NHL Breakdown 03/2/2017
The NHL has a big 10-game slate tonight with no teams on back-to-backs or coming off bye week. With several players being moved at yesterday’s trade deadline, it will be important to pay attention to the latest line combos in practice today. The Capitals, Senators, and Sharks are all massive home favorites tonight and will likely carry the highest ownership as they are obviously in great matchups. I would make sure to get a lot of players from these teams into my cash game lineups, but would prefer to differentiate a little in tournaments. I will break down some of the other games with high upside matchups that might go a little under the radar tonight.
Arizona Coyotes at Buffalo Sabres
The Coyotes and Sabres are two of the worst defensive teams in the league which makes each offense appealing from a DFS perspective. The Coyotes and Sabres are giving up the most even strength shot attempts per game over the last month and have the 25th- and 29th-ranked PK units respectively. Both teams are in play tonight for GPPs, but I strongly favor the Sabres in this one as they are a much better home team, while the Coyotes are much worse on the road. The Sabres have been changing their lines up in practice a lot over the past couple days and won’t finalize them until warmups tonight, so I prefer to look to their 4th-ranked PP, which has remained somewhat constant for the majority of the season. Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo have stayed together at even strength for most of the season, while Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart were together at this morning’s practice. I prefer looking to those duos in GPPs and pairing them with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen who joins them on the PP. Eichel and Reinhart have the most upside, and would be my preferred choice, but they also cost more and should be much higher owned than O’Reilly and Okposo, so I think that the latter combo makes for a sneakier GPP play in larger field contests.
The Coyotes have also been changing their lines up surrounding the trade deadline and I’m not sure which one will draw the difficult even strength matchup against the O’Reilly line. In that case, I would prefer to look to the top PP unit as well. According to beat writers, they practiced with Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, and Teemu Pulkkinen on the 2nd even strength line and top PP unit. This would be the ideal Coyotes stack for me in large field GPPs. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson joins that top PP unit and logs the most ice time on the Coyotes, so he is a solid GPP play for me in any size contest.
Florida Panthers at Philadelphia Flyers
With all the other options tonight, I think this game will go lower owned than it should. But with Steve Mason and Roberto Luongo starting in net, I think there is a lot of offensive potential in this matchup. Each goalie is capable of a strong performance, but they’ve also had their share of blow-up moments recently.
The Panthers added winger Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline and he is expected to be in the lineup tonight on a line with Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Marchessault. This gives the Panthers three very capable scoring lines, but it also makes a weak defensive 3rd line even worse. Last game on home ice, the Flyers used the Brayden Schenn/Jakub Voracek line against the opposition 3rd line, so they stand to get the best matchup here. The one wild card is that they are being centered by deadline acquisition Valtteri Filppula, who is a more defensively minded forward and that could change their assignment. I normally like to focus on the top PP unit when using the Flyers in DFS, but the Panthers have the 3rd best PK in the league, so I prefer using even strength line stacks in this situation.
The Panthers offense is very appealing to me tonight in GPPs, but it can be difficult to narrow down the best option when there are three capable scoring lines to choose from. I usually prefer to look at ownership and individual matchup when making this type of decision. The top line of Barkov/Huberdeau/Jagr has a lot of upside, but they have been very popular since Huberdeau returned from injury and will be facing Ivan Provorov at even strength, who is the only defenseman that is any good on the Flyers. I think a lot of people will also want to use the shiny new toy in Thomas Vanek, which takes away from some of the appeal of the 3rd line for me. That line also gets split up on the PP, so I would prefer to use guys like Vanek or Marchessault as one-offs. The 2nd line of Trocheck/Jokinen/Smith is my preferred GPP option on the Panthers, as they should go under the radar and are likely to get a favorable even strength matchup against the Giroux line and weaker defense pairs at even strength.
Nashville Predators at Montreal Canadiens
There will be a lot of energy in the building tonight when PK Subban makes his return to Montreal for the first time since being traded in the off-season. Each team seems to be clicking right now as the Habs have won 3 straight games, while the Preds have won 4 straight. This game has a wide range of possible outcomes as the Habs have been playing tighter, low-scoring games lately, while the Preds have been playing wide open games with lots of scoring. It will be interesting to see what the ownership is on the Preds’ top line, as Filip Forsberg and company have been lighting the league on fire over the past couple weeks but head into a tough building tonight to take on one of the best goalies in the world in Carey Price. What’s lost in the recent offensive outburst of the Preds, is that they have been a mess defensively during this stretch. The have given up an average of 4 goals per game over their last 10, which makes the Habs’ offense a sneaky play in GPPs as I think they will mostly go overlooked with all the other options tonight. Max Pacioretty is always in play given his high output, but he has been particularly strong over his past few games with 3 goals and 22 shots on goal over his past 3 games. Linemate Alex Radulov is less consistent than Pacioretty, but has just as much upside, as he has several multi-point performances this season. The other option I have a lot of interest in is Alex Galchenyuk, who has goals in 3 straight games. He should get the best even strength matchups as well as get to join Pacioretty and Radulov on the top PP unit.
New York Islanders at Dallas Stars
This game has the highest Vegas total at 6.0 and should be a strong target for DFS. Each team has incredible home/road splits, as the Islanders are a much worse team on the road, while the Stars are a much better team at home. This makes the Stars the preferred option tonight, but they can be a very difficult team to stack, given how often Lindy Ruff changes the lines around (between games and in-game). Considering the situation, I think it makes sense to just target the studs in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, because the secondary options are only relevant while they are on the same line. Defensemen Esa Lindell and John Klingberg remain strong plays though, with their involvement on the PP. Lindell is not a scoring machine, but he is still very cheap across all sites and has led the team in ice time over the past several games. He mans the point on the top PP unit with Seguin and Benn and has been racking up the shots and blocks, which make him an ideal salary saving option for cash games. Klingberg is more expensive, but he has more offensive upside and has 5 points in his last 3 games despite being moved to the 2nd PP unit.
The Stars have the worst PK in the league and the worst goaltending, so the Isles are strongly in play despite their road woes. The top line of Tavares/Bailey/Lee is always the best option for offense and will not face any particularly difficult matchups in this game. The Stars change their lines so often in-game and don’t usually line match so that will not be a worry here. Defenseman Nick Leddy is also a strong play as he quarterbacks the top PP unit. An interesting punt option for tonight is winger Josh Ho-Sang (center on DK, $2,700), who will be making his NHL debut on the 2nd line with Brock Nelson and Andrew Ladd. Ho-Sang is a very talented prospect who has 36 points in 48 games in the AHL this season. I don’t expect him to log a ton of ice time in his debut, but he gets a great opportunity with talented linemates against a weak defensive team.