By Sasha Yodashkin
Sunday’s three-game evening slate is a polarized one, with three top-10 offenses and three bottom-10 defenses in action. There is value to be found on every team, but these players stand out as the ones in best or worst position to provide it.
Connor Hellebuyck, WPG vs. VAN ($31): Hellebuyck has been awful in dropping six of his past seven starts, but he won’t have a better opportunity to bounce back than against a Canucks offense that ranks 29th in the league with 2.26 goals per game. While the 23-year-old has naturally shown inconsistency in his first season as a No. 1 option, Hellebuyck’s 23-19-4 record and four shutouts illustrate the high ceiling he possesses. With his price unlikely to drop any lower than $31, this is the perfect buy-low opportunity.
Goalie to Avoid
Jonathan Bernier, ANH vs. NYR ($31): While Bernier has been superb of late, his career 2.65 GAA and .915 save percentage are better indicators of what should be expected from him moving forward. Even matching those modest numbers won’t be easy against a Rangers team that ranks fourth with 3.14 goals per game and leads the league with 26 road wins.
Mathieu Perreault, WPG vs. VAN ($16): Perreault has been a completely different player since being moved into a top-six role on Feb. 16, with 19 points in 16 subsequent contests. Despite that recent success, he costs at least $2 less than each of the other five members of that group. Given the top-heavy nature of the Jets offense, their first two lines are both likely to find success against the 23rd-ranked Canucks defense, but Perreault offers the best bang for the buck of the bunch.
Center to Avoid
Claude Giroux, PHI at PIT ($20): Giroux is the fifth most expensive center on this slate despite lighting the lamp just twice in his past 22 contests. That offensive ineptitude is unlikely to come to a close against netminder Matt Murray, who ranks 10th in GAA (2.34) and sixth in save percentage (.925).
Bryan Rust, PIT vs. PHI ($15): Rust registered 7.0 fantasy points in his first game back from a lower-body injury Friday, and is in great position to keep producing as the second-line right wing for the banged-up Penguins. His numbers have been depressed by an average ice time of 13:29, but Rust can safely be expected to eclipse that by a wide margin considering he played 16:19 Friday. His combination of role and affordability makes him a terrific choice against a Flyers team that has allowed 2.89 goals per game.
J.T. Miller, NYR at ANH ($15): Miller leads the Rangers with 46 non-power play points, yet is priced below three of the team’s other wingers. That even strength production means the 2011 first rounder won’t be deterred by Anaheim’s fifth-ranked penalty kill, making him the likeliest Ranger to get on the scoreboard here despite his relatively low price. He has outperformed his $15 valuation all season with 6.2 fantasy points per contest, and that’s unlikely to change against a backup goaltender.
Wings to Avoid
Phil Kessel, PIT vs. PHI ($26): Kessel is going to have a hard time living up to his $26 price skating on a line with Matt Cullen and Rust. His last two meetings with the Flyers have resulted in a combined total of just 3.0 fantasy points, so those who think this reasonably inviting matchup means automatic success are likely going to be in for a rude awakening.
Daniel Sedin, VAN at WPG ($18): Sedin remains by far Vancouver’s most expensive winger despite fading down the stretch with just four points in his past 12 games. No alternative teammate at his position costs more than the $12 minimum, so those looking to take advantage of Winnipeg’s porous defense have plenty of lower-risk options with which to do so.
Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI at PIT ($17): Those in search of a contrarian yet prudent pick need look no further than Gostisbehere against a susceptible Penguins penalty kill. Pittsburgh ranks 19th in that department at 80.3 percent, meaning this matchup plays right into the young blueliner’s hands. Twenty of Gostisbehere’s 31 points have come with the extra man, and his potential rating downside is mitigated by a healthy shooting clip that has seen him pile up 12 shots in the last four games and 2.5 per contest overall this season.
Cam Fowler, ANH vs. NYR ($17): Fowler’s 6.6 fantasy points per contest are tops among sub-$19 defensemen Sunday, and his 22 shots on goal over the past six games suggest he’s only improving in the season’s latter stages. Maintaining that momentum shouldn’t be difficult against a rusty Henrik Lundqvist, who has been out since Mar. 7 with a hip injury. Using Fowler lets you lock in an underpriced asset while leaving you plenty of cap flexibility elsewhere.
Defensemen to Avoid
Ian Cole, PIT vs. PHI ($17): Cole’s 23 points in 74 points and career rate of 0.22 points per game show he’s an unreliable offensive option. Even in what should be a high-scoring rivalry game against the Flyers, Cole isn’t worth a $17 investment due to his lack of offensive upside.
Jacob Trouba, WPG vs. VAN ($19): Trouba logged minus-2.0 fantasy points in his return from an upper-body injury Friday, and is unlikely to justify his exorbitant price in this one despite the preferable matchup. His career rate of 0.38 points per game suggest Trouba doesn’t possess the offensive skills to warrant his $19 price, especially given his shaky performance last time out.
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