After a quiet two-game slate last night, there’s an eight-game main slate on tap for this Friday evening.
Let’s get our weekend started on the right note!
C – Claude Giroux (PHI) – $7,600 vs. NJ
I have one game on my radar that could see plenty of goal-scoring tonight and that game features the Flyers and Devils from New Jersey. For starters, neither team has received any sort of goaltending of late as both teams are coming off losses that saw them allow seven goals while the Flyers rank 29th with an .881 Sv% on the season with the Devils sitting dead-last with a terrible .856 mark. Both of these numbers should improve – especially on New Jersey’s end, however the Devils rank 30th with 4.10 goals against per game this season and with the positive regression Giroux has on the horizon in the goal-scoring department, I want him in this lineup tonight, this time finally as a center. Giroux, the team’s top-line center at even strength and on the top power play unit, enters this one with just two goals on the season despite firing 39 shots on goal in 11 games – good for 3.54 shots per game. The resulting 5.1% shooting percentage isn’t even halfway to his career 11% mark, so there’s just a ton of positive regression to be had here. This is still a quality offense that ranks 13th with 3.27 goals per game this season, so I’ll look for Giroux to lead the offense in this one tonight.
C – Jack Hughes (NJ) – $5,300 vs. PHI
I grabbed the Flyers’ top center in Giroux and I’ll do the same with the Devils with Hughes who has hit his stride and is playing with much more confidence than he was a couple of weeks ago. After going his first six NHL games without a point, Hughes has tallied two goals and three assists for five points over his last four games. Two of those goals have come on the power play. As a team, the Devils rank just 20th with 2.80 goals per game this season, but they’ve turned it on of late with 3.80 goals per game over their last five including scoring six against the Lighting in tough 7-6 overtime loss art home on Wednesday. Interestingly, Hughes was left off the scoresheet in that one despite logging more than 20 minutes of ice time, the second straight game he’s gone over the 19-minute mark. He’s not going to rack up a ton of shots playing alongside a couple of players in Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri who do plenty of shooting themselves, but there’s little doubt Hughes has plenty of upside given his spot as the number one center at even strength and on the top power play unit. Against a team that has allowed 5.33 goals per game over their last three, I like his chances of getting back on the scoresheet tonight.
W – James van Riemsdyk (PHI) – $5,900 vs. NJ
Like with Giroux, van Riemsdyk is due for plenty more positive regression in the goal-scoring department and there’s no better time for that to kick in tonight than in this homecoming matchup against the rival Devils. van Riemsdyk, a Middletown, New Jersey native, has fired a whopping 46 shots on goal in just 11 games – good for 4.18 shots per game – however he has just three goals to show for it and a small 6.5% shooting percentage as a result. When we compare that number to his 11.% career mark, we can clearly see that more pucks are going to starting finding their way to the back of the net off of this guy’s stick. Only twice has van Riemsdyk shot under double-digits in his career: his rookie season in 2009-10 with an 8.7% mark and two seasons later with a 9.1% mark. He’s shot 12.2% or better in each of the last three seasons. I especially expect van Riemsdyk to get going on the power play where he’s scored one of this three goals this season. He’s tallied 19 power play markers despite missing 17 games over the last two seasons and the Flyers have actually been good on the power play with their 23.8% mark checking in at 11th league wide. I can see a big game ahead of this guy tonight in front of family and friends.
W – Taylor Hall (NJ) – $7,500 vs. PHI
Next man up in my three-man Devils stack is Hall who follows a very similar trend to Giroux and van Riemsdyk in the sense that the goals should start flooding in for the former 39-goal man. Only the extent of which is increased compared to Giroux and van Riemsdyk from a numbers standpoint. Hall, a lock to get well over 200 shots on goal, had fired 37 shots on goal this season in 10 games, however he has just one goal on the season to go along with his eight assists in that time. The resulting 2.7% shooting percentage is a minuscule number and one that sits almost 8% under his 10.6% career mark. Hall actually has shot under that 10.6% career shooting percentage in four of the last five seasons, but there’s absolutely no doubt that the puck luck is going to turn around imminently for a guy that puts the puck on goal as much as this guy does as he’s on pace for 303 shots on goal this season – a number that would represent a career-high. He’s riding a modest three-game point streak into this one with four helpers in that time, but I’m certainly looking for an imminent goal explosion to kick in tonight against goaltender Cart Hart and his .750 Sv% over his last four outings.
W – Kyle Palmieri (NJ) – $5,800 vs. PHI
Completing our three-man Devils stack is Palmieri who will skate alongside Hughes and Hall on the team’s top line as a well as their top power play unit. While many already in this lineup are due to regress positively on their shooting percentage, that’s not exactly the case with Palmieri as he enters this one sporting a 20% shooting percentage thanks to scoring six goals on 30 shots across his 10 games this season. Of course, that percentage ticked higher thanks to his hat trick on Wednesday against the Lightning – a game in which he put eight shots on goal as well. To be honest, I think this guy is truly one of the most underrated goal-scorers in the game. Even without Taylor Hall for more than half of last season, Palmieri still tallied 27 goals. He’s scored at least 24 goals in each of the last four seasons with that 24-goal season coming in just 62 games, good for a 32-goal campaign over a full 82 games. If he can stay mostly healthy this season, Palmieri is a very good bet to easily surpass the 200-shot barrier while his shot works wonders on the power play where he has scored two of his six goals this season after tallying 11 power play goals in each of the last two seasons. Sign me up all day for this top-line and top power play unit three-man stack.
W – Martin Necas (CAR) – $3,400 vs. DET
I had a winger spot and a defense spot open for my mini-stack after filling my goaltenders and main stacks out, and I have landed on the Hurricanes who play host to the Red Wings in this one tonight. The Hurricanes enter this one sporting a solid 3.17 goals per game this season – good for 14th – however this has more to do with the Red Wings and the 3.54 goals per game they have allowed this season – good for 26th. The Red Wings also rank 28th with a 71.4% mark on the penalty kill – and that’s where Necas comes into play. While he’s a member of a productive third line that also contains Erik Haula and Ryan Dzingel, Necas also has a spot on one of the two Hurricanes’ power play units. I don’t exactly see a “first” and “second” power play units as the talent is distributed evenly across both groups, but Necas is skating with Sebastian Aho on his unit. Based on the ice time, it would appear this is the second power play unit, but Necas is still averaging 1:56 per game on the power play this season. He has notched two goals and four helpers in 12 games this season with one of those goals coming on the man advantage. The 2017 first-rounder doesn’t shoot much with just 13 shots in 12 games, but this is a wonderful opportunity to get back in the goal column – especially on that power play.
D – Dougie Hamilton (CAR) – $6,500 vs. DET
As far as defensemen go on this slate, Hamilton could very well give us the highest ceiling as he leads the team in ice time and ranks second in power play ice time – both good signs considering how bad the Red Wings have been in both situations this season. Hamilton enters this one tonight with six goals and seven assists on the season to go along with 36 shots in 12 games. For good measure, Hamilton has also blocked 18 shots in that time – giving us elite cross-category production in what appears to be a career-year for the 26-year-old. He’s no stranger to offensive production as he’s scored at least 10 goals in five straight seasons and has scored at least 17 in each of the last two. Yes, his current 16.7% shooting percentage will trend down as the season moves along towards his 6.5% career mark, but this is a guy who is easily going to cross 200 shots on goal for the fourth straight year this season and the matchup tonight makes him a lock in any Hurricanes exposure. He and Necas don’t skate together on the same power play unit, but I’m okay with getting exposure to both groups with Hamilton averaging 2:54 per game on the man advantage. I’ll look for him to remain white-hot in this one tonight.
D – Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI) – $4,900 vs. NJ
It’s been anything but a favorable start to the season for Gostisbehere who has just four points in 11 games and is averaging 18:44 of ice time per game which would represent the lowest mark of his NHL career if the season ended today. However, things are coming around a little bit for the former 17-goal man as he has notched a goal and three assists over his last five games with two of those helpers representing his two power play points on the season. I mean, at his best, this guy is a monster and one of the best power play blueliners in the game. Clearly, he’s not at his best but at least he’s trending in the right direction. With him in this lineup, we get a three-man 5v5 and top power play unit stack with three players whose production should certainly get on the uptick given career norms. Gostisbehere ranks third on the team with 3:07 of power play ice time per game, a very attractive number considering the Devils rank 26th with a 73% mark on the penalty kill this season. His production in his four-year NHL career to this point has been volatile year-to-year, but as far as tonight goes, Gostisbehere has a nice opportunity to continue his recent run of production.
G – Jordan Binnington (STL) – $8,100 vs. CBJ
To me, there’s two goalies that are the best options on this slate in Binnington and Petr Mrazek. While I initially had Mrazek in this lineup given the favorable matchup against the Red Wings and with Carolina listed as massive -280 favorites to win on the moneyline, it turned out I could indeed afford Binnington with his Blues favored to win at -170 odds on the moneyline. There’s also the fact that Binnington has caught fire after a ho-hum start to this season. The second-year NHLer enters this one tonight sporting a 2.52 GAA and .918 Sv% on the season, however he’s put together a 2.01 GAA and a .931 Sv% over his last five outings in which he’s allowed two goals or fewer four times. Binnington will take on a Blue Jackets team that ranks 26th with 2.58 goals per game on the season while the Blues are a top-10 defense at home this season while allowing 2.43 goals per game, good for a share of ninth alongside the New York Islanders. Binnington has notched the win in four of his last five starts and has won each of his last three home starts with a .955 Sv% in that time. The cost is still more than reasonable and you should probably find a way to get this guy into your lineup tonight.