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FanDuel NHL: Value Plays for the Second Round

Michael Clifford

Michael Clifford writes about fantasy hockey for RotoWire. He was a FSWA finalist in 2015 and 2013 for Hockey Writer of the Year. Former SportsNet hockey columnist, where he churned out four articles a week.

The second round of the playoffs has arrived and the strategies for playing DFS at this time of year change a little bit. Most notably, DFS players want to try to avoid skaters opposing each other, or else cannibalizing points is a likely outcome. The best that DFS players can do is try to take players who donít typically directly match up against each other during the game. This fluctuates, of course, depending on what the coach does in the game, so most of it is beyond DFSersí control. With that said, websites like Shift Chart do an excellent job of visualizing matchups, and I strongly recommend taking advantage of their resources.

With that said, here are FanDuel value picks for the start of the second round.


Brandon Sutter, Pittsburgh Penguins ($4,300)

The Penguins were able to dispatch of the Blue Jackets in six games and will have three days off between their first- and second-round series. On the other hand, the Rangers -- Pittsburghís opponent -- had to go seven games with the Flyers and will only get one day off between games. The edge, at least early in the series when the Penguins are at home for the first two games, should go to Pittsburgh.

Sutter is in a nice versatile role right now. After Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby were put together on the same line, he was frequently centering the second line with James Neal and Jussi Jokinen, among other players. Also, because of the attention drawn to the Crosby line, Sutter ended up last in quality of competition faced by all regular Pittsburgh players during the series with Columbus. The one concern is that Sutterís offensive/defensive zone start rate was just 26.2 percent in the first round, so he could get buried in zone starts against the Rangers.

Sutter finished the first round with five points (including a four-game point streak) and 13 shots on goal over six games. Even if Malkin is moved down to the second line, Sutter should still see favorable matchups in-game, though not after whistles. He might not get power-play time, but he should post some nice games early in the series.

Note that Sutter was injured at the end of the Columbus series but stayed around for handshakes after the last game. Heís also been skating the last couple of days, so it doesnít appear as though the injury will be an issue.

Left Wing

Tanner Pearson, Los Angeles Kings ($3,500)

Pearson is one of the lesser-known prospects still kicking around in the postseason. The 2012 first-rounder had 32 points in 41 games in the AHL this year, adding seven points in 25 regular-season contests with the Kings.

I will offer a word of caution when I say this: Kings coach Darryl Sutter likes to mix and match lines quite a bit. What is true one game may not hold true through the entire next game. With that said, Tanner Pearson did spend most of his time during the Kingsí four wins on a line with Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter.

Such lineup maneuvers help spread out the offense for the Kings, drawing third-line competition to the trio in the process. In Game 7, Pearson had a goal and an assist, finishing the series with three points and 11 shots on goal in the five games he played. He did manage under 10 minutes of ice time in his final four games, but that was because the teams averaged nearly nine power plays per game over those final four contests. Pearson doesnít play on any power-play or penalty-kill units.

The value of Pearson here has to be taken into context. He doesnít play special teams, so the power-play points arenít a reality for him. Also, because heís technically on the Kingsí third line, he wonít see a lot of offensive zone starts; in fact, Pearson led all Los Angeles forwards in defensive zone starts during their series against San Jose. Pearson is a player with good offensive skills who is getting even-strength ice time with other players who have good offensive skill. Because of the way the lines shake out, Pearson ends up seeing fairly easy competition. As far as punting a forward position goes in DFS, Pearson is a top option.

Right Wing

Charlie Coyle, Minnesota Wild ($4,200)

The Wild seem fairly set on their lines, at least among their top-six forwards. DFSers hoping that Nino Niederreiter might bump Matt Moulson or Coyle from the top two lines are wishing for something that probably wonít happen.

With the first two games coming in Chicago, the Blackhawks will be afforded last change to try and match lines. When Chicago was hosting St. Louis, they typically matched their own top line (with Jonathan Toews) up against the other top line. Assuming this holds, that means the Toews line will be matched against Mikael Granlundís line with Zach Parise and Jason Pominville. Against St. Louis, coach Joel Quenneville would then use his third line (with Brandon Saad) against the second line of the opponent. If this also holds, that means Mikko Koivuís line (with Coyle on it) should avoid all of Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, and Patrick Kane. Thatís a big bullet dodged and a decent opportunity to at least not get buried in plus/minus.

Itís interesting that the Wild won three of four games from the Blackhawks this year, with their only loss coming in a shootout. Coyle played three of those games and had two points with eight shots on goal in total. He also had five points and 15 shots on goal in seven games against Colorado. Chicago might be superior to Minnesota, but Coyleís likely matchup indicates he could be one of the few Wild players to succeed offensively against Chicago.


Paul Martin, Pittsburgh ($3,800)

I find it odd that the man who is tied for the NHL playoff lead in assists (8) and plus/minus (plus-7), is the third-most expensive defenseman on his own team, with Matt Niskanen priced at $6,100 and Kris Letang at $5,500. Regardless of the underlying causes for Martin having so many assists, his hot streak alone warrants a higher salary. This is a pretty solid value and should be used in any kind of game (50/50, GPP or other).

Letís dive into some of those underlying causes. Martin had been used typically as a pair with Brooks Orpik, and most often, they were a shutdown pair. Orpik was injured in the Columbus series, though, and did not play Game 6. Martin was then paired with Letang and the duo was put on the ice, most of the time, with Sidney Crosbyís line or Brandon Sutterís second line. While they arenít removed from a "checking" role, they are getting elite teammates to play with. That will contribute in a significantly positive manner to the plus/minus.

About those assists. Five of Martinís assists came on special teams, but thatís not without cause: Martin led all Pittsburgh defensemen in ice time on the power play and penalty kill in the first round. In fact, itís Martin, and not Niskanen or Letang, who plays the majority of the time on the top power-play unit. With such heavy usage and the elite teammates heís getting, Martin should be valued a lot higher. Until he is, itís a fantastic value.


Ilya Bryzgalov, Minnesota Wild ($7,100)

I am inserting Bryzgalov here not because I think heís an excellent goalie. Instead, heís merely the cheapest one available with the chance to open his series as a starter. For that reason alone, Bryzgalov is a much better GPP goalie than he is a cash-game goalie.

Minnesotaís other goalie, Darcy Kuemper, suffered some sort of injury during their last game with Colorado. Kuemper would eventually be lifted in favor of Bryzgalov, who would get the series-clinching win with a one-save performance.

One thing that the Wild were able to do over the course of their four games in the regular season against Chicago was in limiting the Blackhawksí shot attempts. Minnesota averaged 29.25 shots against per game against Chicago, about four shots below the Hawksí average for the season. All it takes for Bryzís salary to pay off handsomely is one fluky game where he makes 30 saves for a one-goal win. Considering Bryzgalov posted a respectable .911 save percentage in 12 games with the Wild in the regular season after his trade, itís not completely unlikely that it happens. Again, heís not reliable in cash games, but GPPs are fine.