It’s the last day of March, and yet, playoff scenarios are still entirely up in the air across the NHL. Tuesday’s tend to be busy nights on the ice, and tonight is no different, as 14 teams’ lace up their skates. Today’s NHL Game Breakdown will take you through each of the night’s seven games and highlight some of the best, and, in some cases, the worst fantasy options of the evening.
Florida Panthers @ Boston Bruins
Vegas Line: BOS (-155), O/U 5
If you’re a fan of playoff hockey, then you’ll want to tune into this one tonight, as this is essentially a must-win game for both teams. A Florida loss here will basically seal their fate, but if they’re able to leave Beantown with two points then they’ll only trail the Bruins by two points for the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. As for Boston, with both Florida and Ottawa nipping at their heels and four of their final five games of the season on the road against quality opponents, this is a game they just can’t afford to lose. This will be the third (of four) meetings between these two teams, with each team winning a 2-1 overtime victory thus far. Considering what’s at stake and those past results, this likely won’t be the most fantasy friendly game on the slate tonight.
The Florida Panthers have found some offensive life from their top line recently, as young guns Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov have clearly developed a nice rapport with their new line mate Jaromir Jagr. Both Huberdeau and Jagr bring four game point streaks into tonight’s game, and this line has produced six goals and added ten assists over the last four games. While their hot play shouldn’t be ignored entirely, they’re going to have their hands full thanks to a heavy dose of the pesky defense from both Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. The likely slow pace of this game and the extremely tough defensive match-up makes them better suited for GPP use. If you’re looking to avoid Marchand/Bergeron, Brandon Pirri is another option up front for the Panthers. He’s not proving to be much of a playmaker (just two assists on the season), but the 23 year has reached the 20 goal plateau for the first time in his young career and has now racked up 16 goals in just 23 games since the All-Star break. On the blue-line, the two players worth consideration are Brian Campbell and Aaron Ekblad. Both guys see the lion’s share of the playing time with the man advantage and neither hesitates to jump into the play offensively.
Boston has been a hard team to peg by fantasy hockey standards lately, as they’ve utilized their forward depth and have really spread out their scoring. With multiple lines capable of putting the puck in the net, I’d prefer to target their power-play in this one, as Florida owns the league’s 23rd ranked penalty kill. Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara are locked into huge power-play workloads with Dougie Hamilton watching from the press-box, and both defensemen are solid options for both cash games and GPP’s. Their forwards, on the other hand, are just too inconsistent for me to trust in cash games, but there’s plenty of upside if you’re able to nail the right line. In net, Tuukka Rask proved on Sunday that whatever was ailing him on Saturday afternoon is a thing of the past, as he turned away 30 of the 31 shots Carolina threw his way and secured his 31st victory of the season. With a 20-8-6 record, a 2.04 GAA and .930 SV% in 33 starts at the TD Garden, he’s an excellent option tonight.
Players to Target:
- Torey Krug ($4,900)
- Tuukka Rask ($8,700)
- Jonathan Huberdeau ($5,200)
New Jersey Devils @ Columbus Blue Jackets
Vegas Line: CBJ (-165), O/U 5
In a battle of two teams going in completely different directions, the New Jersey Devils will head to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets this evening. New Jersey appears to be simply “going through the motions” at this point and have now dropped five straight games. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets have rattled off six straight wins and are now 9-1-0 over their last ten games.
New Jersey rates out as the slowest paced team in the NHL (95.5% CP60) this season and really don’t have any offensive weapons that put fear into the minds of opposing goalies. Columbus has been susceptible to opposing power-plays this season (79.5% penalty kill), so if you’re going to target anyone from New Jersey, that’s where I’d start and end my search (i.e. Michael Cammalleri and Adam Henrique). My real interest in this game will come from the Columbus bench. Ryan Johansen enters tonight’s action on quite the roll; scoring points in seven straight games and racking up three goals and six assists during that stretch. He’s joined on the top line by the speedster Cam Atkinson, who’s on a nice tear of his own; scoring four goals and dishing out three assists over the last three games. Other nice options up front are both Scott Hartnell and Nick Foligno, who see healthy doses of playing time alongside Ryan Johansen on the team’s #1 power-play unit. Sergei Bobrovsky has churned out five victories in a row and defeated the Devils the only other time he faced them this season. He owns a 9-2-0 record with month and is a terrific option in net.
Players to Target:
- Ryan Johansen ($8,000)
- Cam Atkinson ($7,200)
- Sergei Bobrovsky ($9,300)
Carolina Hurricanes @ Washington Capitals
Vegas Line: WSH (-205), O/U 5
The Hurricanes and Capitals will square off tonight for the fourth and final times this season. Carolina skated to an impressive 3-0 victory over the Capitals in Raleigh to close out the month of January, but Washington was victorious in each of the first two meetings. The Hurricanes have very little to play for, are just 4-6-4 during the month of March and have really struggled on the road all season, where they’re only averaging 2.28 goals per game. While Justin Faulk and Eric Staal are well worth consideration in GPP’s, there are just better options in this seven game slate to use anyone from Carolina in your cash games tonight.
As for Washington, even a daily fantasy rookie can tell you that Alex Ovechkin is a top tier play. The winger scored a pair of goals against the Rangers on Sunday and is now just one goal short of reaching the 50 goal plateau for the sixth time in his career. If his goal scoring ability wasn’t enough, his 370 shots on goal easily tops the NHL and his 22 power-play goals are also an NHL best. Thanks to Mr. Oveckin, the Capitals come into this game owning the leagues #1 power-play, but they’ll be tested tonight against the Hurricanes very strong 85.2% penalty kill. While Ovechkin is certainly a guy I’m going to want some exposure to tonight, he is the most expensive skater on the board, so finding some value to pair with him is going to be important. One value option to look at here is winger Curtis Glencross ($3,400), who has recently joined Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on Washington’s top forward line. Glencross has been quiet lately but has picked up four goals and a pair of assists in 12 games since being acquired at the trade deadline and is a former 20 goal scorer for the Calgary Flames. Marcus Johansson ($3,800) is another nice value play here, as he has the luxury of playing the wing on that very dangerous #1 power-play unit and comes into tonight’s action riding a three game point streak. John Carlson, Mike Green and Matt Niskanen are the three blue-liners that see time with the man advantage, and therefore, all three are decent options tonight.
Players to Target:
- Alexander Ovechkin ($9,300)
- John Carlson ($6,500)
- Braden Holtby ($8,300)
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Toronto Maple Leafs
Vegas Line: TBL (-215), O/U 5.5
Toronto may have gotten the better of the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, but this is still a team that has only won 6 of 38 games since the New Year and is averaging just 1.80 goals per game over their last 15 games. While the Tampa Bay Lightning may have been in action last night, I still don’t see any compelling reason to expect much offense from the Maple Leafs tonight. Tyler Bozak finds himself centering the team’s top line alongside James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel and is fresh off of his first career hat trick, so he’s a viable GPP option with his $4,900 price-tag. On the blue-line, Dion Phanuef’s time in Toronto may be ticking towards an end, but the big guy has posted three assists in the three previous meetings against the Lightning and still sees plenty of run on the team’s top power-play unit. Morgan Rielly, their first round pick in 2012, has really been pushed into a new role since the Cody Franson trade, and he’s showing plenty of promise as an excellent puck-moving defenseman. He joins Phaneuf on that top power-play unit and has recorded points in two straight games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched a playoff berth last night with a 5-3 victory in Montreal and now find themselves sitting just one point behind the Canadiens for the top spot Atlantic Division and the potential #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They have a huge Corsi advantage over the Maple Leafs and, if the last two games of this series are any indication; this could be a lopsided contest. The key to Tampa’s success this season has been the development of their second scoring line that has relieved some of the pressure on the Stamkos line and made opposing coaches finally have someone other than Steven Stamkos to worry about offensively. With that said, monitor Tyler Johnson’s status, as he was forced out of action last night, and his absence really forced Jon Cooper to tinker (successfully) with his lines. As usual, Stamkos is a top-tier play today, as he’s already torched the Maple Leafs for a pair of goals and three assists in their three previous meetings. While it’s been predominately Victor Hedman running the show on the top power-play this season (when healthy), it was Anton Stralman that saw plenty of run on the point of the team’s top power-play last night, and he carries a very reasonable $3,400 price-tag. With Jason Garrison out of commission for the next four weeks, both Hedman and Stralman are set to see all the minutes they can handle.
It’s worth monitoring which goalie Jon Cooper will roll with tonight, as whoever gets the nod between the pipes becomes one of the safer cash game options on the board. With Bishop working hard last night, conventional wisdom would hint at Andrei Vasilevskiy getting the call tonight. He’s been terrific thus far, posting a 7-4-1 record with a 2.30 GAA and .920 SV% in twelve starts.
Players to Target:
- Steven Stamkos ($8,900)
- Anton Stralman ($3,400)
- Andrei Vasilevskiy ($7,300)
Ottawa Senators @ Detroit Red Wings
Vegas Line: DET (-150), O/U 5.5
Here’s another game with huge playoff implications in the Eastern Conference. This will be the fourth and final meeting between these two teams, with Detroit having won two of the previous three. Ottawa enters tonight’s game having dropped three straight, but they still find themselves within striking distance of a playoff spot with just seven games to go. A loss here would really make things difficult for them; meanwhile, two points for Detroit would essentially lock them into a playoff spot for the 24th straight year.
After overwhelming their opposition through the first few weeks of March, have the Senators finally run out of steam? They’ve allowed 13 goals during their current three game skid, and the legend of the “Hamburglar” has been silenced. Detroit looked to have figured out their defensive woes on Saturday when they shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning, but things came crashing to a halt on Sunday on Long Island, as they coughed up five quick goals against the Islanders and have now allowed five goals or more in each of their last three losses. With Mike Babcock finally having the defensive services of Pavel Datsyuk back in the lineup, and considering the Red Wings 98.5 CP60 (second slowest in the league), the outlook for the Ottawa forwards in 5 on 5 situations isn’t terrific. However, considering the question marks in the Detroit net and the fact that the Wings sport an ugly 74.3% penalty kill since the All-Star break (29th in the league), there’s plenty to like about the Ottawa Power-play. Erik Karlsson has been red-hot lately and already owns two goals and an assist against the Wings, making him an elite option on the blue-line. Bobby Ryan, Mike Hoffman and Kyle Turris have all been playing well lately and see big minutes on the power-play as well, so they’re the top options up front for the Senators.
On the other bench, Mike Babcock will be expecting a bounce back performance from Detroit tonight in front of their home fans. Justin Abdelkader has been the hottest Detroit player lately; tallying 10 goals (and a pair of assists) in 14 games this month. Assuming he avoids a suspension, he’ll skate alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist to form a very reasonably priced line to consider stacking for GPP’s. The Wings power-play has been one of its biggest weapons all season, as they’re ranked #2 in the league; however they’re one of the few teams in the NHL that really splits their power-play minutes evenly between the two power-play units, so pinpointing who to target can be a bit of a headache. I expect there to be plenty of goals to be had in this game, but both team’s scoring depth will make things tough on daily fantasy players here.
Players to Target:
- Henrik Zetterberg ($5,700)
- Erik Karlsson ($8,800)
- Marek Zidlicky ($3,600)
New York Rangers @ Winnipeg Jets
Vegas Line: NYR (-120), O/U 5.5
After locking up a playoff spot, the Rangers have now dropped two straight games, but with the President’s trophy (and the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference) still well within reach, their motivation tonight in Winnipeg shouldn’t be in question. It was a defensive battle between these two teams in their only previous meeting this season, with Winnipeg escaping Madison Square Garden with a 1-0 shutout victory. However, with an over/under of 5.5, our friends in Vegas expect things to be a bit different this time around.
It’s no secret that Rick Nash is the catalyst of this New York offense, and Paul Maurice will be doing everything in his power to slow him down; however, considering Winnipeg’s rather leaky defense over the last week, that’ll prove to be a tall order. The Jets enter tonight’s game as the second most penalized team in the NHL this season, and, unfortunately for them, they’ve also been rather terrible on the penalty kill recently (just a 77.3% kill rate since the All-Star break), so focusing in on that #1 power-play unit seems like a strong play tonight. Derick Brassard has the luxury of centering Rick Nash on the team’s top line and is stationed on the point of their #1 power-play unit, where he leads the New York Rangers in power-play points this season; with a $4,500 asking price tonight, he’s an excellent option. Defensively, Ryan McDonagh may be the heart-and-soul of this hockey club, but it’s been the newly acquired Keith Yandle seeing the lion’s share of playing time with the man advantage. While his defensive effectiveness can be debated all day, his offensive abilities are undeniable, and he’s racked up five assists over the last five games.
With the Los Angeles Kings sitting just two points behind the Jets for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, a win here would do wonders for Winnipeg’s playoff chances. Winnipeg has won six of their last eight games and is finally starting to get healthy, but facing the New York Rangers isn’t going to be an easy task. Winnipeg gets nearly all of its offensive production from one of their top two forward lines, so digging deep into their 3rd and 4th lines today seems like a stretch. Blake Wheeler has lit the lamp in three straight games and now owns nine goals and six assists in just 13 games this month; he’s my favorite option here. He’s joined by the very talented Mark Scheifele at both even strength and on the team’s #1 power-play unit, and Scheifele offers similar production lately at nearly half the price. Dustin Byfuglien is a known commodity on “defense”, but his offensive upside is off the charts for his position (as evidenced by his two goal performance against Chicago on Sunday), making him well worth a gamble in GPP’s.
Players to Target:
- Rick Nash ($8,700)
- Mark Scheifele ($4,800)
- Keith Yandle ($6,000)
Vancouver Canucks @ Nashville Predators
Vegas Line: NSH (-150), O/U 5
Nashville may have had its struggles down the stretch, but this is a not an ideal match-up for the Canucks by any stretch of the imagination. The Predators have really outplayed Vancouver in both of the prior two meetings this season, and the Canucks travel to the Music City after being through an extremely physical game in St. Louis last night. Nashville is as disruptive in the neutral zone as any other team in the league, and I’m just not very high on Vancouver tonight. The Sedin brothers are responsible for a high percentage of the Vancouver offense, but they’ll likely see a heavy dose of the very solid defense of the Mike Santorelli line. With that said, they’re joined by Radim Vrbata on the team’s top power-play unit (with Edler and Weber manning the point) and could have success against the Predator’s league-average penalty kill.
After cruising through the first four months of the NHL season, the Predators inexplicably fell apart at the end of February and endured a three week stretch that saw them go 2-9-1. They looked to have finally been back in their groove after winning four straight games last week, but they came out flat against the Flames on Sunday and paid for it; losing 5-2 at the Bridgestone Arena. Depending on which team you expect to show up tonight will obviously dictate your approach to this game. For me, the Predators are simply too talented to get hung up on their mediocre play down the stretch, and I simply can’t ignore their dominance at the Bridgestone Arena this season (28-8-2). The top two forward lines for the Predators are the preferred targets, but it’s Mike Ribeiro that’s getting the bulk of my attention. Ribeiro brings a four game point streak into tonight’s game and has already dished out three assists in the two previous meetings, making his $4,400 asking price look like quite the bargain. He’s joined on the top forward line by Calder Trophy contender, Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith. The Predators have perhaps the deepest group of defensemen in the NHL, and, despite the Canucks solid penalty kill, you could certainly do worse than roster Weber, Josi, Franson, Jones or Ellis.
Players to Target:
- Mike Ribeiro ($4,400)
- Roman Josi ($7,400)
- Daniel Sedin ($8,500)