Get excited folks, NHL is FINALLY back for the 2021 season!!! We are beyond excited of course here at DFS Datalytics, and you should be to. Before I go in to details about #THEPLAYS for tonight, I want to extend my deepest wishes to everyone in the hopes that you are all staying safe and staying healthy. This year I’m going to add a new touch to the articles that I think people will like. As you all know, content is geared heavily towards using data and analytics to help gauge the best plays for the evening, which I am still of course going to do my best to provide. I’m also going to include a section for Goalies and a section called “At First Glance” which are plays that stick out to me right when I open the slate and are more from a gut perspective. Using data is always a solid strategy but we all know that there is the inevitable thing called variance that comes into play. Anyway, let’s get started!!
TB1 – Palat/Point/Stamkos – I am going to spend very little time explaining this one here. The Blackhawks are going to be an absolute train wreck this season, and that’s even if you did factor in Jonathan Toews. The Lightning are the reigning Stanley Cup champs and should dispatch the Hawks easily tonight. Last year Chicago was in the bottom third of the league in attempts against and actual goals against per 60 minutes, and were smack dab at the bottom in both xGA60 and HDCA60 at 2.64 and 12.91 respectively. Malcolm Subban in net isn’t going to make their chances any better either. Be prepared to see heavy ownership on TB1 tonight, along with Hedman, all of which are on the TB PP1 (power play 1) top unit, and for good reason as I expect the Blackhawks to get absolutely #WORKEDSON.
EDMPP1 – RNH/McDavid/Leon/Yamamoto/Barrie – The Oil play host to the Canucks tonight, who were a surprisingly bad defensive team last season. I’d much rather use EDM1 at 5v5 but for some reason Edmonton still thinks having top line Zack Kassian is going to be the answer to their problems. Anyway, Edmonton’s PP last season was top in the league operating at 29.5%. Vancouver’s PK was middle of the pack in terms of PK%, however their xGA60 at 4v5 tells a different story. At 6.97 xGA60, they sit in the bottom third of the league. The big thing to keep in mind is that Vancouver opted to bring in veteran goalie Braden Holtby this year, and they’re going to find out real quick just how bad of a decision that was. On top of that, and I could be alone in this though, I personally don’t think that Vancouver improved their defense this season. Bringing in Nate Schmidt is fine, yes, but your blue line being supported by guys like Hamonic, Juolevi, and Myers doesn’t boast well if you’re facing Connor McDavid. Course then again, no one probably would.
TOR1 – Thornton/Matthews/Marner – I can’t believe I actually have a top play written with Joe Thornton in it, but hey, 2021 right? Listen, Matthews is one of the league’s best goal scorers, and Marner is no slouch offensively either. So why write up a line with Jumbo Joe on it who could only keep up if he was on a Rascal Scooter? Simple: price. Both AM34 and Marner will command high dollars, but Thornton being $3600 on DK is a very solid value when you consider his exposure and 5v5 ice time. He’ll also see TORPP1 time, which can only increase his chances of getting points. The Leafs had last season’s 3rd best xGF60 at 2.47, and 4th best CF60 at 60.19 (meaning they fired the puck a ton). Expect heavy ownership given the pricing and Matthews’ name of course.
At First Glance
PHI1 – Lindblom/Couturier/Konecny – I personally don’t think that the Flyers are getting the respect they deserve. This top line tonight is super inexpensive given that Lindblom is sub $3K on Draftkings, and they’ll of course get a heavy amount of ice time. At 5v5 last year Coots & Konecny generated the following:
Those are some stellar numbers, and while yes they don’t account for the third linemate, they are still impressive nonetheless. I personally don’t think the Penguins are going to be a solid defensive team this year, and regardless of the matchup at 5v5 against Crosby, I’m happy to take my chances on a line at this price with the upside they have. Tristan Jarry was less than stellar from the HD (high-danger) areas last season, sporting a HDSV% of 80.2%. If Coots and Konecny can get to those high-danger areas like they did last year, it’ll only increase their chances of putting points on the board. My only complaint is that Oskar doesn’t get any PP time at all, but at his price it makes it very difficult to entertain passing this line up.
COL1 – Rantanen/MacKinnon/Burakovsky – I’m not sure what more you can say about Nathan MacKinnon. He’s by far and away one of the most elite players in the NHL and is going to have one of the highest ownership percentages tonight. Now most of you know I’m a Blues homer, so “why stack against your own team Matt?” Well, here’s why. Last year, granted this was during the “bubble”, the Blues struggled immensely against Vancouver. From a fancy stats perspective, nothing really stood out that made it look as bad as it was. Which leads me to Jordan Binnington, yes the same goalie who stood on his head and led the franchise to it’s first Stanley Cup ever. He looked shaky big time in the playoffs last season and has looked shaky during various team scrimmages thus far this year. Yes, I know they are just practice games but nonetheless. Point is, he hasn’t looked like himself in a little bit of time, and I can only imagine coming off the bizarre season everyone had last year and into a new season being hindered by COVID, AND having to go up against Mack and friends in his first game, that he might be a little rusty. My defensive preference here would be Makar who will see COLPP1 time as with Mack and Rantanen.
STLPP1 – Perron/ROR/Schenn/Hoffman/Krug – I’m really hoping that no one goes this route tonight, because it could pay huge dividends. The Blues had the league’s 3rd best PP% last year at 24.3%. Three of the five pieces are returning: ROR, Schenn, and Perron. The newbies this year: defenseman Torey Krug and sniper Mike Hoffman (who is criminally underpriced, but will get big ownership). While Colorado is a good 5v5 team for sure, last year their PK struggles went under the radar, owning a GA60 at 4v5 of 6.71 and an xGA60 of 6.56, meaning they performed as closely as they were supposed to. Their GA60 was almost in the top third of the league (the good top third), however their xGA60 was near close to bottom third (the bad top third). They also allowed a ton of attempts against, both from the scoring chance and high-danger areas. If the Blues can find their way to the man-advantage tonight against Colorado, I can see this new look PP doing some absolute damage with the whole PP stack having minimal ownership.
Carey Price – Yes, I know I mentioned that TOR1 is a top play of the night, and they rightfully are in the sense that they have AM34 and Marner, both of whom I respect tremendously. Here’s where I get skeptical: having a guy like Joe Thornton on your top line could negatively impact the chemistry between the former two and lead to lapses in offensive quality, but not necessarily quantity. Add in the fact that Montreal and Toronto like to play the “run n gun” style of hockey and the Canadian’s veteran netminder could see some high volume tonight, which is good for a goalie in the mid $7K range. Furthermore, I don’t personally believe that Toronto made themselves any better this season, both offensive and defensive. This could leave Montreal as a sneaky underdog to win, and make Price a top GPP goalie play.
Carter Hart – Not likely going to be low owned is the Flyer’s young goalie Carter Hart. Philadelphia has done a great job of limiting both quantity and quality against him, not that he needs it. Hart’s HDSV% (high-danger save percentage) last year was 83.5%, which is stellar, and his xGA60 was 2.21. I get that the Penguins have Crosby and Malkin, but Sid’s going to have his hands full tonight against Sean Couturier, and Malkin going against Hayes isn’t a mismatch in his favor. Of course, Pittsburgh could always pull one of those stunts where they go ape and put up 5 goals in one period. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen (duh).