The NHL Cheat Sheet is your nightly look at some key matchups, fantasy studs, value plays, and important fantasy news and notes for the upcoming slate.
Vegas Totals and Favorites
Biggest Favorite: The Dallas Stars are -210 favorites to beat the New Jersey
Largest Totals: The Oilers v the Blue Jackets has the highest expected over/under on the slate at 5.5 goals
Henrik Lundqvist ($8600): The matchup of the night is no doubt the one between the Rangers and the Capitals which features a showdown between two of the best goalies in the league. I could have written up either of these team’s goaltenders but Lundqvist gets the slight nod due to his slightly better play of late. King Henrik is coming off mediocre game last night but before that he had posted save percentages of .942 or better in three of his last four games and just generally been his normal hard to beat self. With only three games on the slate it’s really hard to completely ignore this game completely in fantasy, especially since it features two really good teams. That being said, there’s also opportunity here as Lundqvist is capable of beating anyone on any net and posting a huge fantasy game. I’d consider him as a tournament play today and won’t be shocked if he walks out of Washington with a win.
Kari Lehtonen ($7100) or Antti Niemi ($6900): Regardless of which Dallas goalie plays tonight I think both make for good targets for your skaters at the moment. As losers of four straight Dallas goaltenders have now allowed 3 or more goals in four straight games and just generally been terrible over the last couple of weeks. Both of these goalies have GAA average of well above 2.70 and save percentages approaching .900. While the New Jersey Devils aren’t the most offensively talented team on earth, on a three game slate I think you can still look to them tonight for a play or two given the tastiness of this matchup. I’d roster either of these goalies with caution (regardless of what the odds say) and consider looking to New Jersey for some possible value plays today.
Connor McDavid ($7000) – Jordan Eberle ($6000) – Nail Yakupov ($3700)
The Oilers finally broke out of a bad slump a couple nights ago—mostly thanks to two awesome goals by Connor McDavid—and dominated the Flyers last night in Philly. This line has been rolling recently, especially McDavid, who added to his point total last night and now has four points in his last three games. While Nail Yakupov has had a mostly miserable season, now that he’s playing with McDavid again his fantasy value does increase significantly, and it should also be noted that he was dangerous most of the game last night (and scored for the first time in forever). The Oilers seem to be more relaxed now that the trade deadline is past and get another good matchup tonight versus the Blue Jackets who are also just playing out the string and allow the 6th most shots against per game in the league. I’d definitely consider getting some kind of exposure to this line tonight and think there’s a great chance their hot streak keeps going.
Top Upside at Defense
Matt Niskanen ($5200): With John Carlson out Niskanen has taken on a larger role for the Capitals, and that includes manning the point with the top power-play unit. In case you were living under a rock or something, the Capitals power-play is awesome (the best in the league) and Niskanen—while not super offensive—has seen a nice boost in his new role. I think Niskanen is a pretty reliable play on D tonight given the lack of choices and he is who I would target if paying up for a slightly more expensive D-Man.
Ryan Murray ($3700): Murray has been one of the main point men used on the power-play for the Jackets all season. While he’s more of a puck mover than a huge point producer Murray’s price still makes him attractive to me, especially in this matchup with the Oilers who are only 23rd in penalty-killing on the road. There’s a few other options down low in the salary chart you could go with tonight on D, but given Murray’s usage and ice time (averaging 26 mins a night in last two games) I like his potential more than the rest.
Superstar to Build Lineups Around
Taylor Hall ($6500): While the Oilers have another pretty good young player (see the hottest lines section) on their team I am really liking the way Taylor Hall has been playing in his last few games. Hall broke out of his five game goalless drought last night and has in general been firing the puck a lot more often (15 SOG in his last three games). While you could go with the young stud in McDavid to quarterback your rosters I definitely like Hall if you’re thinking of going with a little more of a contrarian play in tournaments. The Blue Jackets have made for a great fantasy target all year and that thread continues here against the Oilers tonight. I’d think about getting on Hall here who could be making a bit of a late season push back into elite territory for fantasy.
Kevin Hayes ($3900): Hayes is getting the chance to play with newly acquired Eric Staal, a player who should really boost his value for fantasy purposes. While Hayes only has 11 goals on the year he’s capable of going on hot streaks and has recorded five games with 5 or more fantasy points in his last ten outings. I like the fact Hayes has been seeing power-play time alongside the aforementioned Staal and think he’s a sneaky under the radar value play who could pay off nicely from here on in given the talent he’s now playing alongside.
Valeri Nichushkin ($4000): This choice is quite simple as Nichushkin will be playing on a line tonight with two of the best players in hockey in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Nichushkin has actually been a lot more aggressive lately with his shot, recording 13 SOG in his last three games which is encouraging and he will be called on to play a bigger role until Patrick Shark returns. On a short slate he’s a great way to get exposure to Dallas’ big first line and comes in at a price that makes him darn near must playable.
Also check out: Nail Yakupov ($3700)
**This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive and will only update significant, more recent injuries
Rick Nash is out for the Rangers
Patrick Shark is out for the Stars
As always hit me up on twitter as @thefantasygrind with lineup questions or other DFS questions!