By Chris Morgan
On Thursday, you might be focused on the Sweet Sixteen, but don’t forget about the 12 NHL games on the slate. You’ll have an abundance of players to choose from, so here are some to target and avoid…
Corey Crawford, CHI vs. DAL ($34): Crawford has a 2.54 GAA and a .919 save percentage, both of which are good numbers. However, a big reason why he’s the goalie to go with is because he’s likely to get plenty of goal support. The Blackhawks have scored 3.00 goals per game, while the Stars have allowed 3.22 goals per contest. Additionally, Chicago is 24-9-5 at home, while Dallas is 10-21-4 on the road, another point in Crawford’s favor.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Sergei Bobrovsky, CLM at WAS ($37): This is nothing against Bobrovsky, who has been stellar this year. Instead, this is about Bob having a tremendously difficult matchup on the road. Washington has scored 3.21 goals per game, which is third most in the NHL. On top of that, the Capitals have allowed a league-low 2.17 goals per game, and Braden Holtby has been just as fantastic as Bobrovsky has. Columbus doesn’t have a big advantage in net in this game. Bobrovsky is also quite pricy, and with so many teams in action, it’s probably better just to steer clear and grab somebody with an easier matchup.
Aleksander Barkov, FLA vs. ARI ($21): Barkov has been excellent since returning from injury, notching 20 points in 21 games. Overall, he’s started 35.4 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, and he’s averaged 2:53 per game with the extra man. The Coyotes have allowed 3.16 goals, not to mention 33.8 shots on net, per contest. Arizona definitely doesn’t seem like the team to slow down Barkov’s torrid pace.
CENTER TO AVOID
Mark Scheifele, WPG at LOS ($23): Scheifele has had a fine season, although it’s been powered in part by an incredibly high 20.9 shooting percentage. He’s only tallied 139 shots on goal in 70 games, which is a low total for a player who has put up so many fantasy points. Now he’s facing a Kings team that has allowed a league-low 26.0 shots on net per game, and Los Angeles also has the third-ranked penalty kill. That also hurts Scheifele’s fantasy potential Thursday.
Taylor Hall, NJD at TOR ($21): Hall has tallied 208 shots on goal in 62 games, and in his last 20 contests he’s notched 75 shots on net. In those 20 games, he’s also notched seven goals and eight assists. Toronto has been quite lenient defensively when it comes to allowing shots, as they’ve given up 32.8 shots on goal per contest. The Maple Leafs were also in action Wednesday, and they will be starting backup Curtis McElhinney. In three of his last four starts, McElhinney has allowed four goals.
Marian Hossa, CHI vs. DAL ($18): Hossa has averaged 6.3 fantasy points per game, and recently he’s enjoyed an uptick in performance. He’s notched seven points and 35 shots on goal in his last 13 games, and now he gets to fact the porous Stars defense. Dallas has allowed a whopping 3.22 goals per game, and they have the league’s worst penalty kill. Hossa hasn’t played a ton of minutes on the power play, but he does have 11 power-play points in 65 games.
WINGS TO AVOID
Cam Atkinson, CLM at WAS ($27): The Capitals have allowed only 27.8 shots on net per game as well as a league-low 2.17 goals per contest. Beyond that, Holtby has a 2.05 GAA and a .925 save percentage for Washington. The Capitals also have the eighth-ranked penalty kill. While Atkinson has 21 power-play points, he only has two in his last 33 games.
Phil Kessel, PIT at OTT ($26): Kessel has averaged a perfectly fine 7.5 fantasy points per game, but there are a lot of players in action Thursday that have averaged more points, including several that are cheaper. He also finds himself facing a tough matchup Thursday, as Craig Anderson has a 2.29 GAA and a .928 save percentage. With so many players to choose from, you may want to look elsewhere. In fact, even if you want a Pittsburgh winger, both Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary have averaged more fantasy points per game than Phil.
Dougie Hamilton, CGY at NAS ($20): Hamilton has tallied 201 shots on goal, and he’s also notched 14 power-play points. His success has led to him having averaged 7.4 fantasy points per game, a fine number for a defenseman. The Predators are a middle-of-the-pack team defensively, as they’ve allowed 2.75 goals and 30.4 shots on net per game. Nashville also has the 20th-ranked penalty kill. Additionally, the Predators have attempted 58.7 shots per 60 minutes, which is eighth most in the NHL. Hamilton has blocked 88 shots in 72 games, so he could add a little value there.
Aaron Ekblad, FLA vs. ARI ($18): After missing a few games with injury, Ekblad returned, adding two more shots on net to his total. On the season, he’s notched a whopping 225 shots on net in 68 games. As previously noted, the Coyotes have allowed an average of 33.8 shots, so Ekblad should have no issue putting the puck on net in this one. Ekblad has also started 40.8 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, and has averaged 2:47 per game on the power play. All that offensive opportunity could really bode well for Ekblad against Arizona.
DEFENSEMEN TO AVOID
Zach Werenski, CLM at WAS ($22): It’s already been mentioned that Holby has a 2.05 GAA and a .925 save percentage, and that the Capitals have allowed 27.8 shots on net per game. Plus, they also have the eighth-ranked penalty kill. 21 of Werenski’s 46 points have come with the extra man, and the Capitals’ penalty kill could make it quite difficult for him to add to that, which limits his fantasy potential.
John Carlson, WAS vs. CLM ($22): Bobrovsky has a 2.04 GAA and a .931 save percentage, so he’s been even better than Holtby. Columbus’ penalty kill is ranked 10th, which isn’t quite as good than Washington’s, but Carlson also doesn’t have as many points as Werenski. Both have averaged 7.3 fantasy points per game, but both also have very difficult matchups, which is why it’s best to steer clear of them Thursday.
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