Weekend watch: Pay attention to Blues defensemen
Every NHL team takes to the ice at least once during this coming weekend — despite the fact that there are only two games on Friday and two games on Sunday.
But a 15-game slate on Saturday carries the load for plenty of NHL action.
My eyes, however, will be squarely on the St. Louis Blues blue line. Why? That’s a fair question.
I’m tracking stats a little differently this season and one of my favorite new ones to look at is fantasy points against per game (FPAPG) to help gauge upcoming matchups. In essence, this is looking at how many fantasy points teams are giving up to their opponents this season. This can be looked at and filtered several different ways, but one of the ways I am especially keen on is by position.
As it so happens, the St. Louis Blues play the team giving up the most fantasy points to opposing defenders on Friday and then play the team giving up the fewest on Saturday. I’m very curious to what the applied value of that information proves to be when the rubber hits the ice.
The New Jersey Devils, who are in St. Louis on Friday evening, have coughed up 10.96 fantasy points per game to the opposing blue liners this season. The Montreal Canadiens, who are in St. Louis on Saturday evening, have allowed a measly 7.35 fantasy points per game to opposing defenders.
Of course, we are only about 10 games into the season, so I’m not expecting Justin Faulk, Torey Krug and Colton Parayko to all post massive stats on Friday and get held off the fantasy sheet on Saturday. But I believe the trends suggest they are likely to have better nights Friday. I just want to see if it plays out as the data suggests because, as we all know, when you base your predictions on how a rubber puck bounces around all night, there are plenty of misses.
With the Blues and the Devils both playing twice, the net will also be a good place to watch for fantasy. Young backups Akira Schmid (Devils) and Joel Hofer (Blues) should get some action because of the tight schedule. Schmid has had a rough start after looking promising last season. Hofer has only played twice and had extreme outcomes (six goals against and minus-4.8 fantasy points; shutout and 12.4 fantasy points).
Vitek Vanecek and Joel Binnington are the starters, but there is room for Schmid and Hofer to steal enough starts for fantasy value — if they earn it.
From a standings perspective, one of the more interesting games will be the Dallas Stars visiting the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, as a preseason favorite doing what we expected (Dallas) takes on one of the more impressive-if-unanticipated early-season winners (Vancouver). Anyone else have the Canucks down to have the most goals in the league at this stage? Perhaps more impressive, anyone have them down to have the fourth-fewest against?
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Ryan O’Reilly, C, Nashville Predators: I had no idea O’Reilly was available in 55% of ESPN leagues. Be concerned all you want with the Predators depth on forward, but there is nothing wrong with the top duo of O’Reilly and Filip Forsberg. He’s up to seven points with four of them on the power play through 10 games.
Marco Rossi, C/W, Minnesota Wild: Who knows how long it will last with the Wild still trying to find their early-season footing, but Matt Boldy returned to health to a top line that featured Kirill Kaprizov and Rossi. What is this, 2025-26? The Wild lost, again, but the line was responsible for two of their three goals, so maybe they get more runway. Aside from this one-off, Rossi has managed 2.2 fantasy points per game (FPPG) in his past five.
Erik Gustafsson, D, New York Rangers: If Adam Fox is forced to miss any length of time after leaving Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury, Gustafsson has some tread left as the Rangers fill-in power-play quarterback.
Alexandre Carrier, D, Nashville Predators: I will stop talking about him for a bit after this, I promise. Overall this season, Carrier is at 2.2 FPPG; In this last five games, he’s at 2.7 FPPG. He’s going to be great on standard league blue lines this season.
Kyle Burroughs, D, San Jose Sharks: If your league uses plus/minus, stop thinking about Burroughs immediately. Like, now. Stop thinking about him. Your team just went minus-3 because you thought about him. Stop. If, however, you have a modern league without plus/minus, take a closer look here. Burroughs is actually achieving fantasy relevance on a per-game basis (2.0 FPPG in last five) and, even though they can’t take advantage of their advantage, he’s the Sharks de facto power-play quarterback.
Barrett Hayton, C, Arizona Coyotes: Despite 43:09 on the power play with the Coyotes top players and 195 minutes as the team’s top-line center at even strength, Hayton doesn’t have a point yet. It’s actually kind of impressive given that Nick Schmaltz and Clayton Keller, his primary linemates, have combined for 19. Hayton is only rostered in a handful of leagues, but the important question here is: Will it be Logan Cooley time soon? With eight points across his first 10 NHL games, Cooley has been fine, but a boost to the top line would surely help improve things.
Martin Necas, C/W, Carolina Hurricanes: Maybe the Hurricanes are all just going to take turns as to who plays on the fourth line? It was Necas on Thursday, though he still earned top unit power-play time. A reminder about why this is happening: The Canes are all healthy on forward and they have one of the best third lines in the NHL, which they are loath to break up. It means someone from among their seven forwards that should be in the top six has to play at the bottom.
Travis Sanheim, D, Philadelphia Flyers (53.0% rostered): Still earning the power-play duties among the Flyers defense, Sanheim should continue to contribute thanks to the Flyers back-to-back set on Friday and Saturday. He’s posted 2.7 FPPG in his past five and the Kings (Saturday’s opponent) have allowed the third-most fantasy points against per game to opposing defenders.
Jordan Greenway, W, Buffalo Sabres (0.6%): Taking on the Flyers and the Toronto Maple Leafs this weekend, Greenway goes into it as a top-line forward with Alex Tuch and Tage Thompson. The Sabres tinkered with their lines and have found success with the current combos, so they are likely to hold until they drop games. Obviously, this puts Greenway in position to pick up some fantasy points thanks to his linemates.
Jake Allen or Sam Montembeault, G, Montreal Canadiens (15.0% or 2.0%): As much as I will be watching the Blues blue line, their former goaltender might have their number on Saturday. Allen has posted wins in three of his past four appearances, while Montembeault has looked just fine spelling him every other game. If they keep rotating, this is Montembeault’s turn on Saturday against St. Louis, but I’d take either against the team allowing the fifth-most fantasy points against per game to goaltenders (4.43).
Vegas Golden Knights: If you get to Saturday morning and are worried about losing your weekly head-to-head, consider exchanging some of your bottom-roster players for Knights. They play Saturday and Sunday. Alec Martinez, William Karlsson and Paul Cotter all come to mind as widely available and possible week-savers.