NHL Breakdown – 1/17/17

The NHL has a 9-game slate tonight with the Stars, Sabres, and Lightning playing on back-to-back nights. There are several heavy favorites and a lot of games with high Vegas totals 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.

Dallas Stars at New York Rangers

This game has the highest projected Vegas total on the night with a rare 6.0 total. Most of these games have disappointed so far this season, but it’s hard to imagine this one not being high scoring with all the offensive weapons on each side. The Stars have struggled mightily lately and are coming off a very poor performance yesterday in Buffalo. Including that game, they have lost 6 of their last 8 games and have an awful 6-12-4 record on the road this season. The Stars’ biggest issue has been their league-worst penalty kill, which has given up 12 goals in their last 8 games. Their goaltending statistics explain a lot of this, as they have the 2nd-best save percentage at even strength, but have by far the lowest save percentage on the PK. This is a great spot to target the Rangers’ PP, which has scored 9 PPGs over their last 8 games and now gets talented center Mika Zibanejad back after a long-term injury absence. The top line of Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, and Mats Zuccarello are the best options in cash games as they have been the best puck possession line on the Rangers and all stay together on the top PP unit. Kreider would be my preferred option in cash, as he has the 2nd-most goals on the team and the 2nd-best shots/60 on the team. The 2nd line of Zibanejad, Rick Nash, and Pavel Buchnevich make for an intriguing option in tournaments because of their excellent points/60 numbers, but I would be hesitant to use either of them in cash games as they have all recently returned from injuries and may be rusty. The trio stays together on the 2nd PP unit, so I like them as a full line stack in GPPs that will have lower ownership than the top line. Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh is my top option on the blue line tonight in both formats, as he mans the point on the top PP unit and comes at a very affordable price. If you are looking to save money on the blue line, Adam Clendening makes for a solid punt option, as he quarterbacks the 2nd PP unit. Clendening has 3 points and 9 shots on goal in his last 3 games and is near min-price on both sites.

Buffalo Sabres at Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs have been one of the hottest teams in hockey as they have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. They are the 2nd-biggest favorites on the board tonight against the Sabres who are playing on a back-to-back. The Sabres had a nice win against the visiting Stars yesterday, but they have struggled in Toronto over the last several seasons, going 3-13 in their last 16 meetings. The Sabres are neck and neck with the Stars for the worst PK in the league. They are giving up close to 100 unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes on the PK over their last 25 games (per Corsica.Hockey). To put things into perspective, the Vancouver Canucks are the only other team in the league that is giving up over 80 unblocked shot attempts per 60. On the other side of the ice is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who generate the most unblocked shot attempts per 60 in the league on the PP. The Leafs PP is on fire lately as they have scored 9 PPGs in their last 5 games, and 14 in their last 10 games. The top unit of Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri, and Nikita Zaitsev have been doing most of the damage during this run and are seeing the most time on the man advantage. Bozak, JVR, and Marner all skate together at even strength and see the most offensive zone starts on the team which makes them the best stacking option in this game. Kadri will probably get the difficult even strength matchup against the Ryan O’Reilly line, but he still makes for a solid one-off option due to his exposure to that top PP unit. The Bozak line will be one of the chalkier options on the night due to their recent success, but the Auston Matthews line makes for a nice pivot in GPPs. Matthews has been relatively quiet over his last few games, which should give him lower ownership than usual, but he still sees time on the 2nd PP unit with even strength linemate Connor Brown. There is also a good chance that he gets matched up with the Jack Eichel line at even strength, which is awful defensively.

Chicago Blackhawks at Colorado Avalanche

The Blackhawks have not been very impressive on the road this season, but they are taking on the worst team in the league in the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are last in goals for and goals against, and have the worst home record in the league this season at 5-15-1. They also take the most penalties in the league and have the 24th-ranked PK, which is a recipe for disaster against the offensive talent of the Hawks. Patrick Kane has heated up lately, with 10 points in his last 6 games, including 2 goals on 12 shots in his last game against the Wild. Kane and linemates Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov see the most time on the top PP unit and should have a favorable even strength matchup. The Avs have been using Nathan MacKinnon and rookie Mikko Rantanen as the shutdown line for most of the season, along with defenseman Tyson Barrie. Rantanen and Barrie have horrible possession numbers and give up the most even strength scoring chances against per game. The Kane line is one of the top stacks on the night if you can afford them.

Corey Crawford is a solid goaltending option tonight in GPPs. As I mentioned above, the Avs are the lowest scoring team in the league and Crawford has already stopped 70 of 72 shots in two games against the Avs this season. Crawford’s weakness has been his 4v5 SV%, but the Avs have the 2nd-worst shooting percentage on the PP. He makes for a nice GPP pivot over goalies like Devan Dubnyk and John Gibson tonight.