PETE JENSEN (@NHLJensen)
Must-own player: Andrei Vasilevskiy ($7,100 in DraftKings) — The Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender is the biggest reason they have made it this far in the Eastern Conference Final, so it’s shocking to see his price this low for Game 7. The 23-year-old has faced an average of 34 shots per game over six Stanley Cup Playoff games against the Washington Capitals, meaning he can return DFS value even if he allows 3-4 goals in a loss. He has at least 10.0 DraftKings Showdown points in each of his past four games, and should be ready for this moment after holding his own in two big spots earlier in his career: the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks (1-1; 22 saves on 24 shots faced) and Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 (37 saves on 39 shots faced; .949 save percentage).
Value pick: Mikhail Sergachev ($4,800) — The Lightning rookie defenseman has had a limited role (12:05 per game) this postseason, but it’s significant that he boasts the best 5-on-5 Shot Attempts ratio in the entire playoffs (plus-89) and also among Lightning skaters this round (plus-26). Although his fantasy stats against Washington (no goals, one assist, 10 SOG, seven blocks in nine games) make him a risky play in a game of this magnitude, his points-per-60 average (1.55) in the playoffs is nearly in line with Victor Hedman‘s (1.59). He’s been a staple on the second power-play unit as well. Don’t be surprised if Sergachev, 19, uses this stage to remind everyone how high his ceiling is in the short and long term.
Overall strategy: Although Tampa Bay’s top skaters, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman, are each without a career Game 7 goal, the Lightning have added big-game experience in defensemen Ryan McDonagh (6-1 in Game 7s; one point), Dan Girardi (6-2; two points) and forward Chris Kunitz (6-3; six points) to shoulder some pressure. Drafting Kucherov ($10,500 in DraftKings) is appealing with him due for better shooting fortunes (one goal on 17 shots on goal) and given his involvement in the Lightning’s power-play success (35.3 percent; 3-for-8 at home) this series. Diversify your lineup by spending up for another elite forward in Evgeny Kuznetsov, who leads the 2018 playoffs with 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 18 games. Then, round out your lineup with high-floor skaters like T.J. Oshie (W, $9,600; 13.5 DraftKings points per game in series) and/or Dmitry Orlov (D, $6,100; 10.0).
Game 7 prediction: Lightning win, 4-3
ROB REESE (@NHLReese)
Must-own player: Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH ($8,800) — The Capitals center has started to look more and more like himself after playing his third game back from a hand injury sustained against the Penguins on May 5. Backstrom had his best game of the series in Game 6 against the Lightning with two assists, one SOG and four face-off wins (12.8 DraftKings Showdown points). Backstrom has started to connect on highlight-reel passes that we’re used to him making and was instrumental in setting up right wing T.J. Oshie’s power-play goal in Game 6.
Value pick: Jakub Vrana, W, WSH ($5,300) — The 22-year-old wing was a noticeable presence in Game 6. His speed playing on the second line with Backstrom and Oshie created matchup problems against slower Lightning defensemen Braydon Coburn and Dan Girardi. Vrana played a series-high 16:05 in Game 6 and tallied four SOG and one blocked shot for 9.1 Showdown points. If he continues to be a high-event player, Vrana has the ability to break a slate similar to his three-point performance (one goal, two assists; 22.0 Showdown points) in Game 5 of the second round against the Penguins.
Overall strategy: The Eastern Conference Final Game 7 strategy is to spend up for one of the best forwards at even strength (Alex Ovechkin: 12 ES points; Kuznetsov, 14) and then fill in around him with high-upside second-liners in Backstrom and Vrana. Mixing in Tampa Bay’s second-best even-strength forward, Brayden Point (10 EVP; 14.1 Showdown points in past 10 games) will cover the floor if this will be a quiet special teams game, similar to Game 6 (three total power plays). Use a value defenseman in Orlov ($6,100), who has had at least 9.0 Showdown points in four of six games against the Lightning, or Sergachev, who had one SOG and one block in 12:50, including 0:49 of power-play time (second-most among Lightning defensemen), in Game 6.
Game 7 prediction: Capitals win, 4-2
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