Fantasy hockey forecaster: March 28 to April 3

The Calgary Flames broke up the NHL's best line to shore up others. Did it work? Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

The Calgary Flames trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk have been the best line in the NHL this season and it isn't all that close.

Together, they've accounted for 53 goals in 745 minutes at five-on-five, while allowing only 22 against. There's a few lines that have scored better on a per-minute basis, including the top lines for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators, plus Jonathan Huberdeau's line on the Florida Panthers. But those lines can't hold a candle to the Flames trio for both offense and defense. The Flames trio has a plus-31 goal differential that no other line can even approach.

Which makes it all the more curious that coach Darryl Sutter busted them up this past week. Lindholm and Gaudreau have been with Tyler Toffoli for the past two games, while Tkachuk is with Dillon Dube and Mikael Backlund. This has to be a desire for the Flames to find a way to have three lines of offense threatening other teams, as it's not as if the squad was too top heavy before. Believe it or not, the Gaudreau-Lindholm-Tkachuk trio is seventh in the NHL for Corsi for percentage, but not the best line on the Flames in that category. Andrew Mangiapane, Backlund and Blake Coleman rank second to the Boston Bruins top line in offensive chances differential this season.

It's only been 23 minutes together, but Gaudreau, Lindholm and Toffoli don't appear to be quite as dominant as a trio. As opposed to the 59 percent Corsi for with Tkachuk, this grouping sits at 44 percent -- below the break-even line -- and has one goal. Tkachuk, Dube and Backlund, however, look better. In 22 minutes together during these past two games, they have three goals for, one against and 61 percent Corsi for.

But that new elevated third line with Mangiapane, Coleman and Calle Jarnkrok is also looking quite good. In 19 minutes together, they've managed 15 shots and a Corsi for of 66 percent.

These are tiny samples, but they are indicative of the fact that, from the perspective of lifting all boats, the line changes might work. Or, at the very least, they indicate to coach Sutter that he can continue to tinker to find combinations that give the Flames a dangerous top nine, rather than top six.

So how does this impact fantasy?

I don't think I can predict how long Sutter will stick with this current iteration, or just go back to how it was before. While Dube and Backlund both have a goal and assist in the two games they've played with Tkachuk, next week features three games against the Avs, Kings and Blues. Those aren't the greatest of offensive matchups for the Flames, so I don't think now is the time to experiment with either of them for fantasy.

It would take some fortitude to consider benching Lindholm or Gaudreau, but thankfully you don't have to. From power-play access alone they are worthy of their usual starting role in your lineup -- even if their five-on-five numbers stay down.

I think the opportunity afforded to Toffoli as a top-line asset, in addition to his role on the top power play, makes him a must-start. Even if the small sample from that top line isn't great, the talent of Gaudreau and Lindholm as linemates for every minute Toffoli is on the ice makes him a great option. After a bump in rosters following his trade, he's back up to 59 percent availability in leagues.

In the longer-term, I am worried about how much more Lindholm and Gaudreau will give your fantasy team if they remain separated from Tkachuk, who has been the one constant on the Flames lines that are dominant going back three seasons. With only 19 games remaining, and some of them likely to be after the Flames clinch their playoff position next month, fantasy managers should be hoping the super line is back together sooner than later.

Fantasy Forecaster: March 28 to April 3

This is it for most head-to-head leagues when it comes to setting the playoff bracket. ESPN's default settings dedicates all of April to the fantasy postseason. So make sure you throw everything you have at your opponent if you are looking to sneak in. Play strategically, too. This is one of those weeks where the micromanaging could be worth it. Sell out a category or two to play against your opponent's weaknesses and/or your own.

Rotisserie and points leagues will want to stay the course, however, as a month is still a lot of hockey to play.

Which is evident in this week in which 14 teams play a total of four games. The Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators are the only teams that get a light schedule (and only because their original game for April 2 has already been played as part of the rescheduling this season).

Team notes

St. Louis Blues: Why not Nick Leddy? A perfect storm is brewing on the St. Louis Blues power play for an unexpected hero to emerge from the trade deadline. Leddy has the resume as a power-play quarterback, and the Blues have an opening with Torey Krug injured. In just his second game with the club, Leddy was on the blue line for the man advantage. The power play has been particularly decent of late with David Perron scoring on seemingly every other shot he takes (it's actually one in every four for the month). The Blues play the Canucks twice, the Oilers and the Flames next week -- and the Canucks have the worst penalty kill percentage in the league this season. So I ask again: Why not Nick Leddy?

Chicago Blackhawks: With games next week against the Sabres and Coyotes, we can dig a little deeper on the Hawks this week. Taylor Raddysh has been a direct replacement for Brandon Hagel so far, filling in on the top power-play unit with the big guns. The result: two goals and two helpers in four games, with two of them coming on the power play. It's also worth noting that the remaining netminders -- Kevin Lankinen and Collin Delia -- have been putting up points lately, too. I don't know that I'd start either for the matchups against the Panthers or Lightning, but the Sabres and Coyotes seem like good prey.

Florida Panthers: Who needs a defenseman on the power play? Not the Panthers. Rather than settle for Ben Chiarot or elevate Brandon Montour while Aaron Ekblad is hurt, the Panthers just went with five forwards. Claude Giroux, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Sam Reinhart and Anthony Duclair were the top unit, meaning the Giroux trade doesn't hurt Duclair's value at all in this scenario. It looks like a weak for the Panthers to dominate, with the Habs, Hawks, Devils and Sabres on tap.

Player notes

Hampus Lindholm, D, Boston Bruins: I don't think I'd put too much stock in Lindhom's debut with the Bruins to the tune of 2.3 fantasy points. This is a much better spot than with the Ducks, but it's not like his baseline stats were elevated here. He had 1.3 fantasy points from hits, blocked shots and shots in this game, so unless you think the assists will keep flowing, I'm not sure there's something useful here. Charlie McAvoy's former defense partner, Matt Grzelcyk, is tied for 63rd among defensemen for five-on-five assists with 12.

Max Domi, F, Carolina Hurricanes: As pretty much expected, it doesn't look like the Canes have a fantasy-relevant role available for Domi -- at least not yet. He played 10 minutes in his Carolina debut on the fourth line, with no whiff of the advantage.

Rickard Rakell, W, Pittsburgh Penguins: Don't let his debut sour you on Rakell. Check the lines Friday for the Penguins, as Rakell should get his chance with Evgeni Malkin.

Marcus Johansson, W, Washington Capitals: Not this week with the light schedule, but keep an eye on Johansson's return to the Capitals. If he's playing more with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, he could be another sneaky trade deadline winner. Of course, he might not stay in the top six with a healthy T.J. Oshie.