By Chris Morgan
You might be a little preoccupied Thursday with the first (real) day of March Madness, but spare a moment for the NHL. There are 12 games on the docket, so even if everybody is more concerned about buzzer beaters and busted brackets, you can still play daily fantasy hockey. You don’t have to follow the crowd, and if you target and avoid the players selected below, perhaps it will pay off for you as well…
Jonathan Quick, LOS vs. BUF ($31): Since returning to action, Quick is 4-1-1 with a 2.33 GAA. He’s gotten help from his teammates, as the Kings have allowed a league-low 26.0 shots on net per contest. Buffalo has also scored 2.53 goals per game, which is in the bottom 10 of the NHL. The Sabres are 2-6-2 in their last 10 games, and they are 11-18-6 on the road, so Quick has a solid chance of picking up a win.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Carter Hutton, STL at SAN ($37): The Blues have been playing well recently, and they’ve also been doing well at goal prevention. However that’s been in part because of the strong play of Jake Allen. Hutton has played in only four of St. Louis’ last 20 games, so you can’t credit him too much with any recent success for the Blues. Overall, he has a .910 save percentage, which is hardly encouraging. The Blues will also be on the road for the second night of a back-to-back, and San Jose is 23-8-4 at home. It’s a tough matchup for Hutton, and yet he’s tied for being the most expensive goalie Thursday. That seems a bit rich.
Bo Horvat, VAN vs. DAL ($16): Congratulations to the Dallas Stars, who have overtaken the Colorado Avalanche as the most giving team in the NHL. The Stars have allowed 3.29 goals per game, which is the most in the league. Their goalies have a woefully bad .892 save percentage collectively, and they have the league’s worst penalty kill. Horvat has tallied 20 goals this season, and in his last 10 games he’s notched seven points. He’s a relatively cheap player, because Vancouver’s offense has had its struggles, but Dallas’ defense has been so awful that Horvat is definitely with the price.
CENTER TO AVOID
Aleksander Barkov, FLA at CLM ($21): The Blue Jackets have only given up 2.34 goals per game, which is third fewest in the NHL, but they are even better with Sergei Bobrovsky in net. Bob has a 2.08 GAA and a .929 save percentage, which rank second and fourth, respectively, in the NHL. Barkov has been playing very well since returning from injury, but with 24 teams in action there are a lot of options out there with less difficult matchups.
Jeff Skinner, CAR vs. MIN ($21): Normally it’s not a great idea to select a player going up against Minnesota, but that changes when Devan Dubnyk isn’t in net. Darcy Kuemper is getting the start for the Wild, and he has a 3.21 GAA and a .904 save percentage. The Wild have allowed 31.0 shots on net per game, so without Dubnyk, Minnesota is a very different team defensively. Skinner has started a whopping 42.9 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, one of the highest percentages in the NHL, and he makes the most of it. He’s tallied 23 goals on 222 shots on goal in 64 games, and he has 14 power-play points to boot.
Jonathan Drouin, TAM vs. TOR ($19): The Maple Leafs have allowed 32.7 shots on net per game (third most in the NHL) and their penalty kill has struggled in recent months. In February their penalty kill ranked 18th and in March it’s 26th. Drouin, in addition to having started 38.1 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone — the most of any Tampa forward — has averaged 3:03 per game in power-play time. He’s also notched 21 power-play points. Additionally, in his last nine games he has seven points.
WINGS TO AVOID
Viktor Arvidsson, NAS at WAS ($21): No team has been better defensively than Washington, which has allowed 27.8 shots on net per game and a league-low 2.16 goals per contest. Braden Holtby has a sterling 2.03 GAA to his name, and while Arvidsson has had a breakout year, he’s not above being troubled by a team like the Capitals. Additionally, he only has seven power-play points, so you can’t count on him for fantasy impact with the extra man.
James van Riemsdyk, TOR at TAM ($21): Over his last seven games, Andrei Vasilevskiy has a stingy 1.38 GAA and a robust .958 save percentage. His save percentage on the season is now up to .919, which is a good number in its own right. Van Riemsdyk has averaged 7.0 fantasy points per game, which is a respectable figure, but not elite. On top of that, he only has two goals in his last 18 games.
Alec Martinez, LOS vs. BUF ($15): Martinez has averaged 5.8 fantasy points per game, and he’s tallied 35 points, 126 shots on goal, and 140 blocked shots in 69 games. Buffalo has allowed 34.2 shots on goal per game, most in the league, and its penalty kill also ranks 29th. Martinez has 11 power-play points, so he could find some success with the extra man, as well.
Ben Hutton, VAN vs. DAL ($13): For a rather cheap player, Hutton is quite the intriguing option. It starts with the matchup with the Stars, who lead the league in goals allowed and trail the league in penalty-kill percentage. Hutton has four points in his last 10 games, and he’s averaged 20:44 in ice time in those contests. He’s also started 34.0 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, and tallying 10 power-play points in 58 games. Additionally, the Stars have attempted 60.0 shots per 60 minutes, and Hutton has 89 blocked shots. This is a great matchup for a player that seems quite undervalued.
DEFENSEMEN TO AVOID
Roman Josi, NAS at WAS ($25): As previously mentioned, the Capitals have allowed fewer goals per game than any team in the NHL. They are also fourth in shots allowed per game, and their penalty kill ranks sixth. Josi is having a fine season, but he’s the third most expensive defenseman available Thursday, and he’ll have a hard time living up to that price against Washington.
Alex Pietrangelo, STL at SAN ($19): The Sharks have only allowed 2.29 goals per game, which is second fewest in the NHL, and they’ve also given up only 27.4 shots on net per contest, which is third fewest. Pietrangelo only has two goals in his last 36 games, and on top of that, he will be playing on the road on the second night of a back-to-back.
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