With the calendar having flipped to December and every team with at least 26 games under their belts, teams around the league are starting to get an idea of where they are at. Coaches are being changed, trade rumors are starting to swirl, and fans are getting restless. In other words, it is a great time of year to be a hockey fan. If your team hasn’t gotten off to the start you had hoped for, you can always look back to last year’s St. Louis Blues to prove that anything is possible. Just like in real hockey, you can turn your season around in fantasy hockey as well. Whether it be season long or daily, one good trade or lineup could be all it takes.
In last week’s column Daily Fantasy Saturday: Stacking Your Way to Success we took a look at a tournament winning lineup to show how stacking can be utilized to create a correlated lineup that can end up on the top of leaderboards. Over the next two weeks we will focus on cash games (mainly 50/50 and double up tournaments) and see what goes into a successful lineup.
While in tournaments it’s true one certain stack or lineup will find its way to the top, in cash games you win the same amount of money whether your lineup is in the top 1% or in the top 44% (44% is often the percentage of lineups paid out in double up contests). This leads to often hundreds of different possible lineup combinations that could get you above the cash line. Depending on the slate, you may see lineups that are ‘Stars and Scrubs’ with several high-priced players paired with several very cheap, value players or you may see lineups that are well balanced throughout. While there is no set way on how to build a cash lineup, here are a few things I look for when building mine (and writing this article).
Vegas lines – You will have a hard time trying to find anything that does a better job of predicting outcomes of games better than Vegas lines. We can use this data to our advantage by looking for teams that are favored in games with an over/under of six goals or higher. These are teams that are expected to score three or more goals on that night and using skaters from these teams is a good starting point in narrowing down players to target for your lineup. You can also use these in helping to identify a goalie that is in a good position to pick up a win.
Power-Play Units – Roughly 20% of all goals scored in the NHL are on the power play. When you consider teams may only get a few minutes of power play time each game, this is a significant number. If you’re paying up and using a good chunk of your salary on a player, you almost certainly want him to see power-play time and preferably with the team’s top unit. A potential good place to find some value for your lineup would be a player who may have just recently been added to a power-play unit and who’s salary might not yet reflect this upgrade in opportunity.
Shots – Players who consistently shoot the puck can rack up DraftKings points even without scoring actual goals since DraftKings rewards 1.5 points for every shot and then an additional three-point bonus when players reach five shots. Targeting these players can help ensure a safe floor for nights when the pucks aren’t finding the back of the night. When looking for value, it is okay to look for high volume shooters even if their Vegas total doesn’t stand out because even if teams may not be expected to score several goals, they will still be taking shots.
Next week, we will review DraftKings’ Single Entry $25 Double Up Tournament from today’s slate (12/07/19) to see what players were most frequently targeted and why. With any luck the players listed below will find themselves in winning lineups. All players and prices used are from Saturday’s 9-game slate starting at 7 p.m. EST on DraftKings. These can be applied to FanDuel as well.
C – Evgeni Malkin ($7,000)
Since Sidney Crosby last played a game on November 9, Evgeni Malkin has stepped up his game, as he often has in Sid’s absence, with 17 points in that 12-game span while averaging just under 17 DraftKings points per game. With some of the typical big names on this slate in a bit tougher of matchups, paying up for Malkin is a fine play. Attacking the Detroit Red Wings and their porous defense has been a successful strategy this season as they are allowing 3.9 goals per game. The only way the matchup could get any better would be if it were in Pittsburgh, but Detroit has been just as giving at home with five consecutive losses and more than four goals allowed per game. If looking to save some salary, Jared McCann on the second line for $4,700 is in the same matchup for much less.
C – Nick Bonino ($4,600)
It may come as a surprise, but nobody on the Nashville Predators has more goals this season than Nick Bonino. The third-line center has ten on the season and over his last seven games has averaged 18:32 of ice time. Bonino should see plenty of opportunities against a New Jersey Devils team that has had its struggles this season. They have given up four or more goals in four of their last five games and could have backup goaltender Louis Domingue in net as they are on the second leg of a back-to-back. Domingue allowed five goals in just one period last time out. At just $4,600 Bonino sets up as a great value.
W – Nikita Kucherov ($8,000)
The Tampa Bay Lightning winger enters tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks having recorded a point in seven straight games and 11 of his last 12. Over that 12-game span the reigning Hart Memorial Trophy Winner has six goals and 14 assists, good for 1.67 points per game. With an average of more than four shots per game over the past two weeks, Kucherov provides the floor and ceiling combo that warrants paying up for in cash games. A home matchup against the Sharks is nothing to be afraid of as they rank in the bottom half of the league in goals allowed on the road.
W – Matthew Tkachuk ($5,900)
The Calgary Flames are starting to heat up after fighting through some adversity over the past few weeks and Matthew Tkachuk is leading the way. Tkachuk has been the most consistent producer for the Flames this season and comes in with a four-game point streak. His 25 on the season leads the team. Eight of those points have come on the power play and the Flames opponent Saturday night has one of the worst penalty-killing units in the league. The Los Angeles Kings are also on a back-to-back, all of which bodes well for Tkachuk and the rest of the Flames top options.
D – Roman Josi ($7,000)
Any time Roman Josi is on the slate he warrants consideration as he is an elite defenseman in terms of offensive production. Josi has averaged 14.1 DraftKings points this season in part because of his willingness to shoot the puck. His 92 shots on the season ranks second among defenseman. The spot for Nashville against the Devils has already been discussed but is worth repeating. Only the Red Wings have allowed more goals per game. As well, the Devils penalty kill percentage is in the bottom third of the league so Josi stands to benefit if the Predators get the man advantage.
D – Justin Schultz ($4,400)
The trend of picking on New Jersey and Detroit continues here with Justin Schultz. Schultz returned from injury last night and immediately saw time with Pittsburgh’s top power-play unit. Going up against the worst penalty kill in the NHL such as that of Detroit’s instantly puts Schultz into consideration. While it’s unlikely he finds the back of the net given his modest goal production the past few seasons, picking up an assist or two given this matchup is certainly in the range of outcomes. Schultz provides a cheap option to get exposure to Pittsburgh’s top producers like Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel, who join him on the power play, as well as secondary scorers at 5v5 who are in just as good of a spot.
Goalies (Be sure to confirm goalies at Goalie Post before rostering)
Pekka Rinne ($8,400)
Tristan Jarry ($8,000)
David Rittich ($8,200)
The Five Hole
Five players to build cash lineups around:
Five tournament stacks to consider not previously listed:
Feel free to reach out to me via Twitter for any NHL DFS questions. Follow me @SteveDotzel and I will do my best to tweet any major updates to players in the article throughout the day and before lock.