I wanted to be sure to title this session properly. This is my personal approach to building cash game lineups. Kenneth, Todd and Nick might all have their own process that is successful for them. And in time, I hope that you too, will develop a process that is your own.
It’s All About Peripherals, Baby
Sing it with me, to the tune of Puff Daddy’s 1997 masterpiece…
It should come as no surprise, after over a year of reading my Cash Game Breakdowns, that my cash game lineups are almost entirely focused around peripherals – defined by me as shots on goal and blocked shots.
On DraftKings, you now get 1.5 points each time a player records a SOG or 1.3 points for a blocked shot. On Fanduel, they count for 1.6 fantasy points each – but you also have 3-point bonuses for 5+ SOG and 3+ blocks on DK, too.
Regardless, these peripherals are the first thing I look at, as variance doesn’t affect them nearly as much as it does actual goals/assists.
My goal each night, is to have every player in my cash lineup averaging around 4 peripherals per game. This way, I’m theoretically giving myself a cushion of about 44.8 DK points (or 51.2 FD points) before I even get into goals, assists, peripheral bonuses, or goaltending stats.
My only real rule, when it comes to actually constructing a lineup, is to not use two players that play on the same even-strength line.
Think of correlation in NHL DFS as a measure of increasing risk/reward. As you use more correlation, your lineup can finish much higher in a contest, but you’re also risking finishing much lower. In GPP’s, not only do you have to finish in the top 20% to cash, but the prizes also increase as you finish higher, so you almost have to use correlation to even have a shot of finishing near the top.
In cash games, however, first place pays the same as someone finishing in the 45th out of 100. Therefore, there’s no reason to increase your risk, as there’s literally no way to increase your reward.
Now, I don’t subscribe to the notion that you can’t play multiple players from the same team. In cash games, we’re not correlating players that skate together, so we need to think of all players on the slate as individuals.
The team they play on, is merely a way to classify these individuals. The argument is always – “well, if Toronto gets shut out, I don’t want to be stuck with both Tavares and Matthews in my lineup”.
Here’s the thing though, you can take any random sample of two uncorrelated players, and they have just as much of a chance of getting shut out as two teammates do.
If they aren’t skating together, saying that using both Matthews and Tavares is increasing your risk, is virtually the same as saying “I don’t want to use Barkov and Bergeron in the same lineup, because if players whose last name starts with a B all get shut out, I don’t want to be stuck with both of them.”
For our purposes, the TEAM is just a way to classify the players. If they aren’t skating together on the same line, they have just as much combined risk of not performing as one of them would have with any other player on the slate.
Now, if they’re skating on the same power play unit, then you have slight correlation, and you’re increasing the risk a bit. But, at the same time, if you’re going to substitute a lower projected player simply due to the fact that two players will skate for a few minutes together on the power play, aren’t you also increasing the risk by pivoting to a worse play? In my opinion, those very slight risks cancel one another out. There is tremendous risk added, however, by correlating players that will play 10+ minutes together at 5v5, so that is definitely something I avoid.
Otherwise, anything is on the table for me – it’s all dependent on the slate, though. On most nights, there will be a few players that I absolutely must have in my lineup. Including those players will generally dictate how my build for that particular night will go – whether I’ll wind up with a stars and scrubs approach, or a more well-balanced build.
Using Value Versus Managing Risk
On most nights, you can find a cheap skater or two that are in a position to receive an uptick in TOI (time on ice) and/or are getting the chance to skate alongside some high-upside linemates. I don’t love playing more than one of these players per night – unless they have a history of generating more peripherals when given such opportunity.
Bringing peripherals back into this: in general, I don’t like using more than one player that doesn’t give me an average of 4 peripherals per game. One of the common answers you’ll hear me give in the chat room when asked about a player for cash games is – “I’m fine with him if the rest of your lineup is solid/safer/etc.”.
If you really love a guy, or if there’s a player that helps you fit another elite cash game play into your lineup, I’m always ok with it, so long as the rest of the parameters are met: 1) the rest of your lineup brings an average of 15-ish peripherals per game to the table, and 2) you aren’t using two players that will skate together on the same forward line.
I went over my process for choosing goalies at great length in a recent strategy session, so I’ll keep this short.
I don’t even attempt to project a floor for goalies. There is too much variance in this sport to simply say, “well, this goalie is probably going to win, and he probably won’t let in more than 2 goals”.
Instead, I want to look at shots on goal, which is something that is affected far less by variance. I want a goalie that will face a big shot volume. On DK, you receive 0.7 points for every save a goaltender makes (0.8 on FanDuel). Even the worst goalies in the game have a save percentage near 90%, so generally, the more shots a goalie faces, the more fantasy points that goalie will score.
Look for the best combination of highest projected shot volume and lowest projected goals against, and you should start seeing your goaltenders perform better for you over time.
I hope this gives you some insight into how I construct my cash lineups. I sometimes fear that the term “peripherals” begins sounding like a broken record when I am writing the cash game breakdowns, but it really is the most important thing to me.
Again, I can’t stress enough that everything above is my personal process. I’m not saying it’s gospel, I’m not saying anyone that builds differently is wrong, but I do hope it gives you insight on how I build, and I do hope it helps some of you become more successful cash game players.