NHL Breakdown 02/25/2017

The NHL has 8 games today with the major DFS sites having strange split slates. FanDuel has a 4-game early slate (consisting of 4pm and 5pm games) and a 4-game main slate (consisting of 7pm and later), while DraftKings offers a 7-game main slate (5pm games and later). The Capitals are the only team playing on a back-to-back, while the Devils, Sharks, Canucks, and Sabres are all coming off bye weeks. We also have an outdoor game between the Flyers and Penguins in which weather could play a factor. So overall, it’s a pretty bizarre night for DFS hockey. I will break down my favorite games to target tonight as well as discuss general strategy for each of the 3 slates.

New York Islanders at Columbus Blue Jackets

This is my favorite game of the night to target for offense. The Blue Jackets are coming off a bye week and are sizable home favorites against an Islanders team that has won 7 of the last 10 meetings and is 13-4-2 in their last 19 games overall. Prior to the bye week, the Blue Jackets were giving up the most even strength scoring chances in the league over the last month of play (11.83 SCA60). This sets up as a great spot for the Islanders top line of John Tavares, Anders Lee, and Josh Bailey, who have been generating the most even strength shot attempts and scoring chances on the team (68.88 CF60 and 10.26 SCF60). They are likely to face the Dubinsky line at even strength, which has the worst shot suppression metrics on the Blue Jackets (60.93 CA60 and 10.26 SCA60). I love the Tavares line in both formats on the early-only slate, but they are an even better play on the DK main-slate in GPPs, where they will be much lower owned.

While the Blue Jackets have been giving up a lot of scoring chances lately, they have also been creating a lot of scoring chances at even strength (10.83 SCF60). The Islanders have improved their shot suppression metrics under head coach Doug Weight, but are still giving up 9.09 even strength scoring chances per game. Outside of the Tavares line, the Islanders depth lines are terrible defensively, which makes this a great matchup for the Blue Jackets top line of Alex Wennberg, Nick Foligno, and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Bjorkstrand has been particularly strong at generating shot attempts and scoring chances at even strength. In his most recent 3-game stint with the team, Bjorkstrand has generated 14 unblocked shot attempts and 6 scoring chances at even strength. He plays on the 2nd PP unit and has seen his ice time increase in each game, all the way up to 17 minutes last game. At only $3,500 on FD and $3,600 on DK, he is my top bargain option on the slate. Defensemen Zack Werenski and Seth Jones each man the point on a Blue Jackets PP unit and are excellent plays against an Islanders team that has the 23rd-ranked PK unit and has surrendered 6 PPGs over its last 6 games.

Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs

The Canadiens have been struggling mightily lately, with only 2 wins in 10 games this month. Offense has been an issue, as they have only scored 13 goals in that span and have been shutout 4 times over their last 8 games. They do seem to have the Leafs’ number though, as they have won 12 straight meetings between the clubs including 3 games this season. There seems to be a lot of bad blood in this long-time rivalry as the last meeting in Toronto saw several fights and over 75 minutes in penalties between the two teams. Each team scored twice on the PP and special teams will again be a major focus in this game. The Habs have the 22nd-ranked PK in the league and will be in tough against the Leafs’ top-ranked PP unit. William Nylander leads the team with 19 PP points and has 3 multi-point games in his last 5. Nylander and linemate Auston Matthews skate together on the PP and will likely get the best even strength matchup against the Alex Galchenyuk line. Galchenyuk is horrible defensively and will be overmatched against the already well-rounded Matthews. Defenseman Jake Gardiner makes for a nice stacking option with Nylander and Matthews as he plays with the dynamic duo at even strength and on the PP.

The Leafs are one of the best teams in the league at generating offense, but they give up far too many shot attempts and scoring chances at even strength. This matchup presents a great opportunity for the Habs offense to get going again. The top line of Max Pacioretty, Alex Radulov, and Philip Danault have strong possession numbers together and will likely be matched up with Nazem Kadri at even strength, as they were in the last meeting in Toronto. The Kadri line with Josh Leivo and Leo Komarov have generated a ton of shot attempts and scoring chances in their short time together, but they have also given up some big games to top lines on home ice recently. They gave up multi-goal games to the top lines of Ottawa and Winnipeg, and were absolutely dominated in the possession game by the Rangers strong top line last game and would have been in trouble if not for the incredible play of their goaltender. It’s not all on the Kadri line though, as the shutdown defensive pairing of Nikita Zaitsev and Morgan Rielly have been awful together. They have solid individual numbers, but as a pairing, they have among the worst shot suppression metrics in the league. Over the last 3 home games, they have given up 8 even strength goals against. This makes the top line my favorite stacking option on the Habs. You could leave Danault out of the stack since he doesn’t play on the top PP unit and just pair Pacioretty and Radulov with either defenseman Shea Weber or Andrei Markov.

Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins

This game will be played outdoors and the weather adds another level of unpredictability to the game. If Mother Nature cooperates, then this should be a great place to look for offense, but if there are issues and the ice is sub-par, then it could be a dud. The Flyers have been playing better lately, but have struggled to get results. Their possession numbers have improved at even strength, but they are still struggling on the PK and in net. The Penguins are heavy favorites and their offense is in a great spot tonight. The newly formed top line duo of Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist are my favorite targets in this matchup. They will likely go against the Flyers top line of Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, and Wayne Simmonds, who are all horrible defensively. They are each a -19 on the season, which puts them among the worst in the league. Crosby and Hornqvist is a great 2-man stack, and I would like to pair them with whoever plays the point on the top PP unit. Kris Letang is out tonight and Justin Schultz is a game-time decision (my guess is that he plays). Ideally, I would like to use Schultz, but if he’s not playing then I have no idea who will take that spot. If both are out, Ian Cole or the newly acquired Ron Hainsey would stand to gain the most DFS relevance.

If Letang and Schultz are both out, then this is a great spot for the Flyers offense. The PP would be the top target against a Pens team that has the 21st-ranked PK in the league. Giroux, Schenn, Simmonds, Voracek and Gostisbehere are all in play on the top PP unit. My favorite options would be Voracek and Gostisbehere as Voracek is likely to go up against the Malkin/Kessel duo at even strength, who each plays a defense-optional style of hockey.

DK Main Slate Strategy

The three games mentioned above are my top options for this slate, with the Crosby line likely being the chalkiest. For goaltending, I like Raanta again, but Martin Jones (if starting) would be my favorite cash game option against a Canucks team that is depleted with injuries and illness and already has scoring issues to begin with. Matt Murray and Robin Lehner are solid GPP options as their teams give up a lot of shots on goal and they are playing teams that have had troubles scoring.

Late Slate Strategy

I think the Pens/Flyers game will be very popular on this slate so I prefer going heavier on the Leafs/Habs game in GPPs in the hopes that the conditions for the outdoor game produce a dud. The Sabres line of Eichel/Reinhart/Kane is a solid option for offense against the Avalanche, who gives up the most goals in the league. I don’t mind the MacKinnon/Landeskog combo in GPPs for the Avs, as the Sabres give up the most shot attempts in the league and are coming off their bye week. The MacKinnon line will likely go up against the Eichel line at even strength, which is horrible defensively.

The goaltending options remain the same as on the main slate.