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NHL DFS Strategy: Breaking Down a Slate with Advanced Analytics
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In the pursuit of profit while still holding a day job, one powerful characteristic a DFS player can have is the ability to quickly breakdown matchups on any given slate. By leveraging things, such as sports betting odds, it is easy enough to determine which teams are in favorable spots. However, in a sport like hockey where most totals are set at 5 or 5.5, those metrics can only go so far. Some of my favorite tools are at corsica.hockey and in this week’s article I will use two easy to understand advanced hockey metrics – Corsi and Scoring Chance data. Corsica has a bunch of stuff, but the section I’m focused on today is located under teams, as depicted below.


Once you’re in the teams page there are a bunch of different ways you can slice it, including adjusting to focus on 5v5, home/road splits, or adjusting based on the score, zone or venue for a matchup to neutralize things such as “score effects.” For the purposes of this, however, I am just going to roll with straight all-in numbers – meaning that teams who have taken a lot of penalties or played consistently in the lead or from behind will be reflected in my numbers below.


The Metrics

Corsi is defined as shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots by the opposing team, thus representing a shot directed at the net. It is beautiful in its simplicity but also in its direct alignment towards fantasy points, as each of these events results in the opportunity for your team (SOG) or the opposing team (Blocked Shots and Saves) to produce fantasy points. In DFS when we talk about high event games, it often is referencing high expected corsi numbers producing points for both teams.

Scoring Chances, meanwhile, are what they sound like – chances a team has generated that have an above average likelihood to result in a goal. There is a lot more nuance that I’ll touch on in a future article (things like high danger scoring chances or expected goal analysis), but for you to do a 30 minute slate breakdown you can definitely do worse than focusing on Corsi and SCA.

Each of these results is then adjusted to reflect “per 60 minute” metrics to offset any extra time teams have played in overtime, and will be pulled both “for” and “against.” Note that when adjusting a matchup you should be comparing how that team fares compared to the league average and not simply using simple averages. So below is a breakdown for tonight’s slate.


Interpreting the Chart

Using conditional formatting, it is pretty easy for us to identify good (green) and bad (red) fantasy spots to target on tonight’s slate. I’ve highlighted a few of the more interesting spots that jumped out to me upon first glance. Let me offer some breakdowns below:

The highest event game figures to be Nashville at Toronto as both teams have been above average at generating shots and below average at suppressing them. With Vegas odds relatively neutral, this could still be a spot to attack from both sides. I am particularly intrigued by defensive options in Nashville who reap the benefits of shots both ways, and all of the top 4 (Josi-Subban-Ellis-Ekholm) are on my radar. In addition, there are also attractive options on the Toronto side of the puck across multiple forward units and cheap defensemen. The next game down the docket from a total corsi perspective is in Philadelphia. One thing to note is that while Philadelphia is projected to generate the highest corsi for numbers, their projected scoring chances are actually average. This indicates that while Ottawa has been relinquishing chances, they have done so from less dangerous areas on the ice. My takeaway from this would be that Philadelphia shooters can be attractive targets but that there should also be some blocked shot or save equity on Ottawa that can be captured from all those shot attempts. While choosing a road-underdog goalie is perhaps getting too cute on such a large set of games, it is something I’d be really attracted to on a 5-6 game slate.

Moving down the board we have Washington going on the road to face Columbus in a game that projects for a lower total corsi number, but should still feature plenty of scoring chances. While ideally we want both shots and scoring chances (the Washington side) it is worth noting that Columbus is still projected to generate scoring chances. While netminder Braden Holtby for Washington has been great, I think that makes him a somewhat risky play (lower shot total, high scoring chances against) and makes the Columbus skaters an interesting GPP consideration, albeit one I would again prefer on a shorter slate of games. Washington should be a team on your radar, but man, their recent lines on DailyFaceoff look pretty ugly. The next matchup is Florida at Montreal, and should be another prime spot to target goaltender Carey Price. Florida projects to generate a decent amount of shot attempts, but relatively low danger ones, towards the best goaltender in the world. Florida’s season long metrics are suppressed a bit by injuries to their forward corps and lack of depth, so if Price doesn’t go, I think it is at least worth considering their top two lines for GPP formats. That said, Price is the #1 goalie on the board – bar none – if you can afford him.

Moving into some of the more “medium event” games, we have some targets which include San Jose. The Sharks project to generate among the highest scoring chances, despite a road matchup against a slower paced team. This would still make the usual suspects (PP1+Hertl) good plays (particularly in GPPs) although the low shot volume could move me away from them in cash games. The New Jersey-Dallas game figures to be mostly a fade for me, although I am willing to play Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn regardless of matchup. I am also inclined to fade the Tampa Bay vs. Detroit matchup, given the Lightning are playing on a back-to-back, but are the superior club. Another interesting matchup is the Chicago Blackhawks at Winnipeg Jets. Those teams project to generate a decent amount of scoring chances, but are not as high in corsi metrics. This matchup is a situation where team analysis can be a little bit dangerous on its own as both teams have somewhat concentrated offensive weapons. That said, I would stick to targeting power play units in this matchup.

Minnesota checks in as my 10th ranked team and are attractive, primarily given the dirt cheap price tags on most of their forwards. The moneyline in St. Louis looks a little bit like a trap for me from a DFS perspective. Sure you can use Jake Allen comfortably, but he isn’t that cheap on DraftKings, and the shot and goal volume figures to be lower than what I usually expect from a -220 favorite. While I always consider Tarasenko and the power play unit, this leaves the other options mostly a fade for me, and the Los Angeles vs. Colorado game looks like it should be an outright fade on such a large slate of games. This brings us to the last 2 games of the night. The NY Rangers take on Vancouver as -185 favorites and project to generate a ton of scoring chances, but there are 2 things that give me pause from a DFS perspective. The first is that they are deep into a west coast swing, playing their 3rd game in Western Canada, and could have some road legs. But the second (and most important) thing is the Rangers have incredible depth. This makes them a very dangerous NHL club but a somewhat unpredictable DFS one, as I’d prefer to target teams with more concentrated offense. The last game to touch on is the Edmonton Oilers taking on the Anaheim Ducks, both of whom project in the Top 6 from a scoring chance projection perspective. This seems like as good of a spot as any to use the top unit of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. The Kesler line should be tasked with trying to at least slow down Connor McDavid as containing him seems somewhat impossible.

Anyway, while I didn’t write up as many individual players this week, hopefully this helps you think through one way to aggregate some advanced analytics to research matchups. This approach can be even quicker on short-to-medium sized slates. Several sharp DFS players like to focus first on which macro spots to target and I’ve outlined my thought on above, leaving you to focus on the individuals within those matchups.

Hit me up on twitter @drewby417 if you have any questions and I’ll be back to talk more analytics at different points of the season.


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