With or without hockey, the show goes on here at Elite Fantasy.
Last week I walked you guys through a lot of my process with regards to picking value forwards, which is something I think I have a lot of success with.
Today I’m going to take a closer look at how I decide which goaltender to play on any given night.
There was a time where, more often than not, I would simply choose between the starting goaltenders on the two teams I was stacking. With the new scoring system, less stacking/more one-offs, that’s not the case nearly as often.
Here are some of the things I look at:
You want your goaltender to win, of course, but you also want your goaltender to concede as few goals as possible. That’s why, on every slate, I always look for goaltenders facing teams without much finishing power.
Be it a team that always struggles to score (Los Angeles, for example) or a good team that has run into serious injury problems up front (Columbus, for example) I ideally want my guy facing a team with as few players as possible that could really fill the net.
I think the latter, especially, can help avoid crazy ownership. A lot of people see Washington at home to Ottawa, let’s say, and their research ends there. They just plug in the Capitals starter because he’s a great bet to win.
That may be true, but he’s also a good bet to be massive chalk and face insignificant shot volume (I’ll get to that).
I’d rather play the starter for a middle tier team like the Flames against a Blue Jackets team missing key players. The perception may be it’s more of a toss-up game but I’ll take my chances on a lesser owned goaltender to hold his own against a team missing its two top snipers (Cam Atkinson and Oliver Bjorkstrand).
Shot volume is king. You want wins, shutouts, etc. but if the volume isn’t there, your goaltender has to be perfect for the play to pay off.
Let’s say Montreal (Carey Price) is facing New Jersey. You play him because the Devils suck and, well, fair enough. Price only faces 25 shots, though. He stops 23 and gets you 16.1 points on saves, then loses seven on the two goals against. That puts him at 9.1 heading into the decision.
Meanwhile Columbus (Elvis Merzlikins) is at home to Florida. He has to face more firepower, but he also is a good bet to see more rubber. Mezlikins stops 33 of the 35 shots and you’re looking at 16.1 heading into the decision. Even if that decision is a loss, and Price’s is a win, Merzlikins is going to out-score Price 16.1 to 15.1.
That’s why shot volume is so important. If your goaltender sees a lot of rubber, and is on his game, he can regularly out-produce somebody in a much more comfortable game environment without even winning.
As I sort of alluded to earlier, I prefer my shot volume to come from teams that don’t really score much. LA is one of the better shot generation teams in the league but they have almost nobody who can finish. They’re a team I love playing against because you get the upside without a ton of risk.
San Jose would be another team I’d be targeting with a goalie right now. They’re 5th in attempts/60 (shot volume!) over the last 10 games and yet only Dallas has scored goals at a lesser rate. You get the volume without big risk.
Once I narrow down goaltenders I think a) will face shot volume and; b) still have a realistic shot at winning (I’m not looking to use Ottawa’s goalie against Tampa Bay just because shots will be there), I like to look at Expected Goals and scoring chance numbers.
Simply put, it’s a good way to weigh the shots and see how dangerous they actually are. I want as much volume as I can get and with as little danger as possible.
An example prior to the break would be Nashville.
They have generated shot attempts at the 6th highest rate over the last 10 games. Despite that, they sit 18th in expected goals for and 20th in scoring chances. The quantity is there; the quality is not. That’s the kind of upside situation I want my goaltender playing in.
You don’t just have to look at the opposing team either. You can look at the team your starter is on.
For example, Minnesota ranks 25th in attempts against/60 over the last 10 games. They’re allowing a lot of shots. They’re not of real quality, though, as the Wild sit 5th in xGA/60 and 6th in scoring chances against/60.
If I’m playing a Minnesota goaltender right now, I can be fairly confident he will see rubber without worrying about being overwhelmed by high-danger chances.
With regards to where you can find this information, every stat I’ve mentioned in this article comes from the great, user-friendly, site NaturalStatTrick.com.