NHL Breakdown – 12/06/16

The NHL has a 9-game slate tonight with the Sabres, Panthers and Coyotes playing on back-to-backs. There are some large field DFS tournaments tonight with big prize pools so we will need to find ways to differentiate our lineups from the crowd. I will break down the key games that I am looking at for offense tonight and try to find some ways to be unique.

Edmonton Oilers at Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres played a hard fought game last night in Washington that went to OT so I expect them to be a tired team tonight. Teams playing on back-to-backs tend to take more penalties and the Sabres have the 28th ranked penalty kill unit in the league. They give up the most unblocked shot attempts on the PK by a wide margin so I want to have a lot of exposure to the Edmonton power-play. The top line of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic are a strong possession unit and make the best cash game plays in this game. In the past, the Sabres had exclusively used Ryan O’Reilly to shadow opposing teams’ top lines, but recently they have also been using the third line, centered by Johan Larsson, in that role. O’Reilly is a strong shutdown center, but the Larsson line has been weak defensively, so I am not worried about the matchup for McDavid. The Sabres also use defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen in that shutdown role and he is terrible defensively. Unfortunately, I expect the McDavid line to be a fairly popular stack in GPPs so you will have to make sure you fill out the rest of those lineups with more contrarian options. One way of getting exposure to this offense at lower ownership is to use the Oilers second line of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Patrick Maroon. They should match up against the Sabres second line of Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, and Sam Reinhart, who have been one of the worst defensive lines over the past two seasons. With Maroon taking the place of Benoit Pouliot, the line gets a nice boost from a possession standpoint as Maroon has been the best winger on the Oilers this season. The unit also gets to stay together on the 2nd PP unit so they make for a great stack and can also be paired with defenseman Oscar Klefbom, who quarterbacks that unit.

I also like the Sabres side in this one for GPPs as I expect their ownership to be fairly low after playing last night. When initially looking at this game, I was pretty high on the Eichel line as a contrarian option tonight, but news broke today that Eichel had aggravated his high ankle sprain last night as well as sustained a hip injury. He says he is good to go for tonight, but I am a little cautious about being too heavily exposed to him, especially considering his lofty price tag. The other option is to use the O’Reilly and Okposo duo who lit the Oilers up in the first meeting between these teams early this season in Edmonton. With them seeing more of the depth lines at home, I think it increases their offensive outlook. No matter which Sabres line you decide to go with, I think it makes sense to stack them with Ristolainen who has been a workhorse on defense after all the injuries the team has sustained. He mans the top PP unit and is fairly cheap across the board.

Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators

The Avalanche have lost five straight games and just lost their best defenseman Erik Johnson to a long-term injury. They head into Nashville to take on a Predators team who has already beat them twice in Colorado this season by 5-1 and 5-3 scores. The Preds are even better on home ice, with an 8-2-2 record there this season. The Preds are the largest favorites on the board tonight for good reason, as the Avs are bottom five in the league in most defensive categories. The biggest mismatch between the clubs comes in even strength SCF% (scoring-chance-for percentage), where the Preds rank 4th in the league and the Avs are all the way down at 29th. The Avs also take the 4th most penalties in the league and have the 25th ranked PK, so this is a great spot for the Preds PP. James Neal is questionable to return tonight for the Preds so it makes it difficult to stack them because we don’t know how the lines will look if he misses the game. If he is in the lineup, he is one of their best offensive options as he leads the team with 10 goals in 20 games and is featured on the top PP unit. The safer plays on the Preds are Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi and PK Subban as all regularly see high usage and PP time. All four can be used in cash, but will likely carry high ownership in GPPs. Victor Arivdsson quietly leads the team in 5-on-5 shots on goal by a wide margin and is a decent GPP one-off in a great matchup, but I also really like Kevin Fiala, who plays on the second line with Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro. Fiala has seen his ice time double over the past three games and has responded with 15 shots on goal and 3 goals in those games. He also sees time on the 2nd PP unit and is $4,000 on DK and $3,600 on FD.

Vancouver Canucks at New Jersey Devils

On the surface, a matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and New Jersey Devils does not sound the most appealing from a DFS perspective, but both teams have actually been very poor defensively this season so there should be plenty of opportunities for goals. New Jersey has long had a reputation for being a place where offense goes to die, but the Devils have given up at least 3 goals against in 9 straight games. Corey Schneider has a good matchup here against his old team but he has not performed up to his usual standards lately, having lost 4 of his last 5 games with an under .900 SV% in each of those. Meanwhile, the Canucks will turn to backup Jacob Markstrom in net who boasts a low .902 SV% on the season.

The Devils offense has also been much better this season with the addition of Taylor Hall, and now that he is back from his latest injury, they are able to roll two viable scoring lines. You can’t go wrong stacking either of the top two lines in this matchup, but the top options on the Devils side are Hall, Mike Cammalleri and Travis Zajac. Hall is fairly expensive, but Cammalleri and Zajac are still way under-priced and have been on fire lately. All three are decent options in cash games and tournaments.

If you are rolling out multiple lineups tonight, I think the Canucks offense actually makes for a sneaky GPP play as they should carry very low ownership and face no difficult defensive matchups here at even strength. The top line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Brandon Sutter are usually the Canucks’ best bet for offense and I like this matchup for them, but if you look at their home/road splits, they have produced almost exclusively on home ice lately and done nothing on the road. Center Bo Horvat is second on the team in scoring and will draw the better matchup against the Devils horrible depth defensemen. His matchup and price tonight are terrific and he will probably be around 1% owned in tournaments so I don’t mind taking a flyer on him in a few lineups as a way of fitting in some of the higher priced options. The other strong values on the Canucks team are defensemen Troy Stecher and Ben Hutton who have seen a bump in ice time since Alex Edler went down with an injury. Both players are cheap and play the point on the Canucks top PP unit.

Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars

This game should be a great place to look for offense as the Stars play with a such a high pace and create offense at the expense of defensive responsibility. The Stars also have the 26th ranked PK unit in the league while the Flames are 27th, so I really like targeting both power-plays in this one. The Stars won the first meeting this season 4-2 in Calgary, and as slight favorites, I think they will be popular here. The top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Eaves are all strong plays here, but will carry high ownership in GPPs. Jason Spezza makes for a decent lower owned option here as he gets to skate on the top PP unit and will likely matchup against the Sean Monahan line at even strength, which is the worst defensive line for the Flames.

I actually prefer the Flames in this game, however, as they should have the advantage at even strength and in net, with the way that Chad Johnson has played lately. With Johnny Gaudreau returning from injury last game, it gives the Flames three balanced lines, which will be difficult for the Stars to match up with defensively.  The top PP unit finally started to click last game, which bodes well for them in this game. Gaudreau is the top play here for the Flames, but the Monahan line with Kris Versteeg and Troy Brouwer make for the best stack as they are the only line that stays together at even strength and on the power-play. Defenseman TJ Brodie has been quiet this season up until last game, but he is a solid cheap option here as he mans the point on that top unit.