NHL Breakdown – 1/14/17
The NHL has a big 10-game slate tonight with 9 teams playing on back-to-back nights. There are several heavy favorites and a lot of games with a high 5.5 Vegas total so there should be lots of scoring tonight. I will break down my favorite spots to look for offense tonight and try to help narrow down your options.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators
The two rivals previously met on opening night of the season in which Auston Matthews made his infamous 4-goal NHL debut. The Leafs blew a big lead in that game and the Sens eventually won in OT. The Sens looked awful defensively in that game, but they got a new coach in the offseason and the team had not adapted to his improved defensive systems at that point. The Sens still give up a high amount of even strength shot attempts against, but the scoring chances allowed and PK have both improved considerably. The Leafs are still the same high-event hockey team that generates a lot of offense and plays very little defense. The Leafs have a solid PK but they give up a ton of even strength shot attempts and scoring chances. Most of their defensive issues have been masked lately by the stellar play of goaltender Freddy Andersen, but newly acquired Curtis McElhinney is in line to get the start tonight. McElhinney is one of the worst goalies in the league and ranks dead last in the league most save percentage metrics over the past few seasons. He seems to have aggravated an injury before last night’s game in New York, so it’s worth monitoring who gets the start for the Leafs tonight. If McElhinney does get the start, then I love the Sens in this game for obvious reasons. The Sens are a frustrating team for stacking purposes in DFS because of how they split up their top three offensive forwards at even strength. Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, and Mark Stone have the most upside of the Sens forwards but they only play together on the top PP, so I don’t mind either of the three as one-off options or part of a mini stack with stud defenseman Erik Karlsson. Karlsson is a horse on the blue line and logs a ton of minutes in every situation. He has a great matchup against a poor defensive team and is my top defenseman option on the whole slate. If you are looking to stack one of the forward lines for the Sens in GPPs, then I would suggest the second line of Stone, Derick Brassard, and Zack Smith, who have been their most consistent offensive option lately. They are likely to match up with the Bozak line at even strength, which has been the weakest defensive line for the Leafs.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Detroit Red Wings
The Pens have struggled in the two games since their bye week, but I think some of that can be attributed to the flu bug that has been going around the team. The effort and intensity just did not look to be there against the Capitals and Senators. I expect a much better showing from them tonight against a weaker Detroit team. The Wings are dealing with injuries to key defensemen and that has showed in the results as they have given up 15 goals against in their last three games. They are playing their first game back at home after a long road trip, which is very often a spot where you see teams come out flat. Sidney Crosby leads the league in points per game and goals per game which makes him a strong cash game option every single night. In GPPs, I like to stack the Evgeni Malkin line with wingers Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin, as the Wings will likely use the Henrik Zetterberg line (which is their best puck possession line) against the Crosby line at even strength. Defenseman Justin Schultz has stayed on the top PP unit despite Kris Letang returning from injury a few games ago. Schultz is not as skilled as Letang, but he is cheaper and the exposure to Crosby and Malkin at the same time makes him the preferred play until the situation changes.
The Pens have been awful defensively lately, as they are dead last in the league in even strength scoring chances allowed since the Christmas break. Their PK has also struggled lately, as they have given up 5 PPGs in their last 3 games, bumping the unit down to 24th in the league. The Wings have the worst PP in the league, but it is noticeably better on home ice and the return of defenseman Mike Green will boost its performance. As I mentioned above, the top line of Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, and Anthony Mantha is the best possession line the Wings have, and they generate the most shot attempts on the team. I prefer using the line as a full stack, but a PP stack with Zetterberg, Nyquist, and Green is also a solid option.
Anaheim Ducks at Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes are last in the league by a wide margin with 10.37 even strength scoring chances allowed per game this season (per Corsica.Hockey). Over the past month of play, the Ducks lead the league with 12.08 even strength scoring chances for per game. The Coyotes also have the 27th-ranked PK unit in the league and are playing on a back-to-back, which usually results in more penalties taken. The Ducks PP has slipped to 8th in the league recently, but it was 2nd in the league for most of the season before captain Ryan Getzlaf went down with an injury. Getzlaf returned to the lineup last game so you can expect the PP to pick up where they left off. Goaltender Mike Smith has been able to keep the Coyotes in a lot of games this season by standing on his head, but they are turning to backup Louis Domingue tonight who has not been able to do the same. Needless to say, you should get some Ducks in your lineups tonight! Each of the top two lines are in play tonight with Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Rickard Rakell on the top line, and Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg, and Andrew Cogliano on the second line. I think the Getzlaf line will have the higher ownership so I think the Kesler line is the better play in GPPs. That line has been the most consistent option on the Ducks this season and they will likely avoid defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson at even strength.
Goaltender John Gibson has been playing some solid hockey lately and I will continue to use him until he cools off. He is a great option in both formats tonight and is reasonably priced on all sites.