Game Misconduct: NHL DFS, August 9

Today brings us the final round robin game in each conference and series deciding Game 5 between the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs. Note the start time of the main slate on both sites is 12pm Eastern today.

The round robin games are, unfortunately, both for the number three seed in each conference. Thus, we are at risk of limited minutes and early showers for some of the key contributors to each team. In the East, the winner will face the New York Islanders while the loser gets the Carolina Hurricanes. Out West, to the victor go the Calgary Flames while the consolation prize is the Vancouver Canucks.

On DraftKings, we are a bit top heavy with some of our skaters’ salaries whereas FanDuel is higher among the range of stars, so finding value will be critical there.

Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals

The first game of the slate is probably one of the more fantasy friendly, but there are some negative factors that must be accounted for. First, the game is early and these 12pm start times have, traditionally, produced some funky results. Maybe that’s mitigated some because of the start times of the whole Return to Play being altered. Second, both the Bruins and Capitals have looked pretty bad in their seeding games so their form is suboptimal. Finally, we are at risk of seeing some high priced assets play fewer minutes than we’re used seeing (and paying for).

It’s too bad Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy alluded to limited minutes for his veterans yesterday, because this is a potential smash spot for the Bruins’ top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand. Though the Bruins aren’t the home team and can’t run their preferred matchups at stoppages, we can feel confident that the top line will win their 5v5 matchups. This is especially true if Nicklas Backstrom doesn’t play, and we know that John Carlson is out. Either way, this line is matchup proof and the Capitals are far from a defensive powerhouse. If we can glean any confidence from the reporters’ minutes about playing time, we can lock them in to our lineups. This line is a known quantity at 5v5, skates together on the power play, and face a Capitals team that doesn’t have the pieces to matchup with them.

In theory Boston’s second line of David Krejci, Ondrej Kase, and Jake DeBrusk is one with upside. In reality, however, the line has struggled to produce. Kase has barely played all year so who knows what he’s got, but together at 5v5 DeBrusk and Krejci posted middle of the road offensive metrics: 52.25% CF%, 56.93 shot attempts/60, and an expected goal rate of 2.23. Not great, but workable. DeBrusk and Kase have shot volume upside while Krejci is the setup man. DeBrusk also works on the top power play unit, so he’s a fine one-off. The real reason to buy-in to this line despite the results? If Washington looks to keep Ovechkin from the Bergeron line, this line gets a sweet 5v5 matchup. The Ovi line has been run over in seeding games (68.28 shot attempts allowed/hour) and that’s consistent with the regular season (61.52 CA/60, 44.43% CF%, xGA/60 of 2.79).

Charlie Coyle is centering Brett Ritchie and previous readers of the author might remember accolades for Ritchie in season’s gone by. That’s because he, at least previously, had a promising individual Corsi-For profile. Especially on DK where the shot bonus is key, Ritchie’s iCF/60 of 12.07 is strong for a third liner. He and Coyle don’t have much of a role (third line at 5v5, PP2) so these are lineup filling one-offs. We’re just hoping that the weak Washington defense allows an opportunity or two here.

For Washington, the 5v5 matchup is about as unfavorable as it gets. Boston has been among the best defensive teams year in and year out. This year they posted the leagues best 5v5 xGA/60 mark (1.93, tied with Minnesota) and they have a line that needs to be a shy-away matchup for key skaters. It doesn’t help John Carlson is going to be out again and Nicklas Backstrom might get the day off.

Fading Alex Ovechkin on any slate is risky but it’s especially true on a three gamer. He checks in as the second most expensive skater on DK and third on FD. The matchup, as discussed, is pretty unfavorable no matter who he skates against, but if he can avoid the Bergeron line he’ll get at least one look. At potentially lower ownership he’s worth the play, especially because Boston hasn’t looked great. However, there are other higher priced players in better spots, so game theory will need to be weighed carefully. We may also see some minute management given that the Caps already have two banged up key players.

Assuming Backstrom misses, T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana will have a new center. The good news is that Oshie and Vrana will both be on the top power play now, so ignoring center will still give a known correlation at 5v5 and on the power play. If Backstrom were playing this line would likely have faced the Bergeron line, so it will be interesting to see if they still draw the assignment with a fill-in pivot. Without Backstrom at center during the regular season (likely Evgeni Kuznetsov, now centering the Ovechkin line) Oshie and Vrana had very middle of the road numbers (48.98% CF%, 53.36 shot attempts/hour, 2.23 xGF/60). The 5v5 risk of still seeing the Bergeron line is still high enough to warrant fade consideration.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Carl Hagelin are names of note from years gone by but there’s not much there now. Kovalchuk has his moments still but carries a low floor on the third line and second power play unit. Dmitri Orlov is likely to be chalky today, but he’s going to see huge minutes while quarterbacking the top power play unit in Carlson’s stead. Radko Gudas also gets more opportunity with Carlson out if you’re chasing blocked shots and/or game misconducts.

It’s hard to not like Tuukka Rask in this spot against a banged up Washington squad that isn’t in any better form than the Bruins. He looked good against Tampa and this is a get right spot for Boston’s key players. As for Braden Holtby, you’re not getting much of a discount and the potential trap spot against a Boston team that is in a better position to sharpen their pencils before the playoffs.

Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues

This game sets up as a lower event, slower paced game before factoring in artificial limitations produced as a function of the round robin format. During the regular season the Blues led the league with the lowest rate of 5v5 shot attempts allowed per hour at just 48.74. The Stars slowed their pace way down after their coaching change in early December, but they were usually outplayed at 5v5 and had the league’s 21st CF% at a sub-50% rate (48.41%).

The Blues draw the better on-paper matchup, anyway, and got a big boost with Vladimir Tarasenko returning from injury during the layoff. With the Blues at ‘home’ we can expect to see Ryan O’Reilly match up against the Stars top opposition. Of importance is the fact the Stars reunited their top line with Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Jamie Benn. With Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz avoiding this line, there’s a bit to like with this line. We’ve seen this line post fantastic 5v5 numbers (in 2018-19, averaged over 66 shot attempts per hour and posted an xGF/60 close to 3) and they work together on the top power play unit. We won’t see huge minutes from this group, most likely, but their prices reflect that — especially on DK. It’s always nice to get a top line stack at a mid-tier price. Tarasenko is a bit more expensive on FD so he’s not as attractive a play there given the uncertainties.

As mentioned above, the Stars combining their big three onto one line makes it all but guaranteed that Ryan O’Reilly, Zach Sanford, and David Perron on St. Louis’s second line see the Seguin line at 5v5. At a minimum that should draw them into more of a faster paced play compared to their peers in this game, but it’s still an unfavorable matchup. The Seguin line posted a respectable 2.06 xGA/60 at 5v5 this year, while working in the defensive role limited the offensive production of the O’Reilly line (53.51 CF/60, 2.07 xGF/60). There looks to be better options on the slate today.

Similarly, the Seguin-O’Reilly matchup severely dampens the outlook on the Stars’ top line. This line has plenty of time together over the years, and this year we saw them post solid rates of shot attempts (61.12), scoring chances (31.57), and high-danger shot attempts (12.75) on a per-hour basis at 5v5. Still, the O’Reilly unit is one of the premier shutdown lines and the Blues play a tight, strong defense.

With the top line stacked, Dallas’s second line of Denis Gurianov, Joe Pavelski, and Mattias Janmark falls off a bit in terms of offensive prowess. Though Pavelski is in the twilight of his career, Gurianov has flashed a bit and the two together posted decent enough numbers at 5v5. The matchup is difficult enough to keep this line from elevating into sneaky stack territory, especially with Janmark being more of a defensive forward than a skilled finisher. Pavelski is still skating on the top power play unit, giving him upside at his low DK price ($4.2K).

Despite the so-so game setup this game does have some blueliners to keep in mind. Alex Pietrangelo works on St. Louis’s top power play unit, but Colton Parayko is very active at 5v5, typically sees high minutes, and comes at a discount compared to Pietrangelo. Justin Faulk is not the center of attention he was in Carolina, but he has a track record of offensive production and is a great value. Miro Heiskanen is too cheap on FD and someone like Esa Lindell, though not a star by any means, offers good punt play value given his usage and shots and blocks.

Jake Allen will be in net for St. Louis while Ben Bishop seems unlikely to play, meaning we could see Anton Khudobin net again for Dallas. Khudobin is a nice discount play for tournaments on DK, but on FD Allen looks to be the better play. Who knows what will happen in this seeding games — who saw the Blues and Golden Knights combining for 10 goals? — but the numbers point to a lower event, lower scoring game as a whole. Allen doesn’t inspire confidence but the system and matchup do.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Toronto Maple Leafs

If the penultimate game of the slate didn’t start your engines than this one probably should. It’s the only game of the slate with something on the line as the winner moves on and the loser goes home. That saying doesn’t actually work for the Leafs but… you get the point.

It took a gigantic comeback from Toronto in Game Four as it looked like the Jackets were advancing. That’s the upside you get with an explosive offense like Toronto’s, but keep in mind they were 56 minutes away from getting blanked again in this series. Columbus’s defensive system has done just enough to contain Toronto’s offense with a few pockets of exceptions. We should know what we’re getting at this point in the series.

Games One and Two had the Leafs as the home team, and we saw a pretty dedicated match of the Matthews line against the Dubois line for Columbus, while the Tavares line worked against the second scoring lines du jour for the Jackets. The matchups were mostly the same when the series shifted to Columbus.

Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner (with Zach Hyman) have posted good shot volume numbers (67.92 CF/60) but have lacked some quality in their looks (2.23 xGF/60). John Tavares and William Nylander have posted even better shot attempt numbers (81.96 CF/60) and have generated more quality (3.13 xGF/60). They are now joined by Nicholas Robertson on their line, who immediately becomes a huge value play even in a suboptimal matchup.

It is extremely important to point out that Zach Werenski could very well miss this game (or at least be far less than 100%). That would be a huge blow to the Columbus defense and conversely a big boost to Toronto’s offense.

On the Blue Jacket side Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cam Atkinson, and Alexander Texier have been sucked into high-event hockey. Their shot rate numbers are high, both for and against, but their xGF/60 hasn’t kept up at 2.46. Atkinson is a good bet for shot volume, but the Matthews line has actually maintained some pretty good defensive numbers (xGA/60 of 1.45). Oliver Bjorkstrand has been demoted to the third line, and the second line of Boone Jenner, Nick Foligno, and former University of Maine Black Bear Gustav Nyquist is comprised of vets that could always struggled against speed. Given the system in which they play, the Columbus offense is a low event — and thus low floor — group.

It’s not just the Blue Jackets (likely) missing a key defender, as Jake Muzzin is set to miss this game as well. With these two out there are opportunities on the blueline.

Seth Jones should gobble up huge minutes for the Jackets, making him the top defensive play on the slate. He’s a must-play on FD at his lower salary. A (likely) Werenski absence also means big minutes for David Savard, with boosts for lower end plays like Ryan Murray and Vladislav Gavrikov. There are punt plays here

On Toronto’s side, Muzzin’s absence means more for the value plays. Travis Dermott is the most intriguing, while Cody Ceci is a plug-your-nose punt play on the increased minutes. Justin Holl is another punt to keep in mind, but your guess is as good as mine as to which one is the correct play.

Frederik Andersen checks in as the most expensive goalie once again, and it’s time to stop dismissing him for lack of shot volume. That clearly hasn’t been the case the last two games, so while it’s an omnipresent risk against the slow paced Jackets, Andersen is a top option if you’re paying up for goalie today. It’s not clear if Elvis Merzelikins or Joonas Korpisalo will play. Elvis was doing fine until Columbus’s meltdown last game and still posted a monster fantasy score. You can probably even play him and some Leafs given how low his salary is and how much shot volume he’s expected to see.

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