Fantasy NHL

Time for the grand finale

By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - You don't have to be faster than the bear. You just have to be faster than the slowest guy running from the bear.

Sorry, Columbus Blue Jackets. You're the slowest guy running from the bear right now.

With any combination of two Columbus wins or New Jersey losses, the Blue Jackets will lock up the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Good news, right?

Sure, if getting slaughtered by the Bruins in a best of seven series is your idea of a good time. Otherwise, I think nightmare is the word you're looking for.

Boston is impossibly hot right now. The defending Eastern Conference champs are 16-1-2 in their last 19 games. Over that span, they've outscored their opponents 67-32.

Oh, and one more thing. The Blue Jackets are win-less in three matchups with Boston this season (0-2-1).

Thanks for playing, Columbus.

But hey it's not like there's 28 other teams in existence, right? The 2013-14 fantasy hockey season, in case you missed it, has been chock full of story lines. Let's highlight a few of them.

1. Healthy Crosby is the best Crosby

Can we stop calling him Sid the Kid already? He's been in the NHL for a decade.

Regardless, it's been a terrific season for No. 87. Crosby is leading the NHL in points with 102, his highest total since 2010. Unless something totally weird happens in the next four or five days (several apocalypse scenarios come to mind), he should be the league's MVP.

The reason for Crosby's success? He's actually playing. Leading up to this season, Crosby had played in just 99 of a possible 212 games since the start of 2010-11. Crosby hadn't missed a game until Sunday and that was only for rest purposes. When healthy, he's the best player on the planet and Crosby proved that again in 2014.

2. Henrik is human

Henrik Lundqvist earned every penny of his seven-year contract extension. Just not this season.

Lundqvist's play, though still better than most, wasn't up to his usual league-best standards in 2013-14. In fact, his 2.41 GAA through 61 games is his highest since 2009 (2.43). His save percentage has also been lacking (.919, 14th-best in the NHL).

Lundqvist still has plenty to offer his fantasy owners. It's just annoying when you draft someone in the top-ten and he doesn't return first-round value.

3. Nothing lasts forever

2013-14 was a season of new beginnings. Ryan Miller, Buffalo's all-time wins leader (his 284 victories are 50 more than Domenik Hasek), traded his Sabres blue and gold for St. Louis blue and ... well I guess they wear the same colors.

Miller's exodus came only a few months after the team parted ways with Thomas Vanek (254 goals in eight and a half seasons in Buffalo), who was traded so many times this year I lost track (he's in Montreal if you really want to know).

Martin St. Louis watched his 13-year tenure with Tampa Bay come to an end, mostly because he was ticked off GM Steve Yzerman didn't pick him for Team Canada. The player he was traded for, Ryan Callahan, had also been with his team a long time (450 games for New York).

In the end, I guess we really are just rooting for laundry, aren't we?

4. Sochi was no friend to fantasy owners

There's a reason the Winter Olympics aren't a big hit among NHL front offices. And it's easy to see why when superstars like John Tavares suffer season- ending injuries while wearing their country's colors.

Tavares (torn MCL), Paul Martin (broken hand), Mats Zuccarello (broken hand), Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery) and Aleksander Barkov (knee) were just a few of the many fantasy assets lost at this year's Olympics.

Representing your country comes at a price, apparently.

5. Pavelski is not your average Joe

Hockey and Silicon Valley don't usually go hand in hand but Joe Pavelski is changing that one goal at a time. So far, the San Jose center has 39 goals in 79 games this season. That's eight above his previous career-high and 23 more than he had during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. He's been especially deadly on the power play with 30 of his 79 points this season coming on the man advantage.

Somebody get this man a new contract! Oh wait, they already did that (five years, $30 million last June).

6. Change can be good

The Bruins must feel pretty dumb right about now. All Tyler Seguin has done is score since getting traded to Dallas last offseason (36 goals, 46 assists).

But, as Boston fans have discovered in recent years, the universe tends to unfold as it should. Seguin's departure allowed the Bruins to sign Jarome Iginla, whose renaissance at age 36 has surprised everyone except for him (30 goals, 31 assists in 76 games). Longtime Canucks goalie Cory Schneider has also benefited from a change of scenery this season (2.00 GAA in 44 games for New Jersey).

7. The kids are still learning

We were expecting big things from 23-year-old Nazem Kadri in 2014. Instead, we had to settle for medium things (20 goals, 30 assists in 75 contests for Toronto). Twenty-two-year-old Winnipeg prodigy Evander Kane has been almost as disappointing (39 points in 61 appearances).

But don't worry. Kane and Kadri combined are only three years older than Jaromir Jagr and he's still playing. Time is on their side.

8. Nice of you to show up, Canucks

I guess we should cut the Sedin brothers some slack because they've been so good to us in the past but come on. Where were you guys this season? Twenty- four goals is unacceptable. If it's any consolation, the team just fired general manager Mike Gillis. Something tells me John Tortorella could be next.

9. Max is the answer

Maybe it's because I'm a Connecticut guy but I love Max Pacioretty (Taft School class of '07). His 39 goals this season are the most by a Canadiens player since Vincent Damphousse in 1994. And there are still three games left.

Go Huskies! I know, I know, he went to Michigan. Roll with me people.

10. And the winner is ...

Bruins over L.A. in six. I wanted to say five but I threw the Kings a bone.

Long live Tuukka Rask.

04/08 18:44:29 ET