NHL Power Plays – 12/02/16

Friday night’s NHL slate has just two games on it, and two later games at that with the first starting at 9 ET tonight. At time of writing, neither game features a heavy favourite, and that changes things a bit for a slate like this. Normally, if there is a heavy favourite or two on a short slate, it’s somewhat easy to tell where a lot of ownership will go. That is not the case tonight. All the same, it should help spread ownership out a little bit.

Note: All prices are from Fantasy Draft.

Center

Logan Couture (SJS) – $13,600

One weakness that San Jose’s opponent, the Montréal Canadiens, have is that they take far more penalties than the league average. In fact, the league average for power play opportunities allowed per game is 3.21, while the Habs allow 3.78. That may not seem like a lot, but an extra 0.57 power play opportunities against with the current Montreal penalty kill rate of 82.8 percent is an extra eight power play goals against than the average per year. That is significant.

Logan Couture is the only forward on the top power play unit that doesn’t play on the top line for the Sharks. That should keep is ownership depressed. He is also averaging over three shots a game on the year, as well as over a minute more per game in total ice time (18:26) than he did last year (17:23).

Tomas Plekanec (MTL) – $10,600

So far on the season, Plekanec is shooting 2.3 percent personally. Since the 2012-13 lockout ended, he is a player that averaged 9.6 percent shooting personally across four seasons. He is due for a big turnaround over the final four months of the season.

The Czech center is also playing between Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty. Since the start of Gallagher’s rookie season (2012-13), that trio has played over 600 five-on-five minutes together. Per Puckalytics, when Plekanec is on the ice with them, the Habs average over 67 shot attempts per 60 minutes. When Plekanec is on the ice without them, the Habs average 54.39. That is a massive disparity in a good way.

Winger

Nino Niederreiter (MIN) – $8,500

Minnesota is going into Calgary for tonight’s game. Per Corsica Hockey, whenever Flames defenseman Mark Giordano is not on the ice at five-on-five, the team averages 9.68 scoring chances allowed per 60 minutes. For a reference, the only teams giving up more scoring chances per 60 minutes on the year are Toronto (10.05) and Arizona (11.02). When Giordano is on the bench, the Flames are somewhere between the Oilers and Leafs defensively. That’s not good company.

That fact is important tonight because Giordano should be busy with either the Staal line or Koivu line tonight from Minnesota. Nino Niederreiter’s line should be left alone for the most part, getting the depth defense pairings for Calgary. He should also get some minutes on the power play.

Brendan Gallagher (MTL) – $12,100

If there is one problem the Sharks encounter, it’s that they’re not great at limiting shots on the penalty kill. So far this season, San Jose allows over 110 shot attempts against while short-handed. The only teams giving up more are Buffalo, Winnipeg, the Islanders, and Chicago. That’s not good company. California’s best team doesn’t give up many power plays (the fewest in the NHL), but the ones they do give up leak a lot of shots.

Gallagher has managed just 1.09 points per 60 minutes with the man advantage so far this year, meaning there’s a significant regression coming – he averaged 2.95 points per 60 minutes on the power play in the previous three seasons. Tonight’s matchup may be tough at even strength against San Jose, but when the Habs do get their power-play opportunities, they should be able to get their chances.

Kris Versteeg (CGY) – $8,500

Since returning from injury, Kris Versteeg has managed three points in four games, and has found himself playing on the top line with Sean Monahan and Troy Brouwer. More importantly, though, is that with Minnesota in town, they are hosting a team that is allowing the ninth-most shot attempts per 60 minutes on the penalty kill. Versteeg has found himself on the top power-play unit as well. In fact, he tied for the team lead in power-play time in their last game.

More than anything, Versteeg is a bit of salary relief tonight. He is cheap on Fantasy Draft, and that allows to pay up for Habs skaters or, more importantly, Habs goaltending.

Defense

Jeff Petry (MTL) – $9,100

The Montréal defenseman is averaging nearly four shots-plus-blocked-shots per game this year (38 and 47, respectively, through 22 games). That gives him a reasonably solid floor for cash games, and with a matchup against a team averaging the sixth-most shots per game, Petry may be in for his share of blocked shots.

This is not to say that by any stretch that Petry makes a better blue line option than teammate Shea Weber. However, Weber is the fourth-most expensive skater on the Fantasy Draft board tonight, and it is hard to fit him in with the Habs goaltending and stack. Petry is the alternative as he gets power-play time, and has exceeded 23 minutes in ice time three times in their last five games.

Ryan Suter (MIN) – $10,600

Given the matchup tonight, and Suter’s significant ice time, he may be the best defensive option on the board not named Brent Burns.

The reason the matchup is so good is Calgary’s propensity for giving up power plays – they are one of four teams to average over 6:20 short-handed minutes this year, and lead the league in total power plays allowed. Combined with the fact that they’re allowing the tenth-most shots against with the man disadvantage, the Flames are second in the league power-play goals allowed.

Suter leads the Wild skaters in power-play time by 10 minutes over Eric Staal. The matchup is good, the price is reasonable, and that makes Suter my favourite defenseman for tonight’s two-game slate.

Goalie

Montreal Canadiens Team Goalie – $16,600

Carey Price has already been confirmed as the goalie for the Habs tonight. At this point, the concern really isn’t about ownership. Barring a shutout somewhere, he carries the highest upside for this slate – the Habs are allowing the sixth-most shot attempts per 60 minutes this year, the Sharks take the fourth-most shots, while Price is the top goaltender on the planet. The mix of a porous defense with a top-end offense, all against an elite goalie, makes the choice obvious.