Welcome to Stack the Deck, where we focus on the key players in action on January 26th across the industry, 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 Tuesday’s ten-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
What a crazy weekend in the Northeast! After spending some time in both Philadelphia and New York City this past weekend, I can assure you that all that snow adds up, and there is nowhere to put it all, making travel a mess. For a Rochester native like myself, it sounds ridiculous, but the cancellations of the games in the metropolitan regions of New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C this past weekend are completely understandable, given the dangerous circumstances. That said, the record-setting blizzard wasn’t the only snow-related event to happen in the U.S. since Friday, nor was it the most historic.
Yes, I am talking about Dallas and Colorado, the most-lopsided game in NHL history (as per the Corsi figures, from War-On-Ice.com). Saturday’s matchup was one that I had pinned as a winnable game for the Avalanche (see? snow!), given their recent strength in both possession and scoring chance creation, and the Stars’ inability to score a goal. Only one of those things happened on Saturday, but the result was both beautiful and repulsive. According to the game table over at War-On-Ice (an invaluable NHL resource), which has records of all 13,375 NHL games since the ‘04-05 lockout, Dallas’s edge in Corsi (or attempted shots) was the largest of any game ever played. Let me restate that: 1st out of 13,375 games. Wow. “Winning” the battle 106-32, Dallas was stymied by Semyon Varlamov, who made 42 saves on 43 shots in a 3-1 Colorado victory. The Avalanche were “snowed in” (I’ll see myself out now) their zone the entire game, and still managed to pull out the victory. It was an amazing game, unfortunate for Dallas fans and the analytics community (I must admit, Colorado seems to have this “get dominated but still win” thing down to a science), but to be able to witness history (however lame it may be) made Saturday an interesting night.
Let’s move onto Tuesday’s slate, where there are a lot of games to pick from, and with 20 teams in action, here are a few of my favorite plays to consider for your DFS lineups.
**DraftKings Prices will be used, however there are some other sites that have very similar scoring systems to DraftKings, so if you play on OwnThePlay or FantasyHub (or any site with shots, goals, assists, and blocked shots making up the substance of the scoring system, and no +/-), this writeup will be useful to you as well. Stay tuned for the FantasyHub Lock of the Night later on in the post!**
Target: Patric Hornqvist (W) – Pit (v. N.J) – $6,500
Hornqvist is the cheapest of the “big four” forwards in Pittsburgh, and is equally productive. Skating alongside Sidney Crosby, Hornqvist has thrived, averaging 4.8 DKPts in his last 10 games (to Crosby’s 5.0) and firing 41 shots on net (to Crosby’s 33). During this span, Hornqvist has only 3 goals, pointing to some bad luck as the reason he trails Crosby, who has 7 goals. Against the New Jersey Devils and Cory Schneider, he doesn’t have the perfect matchup, but as the biggest favorite of the night in Vegas, Pittsburgh will need their top offensive players to step up, because they don’t have anyone else to score the goals Vegas projects. Hornqvist will get ample opportunity to score, with the Pens and Devils trending in opposite directions in both possession and scoring chances (significantly favoring Pittsburgh), and his role on PP1. If this game turns into the dominant PIT possession game I expect it to, the Devils will be forced into some defensive penalties, and I like Hornqvist to finally cash in on a couple of his opportunities on the PP against an overmatched Devils team.
Stack: Sidney Crosby (C) – $7,300
With 13 points in his last 10, and 9 in his last 6 games, long gone are the days of wondering what happened to the “Best Player in the NHL.” While he is too far back of Patrick Kane to catch him in the Art Ross race, the fact that Kane is priced nearly $2k above Crosby screams value. Crosby is the 7th most expensive skater on the slate, and has been exactly who we thought he would be this season in the month of January. Feel confident in stacking Crosby with Hornqvist, and if you are looking for a player to add to Pittsburgh for a GPP stack, Malkin has been just as good as Crosby, coming off a hat trick in his last outing.
Target: Mattias Ekholm (D) – Nsh (@ Van) – $3,800
Ekholm is blossoming as a player in front of our eyes, and his production has not gone unnoticed by Peter Laviolette. Ekholm has been eased into an expanded role since the trade of Seth Jones, jumping from 18 min per game on the season to 21 per game in his last 10, and finally 24 min in his last game against the Oilers, where he racked up 8 DKPts on 2 goals and 4 shots. He’s shown a solid floor of over 3 shots + blocks per game, and is on the ice for every power play second Josi and Weber haven’t cornered (around 35-40% over the last 10 games, when factoring in Ekholm replacing Jones). In a gift of a matchup facing off with the Canucks, who give up the most scoring chances in the league (and have for a while, as I’m sure you’ve learned in my previous write-ups), Ekholm should be able to find the scoresheet, and use some of his peripheral stats to exceed value on his inexpensive salary.
Stack: Filip Forsberg (W) – $6,000
Forsberg or Neal? That’s the common situation that DFS players run into when targeting Nashville. Neal has a few factors in his favor, including Ryan Johansen on his even strength line, a slightly higher iCorsi/60, and more TOI/G. Forsberg, on the other hand, has a higher points/60, over 5 shot attempts per game over his last 4 (compared to Neal’s 4), and much more defensive responsibility. At the end of the Edmonton game, Laviolette sent out Forsberg alongside Johansen and another forward to hold the lead. This resulted in Forsberg being gifted an empty-net goal, and when you consider Forsberg has also seen over 2 minutes of PK time in the last two games, he has the higher floor when it comes to blocked shots as well as shots. I am going to go Forsberg, and if the Nashville powerplay falls the right way (Forsberg and Ekholm played on the same unit last game) there’s some nice correlation between the two fantasy options.
Target: Joe Pavelski (C) – S.J (v. Col) – $7,900
Pavelski centers the top line for San Jose, a team who finds itself in the same matchup which yielded the Dallas Stars 106 shot attempts. Pavelski’s per minute stats aren’t eye-popping, but when you consider Pavelski trails only Kopitar and Giroux among centers in TOI/Game, he projects as well as any player on the slate. He has two goals, two assists, and ten shot attempts in his last two games, which is indicative of the behavior needed to produce against Colorado, that being to simply “put the puck on net.”
I know Burns will be quite popular tonight, but just a word of warning: at an even higher price than Pavelski, a lot of Burns’ allure comes from the amazing ability to produce in all 4 scoring categories, G, A, S, BS. Against Colorado, blocked shots are few and far between, given their lack of possession. He still has multi-point upside, but so do many defensemen on the slate (including one I covered who is half the price) so I will be spending down on defense today.
Stack: FantasyHub Lock of the Night: Thomas Hertl (C) – $4,500
Hertl is way too cheap for a player who shoots the way he does (44th in the league in iCorsi/60) with exposure to an elite playmaker in Joe Thornton and a bonafide superstar in Pavelski. While 44th might not sound impressive, noted snipers/offensive dynamos Patrick Kane, Daniel Sedin, Jakub Voracek, and Steven Stamkos all fall short of his benchmark. Obviously, there is some inconsistency to his game, which keeps his price down. After 5 games of 6, 4, 8, 5, and 8 shot attempts, against the Kings on Sunday Hertl managed only one shot attempt. He nearly made good on his meager salary, however, with an assist, his 9th point in 10 games. He has been far too good to be this cheap, with 4.1 FPPG in his last 10, and if he continues to shoot when he gets the opportunities, he will be in a great position tonight against Colorado.
If you have any comments or questions regarding Tuesday’s NHL DFS action, you can find me on Twitter @Mattman1398. Good luck tonight, and as always:
Thanks for reading!