NHL Breakdown – 3/14/17
The NHL has an 8-game slate tonight now that the Jets and Devils game is cancelled due to a winter storm. The Lightning, Islanders, Hurricanes, Kings, and Coyotes are all playing on back-to-backs. The Kings and Sharks are the heaviest favorites on the night and you can expect them to be chalky with the remaining 6 games expected to be much closer. I will break down these games and briefly touch on a few other spots to differentiate tonight.
Arizona Coyotes at LA Kings
Both teams played low scoring games at home last night, with the Coyotes beating the lowly Avalanche 1-0, while the Kings lost a tight game to the Blues 3-1 (2-1 before a late empty netter). The Kings are the biggest favorites on the board tonight as they are the best puck possession team in the league at even strength, while the Coyotes are the worst. The Kings’ PP has also been hot lately, with 9 PPGs scored over their last 6 games, while the Coyotes have the 26th-ranked PK unit in the league. The other major advantage the Kings have is in net, with two capable starters that give them a fresh option on the 2nd half of back-to-backs. Mike Smith has had a spectacular season, but the Coyotes’ backup Louis Domingue is not on the same level as Ben Bishop. I expect both backups to get the start tonight, although Smith could get a look coming off a shutout, but goalies playing on B2Bs do not typically fare well. The Kings mixed up their lines a little last night after failing to generate offense against the Blues, so the lines we see tonight are anyone’s guess. That’s why I would prefer to focus on the PP lines since those are unlikely to change and should remain a strong target tonight. Jeff Carter has cooled off a little lately, but remains the top option here given his high shot rate and shooting position on the top PP unit. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty log a ton of ice time and are also strong primary options here. Beyond those three, I like getting a little exposure to Tanner Pearson, Jake Muzzin, Jarome Iginla, Marian Gaborik, and Tyler Toffoli as secondary options given their PP time.
Buffalo Sabres at San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are the 2nd-biggest favorites on the board tonight at home to the Sabres, who have a high-powered offense, but porous defense. The Sabres have the 2nd-worst PK unit in the league and are giving up the most shots on goal. The Sharks’ PP is in a great spot tonight, except for that fact that they have really struggled lately and are now the 25th-ranked unit in the league despite having one of the top PPs last season with the same personnel. They also went 0-5 last game against the Stars and their league-worst PK. The Sabres also have a shocking 9-0-1 record over the Sharks in their last 10 meetings despite how awful they have been over the past several seasons. I’m willing to overlook recent results and instead focus on just how good of a matchup it is, but there’s enough there that you can consider a fade of the highest owned offense in GPPs. Should you choose to follow the advanced stats and target the Sharks, the players on the top PP unit are the way to go. Brent Burns is one of the top overall plays on the slate in both formats. The Sabres are giving up the most shot attempts in the league at even strength and are giving up the most unblocked shot attempts on the PK. Burns leads the league in shots on goal so this is really the best possible matchup to use him. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Patrick Marleau are also primary options here given their high shot volume. Joe Thornton can be considered as a stacking partner with Pavelski in GPPs since they play together in both situations, but I would stay far away from him in cash as his shot rate is non-existent, meaning he cannot create offense on his own and relies on other people to put the puck in the net for him to be successful.
New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes
These two teams are playing the 2nd half of a home-and-home series, with last night’s opener resembling a game of shinny. The Canes won 8-4 and there was no defense or goaltending in sight, which has become a common trend in recent meetings. The Canes have won all three meetings this season by a combined score of 20-12 (!), and it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw another high scoring game here. I’m not surprised by the Isles pathetic showing last night as they were playing their first game back at home after a grueling 9-game road trip, which has long been a common letdown spot. Aside from a couple poor games due to the ridiculously difficult schedule, the Isles have been playing much better hockey lately and I expect a much better showing from them tonight (hard to be any worse, really). I think most people will be on the Hurricanes again, which is hard to argue with, so the Isles will be a sneakier GPP play tonight. The Tavares line did not produce last night, but have been terrific over the past couple of months, so I think this will be a great spot to get them at lower ownership given recency bias. I’m going to go back to the well with a stack of Tavares-Bailey-Lee in GPPs tonight in the hopes that last night’s production was just due to the letdown spot. The Hurricanes have been giving up the 3rd-most even strength scoring chances in the league over the last month and have one of the worst goalie tandems in the league, so I like the Isles to bounce back here after getting embarrassed at home last night. On the other side of the ice, I also like the Jeff Skinner line with Viktor Rask and Elias Lindholm, as they have been turning up the shot volume since being reunited as a line a few games ago. They also have the advantage of avoiding the Tavares line at even strength, which is the only formidable possession line on the Isles.
Dallas Stars at Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have struggled on home ice lately but get a great matchup against a Stars team with one of the worst road records in the league this season. They have the worst PK unit in the league and the worst goaltending tandem in the league by save percentage statistics. The Oilers have the 9th-best PP in the league so it’s a great spot to target the studs on the top unit. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Oscar Klefbom are my favorite plays here as they all skate together at even strength and on the top unit. Milan Lucic is a sneakier secondary play as he joins the top PP unit avoids the Benn/Seguin line at even strength.
Speaking of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, I think they also make for great GPP plays tonight as road underdogs against the Oilers, who I had mentioned as struggling lately at home. They have been leaky defensively as a team for most of the season and goaltender Cam Talbot has been able to hide those shortcomings with his stellar play. But the Oilers have been riding Talbot too much this season as he has played the most games in the league by a wide margin and seems to be fading now. He was a goalie I was avoiding targeting for most of the season, but now I don’t mind due to the fatigue. I like a stack of Benn-Seguin-Spezza in GPPs for their solid upside and lower ownership than the McDavid line.