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Fantasy top 30 goalies: Quality of competition

by Evan Sporer / NHL.com

Every Thursday during the season, NHL.com's Evan Sporer will provide you with in-depth analysis of goaltenders. From updated weekly top-30 rankings to trending players and more, Sporer will be your go-to guy for advice on fantasy goalies all season long.

UPDATED TOP 30 GOALIE RANKINGS

Quality of competition is a concept in hockey mostly applied to skaters.

It's easier to isolate the events of a skater's game every night than a goalie. We can look at what kind of forwards a defenseman is deployed against, and which forwards a coach matches up against their counterparts. Those are discernible segments of the game that we can analyze, and it gives us a glimpse into who is really playing the so-called tough minutes and how they fare in said instances.

For goalies, this kind of observation is a bit trickier.

To qualify the quality of competition a goalie faces there are no segments to draw from, just 60-minute (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter) samples. A goalie faces every skater on the opposing team at one point or another, which makes things like save percentage, goals-against average, and win-loss records, on the surface, the chief way to judge goalies.

And that can be frustrating in terms of fantasy hockey, because knowing how a goalie performs against different competition would go a long way in structuring one's lineup. It's a dilemma most have faced before: You have three goalies scheduled to start one night and can play two. Goalie A may be your best statistical starter of the three but might have the most difficult matchup. While Goalie B and Goalie C aren't as consistent, they are playing teams that you'd expect them to have a chance to win against.

Hockey is a pretty difficult sport to predict. Any team can beat any other team on any given night. And while you almost always can play the odds, it's no consolation to your fantasy team when your top goalie is defeated by one of the League's lesser teams. But below, this chart shows how 22 of the most used goalies this season have performed against different levels of competition.

The chart shows how different goalies have performed against different levels of competition this season. The stats are taken through Jan. 1, and the League was broken down into three tiers based on the standings from that date, based on winning percentage, representing the top, middle and bottom thirds.

PLAYER WIN-LOSS RECORD SPECS WIN % VARIANCE SAVE % VARIANCE
Overall vs. top third vs. mid third vs. bottom third Overall vs. top third vs. mid third vs. bottom third Overall vs. top third vs. mid third vs. bottom third
Rinne 24-6-2 5-3-1 7-2-1 12-1-0 .774 .611 .750 .923 .934 .919 .924 .953
Crawford 14-6-2 5-2-0 3-4-1 6-0-1 .682 .833 .438 .929 .921 .931 .905 .927
Bishop 18-6-2 4-0-1 9-4-0 5-2-1 .760 .900 .692 .688 .915 .921 .910 .918
Price 20-9-1 4-5-1 9-2-0 7-2-0 .683 .450 .818 .778 .928 .907 .944 .926
Lundqvist 17-8-3 6-5-1 5-1-1 6-2-1 .661 .542 .786 .722 .913 .902 .918 .925
Fleury 20-6-3 5-0-1 8-2-2 7-4-0 .741 .917 .750 .636 .928 .927 .926 .931
Andersen 20-6-5 5-1-1 7-5-2 8-0-2 .726 .786 .517 .900 .916 .944 .862 .935
Quick 15-8-3 6-4-2 5-0-0 4-4-1 .596 .583 1.00 .500 .919 .931 .930 .908
Niemi 15-8-4 7-2-1 4-4-1 4-2-2 .630 .750 .500 .555 .919 .933 .905 .917
Rask 15-10-4 4-6-2 4-4-1 7-0-1 .586 .417 .500 .938 .910 .909 .896 .924
Halak 20-6-0 6-3-0 6-3-0 8-0-0 .769 .667 .667 1.000 .917 .916 .894 .952
Howard 15-6-7 3-2-2 5-3-3 7-1-2 .661 .571 .591 .800 .918 .902 .923 .935
Luongo 14-7-7 3-2-4 4-2-1 7-3-2 .625 .556 .643 .667 .923 .926 .911 .929
Holtby 16-8-6 5-3-3 2-2-2 9-3-1 .633 .591 .500 .731 .921 .927 .892 .935
Bernier 15-8-3 6-4-2 5-1-0 4-3-1 .635 .583 .833 .563 .921 .926 .918 .914
Anderson 9-9-5 3-5-4 2-4-1 4-0-0 .521 .417 .357 1.000 .927 .838 .939 .935
Bobrovsky 14-9-2 4-4-0 8-2-2 2-3-0 .520 .500 .643 .333 .921 .919 .923 .917
Lehtonen 16-8-5 5-2-3 4-6-1 7-0-1 .638 .650 .409 .938 .908 .916 .899 .909
Schneider 12-7-4 2-6-1 5-7-1 5-4-2 .412 .278 .423 .545 .918 .910 .916 .941
Miller 19-7-1 3-2-1 6-3-0 10-2-0 .722 .583 .667 .833 .911 .928 .890 .947
Hiller 13-10-2 4-7-2 5-1-0 4-2-0 .540 .385 .833 .800 .917 .909 .954 .906
Mason 6-11-6 0-4-3 2-5-1 4-3-2 .583 .214 .313 .611 .917 .914 .945 .906
Top third NHL teams as of Jan. 1: ANA, CHI, NSH, NYI, PIT, MTL, TBL, STL, DET, VAN
Middle third NHL teams as of Jan. 1: NYR, WPG, FLA, SJS, WAS, LAK, TOR, CGY, MIN, BOS
Bottom third NHL teams as of Jan. 1: DAL, OTT, CBJ, PHI, COL, NJD, ARI, BUF, CAR, EDM

There are many ways to analyze the above information. For a goalie like Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, his numbers drop off pretty steadily as the competition improves. That's not unexpected, but Price's gap is a bit starker than some of the other goalies. Yet from a fantasy perspective it doesn't make that much difference so long as Price's overall body of work continues to be close to the top of the League. Yet it might give a glimpse into where Montreal finds its success and when it might be wise to choose Goalie B for Goalie C rather than Price.

Marc-Andre Fleury
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 15 GAMES
RECORD: 22-7-4
GAA: 2.16 | SVP: .926
Then there are goalies like Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have relished playing against the League's top teams. Fleury's .917 win percentage against the top third was the highest among all the goalies looked at, and his .927 save percentage against the top third put him among the best of the group. Those numbers show Fleury, and likely his team, being able to keep up their winning ways no matter who they face.

Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks was another goalie who produced interesting samples. His numbers, while better against the top teams, suffered a bit more than one might expect when the competition got easier, at least in terms of his winning percentage. While he had a .750 winning percentage against top-third teams, it dropped to .555 against bottom-third teams. But again, those trends probably aren't worth reading too much into. Niemi, who has had an up-and-down season, still is a goalie on a Stanley Cup Playoff team (for the time being), and as we've seen to be the case with many goalies, likely will improve against those lower-win teams.

Looking at the variance in how these different goalies perform against different levels of competition is a good starting point in making predictions on a nightly basis, but there's probably still more work left to do.


Roberto Luongo
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 15 GAMES
RECORD: 17-8-7
GAA: 2.32 | SVP: .924
TRENDING UP

Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers

Luongo didn't get much help Tuesday in the Panthers' 8-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Excluding that game, and a game he played against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 4 in which he was bowled over by Alex Ovechkin and was removed, Luongo has stopped 126 of the past 130 shots he faced, and is 3-0-1 in that span. Before Tuesday he hadn't lost in regulation since Dec. 20, and appears to be trying to will the Panthers into the postseason.

TRENDING DOWN

Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks

Antti Niemi
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 15 GAMES
RECORD: 17-11-4
GAA: 2.59 | SVP: .912
While some reasons were outlined above as to why there should be no immediate concern, contrary to the old saying, objects in Niemi's rear-view mirror may be very close. With the Sharks battling to maintain their playoff footing, Niemi has allowed 17 goals in his last five starts, going 2-3-0 in that span. Niemi's save percentage in his past five is .866, and some are beginning to ask which goalie gives San Jose a better chance to win on a nightly basis, Niemi or backup Alex Stalock.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Tom McCollum, Detroit Red Wings

The 30th pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, McCollum recently was recalled from the American Hockey League following an injury to Jimmy Howard that will keep him out through the All-Star break. Detroit is missing its top two goalies (Jonas Gustavsson has missed extended time with a shoulder injury), and while McCollum is behind Peter Mrazek on the depth chart, he should see regular backup duties for now, or if Mrazek doesn't perform well McCollum could get a shot to win the starting job temporarily.


TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES

These modified re-rankings are a projection of a goalie's fantasy output for the entire season. Our ranks are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, goals-against average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). It is important to note that our rankings reflect sheer fantasy value, not talent. A less-talented goalie could be ranked higher due to their team's strong defense and offense.

1 Pekka Rinne, NSH - DTD* 16 Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ (+2)
2 Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (+3) 17 Antti Niemi, SJS (-7)
3 Carey Price, MTL (+1) 18 Jonathan Bernier, TOR (-2)
4 Brian Elliott, STL (+2) 19 Semyon Varlamov, COL (+4)
5 Corey Crawford, CHI (-3) 20 Ryan Miller, VAN (+2)
6 Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT (+1) 21 Kari Lehtonen, DAL (-1)
7 Roberto Luongo, FLA (+7) 22 Cory Schneider, NJD (-1)
8 Frederik Andersen, ANA (SAME) 23 Devan Dubnyk, MIN (NEW)
9 Ben Bishop, TBL (-6) 24 Petr Mrazek, DET (NEW)
10 Jaroslav Halak, NYI (+2) 25 Antti Raanta, CHI (-1)
11 Tuukka Rask, BOS (SAME) 26 Martin Jones, LAK (-1)
12 Jonathan Quick, LAK (-3) 27 Cam Talbot, NYR (-1)
13 Braden Holtby, WSH (+2) 28 Alex Stalock, SJS (-1)
14 Craig Anderson, OTT (+3) 29 Jake Allen, STL (SAME)
15 Michael Hutchinson, WPG (+4) 30 Jonas Hiller, CGY (-2)

Key injuries: Jimmy Howard, Steve Mason, Jonas Gustavsson, Karri Ramo

*Fantasy Spin: Replace Rinne with Hutton, Dubnyk or Mrazek

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