Postseason play continues Thursday with three series openers. The Leafs are back in the playoffs after a few years, while the Capitals will look to make quick work of them as they quest to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup for the first time in franchise history. The Predators and Blackhawks renew acquaintances in their budding rivalry, while the Flames finally look to get it right against the Ducks in SoCal.
Let's get started.
John Gibson, ANA vs. CGY ($7,900): The Ducks have won 27 consecutive home games against the Flames. You read that correctly. The last time the Flames came away with a victory at Honda Center was way back on April 25, 2006 -- a 5-2 win in Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. Gibson went 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .966 save percentage in two appearances against the Flames this season, so it makes sense to look for him to keep the good times rolling.
Ryan Kesler, ANA vs. CGY ($6,000): Kesler posted 22 goals with 36 assists in the regular season -- good for his highest point total 2010-11. A lot of his success came when skating against the Flames, as he managed four goals and nine points in five meetings with Calgary this season, and he enjoys a steady top-six role that allows him to feed the very talented Jakob Silfverberg.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, WAS vs. TOR ($5,700): Kuznetsov will be happy to see the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. Although it was a relatively slow campaign for him on the whole, he posted a goal with four points and a plus-3 rating in three games against Toronto this season. The Capitals will be facing a Leafs defense with Nikita Zaitsev (upper body) out of action and Roman Polak (lower body) nicked up. It could be a long night for Toronto's defense and goaltender.
Artemi Panarin, CHI vs. NAS ($6,700): Panarin posted 14 goals with 30 points in 30 games after the All-Star break, ranking 13th in the NHL. That’s as many points as star Leafs rookie Auston Matthews picked up after the break. Chances are that you've heard quite a bit about Matthews, but Panarin remains underrated despite playing in a big market. Most casual hockey fans and DFS players aren't as familiar with Panarin, but the savvy ones love having plenty of exposure to the Chicago winger.
Richard Panik, CHI vs. NAS ($5,000): The Slovakian entered this season with just 25 goals and 47 points in his first 181 NHL regular-season games, but he broke out, finishing with 22 goals and 44 points. If he faced the Predators more frequently, he might be even better. He scored three goals with seven points and a plus-3 rating in five meetings with Nashville. He’s a great value at this price, especially since the Predators ranked 27th in the NHL in high-danger save percentage (.858) during the regular season.
Rickard Rakell, ANA vs. CGY ($6,000): Rakell lit the lamp 33 times while posting a career-high 51 points this season, including 10 game-winning goals. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and he'll make plenty of noise in the playoffs. Most of Rakell's damage has come at home; he’s scored 20 goals in 37 games at Honda Center this season, including seven of those game-winners.
Mark Giordano, CGY at ANA ($4,900): Giordano posted 12 goals and 39 points in 81 games this season, but his real value to DFS players is his willingness to step in front of pucks. He blocked 184 shots while posting a plus-22 rating this season. In the playoffs, shot blockers tend to sacrifice their bodies even more than usual. That bodes well for Giordano’s fantasy prospects even though the Flames may not be long for this postseason.
Brent Seabrook, CHI vs. NAS ($4,500): Seabrook posted a respectable number of points during the regular season, but he’s another guy whose shot-blocking ability is key to his DFS value. He recorded 147 blocks over 79 regular-season games, and Seabrook can be expected to stay busy against Nashville. The Predators ranked sixth in the NHL with 31.2 shots per game, so expect Seabrook to acquire plenty of bumps and bruises as he tries to keep pucks away from Corey Crawford.