NHL Grind Down: Monday, March 20th

The RotoGrinders NHL Grind Down article will give you an in-depth analysis into the NHL schedule. This article will break down the numbers for every single game and give you analysis on which trends you can exploit. While matchups are a major factor in daily fantasy hockey there are plenty of other factors to consider such as injuries, salaries, and more.

The analysis should point you in the right direction, but it is still up to you to decipher the information and make your own selections. Hockey is an extremely high variance sport. The best choice is not always the right choice but following the trends will win you money over time.

Remember, these writeups are done prior to lineups being released, so make sure to check our Starting Lineups page to ensure the recommended options are playing.

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Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs

Boston Bruins Toronto Maple Leafs
Tuukka Rask Frederik Andersen
Record Record
38-27-6 32-23-15
Team Stats 2.86 2.62 20.80% 85.40% Team Stats 3.04 2.81 23.60% 83.30%

Bruins 5v5 (adj), past 25 games: 55.4 CF% / 47.5 GF% / 55.3 xGF%
Maple Leafs 5v5 (adj), past 25 games: 50.3 CF% / 53.3 GF% / 52.5 xGF%

The Bruins head to Toronto in an important game for both teams. The Bruins are up by just three points over Toronto in the standings, while the Leafs have a game in hand. It’s a favorable matchup for Boston forwards, especially the top six which is playing extremely well. Shooting percentages are rising and correcting, and there seemingly isn’t a team in the league that can slow down Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the top line. Look for Toronto to struggle to do so as well. Toronto will likely use Nazem Kadri against the Bergeron line, as well as Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev on the blueline when the top line is out. Bergeron and Marchand should be able to continue their strong play in this matchup. Toronto ranks near the top of the league in shot attempts allowed at 5v5, and they play a high-event game, so Boston shouldn’t have many issues generating rushes. With just five games on the slate, look for the Bruins’ top line to be highly owned. Patrice Bergeron is expected to play after taking a maintenance day Sunday. If he doesn’t wind up playing, then the second line becomes much more attractive while Brad Marchand is more of a one-off play. Riley Nash skated in Bergeron’s place, and while he’s a low floor, moderately low ceiling option, he immediately has some value play appeal due to the exposure he grants in his top line/power play role. David Krejci, David Pastrnak, and Drew Stafford have been playing extremely well in their own right, and Krejci’s playmaking plus Pastrnak’s shooting prowess have really meshed well. New addition Stafford has been a nice fit here, though his ceiling is more limited than the other two. Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano form a dangerous third line duo, and on a short slate, they are certainly viable cap savings options that can come in handy in a favorable matchup. These two stick together on the second power play unit. Torey Krug is in a nice spot tonight as Toronto has struggled with offensive defensemen this year.

On paper, the Toronto forward group has a difficult matchup. Boston is an elite team with regards to puck possession; their adjusted 5v5 Corsi-For percentage of 55.6% over the course of the season to date is a testament to their dominance (best in the league). In addition to their low 5v5 Corsi-Allowed/60, the Bruins are also the cream of the crop in lowest scoring chances allowed/60 and high-danger shot attempts/60. It’s probably going to be a bit tough for Toronto forwards to find room to maneuver and generate quality scoring chances, although the team certainly has personnel adept at creating such chances. Typically we have to work to narrow down which line to target with this squad as they have two legitimate scoring lines plus a dangerous Nazem Kadri. With Kadri against Bergeron, he is in a very unfavorable spot. With Brian Boyle’s addition to the team, he’s been taking on some of the secondary tough matchups, so that should free up Auston Matthews, Zach Hyman and William Nylander from playing against Boston’s second line. Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, and Mitchell Marner with Matthews’ line will likely split up their time against Boston’s middle six so they are the two lines to focus on here. Tuukka Rask has been extremely up and down of late. He’s had particular issues stopping high-danger shots, and while he doesn’t see many of them per game, his save percentage on such attempts is 77.2%, placing him near the bottom of the league. Since a heavy volume of shots is unlikely, targeting Toronto skaters that generate more quality chances may have the best chance to succeed. The Matthews Three are among the leaders on Toronto in generating high-danger chances.

Bruins Elite Plays: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Torey Krug
Bruins Secondary Plays: David Backes, David Krejci, Drew Stafford, Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner

Maple Leafs Elite Plays: Auston Matthews, William Nylander
Maple Leafs Secondary Plays: Zach Hyman, Mitchell Marner, James van Reimsdyk

Buffalo Sabres at Detroit Red Wings

Buffalo Sabres Detroit Red Wings
Robin Lehner Petr Mrazek
Record Record
29-31-12 28-31-11
Team Stats 2.49 2.79 23.30% 76.40% Team Stats 2.41 3.00 13.80% 82.00%

Sabres 5v5 (adj), past 25 games: 45.5 CF% / 41.9 GF% / 47.9 xGF%
Red Wings 5v5 (adj), past 25 games: 48.1 CF% / 43.8 GF% / 47.2 xGF%

After mostly holding their own in California, the Sabres will work their way back east with a decent draw in Detroit. The Red Wings are a mostly low event team, but they lack a strong offense needed to control a game and their defensive group isn’t overwhelming. Additionally, over the past 25 games Detroit’s high-danger shot attempts allowed is elevating on a per-game basis. Recently the Sabres mixed up the lines some, with Ryan O’Reilly joining Jack Eichel (with Tyler Ennis). O’Reilly and Eichel would be a highly interesting pair, though roster flexibility would suffer if they eat up two center spots. Evander Kane’s stock would take a hit, as would Sam Reinhart’s as he is banished to the bottom six. Keep an eye on this after morning skate because the line combinations used in Buffalo’s last game sway the potential of Buffalo’s big names. Eichel will see a healthy dose of Henrik Zetterberg no matter where he plays. Zetterberg remains a solid player in his advanced (by professional sport standards) age, though he’s not the shutdown player he once was. With Detroit’s defense lacking a shutdown pairing this isn’t a matchup to shy away from, necessarily. Evander Kane remains a nice play as well, though his ceiling sprung a leak without a viable center playing next to him at 5v5 (no offense to Zemgus Girgensons, pun intended). At least Buffalo kept the core together on the top power play, a highly successful unit. Detroit’s penalty kill is a bit above average so there isn’t a major advantage to scoop up.

While the Red Wings play a low event game, the Sabres are prone to open things up due to a strong top six and a weak defense. Buffalo’s defensive group has the second worst CA/60 at 5v5 over their past 25 games among the teams playing tonight, trailing only Arizona. In theory it’s a nice matchup for Detroit’s skaters, and we saw them show some signs of life over the weekend. A matchup against presumptive starter Robin Lehner isn’t overly impressive. He’s been good and can deal with a high volume of shots. Where he’s struggled is in high-danger shot attempts, but Detroit doesn’t exactly ring those up with regularity. Detroit, like Buffalo, has one of the lowest 5v5 xGF/60 due in large part to a weak supporting cast. Where the Sabres are most vulnerable is on the penalty kill, but Detroit sports – wait for it – the worst power play in the league. To their credit they’ve been a bit better of late, but the allocation of talent among the power play units is questionable. In what should be a nice floor matchup due to expected shot volume, the Detroit top line is likely to carry decent ownership. If the Sabres keep O’Reilly and Eichel together, however, that would mean the line plays a fair amount against a strong two-way player in O’Reilly. Players like Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou (and Anthony Mantha if he plays) have nice 5v5 matchups and see some time on the advantage, so they are names to keep in mind (Mantha does’t skate on either unit) if looking for differentiation among Red Wing forwards. Niklas Kronwall soaks up the most power play time, so Mike Green doesn’t even get a major push where he is most effective.

Sabres Elite Plays: Jack Eichel, Rasmus Ristolainen
Sabres Secondary Plays: Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Sam Reinhart, Tyler Ennis (GPP)

Red Wings Elite Plays: Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Gustav Nyquist
Red Wings Secondary Plays: Frans Nielsen, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall

Arizona Coyotes at Nashville Predators

Arizona Coyotes Nashville Predators
Mike Smith Pekka Rinne
Record Record
26-36-9 35-25-11
Team Stats 2.34 3.19 14.60% 77.50% Team Stats 2.92 2.77 20.30% 80.20%

Coyotes 5v5 (adj), past 25 games: 45 CF% / 47.7 GF% / 43.5 xGF%
Predators 5v5 (adj), past 25 games: 50.9 CF% / 48.2 GF% / 51.6 xGF%

In a tough road matchup, the Coyotes’ forwards will go up against one of the top defenses in the league. Unfortunately for Arizona, their top line will effectively be neutralized and secondary scoring is subpar. The key to attacking Nashville is having strong scorers off the top line, as the Predators have plenty of weapons to lock on opposing top lines (especially at home). The Coyotes will probably struggle to keep the puck out of their own zone as well. Nashville’s a moderate-event team but they have one high-end scoring line and two other strong ones to throw at the outmatched Coyotes. Even with Pekka Rinne struggling, Arizona figures to struggle to light the lamp. The second line of Jordan Martinook, Brendan Perlini, and Tobias Rieder will need to step up but they are a very low floor trio. In all, the Coyotes can mostly be ignored. Arizona is in the running for lowest 5v5 xGF/60 in the league while Nashville currently has the fifth lowest xGA/60.

Nashville is no doubt happy to be home after struggling a little bit on the East Coast. A victory over the Capitals in a tough barn was followed up with a bad loss to Carolina. Tonight’s the perfect get-well matchup to get back on track. Arizona has the league’s worst 5v5 CA/60, xGA/60, scoring chances allowed/60, high-danger shot attempts/60, and one of the worst penalty kills (77.5%). There will likely be heavy ownership on the Predators in this juicy matchup, especially on the top line. Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, and Filip Forsberg are playing extremely well and that should continue here. This line gets a boost as they stay together on the top power play unit. Nashville has more weapons than those three, and the line of Calle Jarnkrok, James Neal, and Colin Wilson has sneaky stack appeal. Neal sees time on the top power play unit, so he’s a fine one-off. Even Kevin Fiala, Mike Fisher, and P.A. Parenteau are worthy of GPP looks. This line lacks a high-end, but they have been good at driving play, particularly Fiala. Defenders Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, and Ryan Ellis have strong matchups as well. They shouldn’t have much issue jumping up in the rush against a weak offense. Josi correlates more strongly with the top line as he skates on the top power play unit. With Vegas all over the Predators, there will be heavy ownership on the top line so tournament players may want to consider pivoting down the lineup.

Coyotes Elite Plays: None
Coyotes Secondary Plays: None

Predators Elite Plays: Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, James Neal, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban
Predators Secondary Plays: Kevin Fiala, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Ellis, Craig Smith, Mike Fisher

San Jose Sharks at Dallas Stars

San Jose Sharks Dallas Stars
Martin Jones Kari Lehtonen
Record Record
42-22-7 28-33-10
Team Stats 2.71 2.35 16.80% 81.80% Team Stats 2.75 3.19 18.20% 73.80%

Sharks 5v5 (adj), past 25 games: 51.8 CF% / 57.3 GF% / 51.6 xGF%
Stars 5v5 (adj), past 25 games: 50 CF% / 45.5 GF% / 49.2 xGF%

After failing to take a bite out of the Ducks at home on Saturday night, the Sharks will use up their game in hand over Anaheim who trails them in the Pacific Division. San Jose couldn’t really do much better in the race for points as they play in Dallas. The Stars seem checked out mentally and there are now injury concerns among their top forwards. The defense is getting worked over night after night, the penalty kill remains poor, and goaltending has been a liability. Dallas sports the second highest 5v5 xGA/60 (2.8) of the teams playing tonight. Kari Lehtonen, who had been something of a silver lining in net at 5v5, has posted one quality start over his past five outings. This is all to say that the Sharks are in a great spot tonight, as far as road games go. Joe Pavelski has gone back-to-back games without a point after a monstrous tear while Brent Burns was last seen in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. There likely won’t be much of an ownership drop despite the high prices and lack of output, but they remain strong plays. Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau skate together on the second line as well as the top power play unit, so they too have a great matchup and correlate well. Jannik Hansen looks to be hurt again so there is a spot open on the top line – keep an eye on who fills the role after morning skate as they will likely be a strong value play. Tomas Hertl would be a fantastic play up top as he has developed chemistry with the Joes over the past few seasons. Hertl’s 55% 5v5 Corsi-For percentage is very impressive, and though his sample size isn’t as high as the regulars due to an early season injury, ranks him best among SJ forwards. He’s an elite option on the top line and a strong secondary play if he stays on the third line.

Potentially without Jamie Benn (update – he sounds probable) and likely without Jason Spezza, the Stars offense loses much of their contrarian appeal. Tyler Seguin will need to do the heavy lifting and Cody Eakin may slide up to the top line between Seguin and Patrick Sharp. If Benn is healthy enough to go and he sticks on a line with Seguin, the top line becomes an intriguing tournament stack. Ownership would be quite low and San Jose is not impenetrable. The Sharks are a high-event team with a decent xGA/60, but Dallas will be tough to trust based on their recent plays and injuries. San Jose can do a decent job of limiting the shots that reach the net, so there likely won’t be a high volume of shots for Dallas and thus a low floor. If Brett Ritchie were to see an expanded role he’d be an intriguing value play. He comes with a strong iCorsi/60 rate but he doesn’t see much ice time and when he does, it’s in a bottom six role. Note that John Klingberg looks to be taking back his role on the blueline on the power play from Esa Lindell. That saps the value a bit of Lindell, especially as Lindell tends to see tough minutes at 5v5 (with Klingberg).

Sharks Elite Plays: Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl (if he plays on the top line)
Sharks Secondary Plays: Patrick Marleau, Joel Ward (GPP), Timo Meier (GPP)

Stars Elite Plays: None
Stars Secondary Plays: Tyler Seguin, Patrick Sharp, Jamie Benn (questionable)

Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers

Los Angeles Kings Edmonton Oilers
Ben Bishop Cam Talbot
Record Record
34-30-7 38-24-9
Team Stats 2.46 2.44 18.90% 85.30% Team Stats 2.80 2.57 22.30% 79.40%

Kings 5v5 (adj), past 25 games: 56.1 CF% / 46.2 GF% / 52.9 xGF%
Oilers 5v5 (adj), past 25 games: 47.6 CF% / 57.3 GF% / 49.9 xGF%

The Kings head to Edmonton looking to bounce back after a bad loss in Calgary last night. They’ll take on an Oilers team that is playing well at the moment, but also one that the Kings theoretically match up well with. The Oilers don’t push play overly well outside the Connor McDavid line whereas the Kings tend to push play exceedingly well. The problem with the Kings is the finish, or lack thereof. Outside of Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson, and Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles’ offense isn’t overly threatening. Anze Kopitar remains a solid two-way center but his point total has cliffed this year, and the options on his wings have been… interesting. He’s a tough asset to trust most nights, especially with a low shot volume. The Oilers tend to use Connor McDavid against opposing top lines, but do shelter him somewhat when the matchup is especially difficult (ie, they kept him away from Patrice Bergeron last week). Though it was at the end of December (when Devon Setoguchi was still a thing), McDavid did deploy against the Carter line when the Kings last visited. That seems likely to be the case again tonight, making “That 70’s Line” a riskier play than it would be otherwise. It’s not a complete wash, of course, given the state of Edmonton’s defensive group. But McDavid pushes play very well and thus limits the upside of opposing lines via an aesthetically pleasing version of keep away. Cam Talbot has been a workhorse for Edmonton and comes in to this game coming off a shutout over Vancouver. On the year he’s been strong at 5v5, including against high-danger shots. The Kings, over the last 25 games, have posted the fourth best high-danger CF/60, strangely enough. Marian Gaborik leads the team in HDCF/60 as he skates next to Anze Kopitar, yet he has just nine goals through 47 games. So while the on-paper matchup favors the Kings, they are a tough offense to trust, especially on the road and playing back-to-back against a surging team.

This will be a solid test for Edmonton. They performed above expectations in a tough matchup against the Bruins, and now they’ll welcome the Kings to town on their swing through Western Canada. The Oilers have received uneven offerings from their lines that don’t include Connor McDavid. Against a tough Kings defense, it figures to be a low-event affair for the Oilers offense. The Oilers would be wise to keep McDavid away from Anze Kopitar, but then again, Jeff Carter and the second line figure to stifle play a bit as well. The problem with picking forwards against the Kings is production is extremely volatile. The system and defense don’t allow much at all in the way of volume or quality chances, but goaltending can be something of a mystery from game to game. Last night, for example, Jonathan Quick got an early hook and LA goalies allowed four goals, but on just 23 shots. Nevertheless, both Jonathan Quick and Ben Bishop are solid goaltenders and the system in front of them is strong. Connor McDavid is as close to matchup proof as it gets, but just be aware that volume could be an issue as the setup isn’t ideal. The center position feels a bit locked down for Edmonton’s top six, so wingers may carry the better values.

Kings Elite Plays: Jeff Carter
Kings Secondary Plays: Tyler Toffoli, Marian Gaborik (GPP), Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, Tanner Pearson

Oilers Elite Plays: Connor McDavid
Oilers Secondary Plays: Oscar Klefbom, Mark Letestu, Leon Draisaitl, Milan Lucic

About the Author

  • Ben Benwell (benwell311)

  • Ben has been playing fantasy hockey since the turn of the century, focusing on NHL DFS over the past three seasons. He has previously written hockey content for eDraft and The Fake Hockey. Feel free to reach out with questions, comments, and memes on Twitter @Benwell_B.


  • jettyray

    Doing a great job! I appreciate the extra effort that you put into the details.

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