Caps as well. 

The Toronto Six and the Boston Pride have been trading the top spot on the standings all season. Currently, the Six are up by 2 points, and they also have the weekend off. That means that a single overtime win or two overtime losses by the Pride in their series against Minnesota would be enough to tie for the top spot again, and the reigning champs are not planning to go to OT. Boston will be hosting Minnesota on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, so the deadline to adjust any players from those teams on your fantasy rosters for the weekend will be Friday at 7pm ET.

The Whale are playing the Buffalo Beauts in Buffalo on Saturday and Sunday. While it’s unclear whether a third or fourth seed in the playoffs would be preferable, the Whale will be trying to build momentum for what will be a tough three-game playoff series against either of the top teams.

In New Jersey, the Riveters will host the Force. These games will not affect the playoffs, but the Riveters will be aiming to put on a show for a crowd which has watched them go 5-5 at their new home rink. These will also be the final games of the inaugural season for the Montréal Force, who have a 8-13-1 record right now. They’ll want to end the season on a high note. 10-13-1 would do, I imagine.

Boston played one game last weekend, in New Jersey against the Riveters, and they played backup Lovisa Selander in net to the tune of a 6-2 loss. This was Selander’s only start this season—not what you want to see going into the playoffs. The Pride have two games in hand against the second-place squad, and they’re staring down a possible Isobel Cup preview series against Toronto next weekend. I hope and expect that we will see Selander in net for at least one of these games. On Minnesota’s side, I expect to see Jenna Brenneman in net for both games.

Kennedy Marchment of the Connecticut Whale. Source from PHF

For Connecticut, either or both goalies might see ice time. The Whale have played both members of their tandem this season, and as next week’s series against Minnesota will be both the tougher matchup and the one with greater seeding implications, it will boil down to what the coaches believe will put the team in the best position moving forward. Buffalo has been riding late signing Samantha Ridgewell in their last few games, but after a blowout loss to Montréal, they may go back to Lovisa Berndtsson. Another possibility is that we see a return for Tera Hofmann. The Beauts have been pretty good about rotating goalies this year, not that they’ve had much choice with Kassidy Sauvé only intermittently available.

The Riveters seem to like playing a goalie for both games of a weekend, unless the first game went badly. Rachel McQuigge took a 6-3 loss last weekend, including four goals scored in just over five minutes. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Katie Burt in the starter’s spot this weekend, but you never know. For la Force, I predict we’ll see Marie-Soleil Deschênes in net for the last two games of the season. Deguire played the last eight straight games while the team chased a playoff spot, and she played very well against the top-scoring teams in the league. With playoffs off the table, it’s time to give her a rest and give Deschênes, who has comparable stats in several fewer starts, some well-deserved ice time.

In the Boston/Minnesota series, might we see an Allie Thunstrom revenge game? Thunstrom shouldn’t be available as a free agent in any fantasy league, but if she is, take her now. Sammy Davis has also been shooting a lot lately, and scored one of Boston’s only two goals last weekend. The Whitecaps have been struggling to get much scoring outside of their top line recently, but new addition Taylor Wente has been great on faceoffs, and those are worth a lot in this fantasy game. Boston does not have many people who shine at the dot, so she may have a good chance to bring in some points this weekend.

For the third week in a row, I’m going to recommend Justine Reyes of the Connecticut Whale as a good person to add. Two weeks ago, she had 10 SOG in two games. Last week, she had 9 SOG and three of them became goals. That’s a good sign! Caitrin Lonergan is still available in a lot of leagues, and the rookie of the year contender is on an intensely hot streak right now, with a goal in each of her last four games. For the Beauts, late signing Kristina Schuler had a goal and an assist playing on the fourth line last Sunday. She might be a neat pickup if you think the BU and Clarkson alumna can keep it up.

Listed as a defender, Reagan Rust has continued to play at forward (sometimes?) for the Metropolitan Riveters, and had another assist last weekend. Actual forward Kennedy Ganser had 3 assists, 5 SOG, and went 17-13 on the dot. Playing up and down the lineup, it’s hard to guess where Ganser will be on a given day, but she’s a reliable shooter and has a solid success rate on faceoffs, so she’s a good depth player for a fantasy roster. Shooters shoot, and Christine Deaudelin had 10 SOG last weekend. She only has 3 goals on the season, for a 5.9% shooting rate, but a shot on goal is worth .25 fantasy points. 

Vibe of the Week

The vibe of this week is Pride. Two teams—the Minnesota Whitecaps and the Connecticut Whale—had their Pride games and debuted new specialty jerseys that look kick-ass. Here’s Minnesota’s jersey:

and here’s Connecticut’s:

For me, though, the cherry on top was this video put out by Metropolitan Riveters captain Madison Packer, in advance of her team’s Pride game this weekend.

Pride is a celebration of diversity and inclusion, but it was originally a fighting word. It was an assertion of our right to belong and to flourish. In the last few months in the men’s hockey world, there has been some pushback against efforts to celebrate Pride in hockey. As the women’s side of the sport grows, there is sometimes trepidation to do things that might alienate part of the hockey market, but this fear must be balanced by the determination to create a community that accepts everyone and allows everyone to thrive. I appreciate Madison Packer’s assertion that the American Dream is a place where LGBT+ people will be welcome and celebrated.

Packer is probably not available in your fantasy league unless you have a very small league, but there’s always next year.

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