NHL Breakdown – 3/30/17

The NHL has a 9-game slate tonight with no teams playing on back-to-backs. There are quite a few game-time decisions tonight however, so it will be important to pay attention to warmups tonight and utilize late swap where applicable. The Lightning and Bruins are the heaviest favorites tonight and make for the best cash game plays, but will likely be the chalk in tournaments. Luckily there are several other great matchups on tonight’s slate, so finding ways to differentiate your lineups won’t be very difficult.

Dallas Stars at Boston Bruins

There is a lot of offense expected in this game, as it has a 6.0 Vegas total, and 7 of the last 10 meetings between the two teams have gone over the total. The Bruins have the highest projected team total on the night and are a great place to look for your cash games. The Stars are one of the worst road teams in the league this season and a lot of that has to do with poor goaltending and a league-worst PK unit. Kari Lehtonen had a bit of a hot streak going over the last couple weeks, but he is just not a very good goalie, and looked to revert back to his normal self last game on a few questionable goals allowed against the Canadiens. The Stars have split up their star players, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, at even strength, and their new lines have been terrible from a puck possession standpoint. The Bruins on the other hand, have two very strong puck possession lines, so I expect them to dominate in shot attempts tonight. The top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Backes is one of the best two-way lines in the league and makes for a fairly safe stack tonight, but my focus will be on their power-play tonight, which has recently improved to the 8th-best unit in the league. Bergeron and Marchand are my favorite cash plays in this game as they stay together on the top PP unit, and see the most ice time among Boston forwards. They will be two of the highest owned players tonight, so if you are looking for lower ownership, I don’t mind the second line of David Krejci, David Pastrnak, and Drew Stafford as a pivot in GPPs. They are cheaper than that Bergeron line, have an equally strong even strength matchup, and all see PP time. Torey Krug mans the point on the top PP unit, and is one of my favorite defenseman options in either format. Another player I am considering adding to PP stacks is third-line center Ryan Spooner. I don’t love his even strength linemates, but the Dallas PK is so bad that I think Spooner is worth some light exposure in GPPs for his cheap price tag and low expected ownership.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Nashville Predators

The Leafs have not played as well on the road lately and have been a weak shot suppression team all season. They have an impressive 7-2-1 record over their last 10 games, as they have played themselves into a playoff spot, but they have also given up almost 35 shots on goal per game during this stretch. The matchup sets up nicely for the Preds who have been playing excellent hockey lately. The top line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson, have very strong puck possession numbers at even strength, and all stay together on the top PP unit. They are one of my favorite stacks of the night as I have a feeling that they will be lower owned than they should be in this matchup. Defenseman Roman Josi is also a strong play on that top PP unit and has averaged almost 3 shots on goal and 2 blocked shots per game over his last 10. Ryan Ellis should also be in consideration on defense, as the Leafs give up the most fantasy points to defensemen, and his numbers have been just as impressive as Josi’s, at a much lower cost.

Anaheim Ducks at Winnipeg Jets

This game is one of my favorite targets in GPPs tonight, but a lot has to do with the status of Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf, who is a game-time decision. The Ducks have been playing excellent hockey since the trade deadline, going 9-1-1 in March, and the top line of Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, and Patrick Eaves has led the way. They have phenomenal puck possession numbers at even strength, which I detailed in Tuesday’s article, and get a matchup against one of the weakest defensive teams in the league. Over the last month of play, the Jets have given up the 3rd-most even strength scoring chances per game (10.62 SCA60), while the Ducks have generated the most (12.34 SCF60). The Jets have also taken the 5th-most penalties in the league and have the 2nd-worst PK unit. The Ducks PP hasn’t been great lately, but it is a strong target if Getzlaf is in the lineup. If Getzlaf is in the lineup tonight, then I like the idea of stacking his even strength line, or potentially mixing in some combination of a PP stack including defenseman Cam Fowler. If Getzlaf is out tonight, then I will probably play the 2nd line with Ryan Kesler and Jakub Silfverberg, as the duo stays together on the top PP unit and will likely avoid the Scheifele/Wheeler line at even strength.

As well as the Ducks have been playing lately on the offensive end, their defensive numbers leave cause for concern. They have given up the 6th-most even strength scoring chances and 4th-most shot attempts per game over the last month of play. They take the 2nd-most penalties in the league and give up the 3rd-most unblocked shot attempts on the PK, yet somehow have the 4th-best PK rate in the league. A lot of these shortcomings have been masked by the play of goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who is 9-0-1 in his last 10 games, with a 1.58 GAA and .947 SV%. The Jets may be weak defensively, but they boast an elite group of forwards that can capitalize on their scoring chances. They have generated the 4th-most even strength scoring chances this month and their PP has been heating up with 8 PPGs scored over their last 8 games. If Getzlaf is out, then I really like the idea of stacking the Jets’ top line of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Nikolaj Ehlers in GPPs. I don’t usually like targeting hot goaltenders, but outside of this streak, Bernier is an average-at-best goaltender. The Scheifele line is an elite offensive unit and I expect them to go overlooked in a difficult perceived matchup.