NHL DFS Advice, Strategy Guide to Winning on Fanduel and Draftkings (Part 2 – Scoring Lines)

Welcome back to the second of a five part series covering the basics of NHL DFS for the newest player.  While searching the web, I find there just isn’t much info for the NBA or NFL player looking to branch out.  Hockey is a volatile sport, a frustrating sport, and an addictive sport all wrapped into one.  Follow along as I break down where to start your research, the basics of your lineup, correlation plays, key stats to know, and a few sample builds.  The goal is to make you competitive after reading a simple five part series.  In case you are joining class late, find part one here:  NHL Strategy Guide to Winning – Part 1 (Vegas Odds).

I am @Choppodong out on Twitter, YouTube, and inside the DFS Army.  Feel free to follow, or subscribe, as I’m always putting out tips, tricks, and sharing general content.  I’m a coach and contributor for the Army and am very active in our VIP only Slack forums.  I specialize in fundamental play, contest selection (see Ladder System), and bankroll management (see Teach a Man to Fish).  Feel free to engage me with any questions you might have as you learn this faster paced, lucrative DFS sport.  There is definitely an edge to be had for those willing to learn!

NHL Strategies: Defining Scoring Lines

All sports have offensive and defensive units.  They also use positions to define players within these units.  Hockey is no different.  However, every other sport I can think of needs to stop the clock, or a stoppage in play of some kind, to substitute one player for the other.  In this area, hockey is very different.

Hockey is a sprinters’ sport.  Up and down the ice, speed kills.  As a result, hockey players tire out quickly and run in “shifts” that frequently change as the game goes on.  When there is a long stretch of end-to-end action, these shifts change on the fly with no stopping for breathers.  A hockey club is broken into a couple of different pieces, called scoring lines.

NHL Forward Pairings

Our “forwards” will be our primary scorers.  Hockey uses three of them, two wings on either side of one center (aptly named).  However, like a basketball team has a couple of point guards, a hockey team has a few forwards.  Usually twelve of them (4 scoring lines).  I’m showing three here from my favorite team, the St. Louis Blues.  Before you boo me, remember I’m writing the article.  He who has the keyboard shows his favorite team.

That top line, or scoring line 1 (SC1 or STL1) usually carries the offensive talent.  Our coaches will be putting them on the ice most often.  The second line is next, then the third, and so on.  We will get to this in a later article, but we want DFS players that log a lot of ice time.  Time On Ice (TOI) is a key statistic to watch because minutes equal opportunity.  In any sport, if you are riding the pine, your scoring ability diminishes exponentially.  These units, or lines, have chemistry most times.  They can be offensive, defensive, or even a line of goons out there to simply create confusion and wreak havoc on the other team.  Knowing which players represent which levels of talent is arguably the first thing you should learn when picking up the DFS NHL game.

NHL Defensive Pairs

The two skaters behind the forwards also stick together most times.  These defensive pairs usually contain a player that specializes in defending and one that can also jump up and support the offense by either distributing the puck well or even shooting it.  However, it is a rare defenseman that shoots a lot.  Most start the transition process from defense to offense and send the puck up to the wings and centers.  They also hang back on the power play to keep the puck in the offensive zone.  The power play is where you see your more offensive minded defensemen distribute the puck and set up goals.

Just like the scoring lines, the top defensive pairing sees the bulk of the minutes.  A second or third pair can see significant time, as well, but usually exists to spell the first pair and keep their legs fresh for the entire game.

NHL Advice – Understanding Scoring Lines

Even Strength Hockey

Hockey is a game played with 5 skaters and a goalie on both sides.  In hockey, we call situations with no current penalties “even strength” or “5 on 5.”  There are circumstances where penalties offset, and those result in “4 on 4” where one player from each team is sitting in the penalty box.

Even strength hockey is the most common situation, obviously.  The three forwards and two defenseman units ebb and flow, interchange, and generally work together balancing aggression with control looking for the odd chance to catch the other team changing players and jumping on the opportunity.  The first scoring line tires out, the second line jumps on the ice, the defensemen switch with other defensemen and we just go around and around the rink as fast as we can until a whistle blows or a goal is scored.

Sometimes that whistle blows and a referee has signaled a penalty.  Penalties are almost always two minutes, and the violating player heads off the ice to think about the shame he brought his town and fans, and family name.  (Actually, hockey is quite odd in that the infraction earns a breather.  Shouldn’t he be forced to skate laps or something? Imagine an exercise bike on full go in the box and he has to ride it for 2 minutes.)  His team, however, does not get to substitute a player for him and must play with only four men for those two minutes.  A situation like this gives a decided advantage to the other team, who quickly brings out their “power play unit.”  This is a 5-man unit of specialized passers and goal-scorers hellbent on scoring a goal.  It looks like this below…

NHL Power Play Units

As I mentioned above, teams will run very specific power play units when the opponent receives a penalty.  In hockey, the penalized team has to play “short-handed.”  This very common 5 skaters vs 4 skaters situation is called a power play for the team with the extra man, and it obviously gives the 5-skater team an edge in putting a puck in the net.

It stands to reason in DFS that you want as many offensive players on your team as you can find.  So, it makes sense to know which players on which teams serve on their power play units.  Power play units are not always three forwards and two defenders, either.  Often times, power play units in the NHL are comprised of four forwards and only one defenseman, giving these defensive players added weight to your roster.

DFS NHL Correlation Primer

I’m sure you know about correlation in DFS.  Stacking hitters from the middle of a powerful batting order can really pile in the points when your player hits a homerun with more of your players on base ahead of him.  In football, we often pair QBs with WRs or TEs.  We also run RBs with defenses when Vegas projects big, late leads.  Most DFS sports have some form of correlation between players where you can parlay points together in scoring events.  DFS NHL is no different.

Obviously, we receive points for a goal scored.  But, hockey gives out a 1st and 2nd assist on most plays.  If you are lucky enough to have all three players on your roster that night, you will really fly up a leaderboard.  On Fanduel, for example, if your defenseman passes to your center who passes to your winger who blasts one past Jabba the Hut in goal, you score 8 points for the first assist, 8 more for the second assist, 12 for the goal, 1.5 in power play bonuses, and another 1.6 for the shot on goal.  That’s a whopping 31.1 fantasy points for one single play!  When a score of 150 usually turns out well on a given night, you just earned 20% of your points on one correlated play.

In a sport like DFS NHL, correlation and stacking are king.  Now, you can see why.

NHL Tip – Using Scoring Lines Appropriately

To stack lines or not stack lines, that is the question.  Honestly, the power of correlation in hockey is such that you almost need to stack in some form.  So, the question actually becomes twofold:  How much is too much, and which positions stack better than others?

How Much Is Too Much? A Look at Cash vs GPP Stacking in NHL

I probably don’t need to bore you with a bunch of numbers when it comes to this, so instead I’ll take the approach of showing you why I might stack lighter in cash and heavier in GPPs.

In cash games, risk is the enemy.  We simply don’t need to assume a lot of it to beat half the field.  In fact, taking on too much risk reduces our winrate by a substantial percentage.  And in a volatile sport, we are looking to reduce risk and stick with as much predictability as possible.

Sample DFS NHL Cash Lineup

Pretend for a minute this lineup isn’t $16000 over the cap and bear with the concept rather than the specifics.

I have targeted high scoring offenses, but I refuse to overexpose myself to any particular one of them.  Hockey carries a lot of ups and downs.  Shots ring off posts, goalies make incredible saves, players (even stud players) miss wide open nets, and entire team offenses facing their softest matchup of the year fall flat and get shutout.  It happens, folks.  You are often fractions of inches away from huge 30 point plays and throwing your beer on the floor in disgust.  And, when one single doink off a goal post can make or break you for thousands of dollars, you will learn to spread your risk a little in cash games.

In the above example, we have not taken more than 2 skaters from any one team, yet they are all correlated in some fashion.  These skaters are all on their top scoring lines and top power play units.  The defensemen can pass to their forwards and earn you both the goal and the assist if the red lamp and foghorn goes off.  The red, blue, pink, and green colors only help you find the teammates faster.  They are ALL correlated.

What I want you to notice is how many offenses I have exposure to, though.  Did you count them?  It’s four.  I have better chances at catching that 6 goal game when targeting four teams than when I only target two or three teams.  This method reduces our risk and spreads it out across the night’s games a little.  Yes, it hurts our upside because we won’t get all 31.1 points in a play. But, we don’t want need to gamble on all that upside when we are playing cash games.  We only need to beat half or maybe two-thirds the field to claim our bounty.

Sample DFS NHL GPP Lineup

In the GPP example, we pick two offenses and fully stack them up.  4 players from Washington (red) and 4 players from Tampa Bay (blue), the maximum allowed by Fanduel.  Notice how much we are placing on not only these two offense, but also their top scoring line and power play unit.  If either of these teams scores only 1 goal tonight, we are not going to like our results.  And, furthermore, if the second scoring lines do the damage, we also aren’t going to like our results.  We are really hanging ourselves out to dry in a very boom or bust attempt to finish either first or last.  This is exactly how we play GPPs, and exactly what we avoid in our cash games.

There is a lot of payoff if we are right here.  But, there is also a huge downside if we are wrong.  Since the payoff is not there in a standard head-to-head battle or 5050, we don’t take this kind of risk.  This kind of risk needs to be rewarded with a $100,000 victory dance so violent our towel falls to the floor and we don’t even care it’s dark outside and the blinds are up.  Most of our GPP builds will wind up somewhere in between the cash example and the extreme GPP example.

NHL DFS Scoring Lines Video Supplement

For those that prefer video formats, here is a version from which I can go into a little more detail and even show some great resources.


Putting It All Together

If you remember in part one (here), we talked about using Vegas odds and moneylines to pick offenses.  Now that we know a little correlation and how the scoring lines work, we can quickly use those numbers to our advantage.  There are a few other techniques we will add in after our next piece: NHL DFS Part 3 – Key Stats.

In an ideal world, we want to focus on favored teams scheduled to score a lot of goals.  We want to use the pieces of those offenses that are most likely to do the scoring.  And, we want to tie them all together with some form of correlation depending on the contest type we are playing.

Come back soon for our next installment, and don’t forget to use that code CHOP when signing up to become a VIP inside the DFS Army!!