NHL Breakdown – 3/09/17
The NHL has a 10-game slate tonight with only the Senators playing on a back-to-back. There are many close games expected tonight, with the Blackhawks being the heaviest favorites at only -165. 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 Toronto Maple Leafs
This game is one of my top targets on the night since both teams have been generating shot attempts and scoring chances at a high rate over the last month of play. The Flyers are 1st in even strength shot attempts for per game and 5th in even strength scoring chances for per game, while the Leafs are 4th and 2nd in those categories over the last month. Each team also has strong power-play units and mediocre penalty killing.
The Leafs’ lines are in question tonight as Tyler Bozak will be a game-time decision with an illness. Mike Babcock says he thinks Bozak will play, but the lines at practice suggest otherwise. The Leafs moved Nazem Kadri into Bozak’s usual spot between JVR, Marner, and Nylander back with Matthews. Usually when a player misses practice and is expected to play, the coach will just have scratched player fill in as a placeholder while leaving the other lines in tact, instead of completely changing them around. If Bozak misses the game, it will make the line matchups difficult to predict, but either of those two line combinations would be great plays tonight. The Kadri-JVR-Marner line has had a lot of success in the few games they have played together this season. They have strong even strength shot attempt and scoring chance numbers and all stay together on the top PP unit. They would be my preferred stack if Bozak were out. I also really like the Matthews-Nylander combination and they remain a strong option regardless of whether Bozak plays. When Matthews and Nylander are playing together, they generate an incredible 70 shot attempts and 14.8 scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength. I think they are most likely to match up with the Flyers 2nd line of Filppula, Schenn, and Voracek, who have really struggled defensively in their first couple of games together.
On the Flyers’ side, I really like the top line of Giroux, Simmonds, and Weal, as they have been a strong puck possession line in their short time together. The Leafs have really struggled to contain opposing top lines at home over the past month or so. Defensemen Nikita Zaitsev and Morgan Rielly have been the shutdown pairing for the Leafs this season and they have terrible defensive numbers together. They are giving up over 61 shot attempts and 10.6 scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength.
New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
The Rangers opened as decent favorites, but the line quickly swung in Carolina’s favor as Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, and Michael Grabner were all announced out for the game with injuries. The Rangers are the best road team in the league, but they have been giving up many shot attempts and scoring chances over the last month of play. They have been getting fantastic goaltending from both Lundqvist and backup Antti Raanta that has helped mask those deficiencies. The Hurricanes have been having a hard time scoring goals themselves, but they have been generating a ton of shot attempts and scoring chances at even strength. Based on the underlying advanced stats, I would expect the Hurricanes to come out here with a very high shot total, which will result in many opportunities for fantasy scoring. The matchup sets up well for the 2nd line of Skinner, Rask, and Lindholm, as they will avoid the Stepan line at even strength, which is the strongest possession line for the Rangers. Skinner has been on a cold streak lately, but he is normally a shot generating machine and my hope is that being reunited with Rask and Lindholm will help rekindle that part of his game. I really like this line as a GPP play; as I think ownership on the Hurricanes will be down after poor recent results.
Based on the high expected shot volume and low SH% of the Hurricanes, I think that Raanta also makes for a strong GPP play in net tonight for the Rangers. He has had a terrific season so far, with a .925 SV% and 2.22 GAA.
Anaheim Ducks at Chicago Blackhawks
The Hawks have won 7 games in a row and are the largest favorites on the night at home to the Ducks. The Ducks have not been great on the road this season and will likely be without starting goaltender John Gibson once again. The difference in goaltending between Gibson and backup Jonathan Bernier is substantial, and it makes the Hawks’ offense a strong play tonight. Patrick Kane is on fire lately, with 12 goals and 5 assists over his last 10 games and is averaging over 4 shots a game over that span. He makes for a strong cash game play tonight if you can afford him. The top line of Toews, Schmaltz, and Panik has been on fire lately as Toews has 15 points over his last 10 games, while Schmaltz and Panik each have 12 points over that span and are priced very affordably on all sites. They will avoid the Kesler line at even strength and are my favorite stacking option on the Hawks.
The Ducks switched their lines around last game and had Patrick Eaves and Rickard Rakell skating on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf. They generated a whopping 32 shot attempts in a little over 17 even strength minutes together. It is a small sample to go off, but the Hawks are giving up over 30 shots on goal per game and have the 27th-ranked PK unit in the league, so I think the line is a solid play in GPPs tonight. Rakell does not join Getzlaf and Eaves on the top PP unit, but he is talented enough that I do not think I would leave him out of the stack for that reason.