NHL Breakdown – 04/06/17
The NHL has another large 12-game slate tonight as we near the final weekend of the regular season. This part of the season gets crazy for DFS as several teams have locked up playoff spots and will sporadically be resting their regulars. There are two big games tonight with playoff implications in the Atlantic division, with the Bruins taking on the Senators, and the Leafs taking on the Lightning. Even these games have their question marks, as there are multiple injuries and suspensions that will impact lineups for tonight. Several players have already been ruled out throughout the day and I expect even more changes to be announced closer to game time. After having to rewrite this article multiple times already today due to these scratches, I have decided to just briefly touch on the spots that I have interest in tonight rather than list specific line combos, as they will likely be changed throughout the day. Make sure to tune into Hit the Ice today at 4:45pm EST for my updated thoughts as more information is released. Also, hop into the #premium_nhl channel on Slack before lock for the latest lineup news and implications.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs
The Lightning are in a tough spot and will need to win out in regulation or OT and have the Leafs or Sens lose out. Unfortunately, they have been dealing with a rash of injuries lately and even played two men short in a must-win game against the Bruins. Tyler Johnson is a game time decision tonight, but even if he plays he will not be anywhere near 100%. With all the uncertainty tonight, I will be going all in on the Leafs, as they are the only team that I have confidence in from a lineup and motivation perspective. The Lightning have a strong top line, but their depth lines are weaker due to injuries. This puts the Matthews’s line and Bozak line in very strong spots. The Lightning are also taking the 3rd-most penalties in the league so Leafs that play on the PP will get a boost as well. Matthews has been a beast lately on the offensive end, and has been generating shot attempts and scoring chances at a consistently high rate. He is my top overall play on the board tonight and I will even guarantee that he scores his 40th goal of the season. I like the idea of stacking Matthews with Nylander and Gardiner in tournaments, as they all play together at even strength and on the top PP unit.
Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins
The Bruins just clinched a playoff spot last game so motivation could be an issue here, but I think we see their best as they try to play for home ice in the first round and avoid a horrible matchup with the league-leading Capitals. It was announced today that the Sens will be without their top player in Erik Karlsson, which is a major advantage for the Bruins. We just saw how awful the Sens were without Karlsson for a couple of big games as he plays over 30 minutes a night and in every key situation. His loss hurts them at both ends of the ice, so the Bruins offense and Tuukka Rask get a huge boost in this game. The announcement of Brad Marchand’s suspension has just come down, so it is unknown who will play with Bergeron and Backes on the top line. It looks as though Frank Vatrano will return to the lineup in Marchand’s absence, and if he gets that spot on the top line, then he becomes one of the top punt plays on the night. The Bruins could also use Riley Nash in that spot (who I have no interest in for DFS), or bump David Pastrnak up from the second line. We’ll have to wait until warmups, but I really like Pastrnak in either situation. Pastrnak has incredible offensive numbers on home ice and should thrive here with either Bergeron or David Krejci on the second line, avoiding the tougher defensive matchups.
Minnesota Wild at Colorado Avalanche
The Wild have clinched 2nd place in the division and have nothing to play for, so they are one of the teams that will be resting players tonight. We just got word that they will be sitting center Mikko Koivu (healthy) and defenseman Jared Spurgeon (injury), and there has been no mention of line combinations for tonight. I love the Wild offense tonight as they have been generating a ton of shot attempts and scoring chances lately, and seem to be getting back on the right side of variance as far as shooting percentage goes. A lot depends on the final lineup configuration, but my top target would be the Eric Staal line, as he has been their most consistent offensive option over the last couple of months. I also have some potential interest in the third line of the Wild as a salary relief option in large field GPPs if it looks decent enough. The Avs called up prospects Tyson Jost and Rocco Grimaldi last game and they were dominated in shot attempts and scoring chances by the third line of the Hawks.
Winnipeg Jets at Columbus Blue Jackets
Eric Comrie is the wild card in this game, as he will be making his NHL debut in net for the Jets. This probably explains why the line is so lop-sided in the Jackets’ favor, despite having lost four straight games while the Jets have won five straight. I honestly have no idea what to expect from Comrie in this spot, but I imagine that the Jackets will be quite popular in tournaments as everyone attempts to target him. Both teams are top 10 in 5v5 scoring chances for (Jets 1st, Jackets 6th) and bottom 10 in 5v5 scoring chances allowed (Jets fourth most, Jackets 10th most) over the last month of play, so I expect a lot of action here. Despite all the scoring chances, the Jackets have been slumping offensively lately, and just can’t seem to buy a goal. They are also constantly changing their lines around, so I would prefer not to play the guessing game until we know more information there. For now, the best play on the Jackets is defenseman Seth Jones, who will log the most minutes with Zack Werenski out with an injury. However, my preferred target in this game would be the Jets, as they will be going against backup Joonas Korpisalo in net, which is a major downgrade from Sergei Bobrovsky. The top line of Scheifele-Wheeler-Ehlers has been on fire over the last several weeks and somehow goes under-owned in GPPs in tougher perceived matchups, despite their consistent production. They are one of my top contrarian stacks of the night.