NHL Daily Plays: Saturday, February 28th
Hello everyone. I am glad to be back writing hockey on here again. I have spent this entire hockey season diving into analytics, so I have to provide a unique analysis for today’s large slate. I will include both the early and late games since both are available.
Without further ado, let me get into my picks for tonight’s games.
There are two philosophies when picking a goalie. There’s one where you can pick a goalie who is almost a lock at a win, but might not see enough shots to really make him worth your while. The other is to pick a goalie who you think might be involved in a higher paced game, but you expect him to prevail, and face more shots while getting the win. I like to go a little bit in between. Goaltenders against the Buffalo Sabres are always in play, but they provide very little upside. Here are a few choices who should face some shots, but should also win their games rather easily.
Make sure to check the RotoGrinders Starting Goalies Page to confirm that the goalies listed below are starting prior to game time.
Tuukka Rask / Niklas Svedberg, Boston Bruins – Rask checks in as one of my top goalie plays tonight. He is facing the Arizona Coyotes, who are not a bad possession team, sitting at a league average of 49% Corsi for (CF), but they lack finishers and goaltending, which is why they do not win games. Boston comes into this game needing a win badly with the Panthers going toe to toe with them for the last playoffs spot, and I expect Boston to come out to play tonight, and give Rask the support he needs. They are the better team here, and my only concern with Rask is if he starts. If you are on early lock sites, be sure to double check his status, as he missed last night with an illness. If Rask does not play, I like his backup, Niklas Svedberg, to step in and get the win as well for the same reasons.
Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues – Elliott had hit a bit of a cold spell recently, however, he looked stellar in his last outing vs Winnipeg. Edmonton is a one line team, and even though they are on the road, St. Louis will always have a line out there that can shut these guys down, and their depth lines will absolutely destroy the Oilers’ depth lines. I expect plenty of goal support from St. Louis, who face the team that are giving up 31 scoring chances per 60 minutes (second-worst in NHL) since January 1st. Edmonton has not provided much offense, so I do not expect Elliott to face a boatload of shots, as Edmonton has averaged 48 CF/60 since the new year (corsi attempts per 60 minutes). This is still an improvement from taking a goalie against the lowly Sabres.
Other Options: Jaroslav Halak, Antti Niemi, Roberto Luongo
Nick Bjugstad, Florida Panthers – For those of you who like to click a game log and see recent games end results, this play will not look appealing. However, Bjugstad is one of the most talented young players in the NHL, and despite his recent production being shaky, he is going to get a chance to play alongside Jaromir Jagr, and more importantly, he will be facing the Buffalo Sabres. I know you guys know how bad Buffalo is, but I feel like hammering it home anyways. The Sabres give up more shot attempts and scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength than any other team. This past month has created a narrative that Buffalo is a scrappy team since they are winning some games, but that is all due to Michael Neuvirth playing over his head. Neuvirth has a career .913 sv percentage, and he is above .960 this month. Buffalo is giving up more scoring chances and shot attempts this month than their season average, and they are the same bad Sabres team. Bjugstad is a bit cold, but facing a team this bad should wake him up, and that narrative I have posted might keep Bjugstad’s ownership down.
Anders Lee, New York Islanders – Anders Lee is an elite NHL player right now and he is way cheaper than he should be. I would be paying top dollar to get this guy in my lineup right now. To those of you wondering if he is for real: since moving to the line to play with John Tavares, Lee is second in the NHL in his team’s scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength when he is on the ice. If you are wondering who is in first, the answer would be John Tavares. If you are wondering who is in third, it is their linemate, Josh Bailey. So, pretty much this is the best line going in hockey right now. Lee’s outstanding output numbers reflect these analytics, which will keep his ownership very high, but it is hard to not just plug him in and hope your opponents faded him.
Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues – Steen makes for a great play tonight against the sinking ship (again) of the Edmonton Oilers. Steen sees a ton of powerplay time, and the good thing about that is we don’t have to worry about which line Edmonton chooses to match up Nugent Hopkins with. In my best estimation, it will be the Tarasenko line, because the Steen-Backes-Oshie trio are great defensively, and Edmonton might want to keep their only scorers away from that. Steen should face very weak even strength competition and see a lot of powerplay time. He is a volume shooter this year and he is playing upwards of 20 minutes most nights. Plug in Steen and expect multiple shots at the very least, and hopefully one or two find the back of the net.
Jason Pominville, Minnesota Wild – With the addition of Sean Bergenheim to round out the Wild’s second line, the Wild are able to reunite the line of Parise, Pominville and Granlund. Pominville’s CF/60 is at its peak when playing with these two (67 CF/60), and these guys have displayed tremendous chemistry when playing together. The Wild always give Colorado a difficult time, and with the Avs on a back to back, I expect the Wild’s dominance over this Avalanche team this year to hold true.
Other Options: Zach Parise, Patrick Marleau, Brendan Gallagher, Patrice Bergeron, John Tavares, Josh Bailey
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers – Ekblad is great young defenseman, who gets a chance to show off his offensive skillset when facing a weaker team. If you are a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of player, you will be off Ekblad, but in his four games against Buffalo, he has four assists and has fired nine shots. Ekblad should see plenty of PP time, offensive zone time, and opportunities to score. It is rare to find a defenseman who is safe on plus/minus sites, with this much offensive talent, at this price tag.
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks – Brent Burns is probably a top five fantasy defenseman this year, and he’ll get a chance to keep up his great season tonight against Andrew Hammond. Hammond has been absolutely sensational in his starts with Ottawa, but I am not convinced for one minute that he is the real deal. In fact, I think tonight it all crashes down to Earth for him. Most 27-year-old rookies with an .890 sv pct in the AHL don’t become overnight sensations in the NHL. Burns has averaged over four shots per game in his last 10, and he plays a ton of powerplay time. If SJ gets to Hammond, on his third game in four nights, Burns will almost surely be a part of the scoring.
Other Options: Zdeno Chara, Andrei Markov, Michal Jordan, Ryan Suter
Best of luck Grinders!