The NFL season may have begun Thursday, but the best sporting event of the weekend will be Vegas versus Dallas. Those two teams will be back in action Saturday, and of course we have the Islanders and Lightning in action Friday. It's another two days jammed into one for DFS hockey purposes. Here are my picks.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, TAM at NYI ($36): I'm just going with the best goalie left in the playoffs and maybe the best goalie in the NHL, period. Why quibble over a few dollars of salary when Vasilevskiy has posted an 1.86 GAA and .932 save percentage in 15 playoff starts? And he's also got a Vezina to his name. The Islanders only averaged 29.6 shots on net per game during the regular season, so Vasilevskiy can more than manage that.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Anton Khudobin, DAL vs. VGK ($33): Khudobin just came up huge for the Stars, making 38 saves on 40 shots in an overtime win. Games like that have been rare for him in the playoffs, as he came into Thursday with a 2.82 GAA and .912 save percentage in the playoffs while the Golden Knights led the NHL in shots on net per contest this season.
William Karlsson, VGK at DAL ($20): Selecting centers has been the hardest thing to do in the Conference Finals. We know what Karlsson can do at his peak, as he once scored 43 goals over a season. He's notched a point in each of his last two games with six shots on goal. Hey, if Khudobin doesn't stand on his head, Karlsson could do even better.
CENTER TO AVOID
Brock Nelson, NYI vs. TAM ($18): Nelson is expected good to go Friday after taking a nasty hit in Game 2 that led to Alex Killorn getting suspended. Even at full strength, he hasn't recorded a point in this series. I feel like that's as much about this matchup as Nelson himself. Like I said, Vasilevskiy has produced an 1.86 GAA and .932 save percentage in the playoffs.
Jamie Benn, DAL vs. VGK ($21): After directing zero shots on goal during the first two games of this series – although he picked up an assist – Benn got into the groove with six shots, a goal, and an assist in Game 3. It's not like he's struggled in the playoffs as a whole, as the 31-year-old has managed 16 points across the last 16 games. Robin Lehner didn't play great in Game 3 making 20 saves on 23 shots, so I don't mind betting on Benn staying hot.
Patrick Maroon, TAM at NYI ($10): As I mentioned earlier, Killorn has been suspended for this game. That's going to shake things up in the lineup. I'm willing to take a shot on Maroon. The veteran has been in the lineup and is primed to get some power-play time with Killorn out. This is the most upside Maroon will have all postseason, and any output would make him a steal at this salary.
WINGS TO AVOID
Reilly Smith, VGK at DAL ($21): Smith doesn't have a point in this series, but he also hasn't scored a goal over his last nine games. He's having trouble getting it going, even when Vegas has looked solid offensively. Maybe Khudobin won't stop 38 of 40 shots again, but he did post a .930 save percentage during the regular season. That was as a backup maybe getting easier matchups, but that's still a clear level of talent at his disposal.
Anthony Beauvillier, NYI vs. TAM ($17): Beauvillier surprised offensively early in the playoffs, but he's fallen off in recent games with only one goal in his last seven games and zero points against the Lightning. I'm kind of all-in on Vasilevskiy right now, which has me concerned about basically every Islander save for Mathew Barzal and maybe his wings Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle.
Mikhail Sergachev, TAM at NYI ($17): Sergachev started 54.3 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone this season, highest among Tampa Bay defenders. He's also on the top power-play unit for the Lightning and has averaged 3:49 per game with the extra man over his last seven contests. Meanwhile, over his last six games, Semyon Varlamov has struggled to a 3.42 GAA and .863 save percentage.
Kevin Shattenkirk, TAM at NYI ($17): I'm doubling down on Lightning defensemen. You saw Varlamov's recent numbers, right? Shattenkirk has been a busy playmaker recently, with eight assists in his last nine games to go with a goal. He's no longer the power-play weapon he used to be, but the 31-year-old did rack up 34 points in 70 games this season.
DEFENSE TO AVOID
John Klingberg, DAL vs. VGK ($19): I decided against mentioning Ryan Pulock of the Islanders for, oh, the sixth article in a row. Instead, I'll go with a higher-salary player in Klingberg. He's been completely shut down in his last two games. In addition to not registering any points, he's only managed one shot on goal and zero blocked shots. That's a very small sample size, but the margins are razor thin at this point.
Nate Schmidt, VGK at DAL ($17): Schmidt has stayed active offensively in terms of putting shots on net, but he doesn't have a point in his last six games and eight of his last nine. He's also only recorded one point with the extra man during the entire playoffs, which doesn't bode well for any fantasy potential.