Game Misconduct: NHL DFS, August 12

After a wonky night one of the real NHL playoffs, hopefully it will back to business as normal tonight. All set with nine hour long games, thanks. Today’s slate brings us a few NHL DFS fan favorites (Nathan MacKinnon, Alex Ovechkin), a few familiar Metro foes (WAS-NYI), and a potential late night hammer trap (STL-VAN).

DraftKings is running the big Kick Save tournament again today, and roster construction is fairly open with only a handful of highly priced assets.

New York Islanders at Washington Capitals

This was supposed to be the Carolina Hurricanes’ smash spot, but the Boston Bruins don’t like winning. The Islanders are significantly less interesting as they go up against a Capitals team that has shown some vulnerability on the backend. The matchup is significantly better for the Washington offense, which I suppose is good for NHL DFS, especially when the Caps are considered the home team.

To support that statement, take a look at New York’s regular season 5v5 metrics: fourth highest shot attempts allowed per hour (60.44, a shot a minute), poor quality control on said shot attempts allowed (fifth highest rate of high-danger shot attmpts), and a brutual 46.43% Corsi-For percentage (tilting the ice in shot share, third worst). Ultimately they were decididely middle of the road in expected goals allowed at 5v5 (2.17). To further bolster the positive matchup for the Capitals, the Isles struggled at limiting shot attempt volume on the penalty kill as well: They posted the seventh highest rate of overall shot attempts allowed with the second highest rate of scoring chances. Alex Ovechkin to your office, Ovechkin to your office.

Washington’s offense gives us a few lines to work with, which is helpful. This team had no problem generating shot volume, mostly thanks to Ovi of course, but they were in the top ten in terms of generating overall shot attempts and expected goals-for at 5v5. So, all in all, this isn’t a terrible matchup for the Caps, and we know they have strong finishing ability — the general allowance of pure shot volume, even from lower danger areas, has more intrinsic value given the ability of some of the forwards here.

Keep an eye on the lineups as the Ovechkin correlation angle is the one to watch. It appears, based on last game, Ovi will work with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. This line should be fully correlated for power play work as well. This line has a fairly long history together in one form or another, mostly via Backstrom and Oshie. Though Ovi’s addition does tend to skew the defensive numbers down, the offensive production will be there. In just under 240 minutes together this year, they posted an xGF/60 of 2.71. Shot volume was near 65/hour, so that should play in well to the weakness of the Isles’ rate of shot attempts allowed. Their matchup is more likely to go against the Barzal line for New York with Backstrom here, which is a slight boost downward, but not huge (xGA/60 of 2.44). You don’t need to read this to know to play Ovi in a spot with extra added potential for high shot volume. Backstrom and Oshie don’t have the same shot volume so their floors are propped up mainly by setting up Ovechkin.

With Backstrom on the first line that pushes Evgeny Kuznetsov to the second, where he’ll center Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson. This is a fairly significant boost down for Kuznetsov; he’ll still work on the top power play unit but none of his lineups are likely to join him. Wilson’s presence does boost the defensive numbers of the line but there’s still risk they fail to dominate play at 5v5. Thankfully the Islanders don’t have any dominant lines they’re likely to go against.

Ilya Kovalchuk is still around, and if you feel like dislocating your elbow you can reach for revenge game narrative against Lou Lamoriello (though, that doesn’t really make sense…). Keep an eye on John Carlson status; he was close to returning, it seemed, in seeding games, but if he misses again somehow your least favorite punt play of Dmitry Orlov has to be considered as long as he works on PP1.

For the Islanders, we are more or less looking at a one line team. Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle can often fly under the radar but they’ve been borderline dominant at 5v5 this year. In 529 minutes together — a solid sample size — they posted a shot attempt rate of over 66 per hour at 5v5. Of those attempts, over 16 came from high-danger areas, leading to an outstanding 5v5 xGF/60 of 3.01. Though going against Backstrom is worse than Kuznetsov, the likelihood of getting Ovechkin and no Tom Wilson ultimately makes this something of a matchup upgrade. This is a great fully correlated line that won’t break the bank and could easily go overlooked.

Though they had some success against the Florida Panthers in the play-in round, the second line of Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, and Josh Bailey come with a fairly low floor and limited ceiling over the long term. The matchup against the Kuznetsov line isn’t as strong as it could be with Wilson’s presence, and this line had a horrible 5v5 CF% of 45.2% in the regular season. Further, their weren’t a ton of quality chances to offset the low overall volume. Other depth guys, like Jean-Gabriel Pageau, don’t have huge upside given their roles. Basically when you play Islanders, expect goals from guys like Casey Czizikas and Matt Martin. Gross.

Goaltending wise, Braden Holtby figures to carry some ownership given his name brand and Washington’s popularity. New York’s offense is one of those low volume groups, so while their weak xGF/60 is attractive to target against, their fifth worst shot attempt volume rate at 5v5 could lead to a lower ceiling. Semyon Varlamov offers tremendous value on DK and should see good shot volume if you’re not sold on Washington getting over their poor play from the round robin games.

Arizona Coyotes at Colorado Avalanche

Sometimes there are rules in DFS that can’t be argued, just followed. One of those was always “stack COL1 at home.” Set it and forget it, collect your winnings in the morning. As with Ovechkin, we should expect heavy ownership on Nathan MacKinnon. Are there any reasons to justify a fade here?

Arizona was right in the middle of the pack at 5v5 during the regular season in limiting high-danger shot attempts and their resulting xGA/60. The team as a whole had a poor CF% and they are prone to allow high shot attempt volumes, so this is far from a shy away matchup on the whole. With the Avs listed as the home team, MacKinnon and the top line can be schemed away a bit more from Niklas Hjalmarsson and the preferred Arizona matchups.

Colorado has split up their top super line, so “stack COL 1” is boiled down to MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen as Vladislav Namestnikov is the third wheel now. Gabriel Landeskog is down on the second line with Nazem Kadri and Valeri Nichushkin. MacKinnon and Rantanen drive the bus for the offense; the duo has been phenomenal together over the years. In the regular season, they had 56.73% shot share when on the ice together, resulting in a high xGF/60 of 2.73. There’s a good floor and ceiling with these two and they play on the top power play together as well. There really isn’t a matchup to be overly concerned with at 5v5.

Kadri’s line is a slightly different story. Colorado hasn’t always hard-matched their lines at 5v5 so look for both top lines to see work against the Arizona top line. It’s not a bad gig, actually, as the Coyotes’ top line has been relatively high-event since they were put together. That should help the Kadri line, which is a bit more defensively focused. There’s still MacKinnon exposure here as Kadri and Landeskog work on the top power play unit.

The third line of J.T. Compher, Andre Burakovsky, and Joonas Donskoi figures to generate a few favorable looks, but there isn’t much there given their lower minutes and roles. Donskoi’s addition to the line puts their play driving ways in question, too, as Burakovsky and Compher posted better numbers when away.

As for Arizona, the matchup is as far from ideal as it was against the Nashville Predators. Colorado has become a behemoth in the cut-throat Central Division. Their depth has greatly improved, especially on the blueline, and goaltending has come a long way. During the regular season they posted the fifth best 5v5 CF% and the eighth lowest xGA/60, suggesting that they control play in the aggregate and don’t concede shot attempts from high-danger areas. The Coyotes’ offense, on the other hand, was fine at generating overall shot attempts (55.77,12th best) but didn’t have great finish or volume in high-danger areas.

Additionally, the Coyotes are mostly a one line team with Taylor Hall, Phil Kessel, and Christian Dvorak stacked up top. The good news for DFS purposes is that in their relatively limited time together, this trio engaged in high-event hockey in both ends of the ice. There’s not much of a sample to work with in the regular season, but from prior experience we know Hall and Kessel have been good drivers of offense. When on the ice against the MacKinnon line they should get more looks with the pace picked up, when out against the Kadri line there is risk of getting clamped down. Keep in the mind the Avs have the last change and a robust blueline, so this line is a contrarian play.

On paper the Arizona second line offers nice value as a roster filling stack, as Clayton Keller and Conor Garland have shown us upside in the past. Derek Stepan isn’t what he used to be, though, and the underlying numbers don’t really pop on lower shot volume and minutes. Keller works on the top power play unit and thus offers some one-off appeal at a discount. Working against the third line with Donskoi in tow could help open up a few looks for the line.

Both teams have some blueliners that are worth considering when constructing rosters. Cale Makar gets the attention as the quarterback of the top power play unit, but he’s not always the most dynamic for DFS purposes via shots on goal and blocks. Ryan Graves (value on FD) and Erik Johnson have been solid there, and punt plays like Sam Girard, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Ian Cole can often be counted on for simply plug-your-nose block bonuses. For Arizona all defenders come discounted but haven’t shown huge upsid. Oliver Ekman-Larsson hasn’t been the same player as he was in prior years, while Jakub Chychrun has been a bit more involved offensively.

Darcy Kuemper played a strong series versus the Preds, often seeing good shot volume in lower scoring games. His discounted price puts him up there with our usual cast of characters for chasing save bonuses. Interestly, the Avalanche had a similarly low rate of high-danger shot attempts as the Preds did in the regular season, so similar results could be in the offing. A note of caution on that note, though, given how banged up Colorado’s forwards were for a while and how much more explosive the team can be. Philip Grubauer may not get the shot volume we want for a massive score, but he’s a solid option in net in a game Colorado should take.

Montreal Canadiens at Philadelphia Flyers

This series is brought to you by a shocking upset (Montreal over Pittsburgh) and a shocking top seed in the East (Philly after knocking down disinterested Tampa, Boston, and Washington).

Both of these two teams were strong in regular season and posted similar rate at 5v5 both defensively and offensively, though Montreal gets the edge in almost all categories. In terms of puck possession, the Canadiens had the lealgue’s second best rate at 54.63% while the Flyers were 11th at 51.05%; in general shot attempt terms, Montreal took 62.98 shot attempts per hour whereas Philly averaged 54.12. Looking at the quality of those shots, Montreal had the third best rate of high-dangers shot attempts at 11.98/60, Philly was at 10.62. Finally, in terms of expected goals-for, Montreal had the advantage once again with the league’s third best rate (2.47) to Philadephia’s more average rate of 2.25.

Defensively, once again we see two teams that hold their own among the league’s best. The teams have a pretty even rate of shot attempts allowed at 5v5 of ~52, so neither team typically allows big volumes. High-danger attempts are also pretty even at right near 10 per hour, while the Canadiens get a slight edge in lower xGA/60 (2.09 vs 2.18).

One notable difference comes in the way of actual production against the underlyings. Philly was one of the better finishing/lucky teams with their 2.78 GF/60 at 5v5, while Montreal lags a little behind at 2.53.

It sounds like the Flyers won’t be releasing any legit line information prior to puck drop, which isn’t cool. Gamemanship, or something. This is further complicated by Jakub Voracek being likely to get back into the lineup, so proceed on the assumption that Joel Farabee moves back down and Voracek joins Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier on the top line. This line has a pretty long history together so it makes sense on the surface, anyway.

Despite the presence of Kevin Hayes, the Couturier line still tends to take the tougher draws when at home. That means a matchup against Brendan Gallagher line in a pure strength vs strength matchup. One variable that could change the output in either direction is the center for the Habs’ top line. Lately Nick Suzuki has been working with Tomas Tatar and Gallagher, with Philip Danault moving down the lineup. With Danault, the top line’s numbers were much different, a positive development for the Giroux line since Tatar-Danault-Gallagher is elite (61.91% CF%, 2.14 xGA/60). Philly’s top line boasts robust defensive numbers, led by an expected goals allowed rate of just 1.81 when on the ice together, but their offensive numbers aren’t as dominant. The prices look a little high when factoring in the matchup and the fact you’re going to want at least one of MacKinnon and Ovechkin.

There’s more value to be had on the second lines. Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny, and Scott Laughton. Hayes/Konecny posted middle of the road numbers at 5v5 in a smallish sample — 49.11% CF%, 51 shot attempts per hour, HDCF/60 of 11, and an xGF/60 of 2.2. The good news is Montreal’s Triple J second line of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Joel Armia, and Jonathan Drouin were quite poor defensively in limited minutes together this year, but they’ve done alright in the playoffs with a low CA/60 of 45. There’s not a lot we can extrapolate from that sample, but anecdotally Drouin looks in bad form, so there’s a chance. The Montreal line can’t really be counted on in a difficult matchup.

In all this shapes up as a game to look for a netminder. We have two strong defensive teams that are more or less evenly matched at 5v5. The Flyers do get a slight boost when on the power play, given the Canadiens had the ninth highest xGA/60 when shorthanded.

Carey Price wasn’t challenged much in deciding game versus Pittsburgh, but he was good in the series. His salary is no longer in the basement, so his value isn’t quite as attractive. Carter Hart, meanwhile, has been fantastic this year, both in the regular season and the playoffs. He checks in as the third most expensive netminder on both sites but has a workable salary against a Montreal offense that has strong underlying numbers but has lacked finish.

Vancouver Canucks at St. Louis Blues

Much like we saw play out in real time with the Minnesota Canucks, the Blues step into a very favorable matchup against one of the worst defensive teams in the league… but may not be able to capitalize.

While the Canucks posted the league’s fifth highest rate of expected goals allowed at 5v5 (2.52), the Blues had the sixth lowest rate of expected goals for (2.16). Good, great, awesome. St. Louis dominates in terms of straight up Corsi-For percentage (51.48% vs 48.48%), though the Blues play low event hockey while the Canucks play high event. In terms of shot attempts generated, St. Louis only averaged 51.85 per hour — better than only the Red Wings and Sabres — where as the Canucks attempted 56.17, 11th best. The biggest gap is defensively, though, as St. Louis was the only team in the league to allow below 50 shot attempts per hour and Vancouver was among the worst at close to 60.

With the game ‘in’ St. Louis, we can relatively confidently project Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, and Zach Sanford to work against Vancouver’s top line of J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson, and Brock Boeser. That pretty much cross the Canucks’ top line off the list — a tough overall matchup plus a specifically challenging 5v5 draw. The O’Reilly line allowed just 45 shot attempts per hour at 5v5 in the regular season, so volume won’t be there. Quality wise a little better, but they still managed to suppress high-danger shot attempts to just over nine per hour. Vancouver’s top line has been good in their own right, so there’s always a chance they come through (64.59 CF/60, 2.59 xGF/60) but there are a lot of factors stacked up against them in this matchup.

We have seen the top line of Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko reunited with Tarasenko healthy. This is good news for DFS players, as not only does it free up the O’Reilly line to more certainly take the tougher matchups, but the Tarasenko line has been very good together. Given how poor Vancouver’s metrics are, and the fact that the ROR line should take the tougher draw versus the Pettersson line, this is a great spot for Tarasenko to reintroduced himselves to our DFS graces. Keep in mind this line posted an expected goal rate of 2.92 last year when all were healthy. Schenn and Tarasenko stick together on the top power play unit.

St. Louis’s system and poor numbers don’t create much value or low owned upside further down the forward ranks, but they do on the blueline. Colton Parayko may not be on PP1 but he’s in the mid-tier for pricing, plays huge minutes, and is active in shooting and blocking shots. Justin Faulk is a role player now but can still be a volume shooter in a favorable matchup such as this.

Jordan Binnington is always going to be a risk for low shot volume being unable to mask any pucks that sneak past him, but he plays behind a solid team in a solid system. Vancouver’s increased rate of play could lead to a few more shots finding his way, and his price is a down bit comparatively on FD. On the other end, Jacob Markstrom sees a similar draw to last round: a good team that is more defensive-centric and lacks a huge arsenal of high-end shooters. He’s the third cheapest starter on DK and the cheapest on FD, so there is definite tournament appeal.

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