By Daniel Dobish
The National Hockey League kicks off the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs with five games, and many of the contests are expected to be low-scoring affairs with Vegas setting a line of five goals in four of those battles. However, the Blue Jackets-Penguins series opener is expected to be higher scoring, and that’s where a lot of your focus should be. The teams combined for 23 goals in four regular-season meetings. Look for plenty of fireworks in the Steel City on Wednesday.
Let’s get started.
Craig Anderson, OTT vs. BOS ($29): Anderson is expected to be in the crease for Game 1 against the Bruins. It’s the first-ever meeting between the Sens and B’s in the playoffs, but if the postseason matchups go like the regular season, look out. The B’s are 0-5 in their past five trips to Canada’s capital city and 0-6 in the past six meetings overall. Anderson’s a good value, as opposed to the others in the crease on Wednesday. He also catches a break with Torey Krug, one of the most dangerous defensemen on the Boston power play, out with a lower-body injury.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Sergei Bobrovsky, CLM at PIT ($33): Bobrovsky tailed off down the stretch, losing each of his final four appearances in the regular season. He allowed a total of 13 goals during the span, including a 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh in the most recent meeting on April 4. The Jackets goaltender has been just too shaky to rely upon, especially on the road against a high-octane offense. Columbus has won only two playoff games in their franchise history.
Vladimir Sobotka, STL at MIN ($20): Sobotka is back in the NHL after a three-year hiatus due to a long, drawn out contract dispute. He certainly didn’t sit idly by, as he spent his time with Omsk Avangard of the KHL filling up the stat sheet on a regular basis. He returned to the Blues for the season finale and he scored a goal. Sobotka is a talented playmaker worth using in Game 1 in Minnesota, especially at a mid-tier salary.
CENTER TO AVOID
Patrice Bergeron, BOS at OTT ($27): Bergeron limped to the finish line in the regular season, going scoreless with a minus-1 rating in the final three games. He managed just one goal with a minus-4 rating in three regular-season matchups against the Senators, and he has a minus-8 rating over the past eight meetings with Ottawa. He is overpriced for what is expected to be a rather low-scoring affair north of the border.
Artturi Lehkonen, MON vs. NYR ($18): Lehkonen quietly caught fire down the stretch, lighting the lamp four times while contributing two assists and a plus-5 rating over his final four regular-season games. He posted a total of 54.0 fantasy points during the stretch, easily exceeded DFS salary expectations in three of the four outings. Lehkonen is worth a roll of the dice based on his points per dollar potential.
Bryan Rust, PIT vs. CLM ($13): If you’re looking for a low-cost option in order to save money for other positions, Rust might be your guy. He lit the lamp in three of the final five regular-season games, gaining plenty of confidence along the way. He squeezed off at least two shots on goal in each of his final 12 contests, getting more involved in the offense despite the fact he generally plays 15 to 18 minutes. It won’t take much for Rust to exceed expectations.
WINGS TO AVOID
Cam Atkinson, CLM at PIT ($26): Head coach John Tortorella benched Atkinson in Saturday’s game in Philadelphia and the right winger responded with a goal and plus-1 rating in Sunday’s finale in Toronto. He slapped the brakes on a six-game scoreless drought, but the goal also came against Maple Leafs backup Curtis McElhinney, not exactly an A-list netminder. Until Atkinson can piece together a string of decent games his salary will remain inflated, with DFS players paying for he did earlier in the season.
David Pastrnak, BOS at OTT ($28): Pastrnak had a career year, posting 34 goals and 70 points. The Senators weren’t impressed, however, as he managed no goals, one assist and a minus-4 rating over their past three meetings. This will be Pastrnak’s first career postseason game and the nerves are sure to get the best of him, especially against an above-average goaltender in a hostile environment.
Zdeno Chara, BOS at OTT ($15): Chara didn’t have the best year by his standards, finishing the regular season with just 10 goals and 29 points. He blocked 140 shots and will be asked to sacrifice his body frequently in what should be a defensive series. The Bruins are also missing Torey Krug (lower body) and Brandon Carlo (upper body), so the veteran should roll up a ton of minutes along the blue line.
Justin Schultz, PIT vs. CLM ($24): Schultz might not get the notoriety of some of the other bigger names on the board, but savvy DFS players know exactly who he is and what is capable of doing. He rolled up 20 power-play points this season and he blocks plenty of shots while posting an outstanding plus-minus rating. He is well rested after sitting out Sunday’s finale against the Blueshirts, so expect him to come out with a ton of energy.
DEFENSEMEN TO AVOID
Seth Jones, CLM at PIT ($19): Jones had an amazing campaign, but he didn’t do a lot in the final days of the regular season. He posted just one goal, two assists and a dismal minus-9 rating over his past 13 outings. The Penguins have the firepower to add to Jones’ recent plus-minus woes, too. Don’t pay for what Jones did in the first half of the season.
Oscar Klefbom, EDM vs. SAN ($20): Klefbom rolled up seven assists over the final four regular-season games, including four assists in the most recent meeting with the Sharks in San Jose on April 6. While that’s all well and good, the offensive production was a rarity. He managed just 12 goals and 38 points overall, and his biggest contribution to fantasy owners was in the blocked shots category. You can expect the playoff first-timer to be a bit intimidated in the early going of this playoff series. His salary has risen dramatically in recent weeks, but his offensive production will not come close to keeping up.
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