It’s certainly been a tough stretch for my FanDuel NHL DFS picks of late as I’ve been targeting tiny ownerships in GPPs for the most part.
Wednesday was an infuriating night as I pressed hard to get Mika Zibanejad into my lineup as I’ve done plenty throughout this season. I’ve backed his pending positive regression on many occasions, and of course on the one night that I wasn’t able to squeeze him in Zibanejad goes off for a second-period natural hat trick after recording three assists in the frame. That’s six second-period points he put up as part of the Rangers’ 9-0 blasting of the Flyers.
That’s simply a microcosm of what’s been going on of late, and I’m going to switch things up a little bit tonight and toss out some cash-aimed picks on a five-game Friday night slate!
FanDuel NHL DFS Picks – March 19, 2021
C – Auston Matthews (TOR) – $8,800 vs. CGY
The Maple Leafs are easily in their biggest funk of the season, having dropped five of their last six games. Matthews has also seen his once-torrid scoring pace dip significantly of late due to a wrist injury, but Maple Leafs head coach said yesterday Matthews looks far better and was “filling the net in practise” on Thursday. Keep in mind the Leafs have been off since Sunday, so Matthews’ wrist has had time to heal and the team has had time to regroup after a sluggish stretch.
The Flames aren’t exactly entering this one with much confidence as a fine start to Daryl Sutter’s second tenure behind the bench was obliterated in a 7-3 loss to the Oilers on Wednesday, and add in the cross-country travel and the Flames are the more vulnerable group here for sure.
Despite missing some game action this season Matthews still paces the NHL with 21 goals on the season while his 112 shots on goal ranks fourth. His 18.8% shooting rate is high, but also is his 16% career mark. Despite the plethora of shots, this guy shoots to score.
Entering this one, the Leafs rank fourth with 3.40 goals per game on the season and second with a 29.9% clip on the power play. The Flames sit 19th with 3.04 goals against per game on the season and 14th despite a sub-80% penalty kill on the season, so it’s a nice matchup for the well-rested Maple Leafs to rediscover their mojo in this one tonight.
C – Jesperi Kotkaniemi (MON) – $4,200 vs. VAN
The Canadiens are one of the more difficult teams to stack as they sport a trio of scoring lines up front with the wealth being spread throughout their top-nine. Additionally, the power play units are a little jumbled up as well, but I think we have a nice mix here as they take on the Vancouver Canucks tonight on home ice.
The Habs enter this one ranked 11th with 3.21 goals per game on the season with a solid power play that ranks 14th at 21.5% on the season. That said, it’s the advanced data that points to an elite matchup with the Canucks tonight.
At 5v5, the Canadiens rank second in scoring chances for/60, fifth in high-danger chances for/60 and ninth in expected goals for/60, as per Natural Stat Trick. On the flip side, the Canucks rank dead last in scoring chances against/60, 30th in high-danger chances against/60 and dead last again in terms of expected goals against/60 at 5v5 action this season. Complete opposite ends of the analytics spectrum to be sure.
As for Kotkaniemi, the 20-year-old pivot has tallied four goals and 15 points in 29 games, and he doesn’t shoot the puck a ton with just 47 shots in that time while his current 8.5% shooting rate is right in line with his 8.9% career mark. He’s not a goal-scorer by trade, but one of his wingers certainly is so we’ll see if he can utilize his distribution skills and hockey IQ to generate some offense against what is one of the weaker bluelines in the NHL.
W – Mitch Marner (TOR) – $7,600 vs. CGY
Marner’s production has slowed a little of late as well, but we won’t fool ourselves into buying any type of regression for a player that’s proven to be one of the league’s elite points-producers of the last two seasons and change.
For the season, Marner has 11 goals and 39 points in 30 games while he’s shooting the puck more than he used to in the form of 82 shots on goal this season. His 2.73 shots per game this season is above his 2.54 career mark. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s something.
As he gets set to once again flank Matthews at both 5v5 and on the Leafs’ top power play unit, I am liking the even-strength matchup here. At 5v5, the Leafs rank third in scoring chances for/60, seventh in high-danger chances for/60 and fifth in expected goals for/60 on the season. Contrarily, the Flames rank 18th in scoring chances against/60, 16th in high-danger chances against/60 and 22nd in expected goals against/60 at 5v5 on the campaign.
Those numbers more or less reflect the surface numbers mentioned above, but they do confirm we have an elite offense going up against a bottom-half defense, so let’s look for the Leafs to bounce back with authority tonight.
W – Josh Anderson (MON) – $4,800 vs. VAN
Of course, the biggest reason why I went with this stack isn’t only the pure matchup with the Habs against the lowly Canucks, but we also needed to be a little frugal with a stack to complement the Maple Leafs’ expensive trio we have going here. A Nick Suzuki/Tyler Toffoli forward stack also works and Brendan Gallagher is coming off a two-goal game, but I like this low-cost group we have going with Montreal tongiht.
I noted that Kotkaniemi is more of a play-maker than goal-scorer, but that’s not the case with Anderson who will skate to the youngster’s right at 5v5 and while they’ll skate on separate power-play units, we’ll still have all three of our players set for power-play reps tonight.
Anderson’s numbers this season are pretty much the reverse of his center as he’s notched 11 goals and just five assists in 26 games, and unlike Kotkaniemi Anderson puts plenty of pucks on goal with 69 shots for the season. His 15.9% shooting rate is well above his 11% career mark, but Anderson also shot at just 1.6% in 26 games before injury set in last season, so I’d suggest he was due for vastly improved puck luck this time around.
A sub-5K price given the goal-scoring production and shot volume certainly seems like a bargain in this matchup.
D – Morgan Rielly (TOR) – $5,500 vs. CGY
Completing our three-man Maple Leafs stack tonight is Rielly who will form both a 5v5 and three-man PP1 stack for these high-octane buds.
After what can be considered a down season last year, Rielly has bounced back this season with three goals and 24 points in 30 games to go along with 57 shots on goal and another 33 blocked shots as well. He’s actually blocked four shots in each of his last two games, for what it’s worth.
Of course, we’re here for the offensive production and Rielly’s been solid despite his team’s win/loss struggles of late. Rielly has tallied a goal and seven points over his last eight games and he’s logged monster ice time not only during that stretch but throughout the season.
He’s averaging 24:01 of ice time per game on the season which ties him for 21st in the NHL in that department, but he’s going to be out there if the Leafs need a goal as he skated 28:06 in Ottawa on Sunday as the Leafs chased that game for much of the night.
He’s one of the more consistent back-end producers the NHL has to offer these days, so it’s an easy decisions to get him into this lineup and complete a high-floor, high-ceiling stack tonight.
D – Shea Weber (MON) – $5,000 vs. VAN
Again, we’re going somewhat cheaper here as I’m using Weber over Jeff Petry who comes in at $6,400 on this slate. Given the excellent matchup and Weber’s cross-category production, I’m certainly confident in this pick.
For the season, Weber has tallied five goals and 12 points in 29 games, but he’s also put 62 shots on goal in that time while blocking another 40 as well. Here we have a defense in Vancouver that’s allowed 33.7 shots per game on the season — second-most in the NHL — so a defenseman in Weber who owns an elevated (for a defenseman) 8.1% shooting rate on the season and an 8.2% mark for his career while shooting the puck a lot seems like a good look to me.
There’s little doubt his overall game has slipped this season at the age of 35, but he’s still dangerous on the power play with three of his five goals and seven of his 12 points coming on the man advantage where he will skate with Anderson tonight. The offensive production is hardly consistent at this point, but the matchup tonight is fantastic so let’s get the booming shot of the veteran defender into this lineup a complete an enticing stack.
UTIL – Brayden Schenn (STL) – $5,900 vs. SJ
We don’t want to overlook another fine matchup on this slate as the Blues take on the lowly San Jose Sharks tonight on the road.
Now, based on the advanced metrics the Blues have scored far more at 5v5 than they deserve, but I’m throwing those numbers out the window here given the matchup at hand.
The Sharks enter this one ranked 30th with 3.52 goals against per game on the season, and the underlying metrics seem to back up that brutal defense. At 5v5, the Sharks rank 27th in scoring chances against/60, 28th in high-danger chances against/60 and 26th in expected goals against/60 on the season. This back end is poor from the eye-test and personnel angle, but the underlying data certainly agrees that this is easily a bottom-five defense this season.
Enter Schenn who has notched 12 goals and 12 assists for 29 points in 24 games while he’s put 69 shots on goal as well. His 17.4% shooting rate is well above his 13.1% career mark, but it’s actually below his 18.1% rate from just last season, Schenn has consistently scored goals at above-average rates throughout his NHL career.
With 19:35 of ice time per game, we’ll look for the veteran pivot to put those minutes to good use tonight.
UTIL – Jaden Schwartz (STL) – $5,400 vs. SJ
Completing this Blues mini-stack here is Schwartz who should be making his return to the St. Louis lineup tonight after last playing on Feb. 12 due to a lower-body injury. Should he indeed return, he’s obviously do so at the right time as there’s a good chance he can get off and running again in this matchup tonight.
Schwartz has only played in 14 games this season, but has nine points in that time. Only two of those points were goals, but with an 8.7% shooting rate in a small sample that’s well below his 12.4% career mark, Schwartz should certainly score at an increased rate moving forward.
Schwartz is set to line up with Schenn on the Blues’ second line for this one, but unfortunately it looks like he’s been bumped off what is now a loaded Blues top power play unit. Nonetheless, we’ll get exposure to both groups for this one tonight.
The Blues’ offense certainly isn’t entering this one firing on all cylinders after being held to just one goal in each of their last two games while they’ve dropped five straight overall. Still, there are few matchups that present a superior opportunity to get back on track, so let’s look for St. Louis to get back on the scoreboard with authority tonight.
G – Jordan Binnington (STL) – $7,500 vs. SJ
Man I can’t say I was on board with the Blues giving Binnington $6M over six years moving forward as he’s largely been mediocre following that epic run to the Stanley Cup in the spring of 2019.
For the season, Binnington sports a 2.82 GAA and .904 Sv% across 21 outings and has gone just 9-7-4 in that time. He’s been marginally better on the road, but he’s certainly been inconsistent and I’m not sure that deserves a long-term, elevated cap hit.
That said, the matchup and price suggest he’s a nice play tonight. The Blues’ advanced numbers suggest they deserve a better fate on defense than their 24th overall ranking, although their 26th-ranked penalty kill is not helping.
Still, the Sharks rank 19th in overall offense and 18th on the power play, so we’re certainly dealing with a below-average offense here as well. It’s an offense that’s largely been all-or-nothing of late as well. They have scored six goals in three of their last 10 and at least four in five of their last 10. However, they’ve also been shut out twice in that time.
With the Blues listed as -146 moneyline favorites here I’ll take my chances with the low-priced Binnington in this one tonight.