Boston's PP ranked 2nd in the league before Bergeron was shelved, and is 3/8 since his return. This is a great spot for them with Blackwood getting the nod in goal for NJ…
Hockey is back! 13 games on the schedule tonight – with lock at 7:00pm – and I’m going to break down all of my favorite GPP stacks for you in just a minute, but first – another strategy session. Today, I want to take you behind the scenes to show you my process in selecting high upside goaltenders for use in GPPs and cash games alike.
NHL GPP STRATEGY SESSION #20: THE ART OF GOALIE SELECTION
I’ve always been a big proponent of correlating goaltenders in DFS lineups. If one of your stacks goes off, that team’s goaltender is likely to pick up the win. But, as we all should, I’m consistently growing as a DFS player, and something that I’ve put a lot of work into this season is the fine art of goalie selection. Admittedly, I’ve not been correlating goalies 99% of the time, as I have in year’s past. This season has been different – I still wind up with the correlation about 85% of the time, but some nights are different. There are only two factors that go into my recent goalie process – ceiling and win potential.
THE PROBLEM WITH FLOORS
I’ve come to realize that the biggest issue preventing most DFS players from successfully selecting a good goaltender – for any DFS format – is that they try to project the goaltender’s floor. Turns out, this is impossible. Variance plays too much of a role in the game of hockey to make it possible. The second coming of George Vezina could suit up for the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow night, and still allow 4 first period goals to a team from the ECHL. It might not be likely, but play the game enough, and it’s bound to happen. We cannot simply look at the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight and infer that Matt Murray will have a decent floor SIMPLY because the Penguins are huge favorites in the game. Matt Murray has just as much of a chance of allowing those 4 first period goals as Carter Hart does against the Lightning. Instead, let’s focus on the possible ceiling…
HOW TO FIND A GOALIE’S POSSIBLE CEILING
We’ve had a lot of subs start playing over at www.MonkeyKnifeFight.com – and one of the things I keep mentioning about that site is to take advantage of the games that ask you to forecast Shots on Goal and Saves. These are much easier numbers to project than Goals and Assists. So let’s go through tonight’s slate and find a couple guys that are popping. In order to do this, you’ll want to pull up Team Stats on www.nhl.com.
The very first things I look at are Shots/GP and SA/GP. You want a goalie whose team allows a lot of shots against, as well as the team he’s facing to rank near the top in Shots/GP. We have six goaltenders who fit the following criteria: 1) their team ranks in the bottom-12 in SA/GP and 2) the opposition ranks in the top-12 in Shots/GP. They are:
- Jimmy Howard
- John Gibson
- Henrik Lundqvist
- Braden Holtby
- Connor Hellebuyck
- Semyon Varlamov
Now let’s narrow down this list by using some other key stats.
USING WIN PROBABILITY/SCORING/POWER PLAYS TO FIND “OUR GUY”
Now that we have six goaltenders who are likely to face a large shot volume, let’s use some other data points to narrow them down to a few solid options. First up, let’s use Vegas odds and find the goalies that are the most likely to pick up the win bonus. Holtby (60%) and Hellebuyck (56%) are the only goalies with higher than 50% odds to win. Calgary, however, is projected for 3.1 goals, while Carolina is projected for just 2.7. Carolina also happens to rank 28th in scoring league-wide, averaging just 2.5 Goals/game, while Calgary ranks 6th – scoring 3.4 Goals/game to this point. The Flames power play ranks 10th (22.5%) in the league, while the Canes PP ranks 24th (15.7%). You can see where this is going. Braden Holtby becomes a very solid goaltender for tonight’s slate, as he should face a big shot volume, has a decent shot at picking up the win bonus, and is facing a team that doesn’t really score a lot – and isn’t projected to do so tonight, either.
The other 5 options above all have serious upside, and I would certainly stick them into any GPP lineups that feature a stack from their team, but if I’m not worried about correlation, or am using a couple stacks that have goaltenders without much of a ceiling – that’s when I would consider going with an uncorrelated Holtby in this example. You can also take things such as salary and projected ownership into consideration when making a decision here, but upside is the absolute key. In other words – instead of thinking of it from the perspective of “what is the worst that can happen”, think of it as “what is the best that can happen”. Goalies are a crapshoot, so if you’re already having to take a gamble by playing one – you might as well play one that has a shot at slate-breaking production.
Now, onto my stacks of the night…
TB2: Brayden Point/Nikita Kucherov/Tyler Johnson
Possible add-on: Victor Hedman (PP1)
Tampa Bay returns home for tonight’s game against the Flyers. Out of 26 teams on tonight’s slate, Vegas has the Lightning projected to score the highest total – 3.8 goals. Dating back to early November, Tampa has averaged 4.6 goals per game inside of Amalie Arena – winning 10 of 12 games. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has allowed nearly 5 goals against per game in their last five on the road. These teams have met once this season, with Tampa winning by a score of 6-5 in Philadelphia last month. Michal Neuvirth is starting again for Philly, in what will be just his fourth start of the season – he’s allowed 11 goals against in just 152 minutes thus far, good for a putrid 4.33 GAA, and 83.3% save percentage. Meanwhile, the Point line will likely match against the Giroux line tonight, which is allowing 30+ SCA/60 and 15+ HDCA/60 thus far – those are dangerous numbers against the lethal combo of Point and Kucherov, who have turned 35 SCF/60 into a scoring rate of 5.6 GF/60 at 5v5. Add in the awful Flyers PK trying to stop Tampa Bay’s top-ranked PP, and this is a really good spot for this line. With the special teams mismatch, and the fact that Philadelphia takes the third-most penalties in the league, and Victor Hedman becomes a must-add for your TB2 stacks, especially considering he correlates with them at 5v5, as well.
BOS1: Patrice Bergeron/David Pastrnak/Brad Marchand
Possible add-on: Torey Krug (PP1)
OK, so Boston got the big boys back together. This could be a great spot for them, too, as MacKenzie Blackwood draws the start for the Devils, and they’ll also be without a couple of their top-six forwards – Taylor Hall and Marcus Johansson. Jesper Bratt will take Hall’s spot on the top line, and although it’s not the nuttiest of spots for BOS1 at 5v5, let’s not forget how good the Bruins PP can be with these three together – they ranked 2nd in the league, converting 30.8% of the time up until Bergeron was shelved, and are 3 for 8 with the man advantage since Bergeron returned. Torey Krug is the point-man on Boston’s PP1 and should be considered a must-add to your BOS1 stacks tonight.
WAS1: Alex Ovechkin/Nicklas Backstrom/T.J. Oshie
Possible add-on: John Carlson (PP1)
The Caps and the Hurricanes meet today, in what is projected to be the slate’s highest paced matchup – by a mile. While the Kuznetsov line has been matching up against the opposition’s top competition, Ovechkin and Backstrom have been getting better matchups on home ice – and that’s where they’ll find themselves tonight. They should see a lot of time against Carolina’s depth lines of Bishop/Ferland/Williams and Wallmark/Martinook/Foegele. Neither of these combinations has had quite the success in Corsi domination that Carolina forwards had earlier in the season. The only thing holding WAS1 back from being my top stack on the slate is the recent struggles of Washington’s power play. In the past month, the Caps have only converted 13.5% of their chances with the man advantage, while Carolina has had the league’s second-ranked PK. Therefore, although Carlson correlates on the PP, and he does skate a handful of minutes with this trio at 5v5, I wouldn’t consider him a must-add here – not for $6,600 (on DK) and not until the Caps PP starts clicking again.
CAR1: Andrei Svechnikov/Sebastian Aho/Teuvo Teravainen
Possible add-on: Justin Faulk (PP1)
I know the first question I’ll get asked – “I thought you were all-in on Holtby?” Holtby represents the highest upside on the slate, yes. He is my preferred goaltender, yes. However, there is a wide range of outcomes in any game, and one of the more probable ones in this game – in my opinion – is the Hurricanes top line having a nice follow-up to their four-goal game on Sunday night. The Caps have been sending out the Kuznetsov/Wilson/Vrana line against the opposition’s top line for a few games now. That line has played about 48 minutes TOI – so not a huge sample – but they’re playing at an extremely high pace. They’re controlling 52% of the Corsi share, but are still allowing 74.9 CA/60, including 39.3 SCA/60 and 21.6 HDCA/60. They’ve been keeping the puck out of the net, but if you’re giving up that many GOOD scoring chances to guys like Svechnikov and Aho – there’s going to be trouble. The entire CAR1 line plays on the Canes top PP, and Justin Faulk is the defenseman manning the point, making him my preferred add-on for this stack.
MIN1: Eric Staal/Jason Zucker/Mikael Granlund
Possible add-on: Ryan Suter (PP1)
Minnesota has their top guns back together, and they’ve got themselves a juicy matchup against Chicago tonight. The Blackhawks haven’t been hard-matching under new head coach Jeremy Colliton, but the Jonathan Toews line still sees a good bit of ice time against the opposition’s L1 – and this matchup is a HUGE advantage for the Wild. In their last 60-ish minutes together on the road, MIN1 has been piling up scoring chances (39.2 SCF/60 & 17.2 HDCF/60), but have had trouble converting – without a single even-strength goal in that time. They are shooting at a rate of 39.2 SOG/60, however, so you can’t expect them to be held off the scoreboard for much longer – here is your chance to take advantage of the positive regression that is surely coming. CHI1 has been bad on home ice – allowing 46.5 Shots Against per 60 minutes, 34.6 Scoring Chances Against and 19.8 High Dangers Against per 60. If there was ever a time for the Staal line to break the funk – tonight is the night. Ryan Suter offers full correlation – both at 5v5, PP and PK – and should be considered a must-add for MIN1 stacks tonight. He’s going to take on a much bigger role with Dumba out of the lineup, so get on him now, while he’s still relatively cheap.
VAN2: Elias Pettersson/Brock Boeser/Nikolay Goldobin
Possible add-on: Alexander Edler (PP1) and/or Bo Horvat (PP1)
Vancouver quietly ranks JUST outside of the top-10 in scoring league-wide (13th). They’re averaging nearly 4 goals per game in their last nine – and have scored 16 in their last four road games. They are in Edmonton tonight – and these two teams just met 10 days ago, with Vancouver winning by a 4-2 score. Nothing about VAN2 really jumps off the page, but the Oilers top two lines have been pretty bad defensively. McDavid and Draisaitl – who dominated possession in year’s past – are controlling just 39.7% of the Corsi share on home ice over their past 60-ish minutes together. They’re allowing 82.3 CA/60, which includes 44.3 SA/60, 47 SCA/60 and 19.9 HDCA/60. Pettersson/Boeser/Goldobin are all skating on Vancouver’s top power-play unit, and although the Canucks power play hasn’t been great this season, they are facing an Oilers PK that ranks 28th in the league, killing just 75.6% of their opposition’s chances. Therefore, Alexander Edler makes a really nice add-on for VAN2 stacks, as he correlates at 5v5, as well as the top PP unit, and Bo Horvat is another way to take advantage of the Oilers recent defensive woes – giving you exposure to another even-strength line, as well as full PP correlation.
DET2: Frans Nielsen/Thomas Vanek/Tyler Bertuzzi
Possible add-on: Dennis Cholowski (PP1)
The Red Wings are huge underdogs against the Penguins tonight. With the game in Pittsburgh, the Pens will likely matchup Crosby on Larkin, and Brassard on Nielsen. Brassard/Pearson/Kessel have only skated together for about 15 minutes thus far, but they’ve been pretty bad in that small sample – controlling just 42.4% of the Corsi share, and allowing 40.1 SA/60 and 28.1 SCA/60. Meanwhile, Tyler Bertuzzi will be re-joining Nielsen and Vanek on the second line. These three also have a small sample, but in 22 minutes together, they have generated 41.3 SOG/60, 16.5 HDCF/60 and have scored a couple even strength goals – for a scoring rate of 5.5 GF/60. I like this line because I think Matt Murray will be popular tonight, as Pittsburgh currently sits as the biggest favorite on the slate, and Wings provide some leverage against the possible chalk goalie. Nielsen and Vanek also both skate on the Red Wings PP1. Although Cholowski is the point man on that unit, I’m not too fond of adding him to this stack, as he has almost zero correlation at even strength.
NSH2: Craig Smith/Kevin Fiala/Kyle Turris
Possible add-on: P.K. Subban or Mattias Ekholm (PP2)
These three were one of my favorite contrarian stacks all last season, as they dominated possession, and generated a TON of shots and chances. Something has been different when they’ve skated together this season, though. They’re playing at an extremely slow pace, and not generating anywhere near the number of opportunities they were a season ago. Tonight will be the first time they’ve skated together in quite some time, however, and I’m going to hope they can right the ship, after spending time with other linemates for the better part of two months. This isn’t the greatest play on paper, but the value here is insane. You can have all three for just $12k on DK – thousands less than they were priced at last season. You’ll get some power play time from these three, and more importantly, they get to feast on the Stars inferior depth lines. Backup Anton Khudobin will start for Dallas tonight – and the Preds get P.K. Subban back in the lineup. Subban should correlate with NSH2 at 5v5, and with his defensive partner Mattias Ekholm – they also seem to be on the PP2 blue line with Turris/Smith/Fiala as well.
ARI2: Alex Galchenyuk/Nick Schmaltz/Christian Fischer
Possible add-on: Alex Goligoski (PP2)
With Jeff Carter out of the lineup for the Kings, and Derek Stepan’s line being tied up by Anze Kopitar and co., I like the value of the Coyotes second line tonight. These three have not skated together much, but have been piling up the scoring chances in their past couple games – now up to a rate of 16 HDCF/60. Their matchup tonight will be against the line of Adrian Kempe, Tyler Toffoli and Ilya Kovalchuk. These three also haven’t skated together much, but Kovalchuk and Kempe do have over 48 minutes together, and they have not had good results – controlling just 45.7% of the Corsi share while allowing 29.6 SCA/60, 17.3 HDCA/60 and 4.9 GA/60. ARI2 all skate on the second power-play unit, which features Goligoski – who also correlates at 5v5, so he’s a nice add-on if you’d like even more value.
I generally correlate my goalies in GPP’s, but if you need a flier, here are my favorites today:
Braden Holtby (WAS) – So I gave up my reasons for Holtby in the strategy session above. Carolina leads the league in shooting, yet ranks near the bottom in scoring. He’ll be facing a ton of low-quality shots from a team that’s power play struggles as well. With 59% projected odds to win on home ice, Holtby has the highest upside on the slate.
Jaroslav Halak (BOS) – Might this be a sign that Boston is now considering Jaroslav Halak to be their #1? The Bruins are off tomorrow, and it’s Halak that’s getting the call despite three days of rest…interesting, indeed. Well, Halak has been good this season, there’s no denying that. He’s 12-5-2, with a GAA of 2.19 and a 93% save percentage. He’s allowed just 10 goals against in his last 5 starts – and tonight, he gets a Devils team missing Taylor Hall and Marcus Johansson. We like those win bonuses, and with MacKenzie Blackwood getting the nod for New Jersey, I have to think Halak will get those points, as well. Boston has 66% projected odds to win, on home ice, against a team ranked towards the top of the league in SOG/game.
John Gibson (ANH) – Gibson is one of the best goaltenders in the game, and can be had for just $7,100 tonight on DK. Gibson’s 92.6% save percentage is pretty remarkable considering the team that is playing in front of him. The Ducks allow the second-most shots against league wide, while San Jose ranks 2nd in SOG/game. This is one of those rare instances where Gibson could actually get close to hitting value, even in a losing effort. I’d expect him to see about 40 shots tonight, giving him tremendous upside, as the Ducks are allowing just 2.4 goals against per game in their last five. The last time these two teams met in San Jose, the Ducks were 5-2 winners.
YOLO Goalies: Jimmy Howard (DET), Henrik Lundqvist (NYR), Semyon Varlamov (COL) – These are either underdogs or guys whose matchup is not optimal – but should see a ton of volume against teams that I’m not super high on. Howard is a cheap, leverage play against the Penguins chalk, and should see about 40 shots tonight. Lots of upside, but of course, he’s also just as likely to get blown up. Varlamov is the only one whose team is a favorite – but playing him on the road against the Golden Knights is a bit scary to me.