DFS Strategy: NHL Lineup Deconstruction

Was fading Ovechkin a key to victory?

One of the most powerful tools a DFS player has in his arsenal is the ability to deconstruct his own tournament plays post-game in order to see what went wrong, what went right, and, in some cases, “What the hell was I thinking?”

This exercise is not an easy one for a couple of reasons. For one, in playing a daily sport, last night is ancient history because it’s game day every day. A bigger obstacle than anything, however, is the mere fact that it is a difficult mental exercise to pour over results when, in the case of a GPP player, the outcome is way more often than not one that is unpleasant.

On the other hand, sometimes everything goes exactly to script and there are lessons to be learned in those results as well. With this in mind, let’s deconstruct this writer’s win in a recent DraftKings Faceoff.

The February 24th card was comprised of 4 games, Montreal/Washington and Pittsburgh/Boston early, and San Jose/Colorado and Buffalo/Anaheim late. Here was my pregame GPP analysis of each game:

Montreal at Washington: Ovechkin promises to be massively owned, and Kuznetsov will be paired with him in most cases, eating a large chunk of salary. In a short-slate GPP, you are looking for any excuse to fade the chalk, and Ovi’s anticipated 40% + ownership in a super high variance sport’s GPP makes him an auto-toss. Since many DFS players do not like to play opponents of large favorites, and with Washington in the range of -210, Montreal’s top players will be under-repped, making them automatic considerations.

Getting Galcenyuk at 3.9% and Gallagher at 5% on a 4-game slate is testament to the reluctance of GPPers to roster strong underdogs against their chalk plays. The pair combined for 3 goals, setting my team up for some suspense later.

Pittsburgh at Boston: Here we have another star, Sidney Crosby, playing in a game where the Vegas money is leaning close to a tossup. We can assume that a great many players fading Ovechkin will be landing on Sid the Kid, but one goal in his previous 7 games is enough to think that he might have cooled off from his massive heater a couple of weeks ago. At a salary of 8,100 in an evenly projected road matchup, he makes a good fade as well.

We also know that Crosby owners will be often rostering a stack with Hornqvist and Letang, so if we’re bearish on Sid, we’re bearish on the others. Boston was an interesting possibility, with a couple of lines of good offensive players in a game where Vegas had them favored and likely to score 3+ goals. The game ended up being a 5-1 rout by Boston and rookie David Patrnak did the most damage with a pair of goals, which had to be disappointing to the Bergeron, Eriksson, and Krejci owners.

San Jose at Colorado: Here we have the game that will decide it all for my entry. After deciding to run a contrarian play of a couple of Habs against the Caps, and knowing I was fading Ovechkin and Crosby, I was going to be left with 7 of my 9 roster spots open going into the late pair. When looking at the two late games, I felt that one had a strong potential to be a shootout, while the other felt like a one-sided game where the home team would grab a lead and clamp down on a vastly inferior opponent – exactly where you’d like to find your goalie.

Colorado running out a backup goalie and facing a superior opponent means that many contest players who passed up the early action will land on the Sharks here, and I couldn’t blame them – they figured to find the back of the net a few times at least, and I am glad that I will have exposure to them in some fashion.

Despite facing a superior opponent, the Avs are projected to score a few as well, as it figures to be an open affair. When we feel as if one game will be an action affair on a short card, it stands to reason that the game theory play is the side that figures to be lower owned. And, sure enough, MacKinnon, Landeskog, and Barrie are all 5% or less owned. Sweetening the pot is the previous meetings between these 2 teams this year, where MacKinnon put home 4 goals in 3 meetings, and the slumping Landeskog is playing his first game after being moved to Mac’s line. Yes please.

Colorado has 3 very usable defensemen, but projecting a back-and-forth game, I felt Barrie was best suited. Leaning Colorado over San Jose due to the nature of a GPP, I wanted still more, and Iginla the power play sniper fit perfectly into what I wanted to do, so we are going with 5 Avs.

Not to forget about San Jose, I wanted a little bit of scoring upside, and Ward at 4,400 playing on line 2 and the 2nd power play unit fits. Also on the same PP unit is defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is a multi-category threat who has a high floor/high ceiling for a D man. Though not producing quite the fireworks I anticipated, the 4-3 Colorado win was enough after landing on all the right guys. Ward, Landeskog, and Iginla all found the back of the net, and MacKinnon and Landy combined for 14 shots on goal.

Buffalo at Anaheim: I had another couple of lineups entered here stacking Anaheim, but all had Andersen in net. Buffalo figured to have a very hard time scoring, and going chalk in goal is a solid move the way chalk pitchers are in GPP baseball: a good one provides a decent floor, and a shutout win is the holy grail of DFS points. He was by far the most likely player to earn a shutout on this card, and despite the massive ownership, I was not willing to get too cute here.

All tourneys present a unique puzzle, but basic GPP game theory stands; look to zig when the crowd zags, but you want to be a contrarian with sanity. Review your poor results honestly and you will find yourself reviewing more and more positive ones.

Now, take what you’ve learned and sign up for DraftKings and sign up for FanDuel.