NHL Playoff Puck Picks

We have a bonanza of games on the slate tonight (compared to Saturday anyway) and with more potential contributors to choose from come more opportunities to separate your self from the pack. Over the weekend I advocated strongly for a contrarian strategy because there were so few choices available, and I still believe that’s the best plan for cashing in the NHL playoffs, it isn’t as essential with an extra game to choose from.

Another element of cashing in the playoffs is game flow. Game flow is a common phrase used in fantasy football that refers to the match up a player has and how it will impact his usage, his opportunities and his ability to perform at a high level. In DFS hockey it refers to which lines will face each other and it shows up in the stat sheets in the form of plus/minus +/-.

Flip Forsberg (-6), Nikolay Kulemin (-5), Jaden Schwartz (-5) and Paul Stastny (-4) are four of the worst +/- players remaining in the playoffs and if possible you are well suited to try to roster players that will match up head to head against these poor defenders. Because the home team has last change head to head match ups are difficult to pinpoint, but it doesn’t mean you can’t use the information to your benefit.

The easiest way to use Scwartz and Stastny’s bad plus/minus against them is to target Dallas Stars players. They both play on the top two lines and they have both skated a regular shift with full minutes of ice time.

When formulating your winning roster you need to select some stars, you need to roster some bargains and you need to look at being contrarian as well. Lets get into it with some players to like in tonight’s slate that fit these descriptions.

Jamie Benn: Stars Winger – $17,300

Opponent: St. Louis Blues

Stats: 5 Goals – 7 Assists – 25 Shots on Goal = 8 GP

Benn will be owned by a huge percentage of contestants, but he has been too good to pass on. Rostering the same player everyone else owns isn’t ideal, but you need production and nobody receives 100% ownership. Of the must-own options, Benn is the play tonight.

Jason Spezza: Stars Center – $12,900

Opponent: St. Louis Blues

Stats: 4 Goals – 5 Assists – 25 SOG = 8 Games Played

Spezza technically plays on the third line, but he is on the first line power play and his ice time compares with the best forwards on the Stars roster. He isn’t really a contrarian play and he isn’t a bargain at $12,900, but he won’t be owned in 50-60% of lineups like Jaime Benn or John Tavares and that’s what we want to avoid. He is an under appreciated producer.

Alex Goligoski: Stars Defense – $10,900

Opponent: St. Louis Blues

Stats: 3 Goals – 2 Assists – 15 SOG = 8 GP

With limited choices I like my defenseman to block shots and Goligoski doesn’t bring much of that to the roster, but he is an affordable option as an offensive minded defenseman.

I talked earlier about game flow and when the slate is small and the goals are few and far between some times you need to stray from the numbers and play your gut. The Predators haven’t been one of the higher scoring units in the playoffs (18 goals in 9 games played), but tonight is a must-win and we should get their best game.

Shea Weber (2 goals – 1 assist) and Calle Jarnkrok (3 goals) were the best scorers against the San Jose Sharks in the regular season while Ryan Johansen and Colin Wilson have been their best playoff performers.

Colin Wilson: Predators Wing – $6,400

Opponent: San Jose Sharks

Stats: 2 Goals – 5 Assists – 19 SOG = 9 GP

Wilson has produced in the playoffs, he is a bargain salary and he is a contrarian choice on a short slate – all factors I like a lot about. He is comparable in shots on goal to other players that receive more ice time and this is a must-win game for the Predators. If they can’t light the lamp tonight then they may as well begin booking tee times tomorrow.

Roman Josi: Predators Defense – $14,900

Opponent: San Jose Sharks

Stats: 6 Assists – 23 SOG – 32 Blocked Shots = 9 GP

Josi isn’t lighting the lamp himself, but he is contributing to others that are. The shots on goal and ice time is there, he plays on the first power play and he leads the playoffs in blocked shots, which elevates the floor of a player that already has a high ceiling. He is a full-price play, but in a must-win game you can expect a huge amount of minutes from Josi tonight.

Contrarian choices are how you break from the pack but you need to roster a few players that are above average chances to put up numbers. Jamie Benn is one, here are a couple more that I prefer.

BIG -TICKET Plays:

Brent Burns: Sharks Defense – $17,800

Opponent: Nashville Predators

Stats: 2 Goals – 9 assists – 25 SOG = 7 GP

I believe in paying for blue liners and Burns is a monster. A defenseman that scores goals and assists on them while leading his team in shots on goal is like a 30 home run catcher in baseball, they just don’t happen. You can find some bargains from the blue line if you want to go that way, but Burns is a must-start in my mind. His ownership should be slightly lower than some of the big name scorers because a lot of contestants punt or look for bargains from the position and that plays to your benefit. This is a must-win game for the Predators which means it’s a max-effort night for the Shark as well. Burns needs to be in there for you.

Vladamir Tarasenko: Blues Wing – $16,500

Opponent: Dallas Stars

Stats: 4 Goals – 2 Assists – 31 SOG = 9 GP

The stat sheet may not show it as clearly as it is, but if you have watched any Blues games you know that Tarasenko is in the middle of everything that happens for their offense. He overwhelmingly leads the team in shots on goal and amongst the higher priced stars, he is likely to have a lower ownership percentage than other elite guys on the schedule. If game flow matters at all then Tarasenko is one of 3-4 must start plays when you have a limited slate and low scoring games.

CONTRARIAN Plays

With only three games on the slate you have to do something to avoid being a DFS lemming. Picking the obvious, high percentage plays will produce you a solid, competitive night and in cash contests it is still a sound strategy, but it’s unlikely to catapult you to the top in tournaments. You have to go off script and pick some contrarian plays. Saturday I recommended a stack of Valtteri Filppula, Alex Killorn and Jonathan Drouin and if you want to replay that stack by all means double up on it. If not, here are a few contrarian picks to consider.

Joel Ward: Sharks Wing – $8,200

Opponent: Nashville Predators

Stats: 1 Goal – 5 Assists – 10 SOG = 7 GP

He isn’t shiny and illustrious, but he is gritty and he makes some plays. He receives some shifts on the power play and has produced six points in seven playoff games. I like more shots on goal than he has had so far, but nobody is perfect at an $8,200 salary.

The Islanders are filled with contrarian plays and if you want to target them with an affordable stack I am not going to eat your lunch for it. In fact, I recommend it. Brock Nelson ($8,500) and Ryan Strome ($7,800) are affordable, Alan Quine ($6,800) and Thomas Hickey ($6,900) are bargains and Shane Prince ($6,100) is almost free. All of these Islanders have produced at moderate levels without being fliers or punt plays and their ownership percentage will be low, qualifying them as contrarian plays.

TEAM G

St. Louis Blues $17,100 vs. Dallas Stars

The St. Louis Blues have allowed the most shots on goal while also allowing three goals per game, second most in the playoffs, and they face the high-powered Dallas Stars. That’s not a match up I am excited to buy into, but it does provide an opportunity. A low scoring victory with a lot of shots on goal is how you score big and the Blues have the best chance to do it. They also have the best chance to allow 5-6 goals and get blown out. Risk/Reward – that’s DFS Hockey.

Nashville Predators $16,200 vs. San Jose Sharks

The Predators have allowed 263 shots on goal in nine games, while allowing 26 goals in those games. Tonight is a must-win for the Predators and I expect an all out, all hands on deck effort that should net them that all-important win. The saves will be there if they can get the victory and the goals will not, both good for Fantasy players. This is a risk, because the Sharks are probably the better team, but this is a high ceiling game with a good chance to be a contrarian pick at Team G.

Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell has been playing Fantasy sports for over twenty years. He contributed to RotoWire.com in their early days before contributing as a writer and doing Fantasy sports Podcasts for Seamheads.com. Three seasons ago he brought his writing and his Fantasy sports Podcast to RotoExperts.com and the Fantasy Sports Television network and this past season he wrote a weekly Fantasy sports column for BaseballAmerica.com. He also writes about Minor League prospects for RotoExperts. Chris has no more access to the site than the typical user. Follow him at Twitter @CJMiitch73.

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