NHL Breakdown – 1/12/17

The NHL has a larger 9-game slate tonight for the first time in a couple weeks. The Penguins and Canadiens are playing on back-to-backs while the Flyers and Oilers are the heaviest favorites tonight. I will break down my favorite spots to look for offense tonight and try to help narrow down your options.

Vancouver Canucks at Philadelphia Flyers

The Canucks have struggled on the road this season going 5-13-2 away from home, but they have played much better hockey lately than the Flyers, who have lost 9 of their last 11 games overall. The Flyers have played poorly at both ends of the ice and have been mixing up their lines constantly over the past few games to try to get something to click. First line center Claude Giroux has one goal in his last 14 games and has struggled on the defensive side logging a -11 in his last 12 games (yikes!). The coach has moved rookie Travis Konecny up to his right wing, which should help Giroux out offensively, but will also make the line even worse defensively. The Canucks give up over 30 shots against per game and give up the third most even strength scoring chances of any team on this slate. I don’t mind firing up the duo as a mini stack in GPPs in the hopes that Giroux finally breaks out of his slump. The Canucks also have the 20th-ranked penalty kill and Giroux sees a lot of power-play time. Plus, he has the birthday narrative going for him tonight, for those of you who subscribe to those theories. I also like the third (or second?) line combo of Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, who have been the best players lately for the Flyers and remain together on the top PP unit. Schenn scored again last game, giving him 7 points in his last 7 games, while Simmonds leads the team in PP goals.

Given what I mentioned about the Flyers’ recent struggles, I think the Canucks make for an intriguing play in GPPs. Goaltender Steve Mason hasn’t won a game for the Flyers since before Christmas, and has a 3.00 GAA in that span. Two out of the top three forward lines for the Flyers are poor defensively, with the Sean Couturier line being the only one you want to avoid at even strength. The Canucks have two lines that I am interested in tonight and I will probably play some of both since I’m not sure which one will get the better matchup. The first option is the top line with the Sedins and Loui Eriksson, who has recently rejoined the line. Daniel Sedin has been the Canucks’ leading goal scorer for several years, but like Giroux, has been in a big slump lately with no goals in his last 11 games. Putting Eriksson back on his line should help things as the Sedins have played their best hockey this season with Eriksson on their wing. I have a feeling that the Flyers will use the Couturier line against them, so I will most likely have heavier exposure to the third line duo of Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi. Horvat and Baertschi have had breakout seasons and have been the Canucks’ best offensive players. They have been very consistent lately, with 13 points in their last 14 games each. They are still cheap on all sites which will allow you to pay up for the high-priced studs tonight.

Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning

The Sabres have played very well over the past few games with a 3-0-1 record since Ryan O’Reilly returned from injury. The Lightning on the other hand, have struggled recently, losing 4 straight and 6 of their last 8. They have given up 22 goals in the last 4 games, and 33 over their last 8, which has coincided with the loss of starting goaltender Ben Bishop. Andrei Vasilevskiy had played tremendously as a backup this season, but he really struggled as the starter once Bishop went down. Luckily for the Lightning, Bishop returns to the lineup tonight and is expected to get the start in net. The Lightning forward lines have been mixed up in the midst of their recent struggles and might change yet again tonight, as power forward Brian Boyle is a game time decision. The Sabres have played better lately, but they are still giving up 33 shots on goal per game and have the league’s worst PK, so I have a lot of interest in the Lightning offense tonight. Given that it’s hard to feel confident in the line combos, I would probably do minimal stacking and just go with individual plays on the Lightning offense. Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman are the top plays here and are worth paying up for in this matchup. Hedman logs a ton of minutes in every situation and Kucherov is the driving force of their offense. Both skate together on the top PP unit and I don’t mind just stacking them together and calling it a day. Jonathan Drouin is my favorite secondary option as he is cheaper than Hedman and Kucherov, but just as consistent, with 19 points in his last 17 games. I prefer those three, as they are all capable of generating offense on their own. As far as the rest of the team goes, I would like to wait and see how the line combos shake out before adding any other secondary plays to my lineups.

The Sabres have a much more balanced attack with O’Reilly back in the lineup and it has shown up in the results as they have scored 15 goals in their last 4 games. This matchup gets tougher for them if Boyle and defenseman Braden Coburn return to the lineup tonight, but the Lightning still have the league’s 22nd-ranked PK unit, so the Sabres PP remains in play tonight for me in GPPs regardless of the news. I will have some exposure to the entire top PP unit of O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen. O’Reilly and Reinhart have been the hottest of the bunch lately, so they are my preferred options here. O’Reilly has 2 points in each of his 3 games since returning from injury and is still a solid value on DK. Reinhart has 12 points in his last 10 games and gets to have exposure to all those players since he moves between a line with Eichel and a line with Evander Kane at even strength, plus gets to be on the top PP unit. Reinhart makes for a great one-off play and is still underpriced on all sites.

Detroit Red Wings at Dallas Stars

Both teams have struggled defensively this season so I think it’s a great game to target on both sides. The Wings are playing their 7th and final game of a long road trip tonight and we’ve seen fatigue take a toll on them already. The Stars will have captain Jamie Benn back tonight and are a much better team on home ice, so I strongly favor them in this game. We don’t know what the line combinations will be for the Stars, but before Benn got hurt, he was playing on a stacked top line with Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza. These three and defenseman Jon Klingberg would be my top options for the Stars without any further information on the lines.

The Stars have really struggled on the PK, giving up 9 goals against in their last 5 games. The unit is now all the way down to 29th in the league, which puts the Wings’ PP in play tonight. Unfortunately, the Wings have the league’s worst PP, but the return of PP quarterback Mike Green should help immensely. The Wings barely had any PP time in their last game, so we didn’t get to see how the PP units shaped up, but whichever unit Green would be the target for me. According to Dailyfaceoff, they have Green on the second unit with Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, and Andreas Athanasiou. Each of these three forwards skate on different even strength lines which makes stacking difficult, but I don’t mind either as a one-off option and paired with Green.