NHL Breakdown 04/08/2017
Welcome to the last weekend of the NHL regular season. FanDuel has a 9-game main slate tonight with the games starting at 7pm EST, while DK has an 11-game slate including the two 6pm games. This part of the season gets crazy for DFS as several teams have locked up playoff spots and will sporadically be resting their regulars. Several players have already been ruled out throughout the day and I expect even more changes to be announced closer to game time. I will go over some quick thoughts on the games that I have interest in tonight, but there will be several tricky situations to navigate, given the lack of lineup info on certain teams. Make sure to hop into the #premium_nhl channel on Slack before lock for the latest lineup news and implications.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs can clinch a playoff spot tonight with a win over the visiting Penguins, so this is one of the safer spots to target tonight as far as lineups go. I was perhaps a little over zealous the other day about the Leafs punching their ticket over the Lightning as I discounted the effort the Lightning would bring with their backs against the wall. Turns out the Leafs played really tight and nervous, and seemed to feel the pressure of locking up a playoff spot while the Lightning played with nothing to lose. I expect the Leafs to have learned from that game as they take on a Pens team with nothing to play for. Evgeni Malkin practised today, but will not play tonight, while Sidney Crosby is expected to be in the lineup. The coach said he may sit a few other regulars tonight, but they will be game-decisions. Crosby practised with his regular linemates today, so I expect Crosby-Sheary-Guentzel to remain the top line. I like them in GPPs if they stay together, as they have a ton of chemistry together, which can be seen in their recent results. With all the injuries the Pens have sustained to defensemen this season, I have a hunch that Justin Schultz will sit tonight. However, if he is in the lineup, then I like him a lot in GPPs, as the Leafs are giving up the most fantasy points to defensemen this season, and just gave up 3 points to Victor Hedman last game.
On the Leafs’ side, I am going back to the Matthews well once again. Over the last month of play, the Pens are giving up the 2nd-most even strength scoring chances per game (11.1 SCA60) and 4th-most even strength shot attempts per game (61.0 CA60). The Matthews/Nylander combo is generating the most even strength scoring chances on the Leafs, and will avoid the Crosby line at even strength. They are my favorite stack in this game as they also stay together on the top PP unit. Defenseman Jake Gardiner can be added to the stack as he skates with the duo at even strength.
Buffalo Sabres at Florida Panthers
Both teams are out of the playoffs, so there is no worry about teams resting players in this game. The Panthers are a banged up team and have been awful defensively since top line center Alex Barkov was ruled out for the season. They have lost 6 games in a row, and have allowed an alarming 28 goals over that stretch. The Sabres have not been lighting up the scoreboard lately, but they do boast some elite offensive weapons. They have the top PP in the league and have scored 5 PPGs against the Panthers in 3 meetings this season. Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Sam Reinhart, and Ryan O’Reilly are all solid plays on the top PP unit, with Eichel and Kane being the top options due to their high shot rate.
Minnesota Wild at Arizona Coyotes
This is the biggest mismatch on paper of the whole slate, but motivation should play a bigger part in this game. The Wild lead the league in several advanced stats categories over the last month of play (1st in CF%, 2nd in SCF%, 1st in xGF%), while the Coyotes are dead last in all those categories. Goaltending remains an issue for the Wild, but their offense has been heating up after a long cold stretch. Mikael Granlund and Jared Spurgeon will sit tonight for the Wild as they have nothing to play for, but the top line of Staal-Parise-Niederreiter is expected to remain together so they can continue to build chemistry for the playoff run. In a small sample size together, the line has dominated in all advanced stats categories at even strength (70 CF60 48 CA60, 16 SCF60 4 SCA60), and they have been getting the results on the scoreboard with 6 even strength goals in 3 games together. They are one of my top stacks on the night, but I am a little cautious to go all in on the Wild with questionable motivation. I am worried that they will just be playing to try and not get hurt before the playoffs.
Motivation is much stronger on the Coyotes side, as they will be trying to get a win for Captain Shane Doan in his last home game for the franchise. They are taking on goalie Darcy Keumper, who has a sub .900 SV% on the season, and can’t seem to stop a beach ball lately. The Coyotes have flexed a little offensive muscle lately, and I don’t expect the Wild to be blocking many shots in this game. The pieces I am most interested in here are Max Domi, Radim Vrbata, and Alex Goligoski, who all play on the top PP together, which has accounted for 6 goals over their last 5 games.
Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars
These two teams have the worst PKs in the entire league, so each PP is a strong play for me tonight. The Stars look to have finally reunited the superstars on the top line with Seguin-Benn-Spezza playing together at even strength and the top PP unit. The Avalanche has given up the most goals in the league this season, but they have reasonable advanced stats at even strength. The big issue has been goaltending, and they will be turning to backup Jeremy Smith, who holds an atrocious .880 SV% this season. That’s not even AHL level goaltending, let alone NHL quality. Tyler Seguin is one of my top overall plays, as he is top 5 in shots on goal in the league and has 9 points against the Avs this season in only 4 games. Defenseman John Klingberg is a strong play on the point on the top PP unit, and Julius Honka offers some salary relief on the back end as a punt option for the Stars.
The Avs offense has been much better lately, as the young guys have finally found some confidence. Nathan MacKinnon is regularly the top play for the Avs, as his game has improved since he started playing with newcomer Sven Andrighetto. That duo would be my preferred combo for the Avs, but I also have some interest in recent call-up Tyson Jost, who plays with Landeskog and Grimaldi on the third line, but also joins the top PP unit against the Stars league-worst PK. He is a solid punt option tonight and will likely go overlooked in GPPs.