SUNRISE Justin Evans Jersey , Fla. — The Boston Bruins clinched a playoff berth, and just how motivated they will be to beat the host Florida Panthers on Thursday night at the BB&T Center remains to be seen.
The Florida Panthers, on the other hand, are fighting for their hockey lives. They must win their three remaining games — home-and-home with the Bruins sandwiching a contest against the Buffalo Sabres — and hope that either the Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils or Philadelphia Flyers stumble the rest of this week.
“We have to win out,” Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau said. “We have to win every game.”
Meanwhile, the Bruins (49-18-12) are locked in a fight with the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division. Both teams have 110 points, but Boston has one game in hand.
On Tuesday night, the Bruins were embarrassed in a 4-0 loss at the Lightning. It was Boston’s second straight defeat — and that is not the way a team wants to head into the playoffs.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has had a great season with a 2.32 goals-against average and a 34-12-5 record. But his performance on Tuesday against Tampa Bay was not his best.
“Two goals from distance — he’s been better (in other games), and I think he would be the first one to say that,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “The second goal might have been through traffic. But the first one simply can’t go in.
“We didn’t score … so it might not have mattered.”
So there you have it: A desperate Panthers team that needs to win and hope for help to make it as an Eastern Conference wild-card playoff team competing against a Bruins squad that is already in but wants to be sharper as it prepares for the postseason.
The Panthers are coming off their most dramatic game of the year, a 2-1 home win over Nashville Predators, a team with the best record in the NHL.
With the Panthers clinging to that 2-1 lead, Nashville pulled its goalie for an extra attacker during the final three minutes. Panthers center Aleksander Barkov had a chance at an empty-net goal to ice the game, but his shot hit the post.
Given a reprieve, Nashville turned up the pressure. Incredibly, the Predators scored with 0.3 seconds left as Filip Forsberg tapped in a loose puck. But after a dramatic video review, it was ruled that Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo had stopped the puck before Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson spun him around with his stick.
Goalie interference was the call Nick Nelson Jersey , and Luongo — naturally — agreed.
“At first, I wasn’t sure what happened,” Luongo said. “But once I saw the replay, the puck was between my legs. (Arvidsson) pitch-forked me. As he spun me around, the puck came loose.
“(The puck) was definitely under me. It was between my legs and covered. Once he spun me around, the puck came out. It’s pretty clear.”
Luongo, who turned 39 on Wednesday, gave a shout out to the replay crew after beating Nashville in career game No. 999
“I was happy they made the right call,” he said. “It would’ve been upsetting if it would’ve been ruled a goal. (During the review), I was trying not to snap if they allowed the goal. That’s what I kept telling myself.”
Boston still has a shot to overtake Nashville in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, trailing by three points with a game in hand.
For Thursday’s game, one player to watch is Florida’s Colton Sceviour, normally a bottom-six forward. In the Panthers’ past two games, however, he made a third-period, game-winning play in each. He got a hit and an assist that led to the winning goal against the Carolina Hurricanes and scored the winning goal against Nashville.
Florida is relatively healthy. Boston, meanwhile, will be without defenseman Brandon Carlo (ankle) and winger Anders Bjork (shoulder). In addition Dwayne Allen Jersey , two key players, winger Rick Nash (upper body) and center Riley Nash (ear), are questionable.
No debate that the most important position in the NFL is quarterback. But in fantasy, there may be as much depth at the position as there ever has been.
Sure, we'd all like Green Bay superstar Aaron Rodgers to start for our teams, but that privilege may not be worth a third- or fourth-round pick in most leagues.
Unless you're in a league in which you can start more than one QB (superflex/2 QB leagues) or one that awards 6 points for a touchdown pass, do not take a QB until the eighth round at the earliest.
This isn't to say that you should completely pass on players like Rodgers or New England's Tom Brady. If Rodgers falls to the fifth round or later, the value would be too good. But generally, load up on as many running backs and wide receivers as possible.
The depth at QB means you can get a player like Philip Rivers (Chargers), Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) or Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) later in your draft. They each have warts but it's better to have depth at RB or WR in the middle rounds rather than take a QB that may not outscore someone you can draft several rounds later by anything more than a few points per week.
History tells us that there will be several top QBs that will outscore others at that position by a significant amount, but the passers ranked No. 4 to No. 13 will be separated by about 4 fantasy points per week. That just isn't enough of a difference to justify passing on a third running back or receiver.
A question that every fantasy owner should ask when thinking about drafting a top-level QB is whether the team will look better with that QB and a running back like Marlon Mack, or with a receiver like Golden Tate and Luck. Take the second option every time.
When it comes to quarterbacks and other positions, fantasy analysts place players in tiers. Rodgers is in a tier all by himself. He is the best fantasy QB today and it may not be all that close. Don't be worried about the broken collarbone from last season. Rodgers has the arm strength to throw every pass required and although he won't run as much as Carolina's Cam Newton or Seattle's Russell Wilson, he still has the ability to escape the pocket to gain yardage on the ground or more importantly, buy time for one of his receivers to get open.
The next tier has a few more options: Philadelphia's Carson Wentz, Houston's Deshaun Watson, Newton, Wilson and Brady. Any one of them can start for your fantasy team but they aren't perfect by any means.
Newton had accuracy problems throughout his career and they aren't likely to improve much this season. Still Doug Martin Jersey , his ability to scramble for yardage and TDs make him valuable. Wentz may or may not be ready for Week 1. If you draft Wentz, you may feel the need to select Nick Foles later as insurance. While no one can truly blame you for doing so, it's a waste of a valuable bench slot. Watson is also coming off a torn ACL and one has to wonder if he will be able to move around as well as he did last season, and let's also not forget that he only has a handful of starts under his belt. You may love Wilson for what he did last year, but now that Doug Baldwin (knee) could miss the entire preseason and Jimmy Graham left via free agency, there just isn't much left for him to throw to. Brady may be the greatest real-life QB of all time, but the team lost Nate Solder and Brandin Cooks and Julian Edelman is suspended for four games. Throw in that rookie running back Sony Michel will undergo knee surgery and maybe this won't be his year.
After those top QBs are gone, wait another round or two and just take whoever's left. Drew Brees (New Orleans), Kirk Cousins (Minnesota), Matthew Stafford (Detroit), Roethlisberger, Rivers, and Luck round out the next tier. Brees is not the QB he once was. The Saints have one of the best ground attacks in the game and a legitimate defense. They don't need Brees to put the ball in the air 40-plus times a game anymore. Cousins has solid weapons around him and a strong defense. Now that he finally has the big contract he may finally relax and put up big numbers. Stafford is about as consistent as they come and is a safe play. Yeah, starting Roethlisberger on the road can be an issue as his splits are awful but perhaps a change in coordinators eliminates that problem. Rivers is sort of a forgotten man but like Stafford, also very consistent and won't cost you much. Luck's price is only going to get higher as fantasy owners start to believe in his health.
The position is so deep that even if you don't end up with one of the top 12, you still have the likes of Matt Ryan (Atlanta), Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco), Alex Smith (Washington) and Marcus Mariota (Tennessee) available.
That gives you the wiggle room to wait while filling other positions early.
ROTOEXPERTS TOP 15 QBS
Aaron Rodgers Marcus Williams Jersey , Green Bay Packers
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Alex Smith, Washington Redskins
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Patrick Mahomes II, Kansas City Chiefs
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Adidas Dustin Brown Jersey