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Intermediate NHL DFS: Special Teams

We continue our breakdown of intermediate NHL DFS. In this section, we look at special teams, with definitions and some strategy.

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron celebrates with right wing David Pastrnak, left wing Brad Marchand, left wing Jake DeBrusk, and defenseman Torey Krug after scoring against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period at the TD Garden. Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

In daily fantasy hockey, like in most things, getting the fundamentals down is integral toward laying a foundation of knowledge to build from as you progress as a player. We go over special teams, including power play and penalty kill, with a definition and how to approach using them in everyday strategy.

Special Teams

Definition

Special teams in hockey represents both a teams power play and penalty kill. When a team is on the power play it is after the opposing team takes a penalty and is shorthanded. That puts the team at full-strength in a man-advantage situation. This can tip the scales in NHL DFS very quickly.

Strategy

Power play stacking

We briefly went over line stacking in another intermediate article for NHL DFS. Taking that further, we can stack a teams entire power play if that makes sense in a given matchup on a given slate. This is very much a high-risk, high-reward type of strategy because we are banking on a particular power-play unit producing at a high clip. Since there can only be two assisting skaters on a given goal, in order to maximize the production of a power play, we really need that unit to reach at least 2-3 goals with the man-advantage.

A full-blown PP stack can consist of three forwards and two defensemen or four forwards and one defenseman. This really depends on the coaching staff and roster of a particular team. For example, a team like the Washington Capitals that sports play-making forwards like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Kovalchuk has incentive to get the best goal-scorers on the ice. So the Caps usually go with a four forward look with the man-advantage.

This can somewhat mess with our strategy, because the optimal way to stack a PP is to find one that has a skating line engrained in it. For example, the Boston Bruins have one of the best instances of this in their first line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, who all skate together at even-strength and on the power play. The Bruins first line is almost always priced up on DK because of this — it’s a unit that can produce in all situations, despite Bergeron also being one of the better penalty killers in the NHL.

Penalty kill avoidance

Which brings us to our next point and question: Should you fade players who skate a lot of time shorthanded? The easy answer is no. Bergeron is a perfect example. The Bruins center averages around 19:00 of ice time per game and almost 2:00 is spent killing penalties. Obviously that’s not a high percentage, but it’s still a small chunk of time in which Bergeron is essentially putting up zero fantasy points. It’s very rare that we see shorthanded goals or shorthanded SOG in the NHL. For Bergeron, his time on the PK doesn’t limit his overall production because, well, he’s very productive at EV and on the PP.

This won’t always be the case for all players. A lot of the top penalty killers in the NHL are bottom-six forwards or bottom pairing defensemen. Most of the time these players won’t be desirable DFS options, but there are always exceptions to the rule. It’s important to consider how much time a player skates per game and how much of that time is spent at special teams on the PK. NHL DFS is all about maximizing scoring opportunity. Taking away from that will almost always be a negative on some scale.