NHL Breakdown 2/4/17
There are 13 games today with 10 on the main slate so a lot of teams are playing on back-to-backs. The Ducks, Penguins and Wings are the B2B teams in the toughest spot, as they are travelling to take on teams that are well rested. The Sharks, Blue Jackets and Predators are the biggest favorites on the night and will likely be very popular. I will go over my favorite games on the slate and help narrow down your options.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins
The Leafs have won both meetings against the Bruins this season, but have struggled over their last 3 games overall. After a very impressive road stretch, they were outscored 13-5 in those three games and head into Boston as sizable underdogs. The Bruins are a little banged up with Tuukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron likely to suit up despite playing through injuries. The Bruins top line will be a popular play tonight, but they are in a terrific spot so I don’t mind eating a little chalk here. In the last meeting in Boston, the Bergeron line faced off against the Bozak/JVR/Marner line for the Leafs so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same matchup tonight. The Bergeron line is one of the best possession lines in the whole league, and the Bozak line is the weakest defensive line for the Leafs.
After going through a bit of a cold streak, I expect ownership on Auston Matthews to be quite low tonight, so I really like him in GPPs as he gets a great matchup against the weaker depth lines of the Bruins. In the last meeting in Boston, the Matthews line scored 2 of the 3 even strength goals for the Leafs and I think there is potential for a repeat against a Bruins team that has not played its best hockey on home ice this season.
Carolina Hurricanes at New York Islanders
Both teams played last night so there are a few question marks about the lineups that won’t be known until warmups. The Canes had a few players that are hurting after blocking shots last night and they have not decided on a goalie yet. The last time the two teams met, they exploded for 11 goals, with the Staal and Tavares lines doing most of the damage while facing off head to head for the whole game. I’m not sure if we will see the same matchup in this one, but the Staal line is in a great spot regardless of the matchup. Staal has already proven to be able to succeed against the Tavares line and the other Islanders lines are much weaker. Since Sebastian Aho was added to the line 2 games ago, the line has accounted for 6 of the team’s 7 goals scored. They also should be facing backup goalie JF Berube tonight, who is very inexperienced.
On the Islanders side, the Tavares line has been on fire lately so I am going to keep playing them until they cool off. The line score another two goals last night and will either face Cam Ward on a B2B or backup Eddie Lack who has not played in months.
Pittsburgh Penguins at St. Louis Blues
This game has a 6.0 Vegas total, which is the highest on the slate, so there are a lot of goals expected here. The two teams played recently in Pittsburgh with a similar total, but the Blues pulled off the upset with a 3-0 victory. Carter Hutton was very impressive in that game, making 34 saves in the shutout, but the Blues will turn to Jake Allen in net tonight. Allen has been an absolute dumpster fire in net over the past couple months, but turned in a solid performance last game in a win over the Leafs. He made 26 saves on 27 shots, but none were very high quality as the team did a great job at limiting scoring chances against. I’m not ready to believe that Allen all of a sudden solved every issue after one solid performance, so I’m not going to shy away from picking on him. I don’t usually like to chase points, but the Kessel/Bonino/Guentzel line for the Penguins gets the best even strength matchup in this game, as the Stastny/Steen combo will likely be tasked with shutting down the Crosby line. This leaves the Kessel line to face off against the Tarasenko line which should be a profitable matchup for both sides. Both lines have excellent offensive potential and lack defensive responsibility. I really like Tarasenko in this spot as he has heated up lately with goals in consecutive games. There is also a decent chance that the Pens turn to Marc-Andre Fleury in net, who has not performed as well as Matt Murray this season. The Blues power-play in general is in a great spot tonight against a tired Pens team that has the league’s 24th-ranked PK unit. Kevin Shattenkirk is one of my favorite options on defense tonight due to the matchup.
Detroit Red Wings at Nashville Predators
The Wings won a crazy back-and-forth game against the Islanders last night, but they were dominated for most of the night as they were outshot 36-24 and gave up 5 PP opportunities. Now they head into a much more difficult matchup in Nashville as a tired team, so I don’t expect them to play any better. To make matters worse, it appears they lost two-way center Frans Nielsen to injury last night. This gives the Preds arguably the best matchup on the night and I will have a hard time getting away from them despite how popular they are likely to be on sites like DraftKings where their whole team is criminally under-priced. The top line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson are my favorite stack of the night and are all around 5.5k on DK. Arvidsson is still cheap on FanDuel, so he is an excellent play over there. The trio stays together on the top PP unit, which should see a lot of action tonight. The Preds might also get PP point man Roman Josi back in the lineup tonight, who is a game-time decision. This would me a major boost to their struggling PP. When dealing with chalk offenses that are in a great spot, bumping down to the second or third line is often a great way to find lower ownership and still get exposure to a high expected goal total. The third line of James Neal, Calle Jarnkrok and Colin Wilson make for a sneaky stack that also provides salary relief. Neal gets to play on the top PP unit, so I don’t mind him as a one-off option here either. The Preds have not announced a goalie yet, but they sent Juuse Saros down to the AHL, so I fully expect Pekka Rinne to get the start. He is one of my top goaltending options in cash games tonight, along with Martin Jones of the Sharks.