Welcome to Stack the Deck, where we focus on the key players on the 12/16 NHL DraftKings slate, and determine whether they should be played with a teammate, or ridden individually. Stacking is a common tactic in NHL, with linemates and power play units staying relatively stable throughout the course of a game, and to a smaller extent, a season. Here are a few players I am targeting on Wednesday’s brief 2-game slate, and my thoughts on who to play with them in order to stack the deck in your favor.
Stats are gathered from War-On-Ice.com and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com
Player Matchups are gathered from HockeyViz.com
After a long weekend away from DFS, I am rarin’ to go. Unfortunately for me, and for everyone, the NHL schedule on Wednesday is very weak, with only 2 games sandwiched between two days of 11 games. A little more balance would be nice, but as the pro athletes say, we can only play the games on our schedule. That said, these two games could be much worse, and some choices still have to be made, due to the surprising number of high end talents on the slate.
Target: Braden Holtby (G) –Wsh (v. Ott) – $8,200
In my humble opinion, Holtby is the easiest play of the day. This Washington team is phenomenal, and the Senators struggle to generate quality opportunities, even though they get a lot of shot attempts (and give up even more). While both teams are playing at a Corsi pace within the top 5 of the NHL, Ottawa ranks in the bottom 10 of scoring chances, and the Capitals can afford to play at a higher tempo with one of the best goalies in the NHL behind them. The Sens are buoyed by a sky high 10.9% Shooting %, which is a testament to their talent, however can’t be sustained, and these things tend to correct rather quickly. Holtby is leading the NHL in GAA and Wins and with a top 5 Sv% in addition, it is clear that Holtby is a great goalie that is in a great circumstance tonight. While you’ll have to pay for his services, the matchup makes him a clear cut number 1 option on any slate, especially this very limited one.
Fade: Ottawa Players
It should go without saying that you shouldn’t play skaters against your goalie. It diminishes your upside without raising your floor all that much, if at all. On a two game slate, however, it isn’t the worst idea to consider, seeing as each game could wind up 5-4, and a player could score a hat trick in a losing effort, giving you a very unique combination of skater and goalie that each perform well. Tonight isn’t one of those nights, however, as Washington has won 9 of their last 11, allowing 2 goals or fewer in 8 of those. I just don’t see Holtby and the Caps falling apart, which is the only way any individual Sens player is worth more than a last-resort flier in a GPP lineup.
Target: Alex Ovechkin (W) – Wsh (v. Ott) – $8,900
Look, I shouldn’t need to tell you that if you take Holtby, Ovechkin is probably a good play. If you don’t take Holtby, that probably makes Ovechkin even more attractive, because they are the two most expensive players on the slate. Ovi is the most unique DFS player in all of sports, outside of Clayton Kershaw, in my opinion. He dominates in goals, assists, and shots, but it is his shooting that makes my jaw drop. Since 1986, the furthest back Hockey-Reference.com allows me to search through single game box scores, there have been five games where a player has registered 15 or more shots in a game. Ovechkin has two of those, including one just last month. He is a completely different DFS option than every other NHL player, because he can single handedly dominate through sheer shot generation alone.
I expect ownership on Ovechkin to be high, but I don’t think it matters in cash or GPPs. We saw a similar situation play out in the NFL this week, as the Mon-Thurs contest featured Odell Beckham Jr. at 96% owned in a hundred thousand person tournament. There is something to be said for game theory and fading the obvious, however more often than not those players are high owned for a reason, and will take advantage of their pristine matchups. The 4% who don’t have OBJ are now left looking forward to next week, and the rest of us are figuring out how to differentiate our lineups outside of that one position. Even on short slates, that can still be done.
Fade: Nicklas Backstrom (C) – $6,400
By all means I do not mean to completely avoid Backstrom. However, I urge you to, even if you have 100% Ovi, limit your Backstrom exposure. Backstrom is a fine player, however Ovechkin is the type of player you don’t need to stack with, because he doesn’t need a setup man. I fell into this trap to begin the season, thinking that because Ovechkin shoots a lot, and because Kuznetsov (who he began the season with) and Backstrom are pass-first players, meant they were the perfect pair. Watching them, however, it is clear that Ovechkin creates his own offense, meaning Backstrom’s usefulness in a stack probably applies more to other Capitals. What I will be doing is playing Ovechkin, and then grabbing the 2nd line together, with Kuznetsov and his playmaking ability, and maybe even some 3rd line, as Galiev and Chimera receive PP2 time as well.
TL;DR: The Capitals are, by far, the team I am looking to target most tonight.
Target: Torey Krug (D) – Bos (v. Pit) – $6,000
There are hardly any high end D options. With Letang out, Warsofsky is great value running the point on the Pens PP, but with what I am about to say about the Pens defensively, I figure featuring a Pens D-man would be rather insulting. The Pens might have the worst defense in the league, even with Letang in the lineup. I haven’t watched much of the Pens this season, but I made the road trip from New York to Pittsburgh to see the Kings on Friday. While one game doesn’t tell all, and the Kings are certainly a tough test for any team (although my Sabres manhandled the zombie version of the Kings the next night), the Pens were hemmed in their own end way too often.
Their defense cannot move the puck up to their forwards, and that is unfortunate because even the depth guys on offense look to be playing well. Guys like Beau Bennett have stepped up to fill in behind the studs in Malkin, Crosby, and Kessel on offense, but no one has stepped up on defense in the same way. And now Bennett is out, the defense is still in shambles without Letang, and now a new face is getting comfortable in their new home.
The Penguins traded for Trevor Daley yesterday, meaning Boston will be facing a team that already ranks as 4th worst in the league against his position, is down its starting goalie in Fleury (out with a concussion) and top defenseman in Letang, and is integrating a new defenseman who is known for his offensive prowess. With a lot of people spending up for Malkin, Crosby, Ovechkin, and Backstrom, I feel Krug might go overlooked on defense. He checks all the boxes you need from a stud defenseman, playing 20 minutes a night, contributing blocks and shots nightly on the PP1 and as a secondary PKer on Boston. Pittsburgh is a mess right now, adjusting to a new coach, and I like Boston a lot in this matchup.
Stack: David Krejci (C) – $6,000
Of the players not on the Capitals, who I believe we’ve established I’m targeting heavily already, Krejci has the best points/60 measure this season of anyone on this slate. At a point per game pace on the season, he is in good position to keep that up, especially if he is matched up with a bottom 6 line in this home matchup. Bergeron and his line have seen their salaries rise over the last few weeks, and rightly so because they have played well. But Krejci has been as consistent as ever, and his $6k tag is more manageable than Malkin or Crosby, who have both been disappointments on the season anyways. Play him with confidence, because it is very unlikely that the Penguins figured out how to play defense.
If you have any comments or questions regarding Wednesday’s NHL DFS action, you can find me on Twitter @Mattman1398. Good luck tonight, and as always:
Thanks for reading!