NHL Breakdown – 3/28/17
The NHL has a massive 11-game slate tonight with the Predators, Sabres, Panthers, and Hurricanes all playing on back-to-backs. The Red Wings are also playing an unprecedented 3rd game in a row and 4th game in 5 nights due to a cancellation earlier in the season with the Hurricanes. The Blue Jackets and Canadiens are the biggest favorites on the board tonight, but I expect ownership to be spread out given the size of the slate. With 11 games, there are a lot of options for DFS tonight, but I will go over my favorite spots for offense to help make your decisions a little easier.
Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs
This game is a great one to target for DFS as it has a 6.0 Vegas total, which is the largest on the slate. The Panthers are playing their 3rd game in 4 nights on the road and pretty much ended their playoff hopes with a lacklustre effort in Buffalo last night. The Leafs on the other hand, have a loose grip on 3rd place in the Atlantic division and will be playing meaningful games the rest of the way. The Leafs have taken 3 out of the 4 meetings between the clubs this season, including both games in Toronto, but the Panthers embarrassed them 7-2 in the most recent contest just two weeks ago. The Leafs bounced back from that loss with a string of impressive victories, while the Panthers have remained incredibly inconsistent, alternating big wins and big losses. Curtis McElhinney will be getting the start in net for the Leafs tonight, in place of the injured Freddy Andersen, while James Reimer will be making his second start in as many nights, despite getting pulled after allowing 4 goals on 22 shots last night. McElhinney and Reimer each have respectable SV% numbers (.921 and .917 respectively), but are prone to blow ups, which makes each offense worth targeting in GPPs tonight. The Panthers generate the 3rd-most shots on goal in the league while the Leafs generate the 4th-most, but the Leafs are also giving up the 3rd-most shots on goal. If this were a neutral situation, I would favor the Panthers due to the numbers, but given their short rest, lack of motivation, and the game being played in Toronto, the edge goes to the Leafs here.
The weakest link defensively on the Panthers is their 3rd line of Marchessault, Vanek, and Bjugstad. The trio has terrible possession numbers at even strength and give up the most scoring chances (56.48 CF60 61.24 CA60, 11.57 SCF60 14.97 SCA60). The Leafs play a heavy matchup game on home ice and the line of Bozak, van Riemsdyk, and Marner is likely to see a lot of the Bjugstad line at even strength. The Bozak line is weak defensively as well, but they generate 8.5 more even strength shot attempts and give up 5.5 fewer scoring chances per 60 minutes than the Bjugstad line. The trio also stays together on the top PP unit, which makes them an excellent stack in GPPs tonight (Bozak missed the morning skate today due to maintenance, but is expected to be in the lineup tonight). The Panthers have the best PK in the league, but struggled to contain the Sabres’ top-ranked PP last night, allowing 2 goals on 3 opportunities. The Leafs have the 2nd-best PP in the league, and should see plenty of opportunities on the man advantage against a tired Florida team.
On the other side of the ice, I like targeting the same matchup for the Panthers. As I mentioned above, the Bozak line is not great defensively, and the Bjugstad line has been generating a lot of even strength scoring chances. Unfortunately, the trio gets split up on the PP, so they are hard to stack, but they do make for great one-off plays. Jonathan Marchessault is on fire lately, with 6 goals in his last 3 games (29 on the season), and is my favorite one-off option in this game. He gets the easier even strength matchup and also gets to join Barkov and Huberdeau on the top PP unit.
Buffalo Sabres at Columbus Blue Jackets
The Sabres are playing their 3rd game in 4 nights and have been a much worse team on the road this season. They have given up the most shots on goal per game this season, and have given up the most even strength scoring chances over the last month of play (10.93 SCA60). The Sabres also have the 27th-ranked PK, and are giving up the most unblocked shot attempts on the PK by a wide margin. The Jackets have generated the 8th-most even strength scoring chances over the last month (9 SCF60) and have the 9th-best PP in the league. They went 2-for-3 on the man advantage in their last home game with the Sabres, who have given up 3+ PP opportunities in 8 of their last 10 games. The teams split a home-and-home series earlier this month, with the home team winning both. In those two games, the Jackets registered 39 and 36 shots on goal. The goalies are still unconfirmed for tonight, but Sergei Bobrovsky and Robin Lehner have been by far the best options for their respective teams. Bobrovsky won the first meeting between the two teams and is 9-0-2 over his last 11 starts, with less than 2 goals allowed in 8 of those, and 4 shutouts over that span. If he gets the start tonight, he is my top cash game goalie. Lehner has been able to steal several games this season, but he played last night and faced over 30 shots so I would not be as worried about targeting the Jackets’ offense tonight if he gets the start. The Jackets have recently switched up their lines, but over a small sample, it looks like the line of Gagner, Atkinson, and Saad, has been the best line for generating shots. They have also been getting the easier even strength matchups on home ice against the depth lines of opposing teams. I would expect them to see a lot of ice time against the Evander Kane line tonight, which is not very strong defensively. I like stacking the full line tonight in GPPs, but Gagner and Atkinson stay together on the top PP unit, so I would be fine with a mini stack there as well, or perhaps with defenseman Zack Werenski, who joins the top PP unit.
Anaheim Ducks at Vancouver Canucks
The Ducks have been playing great hockey lately, with an 8-1-1 record over their last 10 games overall. The lead the league in even strength scoring chances for and are 2nd in even strength shot attempts generated per 60 minutes over the last month (12.63 SCF60, 65.10 CF60). The Canucks on the other hand, only have one regulation win in their last 10 games and are returning home after a 5-game road trip. The Canucks offense has been terrible, as they have scored 1 or fewer goals in 5 of those 10 games. They have given up the 6th-most even strength shot attempts over the last month (60.80 CA60) and have the 26th-ranked PK in the league. They have given up 7 PPGs over their last 7 games.
The Ducks lineup is much more balanced after the trade deadline, and their best line has been the Getzlaf, Eaves, Rakell combo. That line has absolutely dominated play at even strength in over 120 minutes together. It’s not a huge sample size, but they have generated a ton of shot attempts and scoring chances, while not allowing much at the defensive end (75.2 CF60 57.41 CA60, 14.23 SCF60 3.56 SCA60). Getzlaf was just named the 3rd star of the week, with 7 assists over his last 3 games, and has 27 points over his last 19 games. The Canucks don’t have any strong possession lines and will have a very hard time shutting down the Getzlaf line if goaltender Ryan Miller doesn’t stand on his head. I like the idea of a full line stack in GPPs, but you could also go with a mini stack of Getzlaf and Eaves, since Rakell doesn’t join them on the top PP unit. If you want to take advantage of the weak Canucks PK, you can also add defenseman Cam Fowler to the stack.