Game Misconduct: NHL DFS, August 11

The round robins are done and the bubble’s bubble teams have played their way in: It’s playoff hockey time.

Today brings us a four game slate with a few rematches from last year (CBJ-TBL, CAR-BOS), one potential slow paced game (CGY-DAL), and one extremely lopsided matchup that should result in a rout (VGK-CHI).

Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning

We love the underdogs don’t we folks? The Blue Jackets are on the Mt. Rushmore of underdogs (extreme short term memory activated) as they are coming off a stifling defeat of the Toronto Maple Leafs and swept these same Lightning last year.

As much as it was evident in the play-in round, the Jackets are involved in a matchup of polar opposites. The Lightning bring the thunder while the Jackets lock it down in their own zone.

That said, Toronto eventually figured out how to get through Columbus, albeit with poor results (small sample shooting percentage for the loss). At 5v5 in their play-in series (five games), Columbus was outplayed at 5v5 when adjusting for score effects (46.95% CF%) on the back of allowing nearly 65 shot attempts per hour. The One Small Trick To Finding Singles In Your Area for the Jackets was limiting quality: Despite the high overall shot volumes — and puck luck via Toronto’s shooting percentage — Columbus only allowed 10.5 high-danger shot attempts per hour, good for an expected goals allowed rate of 2.15. The larger sample of the regular season points to an xGA/60 of 2.04, so we know the Jacket system is for real.

Tampa, of course, has the potent potable offense we know and love, even with Steven Stamkos consistently on the shelf over the last few years. During the regular season, this team was top ten in all of shot attempts for, scoring chances for, high-danger shot attempts for, Corsi-For percentage, and expected goals for per hour at 5v5. This is a known quantity.

The offense runs through the top line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat. Point and Kucherov work together on the top power play unit. The second line of Tyler Johnson, Anthony Cirelli, and Alex Killorn often work against the opposing top threats when the game is in Tampa (Johnson and Killorn are on PP1). Thus, we should expect to see the Cirelli line work against the Atkinson line for Columbus.

This line wasn’t together much in the regular season, but when two of three were their rates were middle of the road. In the playoffs they were sucked into extremely high-event hockey versus the Leafs: 70+ shot attempts allowed at 5v5 with an expected goals allowed when they were on the ice of close to 3. Though we can’t bet on the Bolts playing that fast, the fact is there is a blueprint out there for the Tampa top trio to turn things up. The Cirelli line doesn’t quite get the juices flowing the like the Kucherov line, so they are very clear middle of the pack stacking options in the matchup. Conversely, the matchup is quite difficult for the Atkinson line, so tread cautiously.

The Kucherov line, meanwhile, figures to see a fair amount of time against the Jenner line. That is, if the Lightning don’t decide to try to shift some attention to Liam Foudy and the Oliver Bjorkstrand line. Either way, Point and Kucherov were fantastic in the regular season, posting an xGF/60 of 2.64. Though Columbus plays strong defensively, remember the Leafs got their looks and shooting percentage sunk them. There might be an opportunity to get in on lower ownership for Kucherov and Point.

For all the praise the Jackets (deservedly) get for their system play, we should also be appreciative of Tampa’s two-way dominance. In addition to their third best CF% at 5v5, the Bolts had the third lowest xGA/60 during the regular season — slightly lower than the Jackets’ fourth-best rate (2.02 and 2.04, respectively). Given that Columbus had the eighth lowest xGF/60 during the year, this sets up as a bad spot for Columbus’s offense.

In addition to Stamkos missing the game, it sounds like Victor Hedman may not suit up either. Even if he does, don’t overlook Mikhail Sergachev name on the blueline as he had been seeing some PP1 time and that unit is loaded. He can be had at a discount on both sites. Sticking on the blueline, please note that Ryan McDonagh is healthy and playing extremely high minutes lately (especially with Hedman out). Also, Zach Weresnki may not be 100% but he’s good to go, as we saw last game. The Columbus bluelines aren’t in as great of a spot as they were last time out.

In net Andrei Vasilevskiy checks in as the most expensive goalie on both sites, albeit for good reason. We saw the Jackets get some shot volume to Freddi Andersen in a few games last series but Tampa is far better defensively than the Leafs are, so shot volume is more of a concern. I’m not trying to cry wolf I on this topic I promise. That’s the tournament consideration for Vasi. As for Columbus, Joonas Korpisalo remains severely discounted and we’ve seen what he can do with volume. On DK the save bonus helps ease the few goals he’s likely to allow.

To summarize, Tampa’s top line becomes a game theory play in an underwhelming matchup but which could lead to low ownership. The Cirelli line gets the better matchup but it’s still not great overall and the line is less explosive. Even Tampa’s third line, which is better than most (Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde) don’t see much of a boost because of the system Columbus deploys. Similarly the low-event Jacket offense is up against an extremely well rounded Lightning team, making them MME entries only.

Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars

Of today’s four games, this one looks to be the least exciting. We know the Flames have one good scoring line and one play driving line, while the Stars slow down the pace and have a few name-brand forwards that have lacked results.

In their play-in series, the Flames drew the shortest straw (Jets) and took care of business — though not without a few hiccups. Dallas’s round robin games were pretty uninspiring, with Ben Bishop hurt and the team posting the second highest xGA/60 at 5v5 (3.08) despite playing in half-speed games. It’s really tough to know what to expect from the Stars; with the Flames, we can read the tea leaves a bit more clear.

Calgary’s top line of Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, and Johnny Gaudreau have a bit of experience together and typically draw the opposition’s attention on the road. At 5v5 during the regular season, they posted a decent shot attempt rate of 59.71/60, but the quality wasn’t always there as evidenced by their 2.36 xGF/60. The finishing skill is there, though, and this trio sticks on the top power play unit so they are the upside line of the group. The second line of Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, and Andrew Mangiapane get the tougher assignments at home but less so on the road. This line doesn’t get the attention but does get the metrics (and thus the girls): a CF/60 of over 63 with an xGF/60 of 2.79. And keep in mind they see the tougher assignments at home. Calgary is a two line team as far as diamond in the rough plays are concerned.

Dallas stacked their top line with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov before Seguin was scratched. The Stars lack, uh, star power beyond those three. Joe Pavelski is still playing, likely working on a line with talented youngster Denis Gurianov and defensive forward Valeri Nuchushkin. Seguin appears to have just been rested for Dallas’s last game, so expect him to be in. Assuming that’s the case, the top line is really the only one DFSers should be concerned with. The line posted over 60 shot attempts per hour at 5v5, so the action is there, though the system changed in December. Seguin offers some value on DK but not on FD given his form (he’s also a W on FanDuel, making the line effectively impossible to stack anyway).

At home the Stars typically used Radek Faksa line against opposing top lines, so look for them to deploy against the Gaudreau line. This is an extremely low event line, so there is some risk in stacking the Flames’ top line. The Calgary second line should benefit, while the Stars’ third line should avoid them and work against Calgary’s depth. The Stars figure to go underowned and at worst Seguin as a one off is a viable play given the shot volume.

Cam Talbot was impressive in the play-in series versus Winnipeg but the Jets’ offense wasn’t anything to worry about for most of the four games. Thankfully he’s getting an equally non-terrifying draw in this series, so Talbot is a fine play mid-tier on both sites. Bishop, meanwhile, seems good to go and was somewhat inconsistent during the regular season. Of the games going today, this one could be the lowest scoring in total making it somewhat of a tossup. Dallas didn’t look great in the seeding series, for what it’s worth, and the Flames posted a top ten xGF/60 during the regular season. Advantage Talbot.

To summarize, Calgary’s top line is in an unattractive spot against a slower paced team and a 5v5 matchup with a low-event defensive line. Calgary’s second line should get a better matchup but tend to lack finish, while Dallas’s top line is really the only viable Stars play. Tyler Seguin as a one-off makes sense in cash games on DK given his reduced salary but shot volume upside.

Carolina Hurricanes at Boston Bruins

These two teams come in on complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to form. Carolina smoked the Rangers in their play-in series and had an extended layoff. Boston struggled mightily through their seeding games, whether from rust or lack of trying. Recall that these two met up in the Eastern Conference Finals last spring with the Hurricanes taking the Bruins to seven games.

Stylistically these two teams are pretty similar. Both are extremely good at limiting shot attempts against, employ a sound defensive system, control play at 5v5, and do a good job limiting scoring chances against. It’s no surprise, then, that the Hurricanes had the third best CF% (54.40%) and the Bruins eighth best (51.96%), while the Bruins tied for the lowest xGA/60 (1.93), though Carolina slipped some in suppressing high danger shot attempts against (xGA/60 of 2.31).

With the series in Boston we can bet pretty confidently the top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand draw a 5v5 matchup against Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen. This is a pure strenght versus strenght matchup, but the slight edge has to be given to the Bruins’ top line. Though they didn’t look good the last few games, their track record is too long to ignore. Just this season they posted a microscopic on-ice xGA/60 of 1.74. Though Carolina’s top line is explosive, this is one of the few true shy-away matchups. The ‘Canes’ top line did post an elite 2.97 xGF/60 when on the ice together, but the Bergeron line has long been a dominant unit. At least when Boston is the home team, caution should be warranted with this matchup. The reason the slight edge goes to the Bruins’ top line is because the Aho line has struggled at times with quality control. In just under 300 minutes together at 5v5 this year, they allowed close to 13 high-danger shot attempts per hour, leading to an xGA/60 of 2.39. The Bergeron line knows how to get things done (xGF/60 of 2.65) so while overall opportunities may be limited, there should be enough quality looks to cause damage.

Both teams have dependable second line scoring but neither team has a dominant line or matchup. Vincent Trocheck, Martin Necas, and Nino Neiderreiter should post much better numbers than they have but they often don’t see enough minutes to really get opportunities. Jordan Staal, Justin Williams, and Warren Foegele have strong underlyings but lack high upside finishing. Add in the difficult matchup and the Staal line can be seen as an upside dart play with a low floor, while the Trocheck line is something of a low floor, low upside group until the minutes get a bump.

As for Boston, it was encouraging to see Ondrej Kase get in Boston’s last seeding game, as he slotted on a good secondary scoring line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. Unfortunately this line would be limited to minimal volume (they aren’t a high volume line at the moment) against the Staal line, and though the Trocheck line hasn’t posted great numbers in a small sample, Trocheck has traditionally been a sound defensive center.

It sounds as if Dougie Hamilton will be set to return tonight for Carolina. Here’s your #RevengeGame narrative for those that find spreadsheets dubious. His return should bump Sami Vatanen off the top power play unit. There’s no real discount available on Hamilton, though his price is lower a bit on FD. On that note Jacob Slavin is a nice value on FD given his huge minutes and activity in the shots & blocks arena.

Petr Mrazek got most of the starts against the Rangers so look for him to get back in after James Reimer spelled him in the final game (on a back-to-back). Mrazek doesn’t inspire the most confidence, but he gets a good opportunity playing behind a dynamic team getting a big boost on the blueline and facing the league’s fifth lowest xGF/60 during the regular season. His price is perfect in GPPs. Tuukka Rask is a known commodity at this point and plays behind an outstanding defense. His price on FD is a little high if the win doesn’t materialize but this game should be lower scoring.

Chicago Blackhawks at Vegas Golden Knights

If there’s one game that has the realistic chance to smash the over (currently 6.5 on Vegas Insider) it’s this one… and probably because of one team. With seemingly every other team in a tough spot or at least evenly matched, the Golden Knights offense should absolutely cremate the Blackhawks here.

During the regular season these two were about as extreme one way and the other as it can get. Vegas has the second best rate of shot attempt generation while Chicago seventh highest shot attempts allowed rate. In terms of controlling play, the Golden Knights led the league with a 54.84% 5v5 CF% while the Hawks finished 22nd at 48.51%. Combining these with shot attempt quality and scoring chances, Vegas posted an insane 2.7 teamwide xGF/60. Chicago’s defense struggled on the other end with the league’s highest xGA/60 at 2.63.

And things aren’t better for Chicago’s offense. In addition to the CF% advantage noted above, Vegas has the fourth lowest rate of shot attempts allowed, fourth lowest rate of scoring chances allowed, ninth lowest rate of high-danger shot attempts allowed, and the league’s seventh lowest xGA/60 (2.11). Add in competent goaltending from Robin Lehner (who Chicago knows well) and this is pretty much a full fade spot.

The only reason to really consider Chicago — as a contrarian play — would be that they step their game up because Vegas rushes out to a huge lead. This would likely result in (further) disaster as Vegas is a deep team, so even if they attempted to sit back their system and roster competency should allow for avoidance of a third period cave-in.

With no matchups to fear for Vegas, both the first and second lines are the top plays of the slate. Max Pacioretty should be back tonight, and while he’s likely to be rusty, he should jump back in to form one of the great lines of the season. With Mark Stone and William Karlsson, this line pumped over 75 shot attempts per hour together and posted an otherworldly xGF/60 of 3.4. Patches and Stone also figure to work together on the top power play unit. They aren’t cheap, but their combination of floor and ceiling make them elite plays.

The second line of Paul Stastny, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith don’t produce as elite numbers but are above average nevertheless. In over 200 minutes together at 5v5 they produced an xGF/60 rate of just 2.74. Marchessault has long established himself as a matchup dominator. He and Stastny stick together on the top power play unit though Stastny isn’t a huge shooter.

Even the third line of Alex Tuch, Chandler Stephenson, and Nicolas Roy can be looked to for a source of value. This matchup is too good to limit to just the Vegas top six, and should the Golden Knights jump out to a big lead, this line could be a benefactor of more ice time.

Vegas will be chalky, but there are ways to get creative with their roster to differentiate some ownership in GPPs.

Robin Lehner is a strong option in net though shot volume is fair to question. Lehner checks in as the second most expensive netminder on DK but has some room for value on FD. Corey Crawford isn’t cheap enough on either site, although at least on DK you can factor in the save bonus to alleviate some points lost to goals allowed.

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