NHL Breakdown 2/9/17
The NHL has an 11-game slate tonight with three heavy favorites and very close lines for the rest of the games. The Capitals, Penguins, and Blue Jackets are all over -200 Vegas favorites and are the best places to look for offense tonight. I will break down these games in depth as I feel they are the most important to get correct due the heavy focus of the population.
Detroit Red Wings at Washington Capitals
The Detroit Red Wings are an average team defensively by all advanced metrics, but they will have a hard time keeping the puck out of their net against a Capitals team that has been routing even the top teams at home over the last couple of months. The Caps have scored 5 or more goals in 9 straight home games and have shut-out their opponents in 5 of those games. The key to this impressive run has been a balanced offensive attack and strong goaltending. The minutes and scoring have been pretty evenly distributed among the top 3 lines in these blowouts and I would expect that to continue tonight if they have the game in control. This puts all 3 lines in play for DFS and makes it difficult to decide which line is the best option.
The Caps top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and TJ Oshie make for solid cash game plays as they all stay together on the top PP unit and will also see the most minutes if the game is closer than expected. The downside to using them in tournaments is that they are expensive and will likely be one of the higher owned lines on the night. The Wings have a league-average PK unit and I prefer paying up for the Ovechkin line against weaker PK units where their upside is at its highest. The 2nd and 3rd lines offer better value from a point/dollar perspective and should carry much lower ownership than the top line, which makes them my preferred tournament options. The 2nd line of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Williams, and Marcus Johansson offer just as much upside as the top line, but at a nice price discount. Kuznetsov has been on fire lately, with 13 points in his last 10 games, and is one the top overall options at center tonight. Johansson has not been very consistent this season as he does not shoot the puck a ton, but he does have the benefit of playing on the top PP unit. He makes for a solid one-off option that can get you exposure to both lines at a sub-5k salary. The 3rd line has been a favorite of mine in large-field GPPs for quite some time now as they have been putting up very consistent numbers at bargain prices, yet have received <5% ownership every night. Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, and Brett Connolly have some of the best possession and scoring chance numbers in the entire league and see a lot of minutes compared to other 3rd lines. A lot of these number can probably be attributed to playing most of their time against opposing teams’ depth lines, so I prefer using them at home where the Caps can control those matchups. This should be a solid matchup for this line as the Wings do not have much defensive strength beyond their top line with Frans Nielsen and Nik Kronwall both out with injuries.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Colorado Avalanche
This matchup is quite simple on paper as the Penguins have the best offense in the league and the Avalanche have the worst defense in the league. The Pens are averaging 3.54 GF per game while the Avs are giving up 3.34 GA per game. The Pens also have an advantage on special teams as they have the 4th-best PP in the league against the Avs’ 25th-ranked PK unit. The Avs have the worst home record in the league, but have looked impressive in back-to-back home victories over the Jets and Canadiens. The Pens have a pedestrian 11-10-3 road record, but they are a much better team than the Avs and have a chance of getting superstar Evgeni Malkin back in the lineup tonight. The Pens only had an optional skate this morning, but Malkin practised for the first time in a regular contact jersey, which should give him a decent chance of playing tonight. There were no line rushes at practise today so it will be important to pay attention to any news that comes out throughout the day. As of right now, Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang are all elite plays and the only safe options to use on the Pens. These three should remain on the top PP unit regardless of what happens with Malkin and all carry upside independent of their linemates. Nick Bonino and Patric Hornqvist are the two players whose upsides are most tied to the status of Malkin. Bonino is likely to stick with Phil Kessel at even strength, but he has been filling in for Malkin on the top PP unit, which really boosts his ceiling. Hornqvist is likely to stay on the top PP unit, but his current even strength linemates kill his upside and he would see a huge boost if Malkin were to return. I would avoid full line stacks for the Pens unless we get more information, but I would feel comfortable using any combination of PP stacks.
Vancouver Canucks at Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are in a great spot tonight against the Canucks, who have one of the worst road records in the league this season. They are also one of the lowest scoring teams in the league and just lost Sven Baertschi to injury last game. The Canucks have lost 4 straight games and were outscored 17-6 in the process. The Blue Jackets’ PP has been cold lately, but still ranks 1st in the league and gets a great matchup against the Canucks’ 24th-ranked PK unit. Despite the great matchup, I still expect the Blue Jackets to have much lower ownership than the Capitals or Penguins tonight as they are regularly undervalued.
The Blue Jackets 2nd line of Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, and Boone Jenner has been doing most of the work offensively lately and will likely avoid the Sedin line at even strength, so they are my preferred option in this game. Atkinson is the best cash game play here as he leads the team in scoring and shots on goal, and gets to play on the top PP unit. Dubinsky and Jenner are both very cheap and offer excellent salary relief when stacked with Atkinson in GPPs. Defenseman Zach Werenski gets to play the point on the top PP unit, which puts him in play tonight, but his offensive numbers have dipped since the start of the season. Seth Jones on the other hand, has really taken off since getting named to the All-Star Game, and has been the more consistent offensive option at a very similar price. Jones has 10 points in his last 10 games and is averaging close to 3 shots on goal per game in that span. Jones is my preferred option for cash games, while Werenski remains a solid GPP option due to lower expected ownership.