NHL Grind Down: Wednesday, February 14th

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.

Note: As always, if you want to try a new DFS site, be sure to click through a RotoGrinders link and use our DraftKings promo code and FanDuel promo code to receive the best perks in the industry.

Stackability Rating System (Offense):

Green : Friendly matchup at 5v5 and/or on the power play; multiple lines worth stacking
Yellow : Line specific matchup at 5v5 and/or friendly power play matchup
Orange : Stacking is best left for GPPs, secondary scoring units and/or power play in tough matchup
Red : Difficult 5v5 and/or power play matchup, stacking not advisable

Stackability Rating System (Goalies):

Green : Goalie has a plus draw and is playable in all formats
Yellow : There is risk at 5v5 or the penalty kill; iffy for cash games and better for GPPs
Orange : Realistic risk at 5v5 and the penalty kill; not advisable in cash games but viable in GPPs
Red : Elevated risk in all situations and not a recommend crease to chase

Team Ranking Key
CF = Corsi For = shot attempts generated
CA = Corsi Allowed = shot attempts allowed
xGF = expected goals scored
xGA = expected goals allowed
Numbers in parentheses denote the league ranking for the particular metric.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Toronto Maple Leafs

Columbus Blue Jackets Toronto Maple Leafs
Joonas Korpisalo Frederik Andersen
Record Record
29-23-4 34-19-5
Team Stats 2.56 2.75 14.01 75.35 Team Stats 3.22 2.78 20.50 83.04

Blue Jackets Offensive Outlook

5v5 (adj): 60.95 CF/60 (8) | 58.23 CA/60 (17) | 2.51 xGF/60 (3) | 2.38 xGA/60 (9)

After getting the pee-wee Islander defense last night, Columbus will have a bit of a tougher matchup tonight. Toronto plays fast and that does open up their offense to some scoring chances allowed, but for the most part they (and virtually everyone) is better defensively than New York.

Columbus’s offense is skating well at the moment, producing oodles of shots on goal and top ten rates of shot attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger shot attempts per hour at 5v5 over the last month. At the same time, Toronto’s defense has been vulnerable to shot attempts but have done pretty well limiting high-danger shot attempts.

There’s a matchup issue at play for the top line of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Artemi Panarin, and Cam Atkinson as they will likely see the Kadri line and Rielly defensive pairing at 5v5. It’s too bad they have such an unfavorable matchup tonight as they have been playing quite well of late. It’s a three game slate so this group can’t be written off entirely, but they are certainly not as high on the totem pole as they could (or should) be in this one.

This is a much better matchup for the Columbus middle six. Alex Wennberg is skating between Nick Foligno and Oliver Bjorkstrand, and they are likely to draw the Matthews line at 5v5. While the Matthews line is flashy and can push play, they do give up plenty of shots and attempts going back to the other way. Bjorkstrand has been surging a bit, getting the puck to the net and showing some of that potential, while Foligno has been playing much better than he had been earlier in the year.

Given it’s a short slate, the third line of Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, and Josh Anderson are in play for the budget focused. They have an eminently winnable 5v5 matchup against the Bozak line and Roman Polak. Jenner and Anderson are both volume shooters that are working through some unsustainably low shooting percentages, making them ideal tournament plays here.

It’s also a fine matchup for blueline help. On the high end is Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, and David Savard — everyone’s favorite punt play from prior years — is back on the radar.

Blue Jackets Special Teams Outlook
Though they did light the lamp (twice!) on the advantage last night, Columbus remains one of the worst teams on the power play. They have the worst generation rates (per hour) in all of shot attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger shot attempts. They don’t get a favorable matchup tonight as the Leafs have kept high-danger attempts on the low side, and their rates of overall attempts and scoring chances allowed are still just middle of the road. Additionally, Toronto goes shorthanded just under three times per game, so Columbus may not get many opportunities anyway.

Blue Jackets Goaltending Outlook
With Sergei Bobrovsky going last night on Long Island, the Jackets will need to give his tired legs a quick turnaround or else turn the crease to Joonas Korpisalo in a highly flammable matchup. Regardless who starts, this is a potential blowup spot. With baseball season coming up, you can think of this as a “gas can” goalie as the past time people say. Bobrovsky, tired legs or not, would be the preferable option to Korpisalo, but the lethal Toronto attack is going to pounce on a Columbus defense that has been struggling to slow opposing offenses of late.

Maple Leafs Offensive Outlook

5v5 (adj): 60.16 CF/60 (13) | 59.51 CA/60 (10) | 2.58 xGF/60 (2) | 2.47 xGA/60 (4)

Another short slate, another mouth-watering matchup for the high flying Toronto offense. This is the best matchup on the slate, and maxing out on Toronto skaters makes sense. Ownership will be high, but that is justified. The Blue Jackets defense has been struggling of late, allowing rates of shot attempts, scoring chances, and HD attempts that rank among the top ten highest per hour at 5v5 over the last month. With Columbus playing in New York last night, they also figure to have a backup netminder in net on the road in the biggest hockey market in the league.

The Leaf offense, of course, needs no introduction. After they worked in a bit of a slower, lower event system for the holiday season and early January, this team is back to the barn burning bunch they ought to be. They have two A+ lines tonight, and one that lacks the upside it used to have but has a cash game player to contribute for sure.

The first A+ line is, of course, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Zach Hyman. Matthews and Nylander make sweet, sweet hockey music together and should have no problems working against the Columbus second line. Best yet, they stick together on the power play. There isn’t much to say here except these boys are good at the game of hockey, and the matchup is strong.

The second A+ line may more of an A, but it is well rounded and has been highly effective since being put together a few weeks ago. What’s more impressive is that the line of Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau, and Mitch Marner work against the opposing top lines at 5v5 while on home ice. Though Columbus’s top line has been strong defensively this year, there isn’t enough to shy away from the Kadri line. Maybe it pushes the favor to the Matthews line, but Matthews/Nylander will also come with heavier ownership.

Toronto’s third line isn’t as sneaky as it used to be with Marner up to the second line. Connor Brown now works with Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk. JVR is a fine one off play, but Bozak is a boom or bust option that won’t shoot a ton on his own. Brown is an ancillary player and doesn’t need to jammed on to rosters tonight.

Maple Leafs Special Teams Outlook
Toronto has been one of the most dangerous teams on the power play this year, so outside of matchups against the stingiest of penalty killers, building around power play correlation makes sense. That’s the case again tonight as the Blue Jackets are nothing special while shorthanded, posting mediocre defensive ratios on a per hour basis in shot attempt and scoring chances allowed rates. With a potential weak link in the cage, this could be another spot Toronto builds off of. The one saving grace is Columbus doesn’t go shorthanded all that often.

Maple Leafs Goaltending Outlook
The Blue Jackets don’t have a weakling offense, but they have had a bit of a problem putting the puck in the net lately. The trouble with chasing the expected shot volume Frederik Andersen should see is that the tide could very easily turn as shooting percentage normalizes. The Leafs have opened up the playbook again, if you will, so there is a risk for end-to-end hockey. For their part, the Leafs have maintained adequate defensive ratios, particularly in high-dagner shot attempts allowed. Andersen could easily post the biggest score of the night if he sees the rate of shots Columbus has been posting, making him a highly intriguing play tonight with risk understood.

Blue Jackets Elite Plays: Oliver Bjorkstrand, Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski
Blue Jackets Secondary Plays: Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Boone Jenner, Josh Anderson
Stackability: Orange / Yellow
Goaltending: Red

Maple Leafs Elite Plays: Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri
Maple Leafs Secondary Plays: James van Riemsdyk, Zach Hyman, Patrick Marleau, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner
Stackability: Green
Goaltending: Yellow

Montreal Canadiens at Colorado Avalanche

Montreal Canadiens Colorado Avalanche
Antti Niemi Semyon Varlamov
Record Record
22-26-7 30-21-4
Team Stats 2.58 3.07 21.56 78.29 Team Stats 3.15 2.95 19.42 83.51

Canadiens Offensive Outlook

5v5 (adj): 60.19 CF/60 (12) | 59.84 CA/60 (7) | 2.39 xGF/60 (11) | 2.15 xGA/60 (22)

Though they are missing their top line center, the Avalanche have maintained their high level of play from a month ago. On the year, the Avalanche have not been a great defense to pick on, especially when at home. Over the last month, Colorado has perfectly reasonable defensive ratios. Their high-danger shot attempts allowed have been particularly fine, as the team ranks in the bottom third of the league in the amount they allow at 5v5.

Montreal’s offense has cooled off a bit. On the year, their shot attempts and scoring chances generated are middle of the pack while HD attempts just creep into the top ten at 5v5. Over the last month, though, they have been near the bottom of the league in generating scoring chances while just middling in shot attempt quantity and quality.

Though Nathan MacKinnon is out of the lineup, Mikko Rantanen is healthy and the blueline is at full strength as well. We’ve seen many top lines struggle in Colorado as they get the red carpet rolled out for them. That will likely be to the Max Pacioretty line, which includes Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen. Lehkonen has been part of some productive lines under the hood but hasn’t done much of the scoring himself until the last three games. Byron is a low shot player and doesn’t offer much.

Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk are still working together on the second line, now with Nikita Scherbak on their line. Scherbak hasn’t played in the NHL much but has put some pucks to the net and comes cheap. Galchenyuk and Drouin have worked well together, so he should be an improvement for the line that has some upside. Brendan Gallagher loses out with Lehkonen moving to the top line and Charles Hudon moving down to play with Gallagher and Tomas Plekanec. Again we see a line with strong underlying numbers, but outside of Gallagher, goals were not always there (this was with Lehkonen, mind you).

Canadiens Special Teams Outlook
Colorado goes shorthanded at a fairly regular rate, over 3.5 times per game on average. This is good news for the Montreal power play as they have been a productive bunch this year. While shorthanded, the Avalanche give up a high rate of shot attempts (fifth most per hour) but their scoring chances and quality attempts allowed are more limited.

Canadiens Goaltending Outlook
Though Colorado hasn’t posted strong offensive metrics this year, they continue to be an offense that gets the job done and the lamp lit. Time and again — especially without MacKinnon — they have been a trap for using opposing netminders. That presents a problem tonight with Carey Price playing up-and-down all year, and oddly struggling mightily on the road compared to at home. As there aren’t many options to choose from tonight, Price is in play, but he’s not a slam dunk by any means. He’s likely going to carry ownership and on paper he should have a strong game, as the Habs have limited quality chances and attempts at 5v5. But… haven’t we been down this road once (a dozen) times before this year? Update: You’re saved from making the Price call as Antti Niemi will be in net. Niemi has turned his season around with Montreal, and his lower price makes the risk more acceptable in Colorado tonight.

Avalanche Offensive Outlook

5v5 (adj): 55.32 CF/60 (22) | 59.28 CA/60 (11) | 1.82 xGF/60 (30) | 2.12 xGA/60 (23)

The Avalanche are a tricky team. When looking at their team wide metrics, they are not an offense that warrants attention most nights. This is especially true with Nathan MacKinnon out of the lineup as he has been the best scorer on this team by far. Then, when the pucks fly, Colorado gets the job done.

Tonight they have a tough matchup. Though the Canadiens have certainly had some issues in their own zone this year, over the last month they have turned things around. They’ve been good limiting scoring chances at 5v5 and have actually been the best team in the league suppressing high-danger shot attempts during the last month.

With MacKinnon out of the lineup, look for Alexander Kerfoot to center the top line with Gabriel Landeskog and Colin Wilson for at least one more game. After that, Mikko Rantanen should be back with Landeskog and MacKinnon. This line is less interesting without Rantanen, and Landeskog hasn’t had a great individual shooting season.

For now, though Rantanen is working with Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher at 5v5. This line is oozing with potential, as Rantanen has been a fantastic linemate at 5v5 and the youngsters (especially Compher) have flashed skill. The matchup isn’t great, but on a short game slate this line should fly under the radar and certainly has upside. All three of these guys skate together on the top power play unit, a great benefit (see below) tonight. In tournaments, this is a line to keep in mind.

Avalanche Special Teams Outlook
Montreal presents a favorable power play matchup for the Avalanche. They enter this game struggling with shot attempts, both in quantity (fourth highest amount allowed per hour) and quality (sixth highest). Scoring chances are negligible, but there will be shots available — and from good spots on the ice — for the Avs. This is a factor that really makes the Jost-Rantanen-Compher line intriguing to me tonight.

Avalanche Goaltending Outlook
Semyon Varlamov will be in net tonight, and since returning from injury, he’s allowed eight goals in three appearances (two starts). Montreal is an offense that possess strong underlying metrics, but they have mostly struggled to capitalize on their dominant at times play. They key goal scorers are spread out a bit, but they still have some dangerous forwards. Varlamov was good before getting hurt and Colorado has been a tough team to play at home, putting Varly on the GPP radar, but his form leaves plenty to be desired.

Canadiens Elite Plays: Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher
Canadiens Secondary Plays: Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Arturri Lehkonen, Jeff Petry
Stackability: Orange
Goaltending: Orange / Yellow

Avalanche Elite Plays: Mikko Rantanen, Tyson Barrie
Avalanche Secondary Plays: J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost, Gabriel Landeskog
Stackability: Orange
Goaltending: Orange

Florida Panthers at Vancouver Canucks

Florida Panthers Vancouver Canucks
James Reimer Jacob Markstrom
Record Record
24-23-6 22-28-6
Team Stats 2.87 3.19 18.29 79.75 Team Stats 2.63 3.16 21.20 77.78

Panthers Offensive Outlook

5v5 (adj): 58.4 CF/60 (17) | 60.01 CA/60 (6) | 2.22 xGF/60 (19) | 2.31 xGA/60 (13)

After a thriller in Edmonton two nights ago, the Panther will be back at it in Western Canada. They get another decent matchup, too, as the Canucks haven’t been strong defensively. They look to work a low event system, but they have had trouble keeping the events low regardless of their style. They’ve been a bit better over the last month, but this is still a vulnerable group. Goaltending has also been an issue.

Florida’s offensive numbers aren’t great, but this is a top heavy team. Their top six are really 1A/1B lines, each with a strong, high-volume center and a solid support winger. The bottom six hasn’t been very good so concentration can be left to the top two lines. Of the two, the first line (Barkov) has the better underlying numbers but the second (Trocheck) has been productive and are no slouches. Expect ownership to be elevated in this spot, especially after the game in Edmonton Monday.

Aleksander Barkov, Evgenii Dadonov, and Nick Bjugstad have the better analytics (85.1 CF/60, 44 SCF/60, 19 (!) HDCF/60) though the line of Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Denis Malgin don’t lag too far behind (71 CF/60, 33 SCF/60, and a poor 8.5 HDCF/60). Both lines have played together for 80 minutes at 5v5. In terms of finish, Huberdeau gets a slight edge over Dadonov, though Bjugstad and Malgin are about a wash.

It’s basically a coin flip with these two lines. The fun with short slates is getting creative is more viable, so a Trocheck-Barkov-Dadonov-Huberdeau (and Keith Yandle on DK) is a stack option in GPPs (and if you’re fading Leafs). The top two forwards from the top two lines join forces on the power play, both adding to their upside and also making the decision more difficult in DFS.

Panthers Special Teams Outlook
Florida’s power play comes into this game in great form and they have been dangerous all season long. Vancouver has gone shorthanded a fair amount this year (3.4) but have generally maintained their low event ways on the penalty kill. Still, the Panthers just need the opportunity to get on the ice the way they’ve been running. Keith Yandle has excelled on the blueline here, pushing Aaron Ekblad to the second unit.

Panthers Goaltending Outlook
Welcome back, James Reimer. He got the rust off in Florida’s last game, a barn burner in Edmonton. Roberto Luongo may push to get back on the ice with the game in Vancouver, and he’s sure to need some time to round in to form as he hasn’t played since early December. Vancouver’s offense isn’t a high-end group, though they do have Brock Boeser back and many of their season long numbers don’t reflect Bo Horvat playing. Florida’s defense has also had some issues suppressing shots and killing penalties, so the goalies coming back from injury carry more risk than usual tonight.

Canucks Offensive Outlook

5v5 (adj): 52.63 CF/60 (28) | 59.11 CA/60 (13) | 1.93 xGF/60 (29) | 2.27 xGA/60 (18)

Who saw the Canucks destroying the Stars in Dallas in Vancouver’s last game??? None of you did you liars. Anyway, the ‘Nucks are back home now and get a much better on-paper matchup with the Panthers in town. Florida has struggled with shot attempts allowed so volume should be there even for Vancouver. With two goalies working their way back from injuries on the roster, volume could pay off.

The problem with Vancouver is they are full of landmines in their rank. They do have the 3B line reunited, as Bo Horvat centers Brock Boeser and Sven Baertschi. This line should avoid the Barkov line with that honor going to Brandon Sutter and his line (effectively negating Sutter, Loui Eriksson, and Darren Archibald). The 3B line likely will see the Trocheck line, however, as the line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Thomas Vanek played sheltered.

The 3B line is clearly the line to target, but the Trocheck line isn’t ideal. That group has allowed just over 52 shot attempts per hour with only <8 (ice cream cone) coming by way of high-danger attempts. A matchup against the bottom six sounds enticing for the Sedins and Vanek, but they don’t play at a high level these days

Canucks Special Teams Outlook
The Panthers are a penalty killing group that is good to target. They struggle with suppressing shot attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger shot attempts in a big way. They have the third highest rate of attempts allowed per hour overall, and have allowed the most shot attempts from high-danger areas in the league. Vancouver’s power play numbers leave plenty to be desired, but Horvat-Boeser work with the Sedins on the advantage, and they can still put their skills to use with space on the advantage.

Canucks Goaltending Outlook
Jacob Markstrom ’s shutout in Dallas is one of the more surprising stat lines of the season, but he remains a low end netminder most nights. He’s inconsistent and the Canuck defense isn’t very good as a whole. Florida’s offensive numbers aren’t great, but they’re saddled due to a weak bottom top six. Their top six, however, is very good and they are playing quite well since the lines were put together.

Panthers Elite Plays: Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Keith Yandle
Panthers Secondary Plays: Evgenii Dadonov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bgustad, Denis Malgin, Aaron Ekblad
Stackability: Yellow / Green
Goaltending: Orange

Canucks Elite Plays: Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Alexander Edler
Canucks Secondary Plays: Sven Baertschi, Daniel Sedin, Thomas Vanek
Stackability: Orange
Goaltending: Red / Orange

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.


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