NHL Breakdown 01/24/2017
The NHL has a 10-game slate tonight with the Kings, Flames, Capitals, Sharks, and Jets playing on back-to-back nights. There are quite a few sizable favorites on the slate, with the Penguins, Bruins, and Canadiens being the largest of those. I will break down my favorite spots to look for offense tonight and try to help narrow down your options.
St. Louis Blues at Pittsburgh Penguins
This game has the largest Vegas total of any game on the slate with a 6.0, which should make it the most highly targeted from a DFS perspective. Outside of a brief 2-game stretch last weekend, the Blues have been in a tailspin for over a month now, with no end in sight. They have struggled mightily on the defensive end with breakdown after breakdown in their own zone and have not received good enough goaltending to bail them out. The Pens on the other hand, had gone through their own defensive struggles for a couple weeks surrounding their bye week, but seem to have righted the ship lately. The offense is still firing on all cylinders and the defense and goaltending have been able to keep the puck out of the net for the last few games.
The Blues have done a good job of limiting shots against over the last 5 games, holding opponents to under 25 shots in 4 of those. Their even strength shot attempts and scoring chances allowed are among the best in the league, but turnovers in their own end and awful goaltending have cost them. Carter Hutton will be making the start in net for the Blues and he has been their best option lately, with 4-straight wins before giving up 5 goals in a loss to the Senators. Overall, Hutton is an average goaltender at best, with an .892 SV% this season and better numbers at home than on the road. He will be in tough against a Penguins team that has the best home record in the league at 20-2-2 and leads the league in scoring chances for per game. The Pens top line has been on fire lately, with Conor Sheary leading the way on a line with Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust. Sheary was named the NHL’s first star of the week after three 2-goal games in his last four. The line itself generates the most even strength shot attempts and scoring chances on the team and is the best option for stacking in GPPs. The Crosby line has been skating against opposition first and second lines in recent home games. The Blues top line has been great at limiting shot attempts and scoring chances, but the second line with Vladimir Tarasenko, is not very strong defensively, and has been giving up a ton of goals against over the past several games. The Pens second line with Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist, and Jake Guentzel has had great puck possession numbers over a small sample and will also see time against the Tarasenko line. This makes them a viable GPP stack that should see lower ownership than the Crosby line. Malkin and Hornqvist also stay together on the top PP unit against the Blues PK which has struggled lately, giving up 5 PPGs in their last 3 games, and 10 PPGs over their last 10 games.
Pens goalie Matt Murray is likely to get the start against the Blues, and has performed well over his last 3 outings after giving 7 goals against to Washington. Murray has stopped 90 of 93 shots over those 3 games and has an incredible 13-0-2 record in his last 15 home starts. Murray is an excellent GPP option given the volume of shots that he faces on a nightly basis, and is in consideration for cash games as the largest favorite of the night.
I don’t usually like targeting against goalies on a hot streak, but I think the Blues have some players that make for appealing options in GPPs as a leverage play against the high expected ownership of Murray. The Pens give up over 32 shots against per game and have given up the most even strength scoring chances per 60 over the last month of play. The Pens have the 24th-ranked PK in the league and will face the Blues 7th-ranked PP, which has been their best source of offense all season. Ken Hitchcock is constantly tinkering with his lines and rarely releases info to the media, so stacking the Blues can be a difficult task. The personnel on the top PP unit has been the one constant throughout most of the season, so I feel the most comfortable there. Tarasenko and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk have the most upside on the PP and often skate together at even strength, so I like them the best as a mini stack from the Blues. Paul Stastny, Alex Steen, and Jaden Schwartz have skated together on the top line at even strength lately and all play on the top PP unit. If we get word that they will be staying together as a line, then I really like them as a GPP stack. They are solid defensively and can take advantage of the Crosby line or Malkin line who give up as many chances as they create.
Calgary Flames at Montreal Canadiens
The Habs are the second biggest favorites on the board tonight at home to the Flames who had another poor showing against the Leafs last night. The Flames have lost 3 straight games and 5 of their last 6, and have looked very unmotivated during this stretch. They had performed well on the road this season, but have dropped 4 straight away from home ice and have developed a habit of falling behind early in games. The Habs have not been great lately themselves, as they have struggled scoring goals aside from on the PP. Inconsistency has been the biggest issue for the Habs, as they blow out teams or have been blown out themselves on several occasions this season. Their shot totals, for and against, look like a whack-a-mole game – dull one game and wide open the next. This makes me a little cautious of going all in on them, despite the Flames’ recent struggles.
If I am going to target the Habs tonight, my focus will be on their 5th-ranked PP. The Flames are the most penalized team in the league and will be a tired group playing on back-to-back nights. Alex Galchenyuk suffered a setback to his injured knee, so it looks like Phillip Danault will center the top PP unit in his absence. Danault has performed well between wingers Max Pacioretty and Alex Radulov and makes for one of the best value plays on the night. I like stacking the whole line as they stay together at even strength and on the PP, but Danault is a fine one-off option if you are looking to stack higher-priced teams like the Penguins. On defense, Shea Weber has been a beast on the PP, and is one of the top options on the night if you can afford to pay up. If you are tight on salary, then Nathan Beaulieu makes for a solid alternative to Weber, as he also skates on the top PP unit and comes at a fraction of the cost.
Goaltender Carey Price has not had a solid DFS performance in almost a month, but he gets another juicy matchup at home against a struggling team on a back-to-back. Price played well against the Sabres in a similar situation on Saturday night, but was unable to pick up the win in OT. I like going back to the well with him again tonight against a Flames team that has had trouble finishing lately and was just shut-out by the Leafs last night.
Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Islanders
In my opinion, this game has the widest range of outcomes of all games on the slate, which makes it a strong target in GPPs. Both likely starting goaltenders, Sergei Bobrovsky and Thomas Greiss have played excellent hockey of late. They have shown the ability to steal games even when their teams are not at their best. The Blue Jackets have been one of the highest scoring teams in the league this season, but they have also been shut-out twice in their last 10 games. The Islanders offense has been hot lately, but they have also gone through cold spells several times this season. I think both goalies make for high-risk, high-reward GPP options tonight.
John Tavares has been on fire lately after a very underwhelming first half of the season and his line has been the sole source of offense for the team over the past couple of weeks. Tavares was held off the score sheet last game after scoring 7 goals in his previous 4 games. Combine that with the perceived difficult matchup against Bobrovsky on a full slate and I think we see Tavares at a much lower ownership tonight in GPPs. Last game against the Flyers, the Tavares line matched up with the second line of the Flyers at even strength. That would be the Dubinsky-Atkinson-Jenner combo for the Blue Jackets, which has been their worst puck possession line at even strength.
The Islanders give up the most even strength shot attempts and scoring chances per game at even strength and have the 19th-ranked PK. This is a great spot for the Blue Jackets offense, which just erupted for 7 goals last game against Ottawa. The trouble with the Blue Jackets is that they have a very balanced attack and it’s difficult to tell where the scoring is going to come from. The top line of Nick Foligno, Alex Wennberg, and Brandon Saad, have been the best puck possession line for the Blue Jackets and is usually the best place to start against a team that poses no particularly difficult matchups defensively. Wennberg and Foligno also play on the top PP unit which is the top-ranked PP in the league. Cam Atkinson is the best individual target on the team as he has been the most consistent scorer for the Blue Jackets all season and sees time on the top PP unit.