Saturday Nights have quietly become the best NHL slates, not just on the ice but in DFS as well. For GPPs to target tonight my preferred $3 format is on Fanduel with DraftKings offering the best mid-stakes price point with a $40 GPP paying $10,000 to first place. While scoring is somewhat aligned across the sites, at least categorically, the pricing couldn’t be more different. On DraftKings it is almost impossible to fit in Sidney Crosby’s line with any other 1st units, while on Fanduel it can be achieved with almost any line. Because of this the way you approach optimal roster construction varies dramatically and it is very likely that different players will be on winning DraftKings rosters than those on Fanduel.
The first step of my tournament process is to take a look at what line stacks project highest in my model in fantasy production as well as advanced analytics such as expected goals, corsi for, scoring chances for, and line averaged for shots and blocked shots on the year. I also like to layer in how frequently the line has hit 3+ or 6+ games on the season to gut check spots my projections may need to be adjusted.
Below is a view into what that looks like for tonight’s games and where it steers me in my process.
High Priced DK Decisions
The first decision on the night is whether to pay up for either Boston’s 1st unit of Bergeron-Marchand-Pastrnak or Pittsburgh’s top line of Crosby-Sheary-Hornquist. Both lines are very clearly 1A and 1B for me on this slate, with my homerism and the match-up boosting Boston slightly. Boston is at home facing a Toronto team that has offensive talent but ranks in the bottom 5 in most metrics I like to target including expected goals against, scoring changes against, and corsi against metrics. Because Boston is at home, they will likely matchup Patrice Bergeron either against the Bozak line for Toronto or the Matthews line when possible, both which are below average defensively even for Toronto. The nice thing about Boston 1 is that all 3 players are shooters with high individual floors and ceilings. The main thing that gives me pause is that because Bergeron sees PP1 ice time and Pasta/Marchand see PP2 ice time you really are relying on even strength for a line goal. If both Boston and Pittsburgh were to score the same # of goals tonight, I tip my hat to Boston who I expect to generate more shots on goal, thus outperforming Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh 1 meanwhile is #1 on the season in nearly all analytics including expected goals, scoring chances and of course real life performance because that matters too. There isn’t enough you can say about how good they have been for fantasy, Sidney Crosby has 6+ DK points in nearly half of his games this year, while Hornqvist has topped 3+ in 70% of his and Conor Sheary continues to produce alongside them. Tampa Bay has been getting shelled since Stamkos went down with an injury and will need a strong performance out of ‘tender Andrei Vasilevskiy if they want to keep the offense at bay. Crosby has been doing David Johnson things on the ice this year.
Because Pittsburgh has been so dominant, and Boston productive as well, they are expensive on both sites, but you can easily fit them in on Fanduel. On DraftKings you have to go dumpster diving to make it work, so you need to get comfortable with some 2nd or 3rd lines, or punt defense options.
Nashville versus one of the worst teams in history
This isn’t a hot take. Arizona is one of the worst teams in NHL history. They are below average offensively posting a shooting % of just 7.8% compared to a league average of 8.8%. They lose a lot of games. This makes goalies a great play against them. If you pull data from Corsica going back to the 2007-08 season the Coyotes rank dead last for any team in 5v5 xGA per 60 and 3rd worst in SCA/60 (top 2 honors were the 2008-10 Rangers, yikes). They also are the 4th worst in CA/60 with the likes of the Maple Leafs from ’12-14 and the whipping post 2014 Sabres. Perhaps the best thing about the Coyotes situation tonight is that they are at home, so they can hangout with their families after the game.
The issue with Nashville, if there is one tonight, is that they have spread out their scoring talent. Nashville is the only team with 3 lines in my top 20 tonight and each one have compelling aspects. The first line of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, and Craig Smith is my highest projected and has hit 6+ ceiling more frequently then the other options.
The 2nd unit of Mike Ribeiro, Filip Forsberg, and Kevin Fiala is the cheapest and still has an 80% chance of potting a goal tonight. Ribeiro doesn’t shoot enough to have any real upside, and is probably the first guy I’d ditch from this stack but if he picks up a couple assists you can do worse at $3900.
The so called 3rd line meanwhile of Mike Fisher-James Neal-Colin Wilson meanwhile is the only one with 2 players on the top power play unit and is the highest ranked in advanced stats like expected goals and projected scoring chances, as well as producing the highest 3+ floor on DraftKings this season.
And that’s not even getting to defensemen! The Preds have great defensive options as both Roman Josi and PK Subban are capable of producing 6+ point nights and make for plays as one-offs or correlated with respective power play units. And on the discount end Matt Irwin ($3700 on DK) has been seeing 20 minutes of ice skating alongside Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm at just $4100 regularly logs 23 or so minutes. Arizona still shoots enough for these guys to register some blocked shots, and a couple shots on goal with a cheap helper would be enough to pay off their prices and allow you to afford some superstars.
What to do with the predators? Maybe the lack of a clear option will leave all of them low owned, so who wants to play Preds roulette with me tonight?
Quick Hitters – The Best of the Rest
- Montreal has slotted Alex Radulov alongside Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec that represents a talented trio, albeit one that hasn’t shot the puck too frequently this season. They can be run alone or with Shea Weber who is up their with Burns as the top defensive option on the night.
- Tampa Bay makes for an interesting option to me, as they go off as an underdog at home. Pittsburgh’s season long metrics show them as below average defensively. With the Triplet Line of Palat-Johnson-Kucherov united, my favorite Bolts are all skating together. They should be low owned and do possess GPP winning upside.
- We talked about Pittsburgh 1 above, but the 2nd line of Malkin-Kessel-Hagelin has had multi-goal games in 2 of their 3 since playing together. It is worth noting that given the pricing discrepancy Malkin has been higher owned than Crosby recently.
- Price saving options if you want to pay up at D or need salary relief include Boston’s 2nd line as a full stack or playing Krejci and Backes with PP quarterback Torey Krug. Other options are both Florida lines. Florida has struggled as a team but are still large Vegas favorites. The multi-goal upside here is closer to 1 in 20 then it is 1 in 10, but I’d expect at least 2 of these 3 lines to find the back of the net which might be enough in certain tournament formats. Who knows, I have been known to nibble on Calgary’s “3rd line” before, so at home against the Winnipeg Jets is compelling.
Between the Pipes
Pricing for netminders is pretty efficient and gone are the days of 7200 starters going off as -200 favorites when the backup is playing. In fact, you can’t find a favorite for less than $7800 on DK. Carey Price, Matt Murray, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo each project for more than 5 DK points in my goalie model. Paying up at goalie is not popular so it is at least worth investigating if you need the $600 in savings between someone like Rinne and Carey Price in tournaments. Price’s last full season he registered a shutout once every 7.3 starts, a pace he is matching this season with 2 registered already through 19 games. He is the most likely to do it tonight against a Avalanche team that is thin on talent, though if he doesn’t get the shut out he may face fewer shots then other goalies. Given the lack of a clear price savings, I have been more inclined to correlate goalies with my stacks this season.
Meanwhile if you are feeling a little frisky you could roll the dice with either Andrei Vasilevskiy or Jaroslav Halak. Because they are facing talented offenses we can project them to face a high volume of shots and have the most opportunities to score DK points with saves, and as only +115 and +140 dogs respectively, it is actually more likely that one of them wins then not. Underdog goalies have upside and are low owned, but a meager $500 in savings makes this feel a little too cute until we get some bigger pricing adjustments.