NHL Breakdown – 4/4/17
We’re down to the home stretch as this is the final week of the NHL regular season. There is a massive 13-game slate tonight with a few very important matchups with playoff implications in the East. The Leafs, Senators and Red Wings are all playing on back-to-backs, with the latter two playing the second half of a home-and-home series. The Blackhawks and Sharks are the heaviest favorites but there are several other great games to target for DFS, so ownership will not be a major factor tonight. This slate really lends itself to a multi-entry approach in tournaments, but I will go over my top spots to target for offense tonight and help make your decisions a little easier.
Arizona Coyotes at Dallas Stars
Both teams have struggled defensively this season, which is a major reason why both were eliminated from playoff contention rather early. The Coyotes have the worst defensive shot metrics in the league this season (even worse than the lowly Avalanche), and are susceptible to blowouts when their goaltenders are not standing on their heads. They are giving up the most even strength shot attempts per game (66.2 CA60) and 3rd-most even strength scoring chances per game (10.5 SCA60) over the last month of play. They also have the 24th-ranked PK and are giving up the most unblocked shot attempts at 4v5 (87.2 FA60) over the last month. To make matters worse, they will be without number one defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who is taking a personal leave of absence. The Stars have struggled on the road this season, but are a much better team on home ice. They are scoring 0.9 more goals per game and are giving up 0.6 fewer goals per game at home this season. The matchup sets up really nice for them at even strength and on the PP. Unfortunately, the Stars have split up their studs at even strength, so stacking can be a little difficult. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Jason Spezza are the best offensive weapons for the Stars, but they are on three different lines at even strength. Trying to choose which of these lines will score on a given night is rather difficult, due to the lack of line matching by their coach, so I prefer using either player as a one-off or stacking all three together for a PP stack. Spezza has had the best results lately, but Seguin has the best shot rate of the three, so he would be my choice in cash games or one-off situations. Defenseman John Klingberg joins the top PP unit and makes for a solid play in both formats, but the Stars have recently called up Julius Honka, who makes for a great low-owned punt option on the 2nd PP unit, and is near min price on all sites.
New York Islanders at Nashville Predators
The Islanders have given up the 2nd-most even strength shot attempts and scoring chances in the league this season (behind only the Arizona Coyotes), and have been even worse when John Tavares is not on the ice. Now that their captain is out for the season, I really expect them to struggle on the defensive end. The Preds are a strong team on home ice and get a terrific matchup here. The top line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson has amazing even strength puck possession numbers, with 71 shot attempts for per 60 and only 47.5 shot attempts against per 60 this season. Forsberg and Arvidsson make for the best cash plays based on their high shot rates, but I love the whole line as a stack in GPPs. They skate together on the top PP as well, and will likely only be owned at around 10% or less in most tournaments due to the shear amount of other options on the slate. Motivation is a slight concern, since they have already clinched a playoff spot and are locked into a wildcard seed, so I will not go all in here, but they will definitely be my highest owned stack on the night.
Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs
I think this is a terrific game to target for GPPs, as each team has been rolling lately (both 8-1-1 in their last 10) and I expect the population to gravitate towards the teams facing weaker opponents. Both teams will be starting their backup goalies, but they still have something to play for tonight. The Leafs will be looking to lock up a playoff spot, while the Caps will be trying to lock up the division. Despite the recent hot streak for the Leafs, their advanced stats have been awful and they can be exploited by a strong offensive team like the Caps. Over the last month of play, the Leafs have a 47.9% shot rate (CF%) and 45.6% scoring chance rate (SCF%) at even strength, and have given up the 2nd-most unblocked shot attempts on the PK (86.2 FA60). Over the same time frame, the Caps have the 3rd-most even strength shot attempts and shot rate per game (62 CF60, 54.3 CF%). The Caps’ top line of Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, and TJ Oshie are an elite offensive unit that also stays together on the top PP unit. Their ice time has increased over the last month as the team gears up for the playoffs, and so has their production. The Caps are not a team that you want to be giving up that many unblocked shot attempts on the PK, especially against your backup goalie. I have a hunch that this line will also go under-owned due to the number of larger favorites on the slate, which makes them one of my favorite stacks in GPPs.