NHL Breakdown – 03/07/2017

The NHL has a 9-game slate tonight with only the Rangers playing on a back-to-back. The Blue Jackets are the heaviest favorites on the board tonight, but aside from them, no team has better than -200 odds. This should result in ownership being more spread out tonight, which is great for tournaments. I will break down my favorite spots to target for offense and help narrow down your options.

Philadelphia Flyers at Buffalo Sabres

Vegas has this game is a pick’em, but I feel that the Flyers should be comfortably favored here based on recent play. The Sabres have lost 6 of their last 7 games, while the Flyers have points in 3 straight games. Over the past month of play, the Flyers have generated the most even strength shot attempts per game in the league (66.7 CF60), while the Sabres have given up the 5th most even strength shot attempts per game (61.5 CA60). The Flyers also get a great matchup for their power play, as the Sabres have the 2nd-worst PK in the league. The Flyers have a very top-heavy PP, with the top unit seeing the majority of the time with the man advantage. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek, and Shayne Gostisbehere are all strong plays on the number one unit. Schenn and Simmonds are 1st and 2nd in the league in PP goals respectively, while all five have at least 18 PP points this season. Giroux and Simmonds are solid options, but they are likely to see a lot of shutdown center Ryan O’Reilly at even strength, so my preferred stack would be Voracek-Schenn-Gostisbehere. Voracek and Schenn are likely to go up against the Jack Eichel line at even strength, and that is the worst defensive option for the Sabres. You can also add Valteri Filppula to the stack, as he centers Voracek and Schenn at even strength.

The Sabres should also be considered tonight, as they are always a threat to light up the scoreboard. They have the 2nd-best PP in the league and it accounts for most of their offense, so that is where I tend to focus when targeting the Sabres. Eichel and Sam Reinhart are the most offensively gifted players on the Sabres, and that is where the population tends to gravitate for DFS. With the injury to Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane joins O’Reilly on the top line and on the top PP unit. They get the better even strength matchup against Giroux and Simmonds, who are a combined -38 on the season. With the better matchup and slightly lower expected ownership, I like a stack of O’Reilly and Kane. You can add defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who joins them at even strength and on the top PP unit.

After discussing all the potential offensive options in this game, I think it makes sense to bring up the goaltenders, Robin Lehner and Steve Mason. While the Flyers have been generating a ton of shot attempts and have a shot total projected for tonight, they have not been as lucky in the goals department. Lehner has one of the highest ceilings on the slate and makes for a solid GPP option if he is on his game. Mason has been inconsistent this season, going through prolonged hot and cold streaks. He is currently on one of his hot streaks, with only 3 goals allowed over his last 3 starts, and one of those was in OT. He is very reasonably priced on all sites and should be a strong consideration for GPPs tonight.

New Jersey Devils at Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets won the first game of a home-and-home series with the Devils 3-0 in New Jersey, and are -270 favorites in the finale. That makes them the largest favorites on the slate by a wide margin, and likely a popular option in DFS. The biggest weakness on the Devils is their lack of depth on defense. The Devils were missing Damon Severson and Andy Greene on the back end in the first game, and their absence was evident, as the 3rd pairing of Karl Stollery and Dalton Prout were on the ice for all 3 goals against. Severson is possible to return for the game, but he is a league-worst -29 on the season, so it’s not as if he is a great help defensively. They will likely be forced to play Prout once again, which makes it a nice matchup for the depth lines of the Blue Jackets. With the top two lines of the Blue Jackets expected to be highly owned, I like looking to their 3rd line of Sam Gagner, Scott Hartnell and Oliver Bjorkstrand in large field GPPs. Gagner has goals in back-to-back games after a long cold spell, and the trio accounted for 2 goals in the same matchup on Sunday. The top two lines should be in consideration as well, but the Dubinsky line will have a difficult matchup with the Hall line at even strength, so I would prefer using the Wennberg line if I were going to use one of the higher owned options.

Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs have lost 5 games in a row and the offense has struggled, but they get a much easier matchup tonight against a Wings team they have scored 9 goals against in two meetings this season. The Wings are in last place in the Eastern Conference and have given up the most even strength scoring chances against per game (11.7 SCA60) over the last month of play. The Leafs have been generating the 2nd-most even strength shot attempts and scoring chances per game (63.5 CF60, 12.5 SCF60) over the same period. Rookie sensation Auston Matthews is 3rd in the league among forwards in even strength scoring chances for (179 SCF) this season, behind only superstars Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, and has 3 goals in the 2 meetings against the Wings this season. He is my top individual play in this game, although I am a little cautious because William Nylander was moved off his line in practice, in favor of Connor Brown. This makes me think Mike Babcock is going to use Matthews head-to-head against the Zetterberg once again at even strength. This is not an ideal matchup, as the Zetterberg line is the best possession line on the Wings, but Matthews has faced them both times this season and had success. The weakest defensive line for the Wings over the last month has been the 3rd line of Helm-Larkin-Abdelkader, with 10.2 even strength scoring chances allowed per 60 minutes. Based on the matchups from the first two meetings of the season, the Bozak-Marner-JVR line is likely to face them at even strength, which makes them my favorite stacking option on the Leafs.

The Leafs give up a ton of shot attempts and scoring chances, so the Wings offense should be considered as well in GPPs. The Matthews line, without Nylander, gives up the 2nd most scoring chances on the team, and the Zetterberg line burned them for all 4 goals in the outdoor game earlier this season. Anthony Mantha had 2 goals in that game, but was unfortunately moved down to the 2nd line in this morning’s practice. Zetterberg is now joined by Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, so they would be the stack I would target in GPPs. I think the Wings will go under-owned tonight despite the great matchup, so I will make sure to exposure to their offense.