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FanDuel NHL: Value Plays for the Week

Michael Clifford

Michael Clifford

Michael Clifford writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The NHL postseason has arrived and it's the best time of year for hockey fans. Even with a smaller slate of games on a nightly basis, the DFS action hasn't stopped. On Fanduel, there are still 50/50, heads-up, cash games, and GPPs available to DFS players.

NHL playoffs are a little bit of a different animal than the NHL regular season as far as DFS goes.

First, playoff games tend to be lower scoring. The people over at QuantHockey have some great resources, one of them being goals-per-game trends on an annual basis. In most years, goal scoring goes down in the playoffs relative to the preceding regular season. This makes nailing goaltenders even more important than usual. Sometimes a DFS player's offensive stats can save a mediocre goalie night. In the playoffs, this is less likely.

Second, injury reports will always be as vague as possible. The words "day-to-day" and "game-time decision" are frequent because coaches don't like to give anything away. There will be many last-minute scratches that seemingly come out of nowhere which can be threats for zeroes on the DFS scoreboard. The flipside is that the guys who are replacements could provide good value depending on how they are slotted in their team's lineup.

Here are this week's value picks for Fanduel.



Right Wing

Beau Bennett (RW-PIT) - $3100

In recent games, Beau Bennett had begun to take the spot alongside Crosby and Chris Kunitz that had been held by Pascal Dupuis for so many years. Of late the trio of Kunitz/Crosby/Bennett has been one of Coach Dan Bylsma's more used line combinations.

Bennett will not be on the vaunted top power play unit that can be such a bonus in any type of fantasy game, but his plus/minus shouldn't be a concern alongside Crosby either at even strength; for the season, Crosby did about as well possession-wise (in terms of CorsiFor%) with Bennett alongside him (52.9-percent) as he did without him (53-percent). They failed to score in their limited time together on the ice, but that's likely more a bit of bad luck than anything.

Pittsburgh outscored Columbus 16-7 while winning all five games against the Jackets in the regular season. The downside of any value player off the Penguins through the first round is minimal if this series goes as expected. Bennett is in as good a position to succeed as any of them.

Left Wing

Matt Beleskey (Anaheim) - $4600

Matt Beleskey's value is probably just one or two more good games away from no longer being underpriced, but he's another player who is in perhaps an even better position for success than Beau Bennett.

Over Anaheim's final three games of the season, Beleskey was the lone winger who played alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (courtesy of the website LeftWingLock). Going back four games, Beleksey has three goals and an assist alongside those two stars, all at even strength, and chipping in nine shots on goal with it. Over those final three games, Beleskey also averaged nearly three extra minutes of ice time, though he was still on the second power play unit.

Anaheim ended up with Dallas in the first round and there are some similarities between the teams, namely the dynamic duos (Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn being the other) on their respective top lines. Looking back to the last time these two teams played on February 1st, they were not matched against each other for the most part. If the Getzlaf line is lined against the depth players of Dallas, they stand a very good chance of scoring quite a few goals at five on five. That means good things in store for Beleskey as long as he stays on that top line.

Center

Danny Briere (C-MTL) - $3800

Danny Briere did not have a great season on the surface, posting just 13 goals and 25 points in 69 games this year. That was his lowest goal total in any season that he played at least 40 games for his career. He also averaged just 1.71 shots on goal per game, his lowest of any season since 2000-2001. There are hopes for improvement in the playoffs, though.

Briere actually finished sixth among regular Montreal forwards in points per 60 minutes of ice time, ahead of guys like Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec (per Hockey Analysis). It's not his production over the course of the season that interests me, rather it's how he was used down the stretch: Over the final three games of the season, Briere played between 14 and 16 minutes each night (compared 13:46 on the year). He was also used primarily against the other team's third and fourth lines. Earlier in the year, he had been a frequent line mate of Tomas Plekanec and that meant a checking role. At this stage of his career, Briere is not suited for that role. At the end of the season, he was used in more of a scoring role and while he didn't score, he was a plus possession player relative to his team and managed 10 shots on goal in those three games.

The heroics of Briere in the playoffs are well known ask any Philadelphia Flyers fan about 2010, and Briere is a point-per-game player for his career in the postseason but I'm not sure that's a reasonable expectation anymore. Tampa Bay will be without their starting goalie Ben Bishop for at least game one, and each game he's out is a boost for Montreal shooters.

Defense

Andre Benoit (D-COL) No Price Available

The latest news on defenseman Tyson Barrie has him ready to go for Game One, though one has to wonder how healthy he really is, as he was scratched going down the stretch of the regular season. On top of that, Colorado also lost defenseman Jan Hejda to a knee injury and he hasn't practiced with the team in preparation for playoffs at time of writing. With two of Colorado's top four defensemen hobbled, it could be Benoit's time to shine (he did have three assists in five games against the Minnesota Wild this year, too).

Benoit did not finish the season very strong with just one point in seven games, but he also had the highest average ice time of any month since October, mainly because the Avs were hobbled with injuries on defense periodically. At times this year it was Benoit, not Tyson Barrie, that was on the top power play unit. Now, Benoit finished fourth out of four Avalanche defensemen in points per 60 minutes at 5-on-4, but he did generate many more shots per 60 minutes (10.65) than Barrie (7.99) or Nick Holden (7.25). If the injuries persist, I am hopeful that Benoit's streak of bad luck on shots and goals on the power play come to an end.

Benoit will be a lot less valuable if Barrie comes back and has no restrictions, so I would probably avoid Benoit for Game 1 on Thursday. I would definitely keep an eye on the injury situation going into Game 2 however, as Benoit is the first man up if something happens to Barrie.

Goalie

Tomas Vokoun (G-PIT) - $8100

It was announced on Monday that the Pittsburgh Penguins had recalled Tomas Vokoun from a conditioning stint in the minors. This meant he would be rejoining the Pittsburgh Penguins for their playoff run.

For the last few seasons, Pittsburgh starter Marc-Andre Fleury was typically a goat in the playoffs; since their 2009 Stanley Cup win, Fleury has posted a .885 save percentage in his last 31 playoff games. The frustration mounted in a series against the New York Islanders last year and Fleury eventually gave way to Vokoun. He would go on to post a .933 save percentage in 11 games in the playoffs last year.

Vokoun having rust from not having played since the playoffs due to a blood clot is a legitimate concern. It's worth noting, though, that Vokoun is ninth out of 32 goalies (min. 120 games played) in save percentage (.920) in the NHL since 2010 and is on a very good team. Fleury will have a short leash and any stumbles like last year against the Islanders means Vokoun becomes a prime DFS target.

At this point of the season, there aren't many "value" goalies. Teams that are in the postseason are typically secure in their goaltending, and those that aren't are in trouble (ahem, Anders Lindback in Tampa Bay).
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