Good morning everyone and welcome to volume 36 of the Top Shelf Knucklepuck Stacks! We have a cash-playable 8-game slate on this sunny and clear Saturday morning here in San Diego, California. If you celebrate the holiday, Merry Christmas and I hope you and your family are enjoying the cool weather. (It’s still 68 here).
If you are a new subscriber to our NHL Core Plays, please make sure that you are playing all of the lineups that I post on any given day. NHL is such a highly-variant sport and there is truly no telling which lineup will go off. I do have my favorites each day, but even the lineups that I may not think have massive upside sometimes, in fact, have the upside you need to take down a tournament.
The top stacks on this 8-game slate are all extremely expensive to roster together, but I would not be doing my job if I did not mention them in this space. In my order of preference (according to my model), the line stacks that rate the highest are: WAS 1 / PP1, WPG 1 / PP1, COL 1 / PP1, and TOR PP1 / 1.
If you are on those lines, you know that you are rostering Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler – Patrik Laine/Kyle Connor/Nikolaj Ehlers, Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen – Gabriel Landeskog, John Tavares – Auston Matthews – Mitchell Marner – Morgan Rielly. The one stack that is not obscenely expensive is the one that rates the highest according to the Nils Model is the Capitals power play that features Nicklas Backstrom – Alexander Ovechkin – TJ Oshie – John Carlson. The Caps are on the road in Ottawa and both teams are playing on the back end of a back-to-back. The Senators, while their offense shimmers at times, still rank dead last in all defensive categories. Contrast that to a Capitals team that is averaging the fourth-most goals per game and have the eighth-best power play in the league. The reason you want a piece of the Caps power play is that the Senators have the worst penalty kill unit through 36 games.
The way that I would play today is that I would use plays from the aforementioned expensive stacks and sprinkle them into a Caps stack or a Sabres 1 or Lightning 1 stack. I love the Sabres top line once again at home ice. Jack Eichel – Jeff Skinner – Sam Reinhart (with Rasmus Ristolainen or Rasmus Dahlin) continue to look great together and are facing a road weary Anaheim Ducks squad that gets a few days off after tonight’s contest.
As for the Tampa Bay Lightning, you need to roster the Brayden Point / Nikita Kucherov duo with Tyler Johnson as an optional add-on. I am ranking this line stack a little lower given the fact that they are on the road. However, the Oilers still allow a ton of high-danger scoring chances and the Lightning are averaging the most goals per game. You have to take a shot in GPPs with the NHL’s top offense.
Other Notable Stacks
The third (second) line from the Carolina Hurricanes (Andrei Svechnikov – Lucas Wallmark – Justin Williams) has been great as of late and the line helped us cash well on Thursday. We are going back to the line as a sneaky play this evening as they skate on home ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that is allowing the fourth-most shots against per game. The Canes are atop the NHL in the CF% category and I expect the team as a whole to control the flow at home.
When creating high-upside tournament lineups, if you think that everyone else is on one side of a particular game, you can bounce to the other side to take a contrarian view of the world. An example of this train of thought comes into play in the same contest that I just wrote about in the above paragraph. The Penguins are averaging the eighth-most goals per game in the league and you should have exposure to the offense in your GPP lineups this evening despite the fact that they are playing the team with the best puck control numbers. My favorite one-off play from this game is Phil Kessel. If you’re stacking the Pens, you need to target the team’s first line (Jake Guentzel – Sid Crosby – Bryan Rust).
Also look at the Minnesota Wild’s Eric Staal – Jason Zucker – Mikael Granlund line with Ryan Suter as an add-on with Matthew Dumba out.
With everyone on the Maple Leafs, there is great value is rostering the New York Rangers top line (Filip Chytil – Mika Zibanejad – Mats Zuccarrello).
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There were some questions in the Slack chat over the first month of the season about how to find the lines that I list as my top stacks on the Top Shelf Knucklepuck Cheat Sheet. Head over to either DailyFaceoff.com or LeftWingLock.com to see which skaters are on each of a team’s lines and then build your line stacks. For example, if you see that my top stack of the day is “PIT PP1 / 1”, look at one of the two sites listed above and you will see that the top power play unit of the Pittsburgh Penguins consists of Patric Hornqvist – Evgeni Malkin – Sidney Crosby – Kris Letang – Phil Kessel. The team’s top line features Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist. I decided to leave off the players’ names from the line stacks because of the fact that they may change before the game or after the team’s morning skate (if applicable). Both sites I mentioned are updated regularly and typically accurate. If you’re ever lost, just ask questions in our Slack chat.
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Feel free to comment here or post a screenshot or photo on Instagram and remember to tag me @NotTonyM. I am always open to feedback and critique. Just remember, I respond to respect and love in whatever the message is that you want to share. Good luck!
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