Fantasy owners must be aware of goalie trends

Tuesday, 08.12.2014 / 12:15 PM
Matt Sitkoff  - Contributor

It's no secret that goaltenders can make or break a fantasy team's championship aspirations.

A total of 97 goalies played in at least one NHL game last season and 90 started in at least one, meaning that fantasy owners must do their homework to achieve success.

Here are some interesting nuggets from the 2013-14 season, along with some corresponding advice, to bring to your fantasy draft table when deciding on goalies:

* Four teams, the San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, started only two goalies in 2013-14.

Strategy for this season: Injuries make it tough to project this trend from season to season, but don't be surprised to see many of the same teams accomplish this again. The Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers are most likely to join this list in 2014-15.

* In all, 27 teams started three or more goalies at least once. Ten teams, the Buffalo Sabres (6), Edmonton Oilers (6), Florida Panthers (5), Minnesota Wild (5), Washington Capitals (4), Anaheim Ducks (4), Calgary Flames (4), Colorado Avalanche (4), Dallas Stars (4) and Nashville Predators (4) had starts from four or more goalies.

Strategy for this season: Injuries and trades caused inflated numbers in some situations, but all this means is that fantasy owners should be aware of some top No. 3 goalies around the League (e.g. Peter Mrazek, Dustin Tokarski, Marek Mazanec, Kristers Gudlevskis) who may be able to contribute from a fantasy standpoint. The Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers, Stars and Penguins each have three goalies on one-way contracts on their rosters, so those are teams to keep an eye on.

* The Stars, Penguins and Sharks led the League by starting one goalie in 78.1 percent of their games. At the other end, the Wild goalie with the most starts (Josh Harding) started 32 percent of his team's games, just ahead of the Oilers who had their most frequent goalie (Devan Dubnyk) start 35.37 percent of the time.

Strategy for this season: Backup goalies can always contribute to your fantasy team. Owners can expect goalie tandems for the Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues, Ducks, Sabres, Oilers, Wild, and Senators this season.

* Of the 441 times a team played back-to-back games in 2013-14, one goalie played both ends 136 times (30.8 percent). The Stars (61.5 percent) were the only team that started the same goalie in more than 50 percent of its scheduled back-to-backs. Nine teams started the same goalie in 20 percent or fewer of their back-to-to-backs: Avalanche (20 percent), Montreal Canadiens (14.6), New York Islanders (16.6), Blues (15.4), Ducks (14.3), Toronto Maple Leafs (12.5), Penguins (11.8), Sharks (10) and Sabres (7.7).

Strategy for this season: Know each coach's philosophy of back-to-backs before drafting goalies. Dallas' Lindy Ruff obviously is a believer of starting a goalie on consecutive nights while coaches like Anaheim's Bruce Boudreau, St. Louis' Ken Hitchcock and Colorado's Patrick Roy believe in going with another option on the second night.

* Goalies who played both ends of a back-to-back were 53-63-16 with 363 goals allowed and 3,588 saves on 3,959 shots in the second game (.906 save percentage; the NHL average was .914). Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen played in the most with eight back-to-back starts (3-4-1 record, 2.69 goals-against average, .915 save percentage). Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask went 4-0-0 with a 2.26 GAA and a .930 save percentage in his five starts in the second leg of a back-to-back. On the flip side, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist went 1-3-0 with a 4.02 GAA and a save percentage of .879 in such situations.

Strategy for this season: If you have a goalie starting on back-to-back nights, expect about a 40 percent chance of getting a win. Owners must pay attention to each goalie's statistics throughout the season and can't hesitate to bench a top-flight goalie in favor of his backup on the second leg of a back-to-back.

Follow Matt Sitkoff on Twitter: @MSitkoffNHL

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