NHL Breakdown 2/21/17

The NHL has as a 9-game slate tonight with no teams playing on a back-to-back. The Leafs and Jets have a high Vegas total, but there are no massive favorites on the slate so I expect ownership to be quite spread out tonight. I will break that game down in depth as well as touch on a few other spots I am looking for offense tonight.

Game of the Night: Winnipeg Jets at Toronto Maple Leafs

This game has the largest total on the night at 6.0 and features two of the most DFS friendly teams in the league. They are also two of the youngest and most inconsistent teams in the league, so a blowout on either side would not surprise me. The Leafs play with the fastest pace in the league as they are top 3 in both even strength shot attempts and scoring chances for per game, but also bottom 3 in both shot attempts and scoring chances allowed per game. The Jets have dull even strength shot numbers, but they have an elite top 5 forward group and terrible goaltending, so they are usually involved in high scoring affairs. The Jets will also be without several key defensemen so the matchup favors the Leafs’ offense on paper. Tyler Myers has been injured for most of the season and they recently lost Tobias Enstrom. To add to the injuries, Jacob Trouba was suspended for two games after an illegal check to the head of Mark Stone on Sunday. Aside from Dustin Byfuglien and Josh Morrissey, the remaining 4 defensemen are awful and the Leafs should be able to exploit them with their balanced attack.

The Leafs have three lines that can score, so it is difficult to figure out which line to target on a nightly basis. The key matchup to exploit here is the Leafs’ top-ranked PP against the Jets’ 27th-ranked PK. The Leafs split their even strength lines into pairs on the PP, so I think PP mini-stacks are the way to go here. The three pairings I am considering tonight are Matthews/Nylander, Kadri/Leivo, and van Riemsdyk/Bozak. The Matthews/Nylander combo offers the most upside as they have the most talent and generate the most scoring chances at even strength, but they are also the most expensive. I assume they will see a lot of the Scheifele/Laine/Perreault line at even strength, which has been the best offensive unit for the Jets lately. The line has terrific puck possession numbers over a very small sample size together, but individually, they give up the most scoring chances on the team at even strength when looking at the full season numbers. I think this is a matchup that Matthews and Nylander will be able to take advantage of. The Kadri/Leivo combo is the cheapest stacking option and they are very consistent. Kadri has points in 19 of 23 games in 2017 (25 total) and is an excellent cash game play. I prefer using him on DK, where he is much cheaper than Matthews, but I prefer Matthews on FD for the upside where the prices are very close. Leivo is still way underpriced in a favorable matchup as he sees time on the PP and generates shot attempts at a very high rate. He is a great punt option in both formats. Kadri and Leivo will probably get the tougher even strength matchup against the Wheeler/Little/Ehlers line, which takes away from some of their upside. The JVR/Bozak combo has slightly less upside with linemate Mitch Marner injured, but they will probably get the best even strength matchup against the Jets’ third line and weaker defense pairings. They will also have the lowest ownership of the three Leafs lines. Going against a bad PK, I like targeting defensemen Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev, who each quarterback a PP unit. Gardiner is best used with the Matthews/Nylander combo as he plays with them at even strength and on the PP, while Zaitsev works best with the other two pairs.

The Jets are also a strong target as the Leafs give up far too many shot attempts and scoring chances and goaltender Freddy Andersen has struggled lately with a 4.05 GAA over his last 8 games. As I mentioned above the Scheifele/Laine/Perrault has been contributing most of the offense for the Jets lately and their advanced stats support their success. Rookie sensation Patrik Laine was named the league’s 1st star last week after tallying 5G and 3A in 4 games and scored a hat-trick in the first meeting between the teams this season. He has 3 hat-tricks in total this season and has the most upside of anyone on the Jets. Unfortunately, this will also make him quite popular tonight, but I still really like him as a cash game play. The second line of Little/Wheeler/Ehlers also have solid shot generation numbers, but have not been getting the results lately. I expect this to keep their ownership down, which really makes me like them as a GPP option as they have just as much upside as the top line. With all the injuries and suspensions, I expect defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to log a ton of minutes tonight for the Jets. He is one of my top plays on defense in both formats against a Leafs team that gives up the most fantasy points to defensemen.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes

The Pens head into Carolina to take on a struggling Hurricanes team that has been giving up the 3rd-most scoring chances per game over the last month of play. The Pens have the best offense in the league and routed the Canes 7-1 in their last meeting. They have also dominated the shots in both meetings this season, 46-26 and 41-28. The Pens have juggled their lines lately but it looks like Crosby will be playing with Kunitz and Guentzel, while Malkin will be playing with Kessel and Hagelin. I generally prefer using Malkin at home where his numbers are much better, but he should get the much better even strength matchup here with Jordan Staal shadowing Crosby. Malkin had a goal and an assist with 5 shots on goal in their last meeting and is my preferred target tonight. I like the full line stack as opposed to a PP stack with just Kessel, as the Canes have the best PK in the league, so they should find more success at even strength. I think Matt Murray is a solid GPP option in net tonight as the Canes have been shutout 3 times in their last 10 games and have scored 2 or fewer goals in 8 of those.

Edmonton Oilers at Tampa Bay Lightning

The Oilers have been one of the best road teams in the league this season, but they will be turning to backup goalie Laurent Brossoit tonight, so the Lightning offense should be considered a strong play here. Starter Cam Talbot has done a great job at hiding the Oilers’ defensive issues, as the Oilers are giving up the 5th-most shot attempts and 2nd-most scoring chances at even strength over the last month. This is a great matchup for the Lightning who are generating the 4th-most shot attempts at even strength over the last month. The “Triplets” line of Johnson/Kucherov/Palat were reunited last game and generated 14 shots on goal against the Avalanche. Kucherov hasn’t recorded a point in 4 straight games, but he had a whopping 9 shots on goal last game. That is a strong sign that things will turn around for him in the near future. Johnson and Palat are still very cheap so they make for an excellent line stack tonight in GPPs.

LA Kings at Colorado Avalanche

The Kings have been struggling lately, but any team playing the Avalanche are a top play in DFS. The Avs are the worst team in the league in all offensive and defensive categories. The Kings have been a one-line team for most of the season, with the second line of Carter/Pearson/Brown doing most of the scoring. Carter and Pearson are fantastic cash game plays tonight with their consistent shot rate and terrible opponent. Brown can be mixed in with Carter and Pearson in GPPs, but I wouldn’t mind using a PP stack of Carter/Pearson and either defensemen Drew Doughty or Jake Muzzin as the Avs have the league’s 25th-ranked PK.