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Fantasy Face-off: Rinne vs. Luongo

By NHL.com Fantasy Hockey Staff

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Fantasy Face-off: Rinne vs. Luongo
Which goalie should you draft first, Pekka Rinne or Roberto Luongo? NHL.com fantasy experts debate who deserves the higher selection.
At various points throughout the 2011-12 season, NHL.com and its panel of fantasy experts will dissect individual matchups with "Fantasy Face-offs." Torn between two players? Look no further than NHL.com/Fantasy for the edge on the most compelling toss-ups as the twists and turns of the regular season impact your fantasy squad.

Here's how it works:

For each "Face-off," fantasy experts Sergei Feldman and Pete Jensen will make their case as to why a particular player deserves consideration in the particular debate. Resident fantasy hockey guru Matt Cubeta will then juggle the two arguments and reach a final verdict for who deserves the edge.

We continue with NHL.com's preseason goaltender fantasy rankings, where Nashville's rising star Pekka Rinne occupies the top-overall spot. Roberto Luongo, who turned in yet another prolific campaign in the crease for the Western Conference champion Canucks, is ranked second among netminders.

And with that, here's NHL.com's take on the matter...




GOALIE

Pekka Rinne:

The Nashville Predators ventured deeper into the playoffs than ever before in 2010-11 -- and their emerging goaltender Pekka Rinne is the most evident reason why.

Pekka Rinne
Goalie - NSH
RECORD: 33-22-9
GAA: 2.12 | SVP: 0.930
Proving to be an absolute workhorse last season, Rinne started 64 games en route to 33 wins, only five behind last year's League leader, Roberto Luongo. Last season marked Rinne's second-straight 30-plus win campaign, and the 28-year-old again improved on his previous year's win total -- something he has done in each of his three full seasons at the NHL level.

Rinne was third among goaltenders with a stifling 2.12 goals-against-average last year, and his .930 save percentage was second in the League. While the likes of Luongo and Tim Thomas may have more NHL experience than Rinne, that will not be the case for much longer. It's safe to say that this Finnish-born star may have the most potential of any netminder in the NHL heading into the new season.

As Rinne enters his prime, fantasy owners would be wise to take notice.

-- Pete Jensen

Roberto Luongo:

Roberto Luongo
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 38-15-7
GAA: 2.11 | SVP: 0.928
Winning a game in the National Hockey League as a goaltender is no easy task, so you can imagine how tough it is to win more than 300. Or you can just ask Vancouver Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo, who skates in to the 2011-12 campaign with 308 on his resume and is showing no signs of slowing.

Since joining the Canucks in 2006-07, Luongo has dominated most, if not all, major goaltending categories. How does at least 33 wins a season since 2005-06 strike you? Or a goals against average of no higher than 2.57 since 2006-07? Regardless of category, "Lu" gets it done.

The man between the pipes in Vancouver was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2004, 2007 and 2011; the Lester B. Pearson Award in 2004 and 2007 and the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2007. Whether the award considerations back up the stats or vice versa, either way you slice it, Luongo's status as one of the League's most reliable fantasy hockey performers reigns supreme.

And the forecast for the upcoming season looks promising.

-- Sergei Feldman


FINAL VERDICT: PEKKA RINNE

While this goalie face-off is between Rinne and Luongo, it easily could have included a third and fourth netminder in the discussion -- Henrik Lundqvist and Tim Thomas, our third- and fourth-ranked goalies for this season, respectively.

Thomas finished last season as the top-ranked goalie in standard Yahoo! Leagues, with Lundqvist, Rinne and Luongo following in that order. Thomas had a milestone season, setting the record for best save percentage of all time (.938) and posting an unworldy 2.00 GAA. Lundqvist only led the NHL in shutouts with 11.

You're probably wondering why we're discussing Rinne and Luongo for top goalie, aren't you? Have a look:

Tim Thomas
Goalie - BOS
RECORD: 35-11-9
GAA: 2.00 | SVP: 0.938
Tim Thomas is 37 years old and has one of the League's top backup goalies behind him in Tuukka Rask. Thomas only started 55 games last season, and you can expect that number to decrease to possibly 50, considering he appeared in 25 more playoff contests en route to a Stanley Cup Championship. And can we really expect Thomas to repeat a season like last year? If you're into weird superstion-type things, you could also look at this: After winning the Vezina Trophy in 2008-09, Thomas slipped to just a 17-18-8 record with a 2.56 GAA and .915 save percentage in only 43 games -- pretty ordinary numbers. He won the Vezina Trophy again this past season -- just saying.

Lundqvist is clearly one of the top goalies in the prime of his career at age 29, and he's all but a lock to make close to 70 starts, but the fact that he plays for a team that barely made the playoffs last season definitely hurts his wins value. Of course this season could be different with the addition of Brad Richards and their core of young players expected to improve, but that's no guarantee. However, Lundqvist might be one of the safest plays among goalies this season. Read on.

Luongo arguably posted his best statistical campaign of his 11-year-career last season, going 38-15-7 with a 2.11 GAA, .928 save percentage and 4 shutouts, but everyone knows what happened in the playoffs. His GAA rose to 2.56 and his save percentage was a mere .914, but the stats don't say enough about the inconsitent performances and the implosion that occurred. Then there's the factor of his backup, Cory Schneider. Schneider made 22 starts last season and posted a more than respectable 2.23 GAA and .929 save percentage. Schneider could definitely put even more pressure on Luongo this season and cut into his playing time in 2011-12. Be aware.

Then there's Pekka Rinne.

Last season's Vezina Trophy candidate put together his best campaign in his third full NHL season. His 2.12 GAA ranked third in the NHL and his .930 save percentage ranked second. Can you expect a repeat of those numbers? No -- expect even better. Rinne has a coach and team in front of him that almost entirely focuses on defense first; he should make around 70 starts and has a clear hold on the starting job, with Anders Lindback currently slated as the backup goalie (2.60 GAA and .915 save percentage last season); he's in his prime age at 28 years old; and he's got that 6-foot-5 frame in between the pipes. What's not to like about Rinne? There's no safer pick than the Finish netminder.

You won't go wrong with selecting any of these four goalies in your fantasy draft, but we believe Rinne has the most upside and will finish the 2011-12 season as the top fantasy netminder.

-- Matt Cubeta


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