Welcome to Stack the Deck, where we focus on the key players in action on March 1st 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 9-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
Lines and Player Matchups are gathered from LeftWingLock.com and HockeyViz.com
It’s hard to believe that the trade deadline has come and gone in the NHL, shifting the landscape for sure, but failing to meet even the most cautious projections in terms of both volume and quality of players traded. When the four biggest stories are two players who didn’t get traded (Dan Hamhuis and Jonathan Drouin both inexplicably remain in their sub-optimal situations), and two others who did, but leave many questioning whether they are actually an upgrade for the team that spent valuable assets to acquire them (Kris Russell and Mikkel Boedker).
With the turbulence slowly coming to an end, the only thing left to do is sort out how coaches will utilize their new pieces, and how they’ll replace old ones. This should create a few good situations for the attentive DFS player to exploit. Tonight, however, there doesn’t seem to be much by way of available information regarding acquisitions and departed players, and of the few I’ve found, the matchups look to be detrimental to their outlooks. So with that, here are some of my top plays on a loaded Tuesday night slate.
Target: Vladimir Tarasenko (W) – STL (@ OTT) – $7,200
I have St. Louis as the top team to target on tonight’s slate, and it isn’t all that close. This may come as a surprise, because Ottawa has won 5 of their last 6 games, and will play at home tonight. But when you begin to peel back layers of their performance, you’ll start to notice some glaring weaknesses on defense. They went west for a Western Canadian road trip, and gave up 10 goals in 3 games to Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver, but still managed to come home with 2 wins in spite of playing some awful hockey, getting outchanced 102-86 across those 3 games versus three of the worst six teams the NHL has to offer.
Meanwhile, St. Louis comes into tonight in good spirits after a Sunday throttling of the Carolina Hurricanes. Although they have lost 4 of their last 6, they have generated above average offensive output in each of those contests and outchanced their opponents, after a long stretch of time in which they were doing nothing offensively and riding their goalie to wins they otherwise did not deserve. Hockey tends to balance these sort of things out, and with the defensive ineptitude of the Senators combined with the talent of Tarasenko and the success of the team around him, I expect big things from him tonight.
Tarasenko’s last 7 games have been Ovechkin-like, with 63 shot attempts. 9 shot attempts per game will get the job done for almost any player in any matchup, let alone one with a discount from the elite tier, in one of the most favorable matchups possible. Even more impressive (I think) in Tarasenko’s performance is his individual scoring chances, which he has 38 of in the last 7 games. I don’t know a great deal about what is and isn’t a good average of individual scoring chances, but here’s some of the best NHL players’ last 7 games for reference: Ovechkin – 32, Crosby – 18, Seguin – 33, Forsberg – 23 (more on him in a bit). Tarasenko has been playing fantastic hockey, with points in only 2 of those games. I expect him to bounce back in a huge way tonight against a hapless Senators squad whose playoff bubble is about to burst.
Stack: Paul Stastny (C) – $4,600
Jori Lehtera is not even with the team in Ottawa, making him unavailable to complete the S – T – L line of Schwartz, Tarasenko, and Lehtera. Stastny stands to step in to center the remaining pair. Although he is not on the PP1 unit (it looks like Alex Pietrangelo replaced Lehtera, rather than a forward), Stastny is exactly the sort of pass-first center (6 G, 24 A on the season) who will be able to hook up with Tarasenko for some assists tonight. While not a cash option, Stastny will be a relatively low-owned stacking option for your GPP lineups (in comparison to Jaden Schwartz) at a very reasonable price.
Target: Filip Forsberg (W) – Nsh (v. Dal) – $6,300
Ten games ago, Forsberg was priced at $5,700. All he’s done since is score 11 goals, while firing 40 shots on goal (on 61 attempts) and picking up two assists along the way. His current price of $6,300 is an absolute bargain compared to where he should be, given his 61 DKPts in those ten games. Forsberg is obviously the recipient of some luck, but two hat tricks in three games won’t curb his desire to shoot the puck, and he has broken the 7 attempt mark 4 times in his last 5 games. His floor is massive, as he will see all the opportunity he can handle, and he is shooting the puck with the best of them. I may have missed on both of his recent hat tricks, but at his price, I won’t be stubborn and rely on regression to bail me out, he is a must-play in cash games given his floor.
As I mentioned earlier, Dallas added a defenseman at the deadline, and he should suit up tonight for the Stars. Unfortunately for the Stars, Kris Russell is very bad at suppressing shots, and his addition to the back-end doesn’t faze me at all. Dallas is a team that has given up 6 scoring chances per game above their opponents’ average over the last 6 games and is playing their backup goalie on the road in a back-to-back against the league’s hottest goal-scorer. Don’t overthink it in cash games, just play the man, and if he falters, the majority of your opponents will as well.
Stack: Craig Smith (W) – $4,300
Smith skates at 5v5 and on the PP with Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro, a stereotypical pass-first center without much shooting talent, meaning Smith will likely be the one to score if not Forsberg. In the previous two games the Stars and Predators have played this season, Smith has 2 goals on 6 shots and an assist, good for 5.5 FPPG. If you want to play a Forsberg stack in a GPP, Smith is the place to start, followed next by Roman Josi, the lone defenseman on the PP1 unless Shea Weber returns to action tonight and replaces Colin Wilson.
Target: Robin Lehner (G) – Buf (v. Edm) – $7,200
With 9 games on the slate, only Devan Dubnyk and Lehner are the only two goalies who are home favorites and are priced under $8k. With that in mind, both are solid plays tonight in all formats. However, I am leaning Robin Lehner based on his recent form, as since coming back from injury in January, he has been phenomenal, with a .931 Sv% on the season, and only 1 game in his last 6 with below a .940. Dubnyk has been a bit shakier, with 7 starts in his last 10 ending up in a sub .910 Sv% performance. Lehner should see a sufficient number of shots as well, as he’s seen at least 26 shots in each of the last 7 games.
Stack: Jack Eichel (C) – $5,600
Buffalo is the host of the McEichel Bowl tonight, as Jack Eichel meets Connor McDavid in the NHL for the first time. The top two draft picks in last year’s draft, McDavid missed the first meeting of the season, in which Eichel scored in Edmonton in front of a rather hostile crowd. Tonight, Buffalo should be lively to finally witness the two crown jewels of last year’s tank sharing the same NHL surface. Helping Eichel’s cause, Dan Bylsma finally putting capable linemates around Eichel, moving him up to center Sam Reinhart and Evander Kane with the departure of Jamie McGinn at the deadline.
This season, his iCorsi/60 metric places him in 62nd, with Patrick Kane, Crosby, Jamie Benn, and Corey Perry flanking him, not bad company to keep. He has turned this shooting potential into points, with 41 points (17 G, 24 A) in 63 games in his rookie campaign, and now has better linemates than he has all season. Eichel has shown flair for the dramatic, and should be looking to show the Buffalo faithful once and for all they got the best player in last year’s draft. And if he plays well enough tonight, we might just believe it.
If you have any comments or questions regarding Tuesday’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!