Sunday NHL DFS

Happy Sunday everyone! Today we actually see a fairly nice 7 game slate which is a little unusual for a Sunday, with some extremely interesting matchups to look over and discuss. The contests on DraftKings are a little suspect, but that’s to be expected with the NFL being in action today. As always I’ll try to give as much data as possible to explain the plays, and I’ll be sprinkling in more stats from this season as the sample size is starting to get a little larger (typically in the form of “count” rather than “per/60” given the size of TOI played so far). You’ll see Top Plays, Goalies, and At First Glance options. Let’s go!

Top Plays 

COL1 – Rantanen/MacKinnon/Landeskog – There really isn’t much to say here at all. The Avalanche top line is one of the most elite lines in the league, second to only a fully healthy BOS1. Although I’m a huge advocate of Ducks goalie John Gibson, at the end of the day I don’t see any line or pairing for Anaheim that’s even remotely capable of slowing these guys down, and Gibby can’t do it all. They’re $23.1K to full stack, so you’re going to have to look for value in other areas on the slate, which given it’s 7 games probably won’t be as hard to do. I’m normally inclined to use Cale Makar on defense for the Avs, but the Ducks’ PK this season (small sample I know) hasn’t been bad at all, and relative to his price, I’m not sure that I want to utilize him tonight unless I have salary leftover. The same can be said for pretty much all Avs d-men tonight with the exception of Bowen Byram who put up 5iCF and 4iSF last game and logged an assist. But that’s a punt play only for me. 

EDM1 – Nugent Hopkins/McDavid/Puljujarvi – We FINALLY have the line combination in Edmonton that we’ve all been waiting to see. Jesse Puljujarvi has found his way to the top line and will skate with RNH and McDavid at 5v5 against a Winnipeg team that played last night against Ottawa. I absolutely expect there to be massive ownership on this line given the price and the Oiler’s implied total of 3.5, and the fact they’ll face the Jets’ backup goalie Brossoit. Not only is there very little about this Winnipeg blueline that scares me, but Brossoit finished the season last year with a 78% HDSV. In case you needed stats to backup playing McD, he has a 15 iHDCF this season at 5v5 play, with RNH coming in second on the team at 6. Puljujarvi also does a decent job at getting to the medium and high-danger areas, sporting an iSCF and iHDCF count of 11 and 4 respectively in 59 minutes of 5v5 play so far this year. I totally respect the idea of wanting to use Tyson Barrie as the defenseman of choice to pair with this stack, but you also can’t go wrong with Darnell Nurse who will play 5v5 minutes with EDM1 and has the tenth highest iCF count of all defenseman in the league so far this season at 25. I give Barrie the  advantage due to the PP1 exposure on Edmonton’s lethal PP unit, and he also is the seventh best d-man this season in the league in blocked shots with 10. 

NYR1 – Kreider/Zibanejab/Lafreniere – Conventional wisdom says that using a line that will play 5v5 against Sidney Crosby usually isn’t the way to go. However. In the last game these two teams played against each other, NYR1 was actually matched more against PIT3, not PIT1. So far Pittsburgh this year has done a decent job of mitigating attempts, shots, and scoring chances against, being at bare minimum an average team. Where they have struggled though is in HDCA at 5v5 with 43 against, 8th worst in the league. Digging a little deeper and we see that they have allowed the second most goals against in the league at 5v5, as well as the second most SCGA and HDGA at 15 and 13 respectively. On an average night with a fully healthy blueline, I’d say the Penguins are an average defensive team. Unfortunately though they are missing defenders like Matheson, Pettersson, and Riikola, and while those three aren’t anything terrifying, their replacements certainly aren’t much better given that four of their six d-men finished with a CF% last game of under 48%. Add on the fact that in three starts this year Tristan Jarry has a 55.6% HDSV% (again, small sample I know) and it tells me that this Penguins team has more issues on the blueline and in net than the star power of guys like Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel, and Letang can mask. Since the sample size is so small, if you even check out Jarry’s HDSV% last year it was still only 80%, which isn’t brutal but certainly not something I’d hang my hat on. The Rags top line is $15.1K to full stack and has two of three getting PP1 time. I’d say pair with Adam Fox on D, but at $5800 it might be a little too pricey and even though he doesn’t skate at 5v5 with NYR1, Jacob Trouba has the this most iCF of all Rangers d-men at 14, but no points to show for it. Hopefully tonight he can find his way to the scoresheet in some fashion.

At First Glance 

LAK1 – Iafallo/Kopitar/Kempe – So the reason I was drawn a little to this line is because I would have to imagine that Ville Husso gets the start in net for the Blues since Binnington went last night. This top line faced off against the O’Reilly line last game, which certainly isn’t the greatest 5v5 matchup by any means as ROR typically likes to grind the play to a halt. But, Husso has seen one game of NHL action in his career and it was against the Avalanche where he got lit up like a Christmas tree after filling in for JB midway through the second period. The Blues this year have spent the seventh most amount of time on the PK (combining 4v5 and 3v5) and this Kings top line all get PP1 exposure. I also believe that this Blues defense is still trying to find their groove, as half of their defensive core is new to the team. In last night’s game all three Kings top line players led all LA forwards in iCF (Kopi at 7, Kempe at 5, and Iafallo at 3). If you wanted to pair with Doughty who QBs the top PP unit you can go that route, but be cautious because for $6300 you’re going to need a monster game from him to pay off. 

MIN1 – Parise/Bjugstad/Kaprizov – I’m not incredibly in love with this Wild top unit because they are being centered by Bjugstad, but their pricing isn’t terrible by any means and they will get to face Martin Jones in net tonight more than likely. In general for the last couple seasons the Wild have been known as a team that struggles to score, but the addition of rookie Karill Kaprizov this year has actually been fun to watch. San Jose is in the bottom third of the league this season in attempts, shots, and expected goals against. Much like I mentioned about Pittsburgh earlier in this article, they also have been brutal at allowing goals from both the scoring and high-danger chance areas. For the Wild, both Bjugstad (surprisingly) and Parise are top five on the team in individual attempts from both of those areas. If I had to rank which Minnesota d-man to pair them with, I would start with Dumba, then Spurgeon, then Suter. Both Dumba and Spurgeon log top PP minutes, and for some reason the latter is only $3900 despite logging almost 24 minutes and a 6 iCF last game. I typically don’t play Suter as he’s not very DFS friendly despite being a good real life defenseman, but he does lead the Wild d-men this season with 20 iCF, although only 6 of those have actually hit the net. 

NYI2 – Beauvillier/Nelson/Bailey – At first glance when I saw this game, the line that came to mind was Isles2. Much like Minnesota, I’m not crazy in love with them because I don’t understand why Brock Nelson is $6200, but they will face goalie Scott of the House Wedgewood for the Devils. In the last game the Isles played against NJ, New York just absolutely manhandled the Devils in xGF% at 62%, suggesting that they were generating quality chances rather than just firing the puck aimlessly. What’s interesting to me here though is that the Devils, despite being average at best when you’re doing the eye test, haven’t been as bad analytically. Still though, it is a small sample size this season to work with. The line will get time on the Isles second PP unit and costs $14.5 to full stack. A defenseman for New York that I think could be an interesting play is Scott Mayfield at $3100 who had a 7 iCF in his last game and has logged the third most amount of minutes for of all defenseman on the team so far this year (and yes Josh, I know that Dobson is on PP1 tonight). 


Kaapo Kahkonen – Kahkonen came in the last game and took over for Wild goalie Cam Talbot who left due to injury. In only two starts this year he’s looked fairly decent. My reasoning on using the Wild goalie tonight is because even though the Wild struggle to score goals, they do a very good job on the defensive side of the puck. San Jose does a good job on the offensive side of the ice, but I don’t know that it’s enough to break through against the Wild’s blueline or MIN3, which is who SJ2 (Hertl) will see at 5v5. At $7900 I think that he could see a decent amount of volume, and hopefully will only let up one or two goals especially if MIN3 is shutting down SJ2 all evening, leaving guys like Couture, Burns, and EK65 to rely on heavily for scoring.

Pekka Rinne – Well, the Stars certainly COF in their first game of the season. I’m sure that many DFS players will gravitate towards the Dallas second line again tonight as they completely wrecked Friday’s slate. But there is something that I found interesting about that game. Even though the scoreboard said 7-0 Dallas, when you look at it from the perspective of in-game analytics, Nashville should have been the one winning 7-0. Dallas had a 34% CF%, 36% SCF%, 36% HDCF%, and an xGF% of 33%. Now the Stars are a team that are usually known for limiting both quality and quantity against, but my god those numbers are just brutal even if it is only one game. With COVID forcing the NHL to make teams play 2 game series against each other (almost like mini playoff rounds if you will) I think we will see many teams make adjustments in their second game, much like they do in the playoffs, especially if they get waxed in the first. For $7200 I think Rinne can be a GPP option in goal as he once packed the ability to shut down an opponent’s offense entirely, and despite 7 goals in the first game, Dallas for the last few years has had trouble finding the back of the net. It’s risky, but it might be worth a look if you’re building 20 lineups. 

Igor Shesterkin – So Igor this year hasn’t looked good at all in goal for the Rangers this year (that’s the best way to start a sentence for a recommended play, right?). But, his numbers last year tell a completely different story, finishing the 2019-2020 season with an 85% HDSV, so I know the potential is certainly there. Tonight he faces the Penguins who do shoot the puck a decent amount, and he’s only $7K. I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if he sees some ownership because of the price and with big guns like Winnipeg and Colorado on the slate, but I’m willing to take that risk because Pittsburgh has done a little rearranging with their lines, flipping Jason Zucker and Jared McCaan. Despite how good Crosby/Guentzel and Malkin/Rust are together, I’m not incredibly convinced you can throw in guys like Evan Rodriques & Jared McCaan on those lines and expect the lamp to light up every 5 minutes. 

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