Fantasy Goaltending Strategy

Oct 9th 2008, 1:00am EDT

Strategies are all well and good when they work. When they don't, it could ruin your team's chances. I don't live and die by strategy in my fantasy league, but I always try to have a loose strategy so I recognize an opportunity when it arises.

My goal with this piece is to open up a few possibilities that may give you a good idea as your draft progresses. As we all know, no draft goes how you will project it. Remember, every time someone drafts a player too early (in your opinion) or picks off the board, it's just an opportunity for you to take advantage of.

I've come up with a few strategies that you can employ when it comes to drafting your keepers or picking up key free agents:

1. Opposing Conference Selections

Though the league has changed the weighting of the schedule, I still feel strongly about this ideal. I've never been a fan of playing goalies against each other. I respect that if the game finishes 1-0, than it's not that bad on your stats. Actually, it's pretty good. It could always go the other way.

When you do this, it almost feels unnatural. You're betting against yourself. Then again, the only other option when your goalies face each other is to try to pick the winner, which is a dicey game of roulette at that. I understand that sometimes it's necessary. I try to limit my exposure by, if possible, drafting my two main goalies out of separate conferences.

2. Stat Balancing vs. Strong categories

This is pretty self explanatory. You have to ask yourself what you want to have.

Stat Balancing:

When you try to balance stats, than the goal is to pick up goalies that are strong in different categories. This style can give consistency, which is golden in a 27 week season.

Example - Miller & Leclaire - Miller should have wins, solid GAA & SVP and face 25-30 shots a game. In contrast, Leclaire should carry games into OT (limiting total losses), good GAA, and an average SVP. Leclaire sees 20 shots a night, but will probably come through with shutouts. If all goes right, this should give you pretty respectable stats for all of your categories.

Example - Osgood & Vokoun - Osgood is good for wins, GAA and average SVP. Vokoun has SVP and SVs. Both are capable of shutouts.

Strong Categories:

With strong categorical play, a GM can almost guarantee three of six goaltending categories a week. We all know that shutouts are a crap-shoot bonus category. As the head-to-head season pushes on, those points add up. They could be the difference in the playoff race. The categories that you wish to dominate are up to you.

Example - Fluery & Biron - Both goalies should put up the W's and avoid the L's. Both will have a good GAA and SVP. Both see 25-30 shots. By my calculations, this should be a good tandem for W, L, GAA, SVP & SVs. This is a pair that you could draft and be very successful. Beware the inter-divisional drafting. (I know, I'm sending mixed messages with this example).

Shootouts:

Shootouts have changed the game. As you probably know, when a game goes into a shootout then there will only be one win awarded, no loss will occur. These games are an excellent opportunity to get one more 'W' and not suffer a loss. Keep in the back of your mind the goaltenders that had success last year may warrant extra attention. The top goalies in shootout save percentage were:

  1. Garon - EDM .938
  2. Price - MTL .818
  3. Theodore - COL (now WSH) .786
  4. Hedberg - ATL - .774
  5. Sabourin - PIT .769
  6. Legace - STL .765
  7. Hasek - DET (ret.) .750
  8. Broduer - NJD .744
  9. Vokoun - FLA .732
  10. Roloson - EDM .730

You can immediately throw out Hasek and Sabourin. Garon should be the one that grabs you, especially when considering that Roloson is tenth. There's a huge gap in the numbers between Garon and the rest. This shows that the goalies in Edmonton have experienced some bit of success in the shootouts and with a young team and they may need to go past the overtime period to get wins.

The presence of the other goalies on this list only brings strength to there cases if you're trying to decide who to take - especially Hedberg. This backs up my idea that Lehtonen & Hedberg will split some time this year. Hedberg has had success and Lehtonen is in the last year of a contract. Although, I still don't recommend carrying either of them if you have a choice.

Saves:

I would say that this is more of a 'if you have to' strategy. Last year, one of the regular contenders in my league ended up with a plethora of goalies (DiPietro, Khabby, Garon, etc). All mid to low quality goalies that faced a lot of shots. Most weeks, this guy would lose goals against average & losses. But every week, he'd take save percentage and saves. You give up a little, but there is something to be said about taking points every week. He didn't win the championship, but he was a contender to make the playoffs. So, if you get in a bind, it's something to remember.

Don't take this as gospel...keep it in context. I'm just a fantasy hockey dork with too much time on my hands. My best strategies come while I'm walking the dog. Try it, it's good for you and your pup J