Puck Picks: Make it the Middle Lane

In the beginner series articles at the start of the NHL season, I gave advice, offered some suggestions and stated a few hypotheses that I have been testing throughout the season. Also, FantasyDraft changed the scoring system and have been periodically upgrading their contests to improve your DFS experience. Lets look at a few adjustments real quick.

Team G

At the start of the season you couldn’t win in tournament play without a big night from a Team G, but that has changed. FantasyDraft has added Wins as a scoring feature (5 points) and reduced points for saves from one to .5. That has changed the emphasis from goalies to offensive players and has made mid-level Team G’s that are likely to get you that important Win the key to picking a good lineup.

Defenseman

Early in the season, and most DFS players still believe in this, I was in favor of discounting defense and spending on goalies and forwards. Now, I believe in paying for reliable producers that produce from the blue line – Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns recently.

Building a Roster

As the season has progressed and my philosophies have evolved I have come to focus on high-priced offensive players, paying for defenseman and targeting mid-range Team G’s that are favored to win.

The way I go about building a lineup is to start by targeting the bargains of the night and filling in my stars from there. Every night I pick 4-5 stars, then I find 6-8 affordable and bargain basement players and 2-3 Team G’s and then mix and match the best combinations so that come in on budget.

Cash is on the table and pucks are slippery little suckers when they are on ice. That’s a combination that we DFS’ers like and what we will be feasting on today. It’s March 8th and a lot of high-end offensive talents are playing in tough match ups in an eight game slate in the NHL tonight leading me to spend a lot on the mid-range players rather than bargains or budget busters.

Lets start with the studs and then move on to the bargains and then squeeze our Team G in at the end.

High Priced to Pay for:

There aren’t a lot of high priced plays to love tonight. The teams allowing the most goals, for the most part, have the night off. The Montreal Canadiens face the Dallas Stars, the Tampa Bay Lightning face the Boston Bruins and the Nashville Predators face the Winnipeg Jets, but few of those teams have the stars to take advantage of the cushy match up.

Here are the viable big-ticket items on the slate.

Steven Stamkos: Center $14,700

Vs. Boston Bruins

Stats: 4 Goals – 2 Assists – 15 SOG = 7 GP

The Bruins score a ton of goals but they allow a lot as well and they are playing back-to-back road games. The Lightning are scoring almost as often as the Bruins, making Stamkos a viable high-priced play (and he is the cheapest of the bunch)

Brent Burns: Defenseman $16,800

@Edmonton Oilers

Stats: 4 Goals – 4 Assists – 22 SOG = 4 GP

Burns is so hot it is surprising they can maintain the ice underneath his skates. This kind of streak demands “Must-Start” status regardless of all other factors.

Patrice Bergeron: Center $15,100

@Tampa Bay Lightning

Stats: 6 Goals – 3 Assists – 27 Shots On Goal = 7 Games Played

The Bruins lead the NHL in goals over the last nine games and Bergeron is scoring or assisting in a majority of them. He is a reliable nightly producer without the lofty salaries that Seguin and Ovechkin demand. The Lightning is a tough match up, but Bergeron is the gold standard for consistency.

Sidney Crosby: Center $16,200

@NY Islanders

Stats: 3 Goals – 6 Assists – 17 SOG = 7 GP

Another tough match up for a big-ticket player, but Crosby has been playing well and he isn’t at that enormous Ovechkin salary that should scare you away.

 Tyler Seguin: Center $17,500

@Montreal Canadiens

Stats: 11 SOG = 3 GP

Jamie Benn ($16,500) has been unstartable lately, Seguin has disappointed as well and I do struggle to recommend Seguin here. Seguin is putting a lot of shots on the net and the Canadiens are a solid match up. He is on the low-end of my high priced targets tonight, but his salary is down because of the struggles and tonight could be the night to take advantage.

The Dallas Stars, Jets and Bruins are the best match ups of the night and that makes the Predators a very interesting stack tonight. They have four or five viable, affordable players to stack in their game against the Winnipeg Jets, who have allowed 26 goals in their last eight games.

Nashville Predators Stack

Flip Forsberg: Center $13,600

Stats: 8 Goals – 4 Assists – 25 SOG = 6 GP

Forsberg has been on fire with hat tricks and assists and more than four shots on goal per night in the last eight. A streak like that against the Jets is too good not to like. He has to be due for a fall off, but the Cardinal rule is to never go against a streak. The salary is affordable considering he leads hockey in scoring the last eight games.

Craig Smith: Wing $9,500

Stats: 3 Goals – 6 Assists – 12 SOG = 6 GP

Affordable salary and good production in a great matchup = “must-start. ” The Predators are one of the few viable stacks and Smith has to be included in it.

Shea Weber: Defenseman $12,400

Stats: 2 Goals – 3 Assists – 9 SOG = 3 GP

He isn’t the cheapest option, but he is significantly cheaper than Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. He has five points in three games and is averaging three shots per game as well.

Mike Ribeiro: Center $7,900

Stats: 1 Goal – 3 Assists – 2 SOG = 3 GP

Two shots on goal in three games are disturbing and I can’t recommend him based on that kind of performance, but at that salary he is worth a consideration for strategic purposes. With the lack of great high-priced options you probably won’t need Ribeiro, but he is there if you need him.

Now, lets look at the reasonably priced options for the night. With a lack of great match ups for the big-ticket items tonight is a night to spend evenly from the “affordable priced” menu.

AFFORDABLE OPTIONS

Mark Scheifele: Center $11,600

Stats: 8 Goals – 4 Assists – 25 SOG = 7 GP

He is tied with Flip Forsberg for the NHL lead in goals scored over the last eight games. The Predators aren’t a good match up, but salary + performance = Starter according to my math. He is NOT a “Must-Start,” but a strong option.

Alex Galchenyuk: Center $9,300

Stats: 7 Goals – 18 SOG = 6 GP

He was questionable with a lower body injury but reports today say he will play. In the best match up of the slate at one of the more affordable prices you will ever find for a player performing like he has been, as long as the injury isn’t an issue, he is a “must-start.”

Jason Spezza: Center $12,600

Stats: 6 Goals – 24 SOG = 7 GP

The salary isn’t a bargain while the match up is only mediocre, but six goals in seven nights make him a strong start. Benn is freezing cold and Seguin has struggled while remaining expensive. Spezza is the best mix of price and performance for a Stars team averaging three goals and almost 32 shots per game.

Patric Hornqvist: Wing $13,900

Stats: 5 Goals – 4 Assists – 18 SOG =7 GP

A mini-stack of Crosby and Hornqvist is an intriguing, though expensive stack. He has been the pick to click for the Penguins recently but it’s a tough match up against the Islanders. I don’t love him tonight, but it’s a viable consideration.

Ondrej Palat: Wing $9,600

Stats: 5 Goals – 1 assist – 13 SOG = 7 GP

Palat brings a three game goal-scoring streak into one of the best match ups against a Boston Bruins team that has allowed almost three goals per game in their last nine. Stacking Palat with Tyler Johnson ($11,700) or Steven Stamkos ($14,700) or both is a viable strategy.

Zach Smith: Center $7,500

Stats: 4 Goals – 3 Assists – 18 SOG = 7 GP

Zach Smith has been my go to bargain for a while and at that unchanging, bargain salary I can’t force myself to go elsewhere.

TEAM G

The Bruins are the most expensive Team G of the night and its understandable why. They are big favorites and they allow a lot of shots on goal. That all being said, they are playing in back to back nights and I like the offensive players to stack against them more than I like their Team G.

New York Islanders ($16,100) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Jaroslav Halak is getting the start and he has been playing extremely well. The Penguins are averaging just fewer than 33 shots on goal per night over the last nine games and they are the slight favorite over the Islanders. The salary, the shots on goal and the legitimate chance to get a win make the Islanders a strong start tonight.

Edmonton Oilers ($14,000) vs. San Jose Sharks

The Oilers are favored while the Sharks are playing in back-to-back nights. The Oilers defense is second in the NHL in shots on goal allowed in the last nine games. The shots on goal, a potentially tired Sharks lineup, the bargain salary and the Oilers being the favorite to get the home win; the Oilers are the most intriguing Team G tonight.

San Jose Sharks ($15,500) @Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers average almost 30 shots on goal a night over their last nine. It looks like James Reiner may get the start after Martin Jones stood on his head against the Flames last night. I still think the Sharks are viable because of the number of shots on goal, but I would downgrade them if it turns out Reiner does start. The shots on goal, salary and the chance to get a win make it a viable option but I would lean towards a pass if it is Reimer. Monitor this one.

Tampa Bay Lightning ($16,200) vs. Boston Bruins

There is risk with the Lightning because they are significant underdogs and the Bruins score a lot of goals. But, they are an affordable salary, the saves should be there and if they can swing a win you will get a leg up on the tournament field because I don’t expect a lot of ownership shares here.

Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell has been playing Fantasy sports for over twenty years. He contributed to RotoWire.com in their early days before contributing as a writer and doing Fantasy sports Podcasts for Seamheads.com. Three seasons ago he brought his writing and his Fantasy sports Podcast to RotoExperts.com and the Fantasy Sports Television network and this past season he wrote a weekly Fantasy sports column for BaseballAmerica.com. He also writes about Minor League prospects for RotoExperts. Chris has no more access to the site than the typical user. Follow him at Twitter @CJMiitch73.

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