NHL Breakdown – 11/21/16
With Thanksgiving this week, we have an unusual 7 game slate for a Monday night. The Rangers, Flames and Blue Jackets are the teams playing on back to back nights. The Flames and Blue Jackets lineups should remain pretty much the same but the Rangers lineup will be in question after sustaining a major injury last night which we will get to later. I will go through each of the 7 games, breaking down my top plays for each.
Calgary Flames at Buffalo Sabres
The Flames are playing their 2nd game of a back to back on the road and their 3rd game in 4 nights. They recently lost star forward Johnny Gaudreau to a multi week injury and the Sabres will be without number one center Ryan O’Reilly for the 5th straight game. Both teams have been low scoring recently and those key injuries have a lot to do with it. The Sabres are the lowest scoring team in the league and the Flames are the 6th lowest. This one is shaping up to be a good spot to look for goaltending with Brian Elliott getting the start for the Flames and Robin Lehner getting the start for the Sabres. I prefer using either goalie in GPPs since it should be a close game and neither goalie is a lock for the win. I think the Flames are the better team in this matchup, but Lehner has been the better of the two goalies so far this season so I will likely have more of him.
On the Flames side, the offense has been by committee since Gaudreau went out, but their 2nd line of Michael Backlund, Michael Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk has been generating most of the shots per 60 minutes and has been the better unit on the road. The Sabres PK has been awful since O’Reilly has been out, giving up 4 goals on 6 kills in the last 3 games. They also give up the most unblocked shot attempts in the league on the PK. You could stack the 2nd line in GPPs but my favorite one-off play is Frolik, who also joins the Flames top PP unit.
There is not a lot to like on the Sabres’ offense, but with all of the recent injuries, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has been logging close to 30 minutes a night and has a great matchup tonight against the Flames’ 29th ranked PK unit. Ristolainen also takes way more shots at home than on the road so he should be able to take advantage of a tired Flames team. I don’t like stacking any of the forward lines since they are all split up on the power-play, but my favorite one-off play is Kyle Okposo in GPPs. He leads the team in shots/60 minutes and has 17 shots on goal in the last 3 games. He is on the top even strength line and top PP unit.
New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
The Rangers lost to the Panthers in a shootout yesterday but suffered a bigger loss when center Mika Zibanejad suffered a broken leg early in the extra frame. This should be a huge blow to their league leading offense as he has been one of their biggest contributors so far this season. With no game day skate it’s hard to tell how the lines will look for the Rangers tonight. As a result, I’m not sure I like the idea of stacking any of their lines in GPPs until we get more info. The top line of Nash-Kreider-Stepan would normally be their best option for offense but will likely face the Sidney Crosby line at even strength, which we would like to avoid in most cases. Wingers JT Miller and Michael Grabner have been among the top performers on the Rangers offense in terms of points/60 and shots/60 so I think they make for great low priced options in GPPs once we find out where they will be skating. They are likely to avoid the tougher even strength matchups.
The Penguins have also had their own injury issues lately as they have been without Patric Hornqvist for the past couple games and just placed Chris Kunitz on the IR this morning. That means a rookie call up Jake Guentzal will play on the wing with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Unfortunately he is not in the player pool on any of the big sites. Winger Connor Sheary was mixing in on the Penguins top PP unit this morning and he joins Crosby on the top line so I think he is a great cheap way to get exposure to this offense tonight. Since the lines could move around with all the injuries, I prefer using only Penguins who skate on that top PP unit. I like the idea of PP mini stacks of Crosby-Sheary-Letang or Malkin-Kessel-Letang.
Colorado Avalanche at Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets have been a puzzling team so far this season. They take the least amount of shots on goal per game and somehow have scored the 2nd most goals per game in the league. They continue to get dominated in even strength shot attempts with the 4th worst CF% in the league yet they have won 4 straight games and are 8-1-1 in their last 10. They are playing on back to back nights for the 5th time this season and have gone 2-1-1 in their previous 4. Coming off a big win in a hard fought game against divisional rival Washington yesterday, I think this is a prime spot for a letdown against a visiting Western Conference opponent.
The Avalanche have been without Matt Duchene the past few games due to a concussion but he will be a game time decision tonight. In his absence, young star Nathan MacKinnon has been playing lights out as he has taken 21 shots on goal in his last 3 games, resulting in 2 goals and 2 assists in difficult road matchups. He has experienced some bad luck earlier in the season and it’s finally starting to turn around for him now. He is my favorite individual play from this game and can be stacked with winger Miko Rantanen and defenseman Erik Johnson who all play together at even strength and on the top PP unit.
On the Jackets’ side, I like Cam Atkinson and Zach Werenski as my top plays. Atkinson will get the better even strength matchup against the Soderberg line and also gets to join the top unit on the league’s number one power-play. Werenski mans the point on the top unit which should see plenty of opportunities against the Avs who take lots of penalties and have been bad at killing them since Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog have been out of the lineup.
Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars
The Stars have been giving up some big performances to top lines in their last few games so that makes the Wild top line a strong target tonight despite the teams’ issues with scoring over the last little while. The Stars also lost defenseman Johnny Oduya to injury and Jon Klingberg will be a healthy scratch after missing a team meeting so the matchup looks even better for them. Zach Parise was a late scratch last game for the Wild with strep throat but will be back tonight on a new line with Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund. I like the trio as a full line stack at a reasonable price going against the awful goaltending of the Stars. The Stars also have the league’s 25th ranked PK unit so I like using both defensemen Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon. Spurgeon is much cheaper than Suter so I will have more of him in this matchup.
The Stars have also changed their lines around with Cody Eakin now centering Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Eakin is very cheap and is a great way to get exposure to the duo if you are tight on salary. I like using the Stars in GPPs as most will be off them in a tough matchup after disappointing last game. They get to face backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper tonight, so the matchup is not as bad as it may seem on the surface. The Wild still give up a decent amount of shot attempts per game. With Klingberg out tonight, rookie defenseman Julius Honka will step into the lineup and the team will give him the keys to the top PP unit. He is not in the player pool on FD, but is min-priced on DK and makes for a solid punt option tonight.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators have been a much better team at home this season with a 5-1-1 record at Bridgestone Arena. They will get to face goaltender Ben Bishop tonight who has not been great this season with a .909 SV%. Aside from the game in Toronto, the Preds have played much better lately and continue to generate a high number of shot attempts per game. I like the top line of Ryan Johansen, James Neal and Victor Arvidsson in this matchup, with all 3 being fairly cheap on DK. Defensemen Roman Josi and PK Subban are strong plays as well manning the point on each PP unit.
The Lightning will be playing their 2nd game without injured star Steven Stamkos and I think will go overlooked in GPPs tonight on the road with all the other offensive options available. The Lightning have the league’s 2nd best power-play and the Preds have been allowing a lot of unblocked shot attempts on the PK. Nikita Kucherov is always a strong play and people will likely be off him with Stamkos out, so I will make sure to have some exposure to him in GPPs. Jonathan Drouin is also a decent one-off play in GPPs as he gets to join the top PP unit with Kucherov.
Chicago Blackhawks at Edmonton Oilers
This game will likely be a popular target in DFS after Connor McDavid broke out of his slump last game with a hat trick. I think he is a strong play again against the league’s worst PK, but I will try to lower my exposure to him in tournaments because of the expected high ownership. Oscar Klefbom is a nice GPP play as he gets to man the point on the top PP unit against said PK.
Patrick Kane will be up there as well in terms of ownership but will most likely be going head to head with McDavid at even strength so I think it makes sense to pivot to the 2nd line of Panarin-Anisimov-Hossa in tournaments. Both Kane and McDavid are strong cash plays however, due to their immense talent and consistent output.
I think that goaltender Corey Crawford makes for a decent tournament play as a road underdog in a game that I think the Hawks should win. He has proven capable of putting up huge scores so I think he is worth a shot tonight.
New Jersey Devils at San Jose Sharks
I have the least amount of interest in this game from a DFS perspective. My top play is Sharks goaltender Martin Jones in cash games, as he is the biggest favorite on the board on a tough slate for goalies. The Sharks don’t give up very many shots on goal so his ceiling is not the highest, but I do really like him for his safety. The Sharks have also been a much better team on home ice this season and the Devils are at the end of a long road trip.
Defenseman Brent Burns has been very quiet lately but should some opportunities against a road-weary Devils squad starting their backup goaltender tonight. His ownership will likely still be high despite his recent struggles. Winger Joe Pavelski had been struggling as well but broke out last game against the Coyotes with a goal on 7 shots on net. He is my favorite forwar