How To Choose A Fantasy Hockey Goalie

September 30, 2009 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

cheevers-maskNow that hockey season is upon us, it means that fantasy hockey leagues are in full swing and everyone is looking for fantasy hockey tips,  scouring statistics and prognosticating how players will perform for the upcoming season.

In many fantasy hockey leagues, particularly the popular Yahoo! leagues, the importance and weighting on goaltender statistics can be quite skewed vs. the importance of player statistics.

For instance, you may only have three goaltenders on your team, but there may be up to six categories of goaltender statistics scored. In head-to-head fantasy leagues, there may be eight categories of player statistics and six categories of Goaltender statistics – you can easily see the importance of goaltenders in this scenario!

The most popular goaltender statistics scored in fantasy leagues are:

  1. Games Played (GP)
  2. Wins (W)
  3. Goals Against Average (GAA)
  4. Save percentage (Save %)
  5. Saves (Saves)
  6. Shutouts (SO)

Let’s Take a Look at the Goaltenders who have excelled in these categories in the past.

Games Played

Under the games played category, we want to find a goaltender who doesn’t have a threatening backup and who typically plays the majority of his teams games. And, of course, one who is expected to do so in the upcoming season. Here is a look at the top five goaltenders from last season in the games played category.  Of note, all of these goalies, with the possible exception of Marty Turco, should play the vast majority of games for their respective team this coming season.

1 Miikka Kiprusoff

CGY

76

2 Marty Turco

DAL

74

3 Niklas Backstrom

MIN

71

4 Henrik Lundqvist

NYR

70

5 Cam Ward

CAR

68

Wins

Of course, a goalie who plays the majority of his teams games will have a better chance at putting up a larger number of wins based on sheer odds. Therefore, we expect to see a few of the same names under the Wins category as we saw in the previous category for Games Played.

Here are the top five goaltenders in the Wins category from last season:

1 Miikka Kiprusoff

CGY

45

2 Evgeni Nabokov

SJS

41

3 Cam Ward

CAR

39

4 Henrik Lundqvist

NYR

38

5 Niklas Backstrom

MIN

37

Goals Against Average

This statistic is a widely kept and scored statistic in fantasy leagues. Not to discredit goaltenders, but very defensive minded teams often have goaltenders with low Goals Against Averages.

On another note, a goaltender can have a very low goals against average and not play very many games.  Of course, if they are not playing, they are not going to help you in your fantasy league!

Here are the five best Goals Against Averages from goalies who played at least 50 games last season in the National Hockey League.

1 Tim Thomas

BOS

54

2.10

2 Steve Mason

CBJ

61

2.29

3 Niklas Backstrom

MIN

71

2.33

4 Roberto Luongo

VAN

54

2.34

5 Pekka Rinne

NSH

52

2.38

Save Percentage

Among NHL goalies who played at least 50 games last season, here are the top five leaders in the save percentage category.

1 Tim Thomas

BOS

54

.933

2 Tomas Vokoun

FLA

59

.926

3 Niklas Backstrom

MIN

71

.923

4 Roberto Luongo

VAN

54

.920

5 Ryan Miller

BUF

59

.918

Saves

Among goalies who played at least 50 NHL games last season, here are the top five leaders in saves. Of course, one also expect sthe save leaders to be among the top in the Games Played category as well.

1 Miikka Kiprusoff

CGY

76

1946

2 Niklas Backstrom

MIN

71

1900

3 Henrik Lundqvist

NYR

70

1839

4 Ilya Bryzgalov

PHX

65

1807

5 Marty Turco

DAL

74

1790

Shutouts

The shutout category is a wildcard in most years and just like the Goals Against Average, one expects that the most defensive minded teams would give their respective goaltenders a better chance to achieve more shutouts during a season.Again, the more games played, the better the odds of earning a shutout.

Here are the top five leaders in the shutout category from last season.

1 Steve Mason

CBJ

61

10

2 Roberto Luongo

VAN

54

9

3 Niklas Backstrom

MIN

71

8

4 Evgeni Nabokov

SJS

62

7

5 Pekka Rinne

NSH

52

7

Now, after doing all of this research, it certainly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the Minnesota Wild’s Niklas Backstrom shows up in the top five of every category. Regardless if you believe that the Wild’s new coach, Todd Richards, is going to play a more offensive style this season I really don’t think you can go wrong by selecting Backstrom high in the draft.

An additional strategy would be to pick up the relatively under-appreciated Pekka Rinne later in the draft. His numbers were spectacular (Almost Calder trophy worthy) last season after winning the job from Dan Ellis and it is expected that he will see more time between the pipes in Nashville this season.

What The Number Don’t Tell Us

Martin Brodeur is back after missing most of last season due to injury.  And, even at his advanced age he cannot be discounted as one of odds on favorites to lead in many of these categories. What is uncertain is just how many games his aging body can play.  However, what is certain is that the Devils will be a defensive minded team with Jacques Lemaire back behind the bench!

In addition, Nikolai Khabibulin posted some impressive numbers last season after taking over from Cristobal Huet part way through the year in Chicago. There is some question as to his age, but Edmonton has hung their hat on him for the upcoming year and he is expected to carry the bulk of the workload for the Oilers.

Now that you have your goaltending strategy down, you need to find the most consistent points producers to fill out your fantasy team. I suggest taking a look at this article by Joe Pelletier where he breaks down the most consistent hockey pool performers over the past three seasons.

Best of luck to you this season! – unless you’re in a fantasy league competing with me :)

Interview With Nashville’s Pekka Rinne

December 8, 2008 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Interviews

NHL Digest correspondent Neil Bristow recently had a chance to sit down with Nashville Predator goaltender, Pekka Rinne, for a one-on-one interview.

You made your NHL debut Dec.15th 2005. Can you share with us a little of what that was like? What was going through your mind at that time?

Pekka Rinne – It was something that I had always been dreaming of. At that time both Tomas Vokoun and Chris Mason were hurt and I got the call. Everything happened pretty fast and I didn`t have time to stress about the game, we won the game and it was just amazing experience I`ll remember for rest of my life.

You played with Karpat Oulu (FNL) before coming over to North America. Is playing goalie over here different than in Finland? If so, why? And did you have to make adjustments to your game at all?

Pekka Rinne – The game is little different in Finland mostly because of the bigger ice surface..Players have more time to use their skills. In North America game is more north-south style of play. That`s why I had to change my game more aggressive to challenge the shooter and cut down the angles. I really like the North American style of game.

What were some of your goals this year coming in to Camp in Nashville?

Pekka Rinne -  My goal was to have a good summer and strong training camp and make the team. Also prove that I can play in NHL and that I belong.

What is your biggest moment so far in your career and why?

Pekka Rinne -  When I played in Finland we won two championships in a row 2004 and 2005. It was pretty special because I played for my hometown team in front of my family and friends. Other great moment was when we made it to Calder Cup finals with Milwaukee on 2006. We had a great team but unfortunately we came short and Hershey won the Cup.

With players like Jaromir Jagr going over to play in the Kontinental league in Russia for the same money they would make in the NHL, the Russian  league has stated in the past, that they will pay NHL-like salaries for players  in their league.  Do you see this becoming a realistic problem for the NHL, losing great European talent to Russia?

Pekka Rinne – Maybe in the future, but I don`t think it`s a problem right now. NHL is such a respected league around the world that every kid in Europe wants to play in NHL someday.

Who did you look up to growing up, goaltender -wise?

Pekka Rinne -  My cousin used to play goalie growing up and he had a big influence on me. He is the biggest reason why I started to play goalie. In NHL I used watch Patrick Roy and John Vanbiesbrouck play when growing up.

Who is one player that you have faced before, that you wouldn’t want coming in on you in a shootout? And why?

Pekka Rinne – Back in AHL I think Darren Haydar is a player that I don`t like to face too many times.  I played with him in Milwaukee ´06-07 and you would think that I know his moves, but he`s just so smart and skilled player that he reads goalies and forces them to make the first move.

The NHL is once again started the season over in Europe this year with the Lightning and Rangers battling in Prague and the Sens and Pens in Stockholm.  What are your thoughts on NHL teams starting a long season over there with all the travel and scheduling? Are you in favour of that?

Pekka Rinne – As a European and knowing European hockey fans I think it`s great thing that they are able to see and watch their favorite players and teams. Also it`s a good way to showcase the whole NHL and it`s unbelievable players. And also for players I think it`s nice to see some new countries and cities. Obviously the schedule is hard but there`s more gain than harm, teams playing in Europe.

What NHL city, other than Nashville, do you most looking forward to playing in? And why?

Pekka Rinne –  Before the season, beside Nashville, I had not visited too many NHL cities, but I really like all Canadian NHL cities because hockey is just so big in Canada. I have to say it`s a privilege to play for the Nashville organization, we have such a great fans and hockey is getting bigger in South.

The NHL has thrown around the idea of maybe changing the size of the NHL nets or maybe altering goaltender’s equipment.  What are your thoughts and ideas on that topic?

Pekka Rinne –  It`s a topic that everybody has different opinion. I think that if people decide to change the size of the nets, would be a mistake. All the records and games played before would lose their meaning and new era of hockey would begin. But I`m fine with altering goalie gear as long as it`s safe for goalies.

Have you had any embarrassing on- ice moments in your career so far? If so, could you share a story with our readers?

Pekka Rinne – There`s couple moments that I try to forget.. This one happened when playing in Finland. We played against Ilves Tampere and were leading 3-2, there was only 3 seconds left in the game and I started almost celebrating when somebody just threw the puck to net and it went in off my skate and at the same time buzzer went off. We ended up losing the game in overtime.

It was the final game of the regular season and we would have finished first if we would have won that game. I wasn`t happy tell you that much. Luckily we were able to win the Finnish Championship that year so I could laugh about it with the guys afterwards.

If you had the power to make changes in the NHL game, would you change anything? If so what would you change?

Pekka Rinne -  I think NHL have done a great job with some changes in the game last few years. It has made the game faster and more interesting for the fans and also for the players. I don`t have any new suggestions, I just try to work on things that I can control. Thanks!!

I would like to say thank you to Pekka Rinne for giving his time and sharing his thoughts with our readers.

Until next time, I’m Neil Bristow for nhldigest.com