In conjunction with tonight’s meager two-game NHL slate, I wanted to discuss strategy on small slates for NHL. Due to the nature of scheduling, we often get some huge slates and a good number of two to four gamers throughout the season. An entirely different approach can be optimal depending on the number of games on the docket.
There is an excellent correlation between players who skate together on the ice regarding goals and assists. So, the number one strategy for winning at NHL DFS is to correlate at least two skaters from the same even strength or power play line on two different teams. It is generally optimal to connect three skaters from the same line from two teams. Then even add a defenseman from one and a goalie from another.
You are basically trying to create as much correlation as possible so that if you get a couple of things right, your team goes off. You stack two groups of three forwards who will share the ice. Then add a defenseman who will share the ice with one group for portions of the game. Top it off with a goalie from the other group who will likely get the win bonus if that stack goes off for many goals. With this strategy, you basically make two decisions, and if they both work, you win. There is no need to get out the crystal ball and somehow pick out all the individual players who will have good performances.
While this is the tried-and-true optimal traditional strategy for winning at NHL DFS, it is not as viable on small slates. Lineup duplication can be a significant factor in NHL since standard 4-3 constructions with a correlated goalie can be apparent throughout the field. It is less likely that someone will wind up with your exact lineup on a sizable slate, although still possible. Yet, you can primarily stick with highly correlated constructions and be reasonably safe in terms of mega-duplication. Even one or two duplicates won’t entirely ruin your payout. Plus, any duplication at all is pretty likely to be avoided depending on your stack combo.
However, on a two-game slate, or even three or four, stacking two straight even-strength lines with a correlated goalie is pretty likely to be a duplicated build. Add in a correlated defenseman, and it may be even more likely not to be unique. Yes, you can get different by not correlating your defenseman and/or goalie or getting very off-the-board with your choice of defensemen. Yet, let’s just say you can avoid excessive duplication with a standard 3-3 construction. It is still more likely on a small slate that an odd combination of the right pieces vaults to the top of NHL GPP leaderboards.
On top of it, say your lineup is not actually duplicated due to an unusual choice of defensemen. Still, large portions of the field will likely have the same 3-3 forward combo. Now you are competing against all of those people with only your goalie and defensemen to differentiate. So, on small slates, we may want to move away from maximum correlation in our lineups.
It is certainly possible to get different with fully stacked lineups, even on small slates. Some ways:
- Digging down to third and fourth lines
- Using power play lines rather than even-strength
- Choosing low-rostered defensemen
- Leaving salary on the table
Still, we may want to look at other ways to build where we give up some correlation for uniqueness and the highest ceiling.
Using tonight’s two-game slate as an example, I will demonstrate some of the other ways we might build our lineups for differentiation. There are many others, but here are a few.
3-3 Stacking With Two Forwards And A Defenseman
Using this method, we can still maintain a great deal of correlation while making our lineup a bit different from much of the field.
What we are doing here is taking two forwards from two teams who skate on the same even strength and power-play lines. We are then pairing a defenseman from each who also skates on the same power play grouping. Then we tack on a goalie from one of the teams. We then have two open spots for two forwards from the remaining team that is not facing our goalie.
We still have a correlated lineup but with two forwards and a defenseman rather than three forwards. We have a three-team parlay essentially now with the additional two correlated skaters from another team. This would be a 3-3-2 construction. Or 4-3-2 if counting the goalie.
Also, you don’t have to fill in the two remaining roster spots with two skaters from the same team. On DraftKings, you can add another skater from either squad you already used. Or one skater from each of the other two teams on the slate. You can indeed even use a skater against your goalie on such a small slate. On FanDuel, you can only use a max of four skaters per team, so your options are more limited, but you still have options.
As mentioned, FanDuel does not allow more than four skaters from one team. On DraftKings, we have more flexibility On a two-game slate, it is entirely possible that one team completely goes off for seven goals, and no other team eclipses two or three. In this case, you could consider an onslaught stack of players from multiple lines from one squad. You can even add in the goalie since he is likely to get the win bonus. It is a good idea to look for a power-play correlation here as well. This is an example of a full Tampa Bay power-play stack with the goalie. You are then required to use skaters from at least two different teams in your remaining slots.
You can game-stack players from each side of the game on any slate. But, because teams succeeding on offense often control possession throughout the game, game stacks are not frequently the way to go. Particularly since correlating your goalie with your stack is a proper strategy. You don’t want to play a stack against your goalie, making game-stacks less common on a big slate.
Yet, on a two-game slate or even three or four, it is totally possible that one game goes off for fireworks, and the others are duds on both sides. For this reason, you might look at full or partial stacking one game and just playing a goalie from the other. The added benefit is that you can even correlate a defenseman from both sides while avoiding playing skaters against your goalie, even on a two-gamer.
There are many other ways you can get different, and these are just a few to get your creative lineup-building juices flowing. The main takeaway is not necessarily to use these exact building methods, although you can. The key to small slates is to look for ways to maintain correlation and basic lineup logic. All while getting away from the most apparent 3-3 full even-strength forward line-stacking. Find creative ways to fit correlated pieces and get different from your opponents. It will give you a good chance at having the unique combo to take down first in large-field GPPs on small slates.