Forecaster: Matchups, projections for Nov. 28-Dec. 4
Drawing penalties is a skill, and some teams tend to earn significantly more power plays than some of their opponents.
The Arizona Coyotes finished with 33 percent more chances on the man advantage (300) than the New York Rangers (226) last season. At this time of the season last year, the Rangers were last in power-play opportunities and they finished there. At this time last season, the Coyotes were second in the NHL for most power-play chances and they finished on top.
The disparity this season at this point in time is even greater than it was at this time last season. The Colorado Avalanche were first in chances last Nov. 25 with 85 and the Rangers were last with 56. This season, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars lead the way with 82 power-play opportunities and the Columbus Blue Jackets have a lowly 49 chances. It’s part of the reason the Blue Jackets have the most efficient power play in the NHL right now, but sit only ninth for power-play goals. They just haven’t had that many chances.
The Washington Capitals are middle of the pack for power-play percentage, but are third from last in power-play opportunities this season, leaving them with only nine goals on the man advantage. Although we probably don’t need to highlight that for Evgeny Kuznetsov owners.
The good news is that while some of the trends in power-play opportunities hold steady, some don’t. The Vancouver Canucks and Carolina Hurricanes were both top-10 in opportunities at this time last season, but finished in the bottom 10. The Philadelphia Flyers were 21st in chances at this time last season, but wound up finishing second to the Coyotes with 280.
The bottom line here is that power-play percentage tends to get the most play for those digging through stats, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The power play can be exceptional, but if it’s not getting many chances it doesn’t have as much value as the teams that are getting more opportunities. Fantasy owners should be looking at the whole picture to try to glean the best roster targets for their team.
So who do you want? The Lightning, Flyers and Nashville Predators should all be at the top of your list of targets. All three teams are top-10 for both power-play opportunities and power-play percentage this season and were top-11 for power-play chances last season (the Predators were 11th, missing the top 10 by two chances).
Personnel-wise, this means considering Nikita Nesterov, Valtteri Filppula or Jonathan Drouin in some leagues. All three appear to be staples of the man advantage in the absence of Steven Stamkos for the Bolts. In fact, Nesterov leads all Tampa Bay skaters in power-play ice time since Stamkos was injured. In deeper leagues, Vladislav Namestnikov and Brayden Point could also get consideration, as both have been playing plenty of minutes on the man advantage of late. Point has three power-play points in five games since the Stamkos injury.
For the Flyers, they really have only one power-play unit. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Shayne Gostisbehere all play virtually double the power-play minutes of anybody else on the team. Consider this a warning to anyone getting off the Schenn train prematurely — his usage is far too positive for him not to be a locked-in fantasy asset. He’ll come around.
With the Predators, there is absolutely no reason Mike Fisher shouldn’t be owned in all but the deepest of leagues at this point. He’s nowhere close to that threshold at only 18 percent ownership. First off, his six power-play points are tied for 33rd in the NHL — and he’s missed four games this season. Guess who else has six power-play points while missing a bunch of games? Sidney Crosby has the same power-play points as Fisher in one fewer game. Kris Letang has the exact same six power-play points in 15 games as Fisher. In fact, aside from Crosby, Letang and Ryan Getzlaf, all 47 players with at least six power-play points this season have played at least three more games than Fisher.
He’s the faceoff man for the Predators’ top unit that includes Ryan Johansen, James Neal, P.K. Subban and Roman Josi. He’s not going to win you your league, but let’s give his specialty stats some love. Fisher is higher on the ESPN Player Rater this season for fantasy hockey success than guys like Joe Thornton, David Krejci, Brandon Saad and Filip Forsberg (the guy whose power-play role he usurped).
Back to the overall power-play chances for a few more notes:
If the Calgary Flames ever get things flowing under new coach Glen Gulutzan, watch out. They are tied for the fourth-most chances this season and they finished with the sixth-most chances last season. Unfortunately at the moment, they are lost on the man advantage with just a 9.5 percent success rate.
The Stars could be a source of improvement in the near future. As mentioned, they are tied with the Lightning for the most chances, but are 14th in the league for power-play percentage. The Stars have also been dealing with several injuries to key personnel from a power play that was fourth best in the NHL last season. Get ready for Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg to have a big December.
Remember how we mentioned the Coyotes had the most chances in the league last season? And by a fair margin? They are second-last in opportunities this season to the Blue Jackets. Whether they trend up or not is debatable, but with plenty of returning players in key roles, one might suspect they are due for a run of power-play chances at some point soon. Such a result would certainly do wonders for the stagnant fantasy value of Max Domi, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Martin Hanzal and others.
Fantasy Forecaster: Nov. 28 to Dec. 4
A busy enough week will see 11 teams with a four-game schedule, but only one with a two-game week. The Washington Capitals are the lone team with a light week, but you still have to start Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin in weekly formats — especially with the New York Islanders as one of the opponents. That said, we understand if no one else on the squad makes the cut. But we’ll just say one word in favor of Kuznetsov here, who was back on the power play this past week and had his best game of the season on Wednesday. Maybe the slump is over?
For those new to the Forecaster chart, here are some explanations: “O” (offense) and “D” (defense) matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team’s season-to-date statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents’ numbers in those categories. The “Ratings” column lists the cumulative rating from 1-10 of that week’s offensive (“O”) and defensive (“D”) matchups.
Anaheim Ducks: We swear we are going to buy a billboard soon. Rickard Rakell needs to be owned everywhere. He’s back on the top line with Getzlaf and Corey Perry and scoring enough to make up for his lost time at the start of the season. Rakell has goals in three straight and has 11 points in 11 games this season. After a date with Carey Price to start the week, the Ducks travel through western Canada to pick on the defenses of the Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Flames. Will Rakell still be on a goal streak after next week? If he can slip one by Price, we like the odds.
Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings’ offense still hasn’t found a groove, but next week’s four-game schedule should help. The Stars, Islanders and — if they happen to catch Marc-Andre Fleury in a back-to-back set — Pittsburgh Penguins are all bottom-10 defenses for goals allowed per game. Henrik Zetterberg is being flanked by Anthony Mantha and Justin Abdelkader at the moment and his two wingers lead the team in shots this past week. But how about checking out defenseman Ryan Sproul? The rookie blueliner has five points in nine games including three on the man advantage.
If you’ve been on the fence about using the Flames’ new starting goaltender Chad Johnson, it may be now or never. Depending on how the back-to-back set is divided up this weekend, Johnson could end up starting four games next week. If he does well, you’ll probably be too late to scoop him up by the end of next week. If he does poorly, then the Flames will be looking for another answer or hoping Brian Elliott can quickly find his form.
Cam Ward‘s numbers have improved, as expected given the performance of the team in front of him with the puck. But next week is ugly with the Rangers twice, the Boston Bruins and the Lightning. If you have another option, consider it.
Thomas Greiss looked good in his one start sandwiched between a bunch of Jaroslav Halak stinkers. We’re pretty sure you want no part of either of them, but the result from Greiss at least makes us want to get another look at him soon. Halak is a hot mess. Again, the team in front of them is the bigger problem. Only the Coyotes have allowed more shot attempts per game (Corsi against) this season.
Craig Anderson has a decent shot at a three-win week for the next fantasy period and he’s available in 30 percent of ESPN leagues. The Ottawa Senators just need to get him a little offensive support, which should be a little easier given the schedule that includes the Buffalo Sabres, Flyers and Florida Panthers.
The San Jose Sharks play their first two back-to-back sets of November this weekend and early next week, so we should get a better look at Aaron Dell. If he fairs well this weekend, consider him for a spot start if he draws the Coyotes on Tuesday.
It’s sooner than expected, but don’t be surprised if we see Jack Eichel next week for the Sabres. Get ready to make room to bring him off the injured reserve in your league.
Check on Jonathan Toews‘ status through the weekend as he’s questionable for Friday’s game.
We’ve been waiting for a line for the Avalanche to show some chemistry — any chemistry at all — this season. Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Rene Bourque did just that on Wednesday. Let’s see what they do against the Canucks this weekend and consider things from there.
Gotta love Stars coach Lindy Ruff. With Patrick Eaves tearing up the NHL alongside Seguin and Benn, Ruff switched his lines Wednesday coming off a win. Cody Eakin skated with the stars on the top line, but the trio finished pointless and minus-5. Eaves owners better hope he gets back with the top line soon, because he won’t fare as well on the second line.