NHL Breakdown 2/16/17
The NHL has as 8-game slate tonight with the St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers playing on a back-to-back. The Penguins and Kings are the heaviest favorites on the board tonight, but there are a lot of other offenses that are in great spots. This should make for a great night for tournaments as ownership should be more spread out than usual. I will break down my top 3 games to target for offense tonight and try to help narrow down your options.
Winnipeg Jets at Pittsburgh Penguins
This game has the highest expected Vegas total on the night with a 6.0 and will be the top target for DFS. Both teams have a plethora of offensive talent and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a back-and-forth shootout here. The Pens have the best home record in the league and are heavy favorites at -225. They have the best offense in the league and are scoring 3.55 goals per game this season. The Jets can put up goals in bunches, but they are one of the worst defensive teams in the league and give up the 3rd-most goals against per game. Aside from last game against Dallas, the Jets had given up 3+ goals in 15 straight games. Their even strength possession numbers are not bad, but they have the 27th-ranked PK unit in the league and their goaltending has been a major letdown for them this season.
The Pens have the highest implied team total on the night which will likely make them a very chalky offense as a whole. But the Pens have several high-priced offensive weapons that should help spread the ownership out a little among the top three lines. With the Jets PK being so bad, the primary plays on the Pens are the superstars on the top PP unit. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang are all elite plays and you can’t go wrong rostering either of them in any format. Unfortunately, they are all pretty expensive so they are hard (if not impossible) to fit in the same lineup. Crosby is the most popular player in the league and will likely be the highest owned player in the group as he is going for his 1000th career point. Crosby is in a fantastic spot on the top PP unit, but his even strength situation is not ideal. His linemates, Chris Kunitz and Jake Guentzel, don’t do much to boost his offensive production, and they have a difficult matchup against the Wheeler-Little-Ehlers line at even strength. The Wheeler line is the best possession line on the Jets and is a matchup that I typically like to avoid when targeting opposing offenses. The second line for the Pens is where I will be focussing most of my attention tonight. Malkin returned from injury last game and looked to be in top form as he scored the game-winning goal and added a highlight-reel assist. The Malkin line is likely to see a lot of the Scheifele/Laine/Perreault line at even strength, which is the worst defensive trio for the Jets. They give up the most even strength shot attempts and scoring chances per game on the team. Malkin plays with Hornqvist at even strength and on the top PP, and they make for a great stack with either Letang, who plays with them on the PP, or Justin Schultz, who plays with them at even strength. Malkin and Crosby are similarly priced on FanDuel, so I expect Crosby to be higher owned there, but on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, Malkin is cheaper, so I expect Crosby to be higher owned at lower stakes, but Malkin to be higher owned at higher stakes.
With all the attention on the Pens, I think everyone will overlook the Jets in this matchup. The Pens play their best hockey at home, but they still have their weaknesses. They have the 24th-ranked PK in the league and will be turning to backup goalie Marc-Andre Fleury tonight, who only has a .904 SV% this season. As I mentioned above, the Wheeler line has the best possession numbers on the team and will draw the matchup against the Crosby line at even strength. Going against Crosby is not ideal, but he is playing with a rookie winger and defensemen Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin give up a lot of even strength scoring chances. The Crosby line has had trouble defending against lines that play with a lot of speed and Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers are two of the fastest players in the league. The line should carry very low ownership and is one of my favorite contrarian stacks on the night for large-field GPPs.
Colorado Avalanche at Buffalo Sabres
Any team playing against the Colorado Avalanche has to be strongly considered for DFS purposes. The Avs are the worst team in the league by a mile and have a horr-awful 4-23 record over their last 27 games played. They have scored the fewest goals per game in the league and given up the most goals against per game. The Avs have the 25th-ranked PK in the league and have been giving up 3+ PP opportunities per game over their last 7 games. The Sabres are a simple team to break down offensively as most of their goals come from their top-ranked PP unit. Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen are the top plays here on the first PP unit, and you can even consider sniper Evander Kane if he returns to the lineup after missing last game due to illness. I prefer PP mini stacks with the Sabres when they face teams with a bad PK. O’Reilly/Okposo/Ristolainen and Eichel/Reinhart/Ristolainen are the two main options here (if Kane returns, you can add him to the Eichel stack). The O’Reilly line serves as the shutdown line at home and will likely be playing against the Nathan MacKinnon line at even strength. The MacKinnon line is not a matchup to fear, but I prefer using the Eichel combination as they are poor defensively and get sheltered on home ice, facing only the depth lines on opposing teams. They also generate shot attempts at a much higher rate than the O’Reilly line.
Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild
The Dallas Stars have been one of the worst defensive teams in the league over the past month of play. They have given up almost 10 even strength scoring chances against per game over that span which is by far the worst in the league. They also have the league’s worst PK unit and are one of the worst road teams in the league. The Wild have gone 3-0-1 against the Stars in 4 meetings this season and won the only game in Minnesota 4-0. They have the best home PP unit in the league and get a fantastic matchup here. The Stars will be turning to Kari Lehtonen in net tonight and he has the worst SV% on the PK in the whole league. The Wild ran into a hot goaltender in John Gibson last game and were shutout 1-0, but Lehtonen poses no such threat. Both teams are constantly changing their line combinations so it will be important to pay attention to any news that comes out throughout the day. Nino Niederreiter is one of my favorite cash game plays as he leads the Wild in goals with 19, and PP goals with 8, and is still cheap across the board. He plays with Eric Staal at even strength and gets to play on the top PP unit. The Mikko Koivu line is usually the best line for stacking, but they will have a difficult even strength matchup against the Jamie Benn line, so I would prefer to look to the third line of Zack Parise, Charlie Coyle and Jason Pominville in GPPs. They generate the most shot attempts per 60 minutes on the team and will get the more favorable even strength matchups against the weaker depth lines of the Stars. Parise and Coyle stay together on the second PP unit so I don’t mind using them as a mini stack if you don’t want the full line. Rookie defenseman Gustav Olofsson plays the point on the second PP unit and is a solid punt option tonight.