Fantasy playoffs schedule hack: Goalies with best matchups

Keep reading to see why you should reach for Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames down the stretch. Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

Just as I looked at offensive schedules by checking out the goals against per 60 of NHL opponents for the final push of the season, this is a look at the defensive side for goaltenders by looking at the goals for per 60 of their remaining opponents.

From this point forward, on March 14, teams have between 14 and 18 games remaining. The range of their opponents' average goals for per 60 ranges from a low of 2.95 to a high of 3.31. If everything, miraculously, ran exactly as the averages dictate (I know, a silly notion, but I'm making a point), it would be a difference of five to six more goals allowed by the goaltenders facing the worst schedules as compared to the best.

There are many more factors to consider, but I think there is still plenty of value in going over these schedules with an eye to finding some goalies that could help close out your fantasy season with success.

Good outlook

Three teams tie for the top spot and all three have goaltenders locked in as their No. 1, likely to shoulder most of the load going forward. But the best potential news here is that four of the five goaltenders with the best schedules are available to some extent in fantasy leagues.

Alexandar Georgiev and the Avalanche have one of the best schedules, but the rock-solid No. 1 is rostered in 95% of leagues, so getting him into your lineup was already something you were planning on doing if you can. It's notable that he could have the most fantasy points for goaltenders down the stretch with this schedule combined with his overwhelming crease share and the need for the Avs to jockey for playoff position to the end.

What we should focus on instead are the goaltenders with the better schedules that you may be able to acquire, or have rightfully been gun shy to deploy this season.

Jacob Markstrom, G, Calgary Flames (available in 24.7% of leagues): Yes, Markstrom has had an overall disastrous campaign in the Flames crease. After finishing with 233.4 fantasy points last season, a healthy Markstrom is only up to 46.0 fantasy points this season -- with 26.2 of those points coming in March. But if you still have him on your bench or have been using him of late, there is reason for optimism. First off, those 26.2 points in March are a hefty turnaround from the mostly negative results he's been feeding us all season. But look at the schedule: Nine of the 15 games left are against non-playoff teams and, for better or worse, the Flames have been riding Markstrom again (75% crease share in past month).

Thatcher Demko, G, Vancouver Canucks (55.8% available): After a rough start to the season followed by a significant injury absence, Demko is quietly back and putting up points in the Canucks crease. Prior to Demko getting hurt, he earned negative points for your fantasy team, posting -13.4 fantasy points across 15 starts. But since he's been back, Demko has been on point. He's posted 22.4 fantasy points across five starts with a 4.49 fantasy points per 60 (FPP60) mark that rivals the better goaltenders in the league this season across that small sample. The Canucks are tied with the Avalanche and Flames for the best schedules to run out the season, so Demko could have a role to play. Ten of the Canucks 17 remaining games are against teams in the bottom half of the league for goals per 60 -- and with the Canucks in the top 10 for that mark, wins could be plenty.

Philipp Grubauer, G, Seattle Kraken (88.4% available): Nine of 15 remaining Kraken games are against teams in the bottom 10 for goals per 60. With Martin Jones collapsing in recent weeks, Grubauer is squarely back in the driver's seat of the Kraken crease (79% crease share in past month). The Kraken offense still ranks fifth in goals per 60, so the team is giving Grubauer a chance to win most nights. But keep a close eye on this one, as Jones was set to patrol the crease on Monday against Dallas and the Grubauer is coming off two bad outings. Jones could turn the tide a little with a good night on Monday.

Stuart Skinner, G, Edmonton Oilers (60.3% available): Coming in just behind the Kraken with the fifth-best schedule ahead for goaltenders, Skinner has also fully reclaimed the crease after a brief push back from Jack Campbell in January and early February. He has a 67% crease share for the past month and is posting positive fantasy numbers, which can't be said for Campbell. The Oilers have three dates with the Sharks, two with the Coyotes and two with the Ducks across their final 15 games.

The rough schedules

While I don't know that the incremental differences in goals per 60 is enough to keep a good goaltender down at the bottom end of the spectrum here, it's a positive takeaway that the teams with the worst schedules don't have goaltenders anyone is using for fantasy anyway. With both Cam Talbot and Anton Forsberg hurt, no one was looking to Mads Sogaard to take them to fantasy glory with the Ottawa Senators, and the tandem of Jake Allen and Sam Montembeault aren't generating enough value to get our attention.

But what about Igor Shesterkin, whose New York Rangers have the fourth-worst schedule, or Juuse Saros, whose Nashville Predators have the sixth-worst? Yes, there are some tough dates ahead for Shesterkin, but with a beefed up offense the Rangers should be able to squeeze in a couple extra goals to help him with wins. Saros might be a bigger concern, as the Predators only have two of their 18 remaining games scheduled at teams in the bottom 10 for goals per 60. It could be a rough finish, especially with Mattias Ekholm now in Edmonton.

The final two weeks

The final two weeks of the season are the head-to-head playoff championship and the big push for rotisserie and points leagues to max out their available games played.

If you are behind in some of the goaltender categories, this can be a chance to add some extra stats into the mix. Again, Grubauer and Skinner would be near the top of the list based on the schedule, with Demko and Markstrom not too far behind. The Boston Bruins have a good schedule and may have sewn up the President's Trophy at this stage, so Jeremy Swayman (30.1% available) might get a bunch of extra starts to give Linus Ullmark a break before the postseason. Don't overlook Filip Gustavsson (40.4% available), as he's been the best fantasy goaltender on a per-60 basis in the past month.