Welcome to Stack the Deck, where we focus on the key players in action on February 25th 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 Thursday’s 10-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, Corsica.Hockey, and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com
Player Matchups are gathered from HockeyViz.com
Last night was a frustrating night. I played who I wanted to, and being cash heavy, Pastrnak and Galchenyuk didn’t hurt me at all. But I played Fleury over Andersen, and as a result got decimated by Andersen’s shutout. Simply put, I outsmarted myself, because my projections showed Pittsburgh playing Boston out of their own building. And with a final tally of 40-22 in scoring chances, and 77-44 in Corsi in favor of Pittsburgh, it went exactly as expected. But Fleury got completely let down by his defense, with Olli Maatta directly responsible for three of the goals, butchering a 2 on 2, losing his man for a breakaway leading to the penalty shot, and the most egregious error being a soft backhand pass that Pastrnak picked off for an easy wraparound.
It only reaffirms something that I know, but talk myself out of over and over again: goalies are voodoo, so if there’s a massive favorite who has played well at a very low price (like Andersen last night) you should lock him in. Even if he falters, as all goalies can, the majority of your opponents will have him too. With Fleury at less than 5% even in a fantastic matchup (I outlined yesterday the completely opposite directions the two teams are trending in), being stuck on Fleury Island when he gave up 3 late goals sunk my chances at cashing in my 50/50’s on a night that was a good one for me outside of the G position, because nearly 50% of my opponents had 10 points from Andersen, an obviously good play.
As parents like to say, do as I say, not as I do. Let’s move on to Thursday night’s jam-packed action.
Target: Valeri Nichushkin (W) – Dal (v. Wpg) – $3,500
In the latest installment of “The Revolving Door” feat. Benn and Seguin, we see that coach Lindy Ruff was not pleased with Jason Spezza on line 1 alongside the dynamic duo, moving him down and replacing him with Nichushkin. This is music to my ears, because watching Nichushkin it is obvious that he is a massively talented player, taken 10th overall in 2013. There are rumors that this is being done to “showcase” him for a potential trade at the deadline, but for our purposes, that is irrelevant. I also would have accepted “incredibly stupid” because beastly 20 year olds with great skill don’t grow on trees, but that’s why I’m building a DFS roster and not an NHL one.
Playing alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, Nichushkin has a matchup that he should be able to exploit, taking on the broken Winnipeg Jets in the back half of their home-and-home. Similar to Tuesday, I will be targeting this Jets-Stars matchup on both ends, where the two sides combined for 8 goals last time out. With Seguin and Benn being known commodities, there is value to be had in such a high-paced affair, but the real value comes from grabbing the guy who stands to benefit from the exposure to the duo, who tonight happens to be Nichushkin. He makes a great value option in cash, and has the talent to keep up with Benn and Seguin for your GPP stacks, although Benn and Seguin only is an interesting twist for the contrarian minds out there.
Stack: Tyler Seguin (C) – $8,500
Seguin is an easy play for anyone who regularly plays DFS. He is one of the most consistent shooters in the league, taking close to 4 shots per game on the season. I do find it to be a bit alarming that Jamie Benn has shouldered a bit more of the load as of late, shooting 10 times in the last two games to Seguin’s 4. Three games ago, however, Seguin registered 8 shots, so this recent stretch can easily be chalked up as normal variance. In 4 games this year, Seguin has 3 goals and 3 assists against the Jets, averaging 5.8 FPPG, including 3.5 last game in what was a disappointment from a DFS perspective. I will go right back to the well with this play, and now Ruff, at home, can send Seguin out against whoever he pleases. Lock and load Seguin into your lineups, if you are spending up on a forward tonight.
Target: Cam Ward (G) – Car (@ Tor) – $6,800
I found it a bit surprising when I found that one of the only teams better than Pittsburgh in the month of February in terms of shot and scoring chance generation was Toronto. They are really good by those metrics, and I value that highly. So why, you might ask, are you sticking with Cam Ward? Well, two reasons: 1) The goalie pool tonight is really messy. Outside of paying up for Luongo or Quick against a young Arizona team playing with some life right now and an Edmonton team featuring Connor McDavid, your other options are Korpisalo and Niemi in cash, neither of whom evoke much confidence. But reason #2 is that Ward has been amazing in February, with a .932 Sv% in the month of February. And while Toronto has been really good in creating chances, Carolina has been even better at suppressing chances, limiting their opponents to 5 chances per game less than their seasonal averages over the last 10 games. Cam Ward has been playing really well, and takes on a Toronto team that struggles to capitalize on their opportunities. I think he is the best value in net on the night, and should be able to take home a win without too much trouble, as the Vegas line has soared from an open of Car -130 to -160 as of 3 PM.
Stack: J.M Liles (D) – $3,500
With Justin Faulk almost certainly out once again after aggravating his LBI he missed some time due to over the last couple weeks, Carolina’s D gets a significant boost. With Slavin and Hainsey penciled in as the “shutdown” pair, I don’t expect much of an offensive floor from those two. That leaves Liles, Pesce, and Hanifin as the remaining options. Hanifin has seen a good amount of PP time, but only 12 minutes total last game, and has hovered around 15 minutes all season. Currently, Liles is listed on the PP1, and he also played with Faulk there last game. With Faulk out, Liles’ minutes should only increase at 5v5 and remain the same on the PP, setting him up for a slight bump from the 21 minutes he saw last game. If you need a cheap defenseman, Liles is a good way to go in this great matchup with a weak Leafs roster.
Target: Jake Muzzin (D) – L.A (v. Edm) – $5,300
Muzzin is as consistent of a mid-tier option that you’ll find on tonight’s slate, playing alongside Drew Doughty in all situations. He boasts a very high floor, with 30 shots and 18 blocks over his last 10 games. With his elite PP time and exposure to Doughty and Kopitar, Muzzin should be able to take advantage of Edmonton’s awful defense. I don’t think a point to go with 5 shots+blocks, which is what he has averaged on the season against Edmonton through 3 games, is out of the question for Muzzin tonight, with as much upside as you’ll find in any mid-tier player, given his PP time and heavy shot.
Over the last 10 days, Toffoli and Carter have each averaged over 6 shot attempts per game. They play together in all situations and have for a while now. With Kopitar enlisted to cover McDavid and co. Carter should find himself in a much better defensive matchup, allowing him and his line to focus more on the offensive end of the ice. I love this stack in all formats, because of the matchup and the two’s opportunity to move up with Kopitar for PP situations. Even though they’ve struggled to score as of late, I think L.A can put up a crooked number at home on a really poor defensive team.
If you have any comments or questions regarding Thursday’s NHL DFS action, or just want to say hi, you can reach out me on Twitter @Mattman1398. Good luck tonight, and as always:
Thanks for reading!