NHL Breakdown – 1/19/17
The NHL has an 8-game slate tonight with the Coyotes and Sharks 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.
New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs
This game has a whopping 6.5 Vegas total and is the top target of the night for offense. The game will be highly owned as a whole, but given the offensive depth of each team, the ownership should be spread out through each individual line. The Rangers and Leafs are the top two teams on the slate in scoring chances generated at even strength, and rank 5th and 2nd respectively on the power-play. The Rangers, and particularly goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, have struggled lately at keeping the puck out of the net. Lundqvist has given up 4+ goals in 4 straight games (3 of them losses), and his confidence is shaken. Goal scorers and goaltenders are the streakiest players in hockey, so you want to take advantage of Lundqvist until he can turn it around. The Leafs seem prepared to do just that, as they are riding a 9-1-1 record over their last 11 games, with 3+ goals scored in each of them. Their power-play is one of the key reasons for their success as they have converted on 10 of 19 opportunities with the man advantage over the past 6 games. The Rangers meanwhile, have given up 6 PPGs over their last 6 games, including 2 to the Leafs in last week’s meeting. The top PP unit sees the most ice time and has done the most damage over this stretch. James van Riemsdyk, Mitch Marner, and Tyler Bozak make for the best stacking option on the Leafs as they skate together at even strength and on the top PP unit. They also get the most favorable even strength matchup as they should avoid the Rangers top 6, which consists of their best puck possession players.
The Leafs give up the 3rd most even strength shot attempts and scoring chances of any team on the slate and will also be without top defenseman Morgan Rielly tonight due to injury. Rielly leads the Leafs in ice time and regularly plays against the top lines of opposing teams. Jake Gardiner has excellent puck possession stats and should do a fine job filling in on the top pairing, but the real trouble for the Leafs is that it means more ice time for the awful defensive paring of Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak, who can be easily exposed by the 2nd and 3rd lines of the Rangers. The Rangers’ 2nd line of Mika Zibanejad, Rick Nash, and Pavel Buchnevich are all solid puck possession players and generate the most shots/60 on the team. They should be able to take advantage of the depth lines on the Leafs which are weaker defensively, plus they all stay together on the 2nd PP unit. The 3rd line of the Rangers is an interesting play in large field GPPs as they should see very low ownership compared to the top 2 lines, and yet have proven to have GPP winning upside on several occasions. Jimmy Hayes, JT Miller, and Michael Grabner get a great matchup against the Bozak line, which has been the weakest defensive line for the Leafs and just gave up another 2 goals to the 3rd line of the Sabres last game.
Dallas Stars at New York Islanders
This game is another strong target for offense on both sides. The Stars have been a decent even strength team this season, but they have the worst PK in the league and have played particularly poorly on the road, going 7-12-4 away from home. The Stars have given up 13 goals on the PK over their last 9 games and starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen has the worst save percentage in the league while shorthanded. Although the Islanders PP has not been great this season, this is a fantastic matchup to target them. Islanders captain John Tavares has been on fire lately, with 5 goals in his last 3 games, and is one of the top targets on the night. He can be stacked with linemates Anders Lee and Josh Bailey, who also join him on the top PP unit. Defenseman Nick Leddy is a solid option in tournaments, as he mans the point on the top PP unit and should see a lot of minutes tonight with Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic out of the lineup. Scott Mayfield will take Boychuk’s spot in the lineup and makes for a decent punt option on defense.
The Islanders are playing their first game since firing head coach Jack Capuano, so we don’t know how they will respond tonight. The Islanders give up the most shot attempts per game and 2nd-most scoring chances per game at even strength. They also have the 21st-ranked PK unit in the league. The Stars changed their lines up last game, opting for a more balanced approach which resulted in a 7-goal outburst against the Rangers. This seems like another spot to target them with lower ownership against an Islanders team that is without two key defensemen. The problem with the balanced lines is that scoring will be more spread out making it harder to know which line to stack. In this scenario, I like going with PP mini stacks of Tyler Seguin/Jason Spezza, and Jamie Benn/Patrick Eaves. None of the Islanders’ forward lines are strong at supressing shot attempts at even strength, so line matchups are not a big concern here.
Arizona Coyotes at Minnesota Wild
The Wild are the biggest favorites on the board tonight, with the Vegas moneyline at -350 and climbing. The Coyotes are at or near the bottom of the league in every defensive category and are playing their second road game in as many nights. They are also without top line center Martin Hanzal once again tonight and used Jets’ castoff Alex Burmistrov in that role last night. To his credit, Burmistrov faired well in that spot last night, but he is no match for Wild center Mikko Koivu, who has been terrific this season. The Koivu line, with Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker, has been the most consistent line for the Wild this season and regularly matches up with opposing top lines at home. The Coyotes top line has been very weak defensively this season, giving up the most shot attempts and scoring chances on the team. The full line makes for a great stack in GPPs tonight, but you could also use a PP mini stack of just Koivu and Granlund, who skate on the 2nd PP unit against the Coyotes’ 26th-ranked PK. The top line of Eric Staal, Zach Parise, and Charlie Coyle, also make for a great stack, but they have been inconsistent this season and will carry higher ownership than the Koivu line.