As always, it’s been a season of surprises in the NHL, with some stalwart teams struggling while upstarts are making names for themselves. Before jumping into Tuesday’s action, let’s take a quick look at the ugly side and look at whether some of these teams might turn it around in the second half.
Boston Bruins: Yeah, they’re second in the Atlantic, but they have a break-even goal differential and more losses (22, with five of those in overtime) than wins. Look no further for a culprit than the struggles of Patrice Bergeron, who owns a 5.5 shooting percentage to go with his horrendous 15 points in 40 games. Considering he’s a career 10.0 percent shooter who’s cleared 50 points in six consecutive non-lockout-shortened NHL campaigns dating back to 2009-10, you have to expect a bounce back. The B’s will bounce with him.
New York Islanders: A playoff team last year, the Isles are the worst team in the Eastern Conference this season; only Colorado and Arizona have worse records in the NHL as a whole. Much of it comes down to the goaltending – Jaroslav Halak was mostly awful until getting waived – but it’s also the offense. John Tavares has struggled through the season, unable to find chemistry with any one winger, but the saving grace may be that he struggled similarly in the first half of last year, only to turn on the jets in the second half and lead the playoff push. As bad as the Isles have been, one Tavares-powered winning streak will have them right back in the mix.
Dallas Stars: It’s the goaltending, yes, but the goaltending was bad last year too; the real issue is that the Stars have gotten no depth scoring. They’re basically a one-line team, and that one line doesn’t play much defense. John Klingberg is also doing a whole lot less shooting from that blue line, while the rest of their defensemen are special neither on offense nor on defense. It’s a bad look, and it might not get a lot better.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts’ problems certainly start with Steven Stamkos’ torn meniscus, but they’re another squad with issues in net. Ben Bishop was a star of the league over the past three seasons, but he was struggling and now he’s hurt. Andrei Vasilevskiy was supposed ultimately usurp him – perhaps as soon as the trade deadline – but he’s instead struggled mightily during Bishop’s injury absence (and even before). Bishop’s coming back, but his play earlier this year combined with the Bolts’ mediocre offense in the absence of Stamkos doesn’t offer a ton of promise. They’ll really be lost if Nikita Kucherov and/or Victor Hedman were to be hurt, considering that Alex Killorn and Brian Boyle are two of the five Bolts with double-digit goals. Yuck.
Anyway, it’s Tuesday!
Blue Jackets (PP: 1, PK: 16) at Hurricanes (PP: 16, PK: 2), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Anton Forsberg (N/A), Cam Ward (15-12-6, 2.28, .915)
Key Injuries: Bryan Bickell (illness), Eddie Lack (concussion), Elias Lindholm (upper body), David Clarkson (back)
The Jackets’ almost-historic winning streak ended with a pair of tough losses, but they bounced back to win in overtime Sunday (as did Carolina, FWIW) and thus will be looking to get a new streak going. With Sergei Bobrovsky ill, Forsberg -- who's been a monster at the AHL level, posting a .930 save mark -- will get the start. Be wary of top Columbus skaters like Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg, as Ward has been surprisingly strong behind a surprisingly stifling Hurricanes defense. The DFS value is actually mostly on Carolina’s side, as guys like Justin Faulk and Victor Rask have appetizing prices, and the one area where teams have been able to get to Bobrovsky is the power play. As a long-time Ty Rattie promoter, I’m hoping for him to bust out in his new digs, but he has only an assist over his first three games as a ‘Cane.
Canucks (PP: 27, PK: 20) at Predators (PP: 13, PK: 14), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Ryan Miller (12-10-1, 2.62, .915), Pekka Rinne (14-11-6, 2.47, .918)
Key Injuries: Viktor Arvidsson (upper body), James Neal (upper body), Miikka Salomaki (lower body), P.K. Subban (upper body), Colin Wilson (undisclosed), Derek Dorsett (neck), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Jannik Hansen (knee), Ben Hutton (upper body), Philip Larsen (upper body), Chris Tanev (upper body)
The Preds have been a shockingly mediocre home team, having won just half their tilts in Nashville, but the Canucks are a simply atrocious 5-13-1 on the road, and Miller’s save percentage away from Vancouver is a meager .901. However, with Neal and Subban on the sidelines (not to mention Arvidsson, who’s been a major contributor), the Predators are badly shorthanded, and Rinne has been inconsistent at best in net. Look for scoring on both ends of this matchup, including Bo Horvat extending his seven-game point streak and Filip Forsberg continuing to recover from his early-season doldrums. If you like to gamble on bottom-dollar DFS guys, Calle Jarnkrok will cost you next to nothing for top-line minutes. The fact that Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons are the current top two right wingers for the Predators says a lot about the condition the team is in right now, but they may find a saving grace in the fact that Vancouver just completed a lengthy home stand followed by a long flight to Nashville.
Stars (PP: 18, PK: 30) at Ducks (PP: 6, PK: 18), 10:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Antti Niemi (8-6-4, 2.93, .908), John Gibson (15-10-7, 2.46, .915)
Key Injuries: Simon Despres (head), Ryan Getzlaf (lower body), Nicolas Kerdiles (concussion), Clayton Stoner (abdomen), Nate Thompson (Achilles), Jamie Benn (foot), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)
Everything about this matchup screams “win” for Anaheim. The Ducks are a terrific home team (13-5-2); the Stars have been atrocious on the road (6-10-4). The Ducks have a strong power play; the Stars have a terrible penalty kill and have been getting bad goaltending to boot. It’s unclear whether it’ll be Niemi or Kari Lehtonen in net for Dallas, but both have been subpar, and the offense hasn’t been good enough to carry them to a plethora of wins like it did last year. However, Corey Perry hasn’t been scoring for the Ducks and Getzlaf’s hurt, but could return Tuesday – that’s worth monitoring, as is Benn’s status on the other side. Gibson gave up five goals to the Stars in the season opener and will be out for revenge; a lot’s changed since then, of course, and the Ducks’ netminder is hot, having allowed just seven goals over his last four starts.
Flyers (PP: 9, PK: 17) at Sabres (PP: 7, PK: 29), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Steve Mason (14-13-6, 2.79, .903), Robin Lehner (9-12-5, 2.53, .921)
Key Injuries: William Carrier (illness), Tyler Ennis (groin), Josh Gorges (hip), Dmitry Kulikov (back), Johan Larsson (wrist), Mark Streit (shoulder)
The Flyers were unbeatable for a spell there, but they’ve fallen back hard of late; meanwhile, the Sabres haven’t been a particularly good home team, but they’ve just gotten back star center Ryan O’Reilly, who’s celebrated his return with consecutive two-point efforts.
Bruins (PP: 25, PK: 1) at Blues (PP: 7, PK: 5), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Tuukka Rask (20-9-3, 1.93, .928), Jake Allen (17-10-3, 2.63, .904)
Key Injuries: Matt Beleskey (knee), Robert Bortuzzo (lower body), Carl Gunnarsson (lower body)
David Backes makes his return to St. Louis; I’m not sure if the stats bear this out, but I do think there’s something to utilizing guys against their former teams in front of their former home fans. It helps when they’re good players who skate big minutes as it is, which is indeed the case here. He also scored on the Blues when they visited Boston earlier this year.
Red Wings (PP: 30, PK: 9) at Blackhawks (PP: 15, PK: 28), 8:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Petr Mrazek (9-10-3, 3.10, .895), Corey Crawford (15-8-3, 2.33, .925)
Key Injuries: Marcus Kruger (upper body), Justin Abdelkader (knee), Johan Franzen (concussion), Mike Green (upper body), Darren Helm (shoulder), Jimmy Howard (knee), Niklas Kronwall (lower body), Brendan Smith (leg), Joe Vitale (concussion)
Mrazek and Jared Coreau have both been tire fires in net for the Wings, which isn’t a good look against the first-place Blackhawks and their offensive stars. Detroit’s been a disaster in general, actually, but Anthony Mantha has been a big-time bright spot, and he remains attractively priced for DFS purposes. Jonathan Toews and Artem Anisimov have (relatively) low costs as well.
Sharks (PP: 21, PK: 11) at Oilers (PP: 10, PK: 19), 9:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Martin Jones (20-13-2, 2.21, .917), Cam Talbot (20-11-6, 2.44, .920)
Key Injuries: Brandon Davidson (illness), Darnell Nurse (ankle), Iiro Pakarinen (leg),Tyler Pitlick (knee), Tomas Hertl (knee), David Schlemko (upper body), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (face)
Patrick Maroon remains attractively priced as Connor McDavid’s left-hand man, and Jones and the Sharks have been anything but special on the road. Andrej Sekera is also an interesting source of cheap DFS value.
Oscar Klefbom, D, EDM – The 23-year-old Klefbom is widely available in fantasy because he hasn’t shown that much on the offensive side of things yet in his NHL career, but that may be changing. He’s stunningly ripped 15 – yeah, fifteen! – shots on net over the last two games, and though the Swede has garnered just a lone assist for his troubles, shooting upticks like that often promise increased point production. In fact, Klefbom is averaging more than two shots on goal per game, which is a massive leap over the numbers he’s put up in previous years. It’s amounted to just 14 points in 42 contests, but his steady top-four minutes and power-play time offer the promise of more in the second half of the season.