NHL Breakdown – 1/3/17
NHL Breakdown 01/03/2017
The NHL has a relatively light 7-game slate for a Tuesday with only the New Jersey Devils playing on a back-to-back. All the home teams are favored tonight, with 4 out of the 7 being -150 or greater. This should result in concentrated ownership, so it will be important for us to figure out how to navigate these spots. I will break down my top spots to look for offense tonight and try to offer some alternative options for GPPs.
Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers
The Rangers are the largest favorite on the board tonight at home to the lowly Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres have been hit hard by the injury bug this season and it has shown in their recent play. The team was already without two-way center Ryan O’Reilly and just lost their next best defensive center, Johan Larsson, to a season-ending injury. Their even strength possession numbers have steadily declined during this time and their penalty kill has dropped to last in the league. This is a very strong matchup for the Rangers offense tonight and I love their top line in cash games. Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello have been a dominant possession line at even strength and all stay together on the top power-play unit. The Rangers have the 4th-best PP unit in the league and have scored 7 goals on the man advantage in their last 3 games. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh plays the point on the top PP unit and will see a lot of the Jack Eichel line at even strength, which is one of the weaker possession lines in the league. McDonagh is one of my top cash game options at defense tonight.
The top line of the Rangers will be one of the highest owned stacks of the night in tournaments, especially after Kreider scored a hat trick last game against the Avalanche. If you are looking for lower ownership, but still want to get exposure to this offense, I suggest looking to the second line of Kevin Hayes, Michael Grabner, and Jimmy Vesey who will see a lot of ice time against the Eichel line tonight. Vesey and Hayes also stay together on the 2nd PP unit so I don’t mind them as a cheaper mini stack.
One of my favorite contrarian spots in GPPs is the Jack Eichel line for the Sabres. The Sabres were scoring at 1.8 goals per game during the first part of the season while Eichel was out with an injury, but that has jumped to 2.6 goals per game since his return. Eichel’s defensive play leaves a lot to be desired, but you can’t argue that he is one of the top young offensive players in the league. The Rangers have not been a strong defensive team themselves lately, having given up 2 or more goals in each of their last 6 games, with a couple 7-goal games in that span. They are not good at limiting even strength shot attempts, with a CA60 of 57.84, which is worse than the Sabres. As I mentioned above, the Kevin Hayes line will likely see a lot of Eichel at even strength, but that line is one of the worst in the league at giving up even strength shot attempts. McDonagh is a stud defenseman, but he is paired with Dan Girardi in the shutdown role, who is just an awful possession player. I think a stack of Eichel, linemate Kyle Okposo, and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen would be my preferred option for the Sabres in tournaments. All three stay together on the top PP unit against a Rangers PK that has given up 6 PPGs in their last 6 games.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals
As a young team, the Leafs have been very inconsistent defensively. They play a high event style of hockey and are prone to making mistakes which end up in the back of their net. The improved play of goaltender Freddy Andersen has led to a drop in their goals against per game, but the Leafs are still giving up almost 33 shots against per game. This is a great spot for the Caps’ offense which has underachieved for most of this season. Superstar Alex Ovechkin is 2nd in the league in shots on goal and matchups against teams that give up a lot of shot attempts are the ideal time to pay up for him in DFS. Ovechkin has the highest floor of any player tonight which makes him a great choice for cash games. He carries a high ownership on a nightly basis, but I still like him as a tournament option tonight for his elite upside. Ovechkin has been reunited with his long time center Nicklas Backstrom and winger TJ Oshie, which I like using as a full line stack since the trio stays together on the top PP unit.
Goaltender Braden Holtby makes for a solid tournament option tonight as he has played excellent hockey lately and looks to have regained his Vezina form from last season. The Caps usually limit shots against, but the Leafs are among the league leaders in shots on goal, so I think there is a high ceiling for Holtby tonight. The Caps are sizable favorites tonight, but the Leafs have enough talent on offense that I think it is too risky to use Holtby in cash games.
Winnipeg Jets at Tampa Bay Lightning
The Jets have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league this season which makes them one of my top GPP targets on a nightly basis (for and against). The Jets are coming off back-to-back beatdowns on home ice by the Blue Jackets and Islanders, on the heels of inspiring road victories at Vancouver and Chicago. I have no idea what version of the Jets is going to show up tonight, but matchup numbers lead me to the Tampa side of this one. The key spot to target for Tampa is the power-play. The Jets have the 27th-ranked PK in the league and take way too many penalties, which is a recipe for disaster against Tampa’s 3rd-ranked PP. The Lightning have a few lineup questions with Brian Boyle out and Ryan Callahan back in, so we won’t know what the PP units will look like. For the last few games, the reunited top line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat stayed together on the top PP unit, which was manned by defenseman Victor Hedman. Those four have also formed the shutdown group against opposing teams’ top lines. I’m not sure if that will be the Scheifele line or the Wheeler line in this one, but the Scheifele line is the much better matchup from a puck possession standpoint. Unfortunately, we won’t know this information before the game, but I will still target that four-man stack of Johnson-Kucherov-Palat-Hedman in GPPs. They still have the PP matchup to fall back on if they receive the tougher even strength assignment.
I don’t hate using the Wheeler-Little combo as a contrarian stack in tournaments in the hope that they avoid Hedman and the Triplets at even strength. They are a dominant possession duo that should thrive against the inexperienced depth lines of the Lightning. They also stay together on the PP, which is in a good spot against Tampa’s 23rd-ranked PK.