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Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo makes a save against the Calgary Flames at GM Place in Vancouver, Tuesday, April 7, 2009. (JONATHAN HAYWARD)
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo makes a save against the Calgary Flames at GM Place in Vancouver, Tuesday, April 7, 2009. (JONATHAN HAYWARD)

Hockey pool primer

It all starts in the net Add to ...

Far more so than forwards and defencemen, a goaltender's fantasy value relies heavily on the team he plays for.

The No. 1 stat for netminders in fantasy hockey is usually wins - as much a team stat as there is in hockey - followed by things such as goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts. In short, if a goaltender plays for a strong NHL team and starts the majority of the games, he is very likely someone you want on your fantasy team this season.

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The elite fantasy goalies all fit into this category - Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks), Martin Brodeur (New Jersey Devils), Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose Sharks) and Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers) - and without an established backup to challenge them for many starts, they will likely play 70 or more games every season (barring injury).

Unless you use a high pick to nab one of the top options, however, who you want in goal comes down to: which team you're comfortable putting your faith in, and, trying to forecast how many starts goaltenders will get. The following chart predicts how many starts the NHL's de facto No. 1's will get this season:

Some netminders on top teams, such as Chris Osgood of the Detroit Red Wings, generally work in a tandem with their backup and, as a result, play fewer games and have far less fantasy value. Others, such as Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers or Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars, play on less-talented teams but shoulder the bulk of the starts and can win just as many or more games, even on a non-playoff team.

The other key thing to look for is teams where the No. 1 netminder will be different this season. The best example of this is in Philadelphia, where Ray Emery is likely to play a large number of games for the Flyers after spending last season in Russia. Others likely taking on larger roles include Semyon Varlamov (Washington Capitals), Cristobal Huet (Chicago Blackhawks), Jonas Hiller (Anaheim Ducks), Craig Anderson (Colorado Avalanche) and Pascal Leclaire (Ottawa Senators) - five players who could potentially become No. 1 after spending last season as backups, injured or in the minors.

Profiling the fantasy goaltender (30-plus wins)

  • Nationality: 50-per-cent Canadian, 33-per-cent European, 17-per-cent American
  • Average age (start of last NHL season): 29
  • Size: 6 foot 1, 192 pounds
  • Average number of starts: 64

The Globe and Mail tip sheet

Elite options (up to 40 wins)

  • Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks - This could be the year he finally wins the Vézina.
  • Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils - The return of head coach Jacques Lemaire and the trap bodes well for Brodeur's numbers.
  • Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks - Could play a ton given dearth of challengers; doesn't need to be flawless to pickup wins behind this team.
  • Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers - King Henrik's 142 wins in the first four years of career is an NHL record.
  • Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes - Quite possibly NHL's best goaltender down stretch last season.

Second tier (35 wins)

  • Marc-André Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins - Will again get the bulk of the starts during what should be improved regular season for Pens.
  • Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres - Would have threatened 40 wins and Vézina Trophy contention had he remained healthy last season.
  • Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames - Save percentage has dropped four years running, a trend that should reverse with blueliner Jay Bouwmeester in fold.
  • Cristobal Huet, Chicago Blackhawks - A gamble given his history, but has a heckuva team in front of him.

Underrated gems

  • Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators - Won't go high on many draft lists as not much is expected from Preds, but could soon emerge as one of league's top stoppers.
  • Chris Mason, St. Louis Blues - Nearly unbeatable over the second half of last season.
  • Brian Boucher, Philadelphia Flyers - Excelled as a backup last year in San Jose, could pick up more starts than people think if Emery falters.

Rebound candidates/trending up

  • Jean-Sébastien Giguère, Anaheim Ducks - Previously one of NHL's elite, it's hard to imagine he won't battle Jonas Hiller to regain starting role.
  • Chris Osgood, Detroit Red Wings - Last year's goals-against average and save percentage were worst of his 15-year career.
  • Marty Turco, Dallas Stars - Will have much more help from backup Alex Auld than he received last season.

Players to avoid/trending down

  • Nikolai Khabibulin, Edmonton Oilers - Struggled over the second half last season, hasn't started more than 60 games since 2002-03.
  • Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins - Expect good but not great showing after phenomenal 2008-09 campaign.
  • Kari Lehtonen, Atlanta Thrashers - Coming off back surgery and has been fragile in the past.

Return for Part 4 of 4 on Friday: Duhatschek's top 200 players

 

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