NHL Breakdown 2/7/17

The NHL has an 11-game slate tonight with the Sabres, Leafs, and Blues playing on back-to-backs. The Penguins, Capitals, Predators and Canadiens are the heaviest favorites, with 2 games opening up with 6.0 Vegas totals or greater. I will break down these two games as well as touch on a few other spots I like for offense tonight.

Dallas Stars at Toronto Maple Leafs

This game has a very rare 6.5 Vegas total, which makes sense when you consider that the Leafs lead the league in pace of play and the Stars are third. This means we can expect some very high event hockey being played tonight which should result in fantasy goodness for both sides. The Leafs blew a late lead once again last night in Brooklyn and return home tonight to play their 3rd game in 4 nights. The Leafs are 3-8 in the second half of a back-to-back this season. The Leafs offense is clicking right now, with 11 goals scored over their last 2 games, but the defense and goaltending have been awful, as they have given up 22 goals over their last 4 games. The Stars have not been much better defensively, as they have given up 3+ goals in 10 straight games and have a terrible 7-13-4 record on the road this season.

The key matchup to target in this one is the Leafs’ 2nd-best PP against the Stars’ 30th-ranked PK. The Stars have given up 10 PPGs in their last 10 games overall, but have cut down on penalties taken with only 2 power-play opportunities allowed over their last 4 games. If the Leafs can do a good job of getting on the man advantage tonight, then they should find success against the Stars goaltenders who have the worst shorthanded SV% in the league. The top stacking option for the Leafs tonight is the Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, and Mitch Marner line. The trio skates together at even strength and stays together on the top PP unit which always gets the first crack with the man advantage. Center Nazem Kadri makes for a great one-off play as he is tied for 2nd in the league with 10 PPGs this season.

On the Dallas side, the top line of Jamie Benn, Patrick Eaves, and Cody Eakin have been the best possession line on the Stars since these combinations were put together a few weeks ago. They make for a solid stack, but Eakin has not been very productive himself and does not join Benn and Eaves on the top PP unit, so I don’t mind leaving him out. The Leafs have a solid PK unit, but tired teams tend to take more penalties on average, so I expect the Stars to get a lot of opportunities on the man advantage tonight.

Calgary Flames at Pittsburgh Penguins

This game opened with a 6.0 Vegas total and was later downgraded to a 5.5, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see some goals scored tonight. The Pens have the best home record in the league and are heavy favorites despite missing some key pieces due to injury. Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary, and Carl Hagelin are all out of the lineup which has caused the forward lines to be juggled once again. This makes stacking difficult as there is very little correlation between even strength lines and power-play lines. Sidney Crosby is playing with Chris Kunitz and Bryan Rust who make for great salary-saving options, but unfortunately do not get to play on the top PP unit with Crosby. PP stacks are probably the best option for the Pens tonight, as they have the 3rd-best PP in the league and the Flames are the most penalized team in the league. Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel play together on the 2nd line and top PP unit, so they make the most sense from a mini-stack perspective. They are likely to have a difficult even strength matchup against the Backlund line, but the extra PP opportunities should help make up for that. Kessel leads the league in PP points so you want to use him in matchups like this. Justin Schultz remains on the top PP unit despite the return of Kris Letang to the lineup, yet still sees half the ownership of Letang. This makes him a nice pivot from Letang in tournaments.

As a heavy Vegas favorite, I really like Matt Murray as a goaltending option tonight, but I still have some interest in the Flames offense as a contrarian play in GPPs. They will be in tough to get the win in Pittsburgh, but the Pens do give up a lot of shots and scoring chances at even strength, and have the 24th-ranked PK in the league. The Monahan/Gaudreau line has been great lately, but will likely have to face the Crosby line at even strength. The Mikael Backlund line has started to heat up again and get a favorable even strength matchup against the Kessel line, which is not as good from a possession standpoint. Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik all stay together on the 2nd PP unit and make for a cheap GPP stack at low ownership.

Other spots for offense…

The Wild head into Winnipeg to take on a Jets team that they have already beaten twice this season. The Wild are 3rd in the league in goals for per game while the Jets give up the 4th-most goals per game. The Jets have given up 3+ goals in 12 straight games and their PK has allowed 8 goals over their last 9. The line of Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker have been the most consistent line for the Wild this season and are the best stacking option in this matchup. Granlund’s price has gone up, but he has 17 points on his current 12-game point streak, including a hat-trick in his last game. He could be popular tonight, but he is a tough fade on this hot streak.

The Habs head into Colorado to take on the league’s worst team, and worst team on home ice. The Habs won the first meeting between the teams this season by a ridiculous 10-1 score. Max Pacioretty had 4 goals and an assist in that game and he is one of the best plays again in this matchup. The Avs have given up the most goals in the league and their PK is 25th in the league. This is a great spot for the Habs PP which is ranked 4th in the league and is responsible for a majority of their goals. Pacioretty, Philip Danault, and Alex Radulov all skate together at even strength and on the top PP, which makes them one of the best stacks on the night. Defensemen Shea Weber and Nathan Beaulieu also join the top PP unit and make for great plays depending on how much salary you have left.