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FanDuel NHL: Value Plays for the Week

Michael Clifford

Michael Clifford

Michael Clifford writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The playoffs are well underway, and the nature of DFS hockey has reared its ugly head several times over already.

In nearly every series, there have been lineup changes that only become apparent as pregame warmups are taking place. Injuries are also starting to crop up in the postseason, while goaltending changes are being made in Minnesota, and possibly Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. This is the madness that is the NHL postseason, so again, I canít stress enough how important it is to be by a mobile device about 15 minutes before game time.

Here are this weekís FanDuel value picks.


Center

Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues ($3,700)

In Game 2, St. Louisí David Backes was on the receiving end of an illegal check from Chicagoís Brent Seabrook, a hit that could keep Backes out of commission for the rest of the series. The in-game replacement on the top line for St. Louis was Steve Ott, but Berglund is the name Iím more interested in.

Berglund missed the final game of the regular season and the first two games of the playoffs with an upper-body injury. With the expectation that he will be back for Game 3, it adds some much-needed depth at the right time for the Blues.

Berglundís regular season was marred by patterns of streakiness that occasionally resulted in him playing third-line minutes. Over the months of October and November, Berglund had just one goal in 22 games. In December and January, Berglund had seven goals in 28 games. In February and April, Berglund had zero goals in 13 games. In March, Berglund had six goals in 15 games. In sum, Berglundís inconsistency is maddening; he can go a couple months on end looking like an AHLer, and he can go a month or two looking like a top-six NHL forward. Itís frustrating at times, but it also presents a great value opportunity.

From 2010 through 2013, Berglund had as many goals as Matt Duchene and more goals than Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg. When heís on, he can be a dominant player in the offensive zone, especially against lesser matchups. Itís just a matter of him getting on one of his patented hot streaks. At his modest price, Iíll take that risk.

Left Wing

Brandon Prust, Montreal Canadiens ($3,000)

The Montreal-Tampa Bay series may be coming to a close soon -- the Canadiens lead the series 3-0, after all -- but I would still be getting value on Prust while itís possible to do so.

Prust has found a home on Montrealís second line, playing alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher. All three players have had a positive relative possession rating so far this series at five-on-five, even though they are getting buried in zone starts and competition. Typically, I would avoid matchups like this, but that Plekanec line has excelled against whomever they have been matched against. Lately itís been the Valtteri Filppula line, at least until the benches got shortened late in the last game.

In Game 3, Prust had a penalty, an assist and a shot on goal for the Habs. He also had a fighting major in Game 2. Thatís the nice thing about having Prust in lineups; heís getting good teammates to play with now, which means the potential for offensive production is most certainly there. On the flip side of things, Prustís standing as one of Montrealís tough guys gives him the built-in safety valve of providing value with his fists.

Prust isnít known for offensive prowess. He was 12th among Habs forwards in points-per-60 minutes at five-on-five play this year. He did have 16 penalty minutes, however, in the four games he played after the Olympic break. Heís playing with players who can produce offensively, and heís always good for some penalty minutes. Thereís a lot of potential value here for a bargain price.

Right Wing

Devante Smith-Pelly, Anaheim Ducks ($3,300)

Last week in this column, I talked about the value that Matt Beleskey would have playing on the top line for Anaheim. He had a goal and an assist in Game 1 before missing Game 2 with an injury. Beleskey remains sidelined for Anaheim, so there is a new winger on the top line. Oddly enough, itís a player that spent fewer than five minutes playing with Corey Perry and fewer than seven minutes playing with Ryan Getzlaf this season.

Smith-Pelly may not be a household name, but heís a former second-round pick from 2010 who has played parts of three seasons with Anaheim. Over his last two seasons in the AHL (120 games), Smith-Pelly has scored 41 goals, so there is some offensive skill in this 21-year-old forward. Heís also a player known for having a bit of an edge to his game, as he had 94 penalty minutes in those 120 contests.

In his first game alongside Getzlaf and Perry, Smith-Pelly ended up a plus-2 and a shot on goal, returning value on his price without recording a point or a penalty minute. This is a situation much like Beleskey; Smith-Pelly has a lot of value as long as remains on the top line in Anaheim. As soon as he moves down the lineup, his value is gone. Until that time comes, however, I would recommend having him in the lineup.

Defenseman

Ryan Murray, Columbus Blue Jackets ($3,400)

With the Columbus-Pittsburgh series tied at one game each, it will be shifting back to Columbus for Game 3 and 4, which means Columbus will get the last change as the home team.

Through the first two games of the series, understandably, the Penguins have had either the Sidney Crosby line or the Evgeni Malkin line on the ice the majority of the time. Crosby is averaging over 25 minutes a game and Malkin over 23 minutes. In that sense, itís impossible to completely avoid them. With that said, by my count, Murray found (at least parts of) 11 shifts over the first two games (excluding overtime) where he was able to get on the ice without one of Malkin or Crosby skating. If coach Todd Richards was able to get Murray on the ice five or six times a game on the road without the Penguinsí stars out there with him, that number should only improve at home with the last change.

One added bonus is that for the bulk of the regular season, the Blue Jackets used three power-play lines. Now, they use primarily two, and Murray is on the point for the second unit. The second overall pick in the 2012 Entry Draft has a lot of offensive upside to his game; the only normal concern would him being stuck on the ice against Crosby or Malkin. It seems as there is a concerted effort to avoid that to some degree, which only aids his value.

Murray has one assist, a plus-1 rating and seven shots on goal in the two games so far, and those numbers could climb upward when the series moves to Columbus.

Goaltender

Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota Wild ($7,100)

Minnesotaís starting goalie for the stretch run of the regular season and to start the playoffs had been Ilya Bryzgalov. The problem was that people seem to have forgotten that Ilya Bryzgalov isnít very good. Since leaving Phoenix three years ago, Bryzgalov ranks 27th out of 29 goalies with at least 100 games played in save percentage, owning a paltry .906 mark. Bryzgalov was pulled about halfway through Game 2, with Kuemper replacing him.

Kuemper was named the starting goalie Monday at the morning skate, and itís hard to blame coach Mike Yeo for making the switch. The 23-year-old Kuemper has a solid .915 save percentage for his brief career, which spans parts of the last two seasons. He also carried the Wild when they were struggling with injuries to Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom, and a couple of key forwards, posting a .935 save percentage through January and February.

For now, I would consider Kuemper a much better goaltender for GPP games than 50/50 or heads-up matches. The Wild have looked overmatched at times against Colorado, so I wouldnít want to rely on Minnesotaís goaltending in a game where I expect to double up. In games where I might be looking for a lightning-in-a-bottle shutout for cheap, though, I would most certainly look in Kuemperís direction.
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