NHL Breakdown 2/18/17

The NHL has as 8-game main slate tonight with only the Florida Panthers playing on a back-to-back. The Blackhawks, Lightning and Predators are all coming off their bye week which can lead to unpredictable results, so those games are best left for GPPs. Looking over the slate, there are a lot of ways you can go for offense, so I will break down my top 3 games to target and try to help narrow down your options.

Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs and Sens meet in the Battle of Ontario for the 4th time this season, with the Sens taking 2 out of the first 3 in OT. The teams are closely matched and I expect a competitive game here with both teams jockeying for playoff position. The Sens have been inconsistent lately, mixing in 3 shutout victories with 3 blowout losses over their last 10 games, so it is difficult to predict which version we will see tonight. The Leafs, on the other hand, have been struggling lately, and have only won 3 out of their last 10 games. They have scored 2 goals or less in 3 of their last 4 games, but they went off for 7 goals in the other game, so you know the offensive potential exists. Over the last month of play, the Leafs lead the league in even strength scoring chances generated per game and currently have the 2nd-best PP in the league. They will be without leading scorer Mitch Marner tonight, who will miss at least 2 games due to an injury. This will result in some right wingers getting shuffled around the lineup which creates a big opportunity for Josh Leivo to skate with Nazem Kadri at even strength. Leivo was averaging 10 minutes of ice time over his first 3 games since being called up, but that jumped to almost 15 minutes last game after being promoted. He is also expected to join Kadri on the top PP unit tonight. In the last two games, Leivo has 1 goal, 4 assists, and an impressive 10 shots on net. It’s a small sample size of only 6 games, but Leivo is averaging 21 shot attempts per 60 minutes, which puts him among the league leaders in that category. At only $3,300 on both sites, he is a lock for me in cash games tonight. I don’t mind Leivo as a one-off in GPPs, but I like the idea of stacking him with Kadri and defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, who all play together on the top PP unit.

Another option to consider for the Leafs is the combination of Auston Matthews and William Nylander, who will be reunited because of the Marner injury. Matthews is 6th in the league in shots on goal and 4th in goals scored, which is very impressive territory for a rookie. Nylander has picked up his scoring as well lately, with 6 goals over his last 10 games. The Matthews line has also seen a huge boost in shot attempts and scoring chances when Nylander has played on his line this season. With Connor Brown on his wing, the Matthews line generates a very solid 60 even strength shot attempts and 9 scoring chances per 60 minutes. But with Nylander, the line generates a whopping 70 shot attempts and 14.5 scoring chances per 60 minutes. For reference, those numbers are 3rd and 1st in the league respectively, for lines with over 200 minutes played. I prefer the savings of the Kadri/Leivo combo, but Matthews/Nylander make for an excellent GPP stack if you can afford to pay up.

The Sens are in play for DFS as well considering the Leafs give up as many shot attempts and scoring chances as they create. The Leafs PK has also struggled recently with 7 PPGs allowed over their last 9 games. The Sens are a tricky team for stacking purposes because they like to spread their talent out across the lines to take a more balanced approach, and they are constantly rotating wingers in game. The easiest choice when targeting the Sens is using stud defenseman Erik Karlsson, who leads the team in scoring and logs almost 30 minutes of ice time a night. He plays in every situation, so you can get maximum exposure to the whole offense through him. With Brent Burns also on the slate (who we will talk about next), I prefer Karlsson as a tournament play, as he should be the lower owned of the two high-priced defensemen. As far as the forwards go, I like mini stacks of Hoffman/Turris and Brassard/Stone, as the duos skate together at even strength, and all four play together on the top PP unit. I’m leaning more towards the Brassard/Stone combo, as they have the better even strength possession numbers and will likely avoid the Kadri line. Hoffman and Turris have the better overall shot numbers and are more effective on the PP.

San Jose Sharks at Arizona Coyotes

The Sharks are sizable favorites in this one despite struggling lately, with only 1 win in their last 6 games. The Coyotes have been playing much better lately, with a 7-3-1 record over their last 11 games, and they also hold a 3-0-1 record over the Sharks in 4 meetings this season. 3 of the 4 games have gone to OT, and the last 9 games in the series have gone under the Vegas total. Some of the Coyotes’ recent success has come from the development of their younger players, but most of their wins this season have come from goaltender Mike Smith standing on his head. The Coyotes have been scoring more lately, but they still give up the most shot attempts in the league. In the 4 meetings this season, the shot totals of the Sharks are 41, 45, 42, and 40, yet they only have 8 goals to show for it. This makes Smith an excellent high-risk/high-reward GPP play tonight. I also like the goalie on the other side of the ice, as Aaron Dell has performed quite well this season in a backup role, with a .929 SV%. As the largest favorite on the slate, Dell can be considered for cash games at a very reasonable price.

As far as the offense for either team goes, Brent Burns is my favorite option here, and I think he is worth paying up for in cash games. Burns leads the league in shots on goal with an average of 4 shots per game, is 3rd in the league in scoring, plus he blocks shots and logs a ton of minutes. He has by far the best floor of any player in the league and has not had less than 2.5 DK points in any game over the last month. He is the highest priced player, but I like paying up for him in matchups against teams that give up a lot of shots on goal. Goals and assists are high variance events, but shot attempts are very predictive.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Dallas Stars

The Stars have been the worst defensive team in the league over the last month of play. They have given up 3+ goals in all but one of their last 16 games and goaltending has been a major issue for them. They have given up the most even strength scoring chances over the last month and have the worst PK in the league. That being said, I still like them in this spot tonight. The Stars have been a much better team at home this season, with a 15-9-6 record, compared to a 7-18-4 record on the road. Their splits are unbelievable, as they score 3.1 goals per game at home compared to 2.4 goals per game on the road, and give up 2.7 goals per game at home compared to 3.7 goals per game on the road. The Lightning are also coming off their bye week and have a few question marks in their lineup. The Lightning were playing great hockey before the break, but teams are an awful 3-11 in their first game off a bye so I worry that they might be rusty.

The Stars are constantly changing their even strength lines around, so I prefer to only look at the PP tonight as it has been a consistent source of offense for them lately. They have 9 PPGs over their last 10 games, and have drawn 29 PP opportunities over their last 6 games. The Lightning have a middle-of-the-road PK unit, and teams have been taking more penalties on average after a layoff as they tend to be a step behind. Mini stacks of Benn (Jamie)/Eaves/Klingbeg and Spezza/Seguin/Klingberg are my favorite options as the forward pairs tend to stick together at even strength. I prefer the Benn/Eaves stack as they lead the team in PPGs and have the better even strength possession numbers.

The Lightning will also be a target of mine in GPPs, despite coming off the bye. The Stars may be much better at home, but they still have the worst goaltending in the league. As I mentioned above, the Lightning have some question marks with their lineup, so they can be difficult to stack without more info. Tyler Johnson missed the previous few games before the break but has practised in full and seems likely to play tonight (I’m going to assume he does). Winger Jonathan Drouin missed practise this morning due to illness and will be a game time decision, so make sure to pay attention to any lineup news closer to lock. The Stars have the worst PK in the league and have given up 11 PPGs over their last 12 games. Johnson and Drouin are key pieces of the top unit and are among the top plays if they are in the lineup. Without more info, the safest plays are defenseman Victor Hedman and sniper Nikita Kucherov, who are also on the top PP unit and are the catalysts of the Lightning offense. A stack of Johnson/Kucherov/Hedman is my favorite option in GPPs. And Drouin makes for a solid one-off play or paired with linemates Brayden Point and Alex Killorn as a cheaper stack if he’s in the lineup.