2017-18 Fantasy Hockey Series: The Goaltending Equation

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MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 04: Look on Montreal Canadiens Goalie Carey Price (31) inbetween plays during the Washington Capitals versus the Montreal Canadiens game on February 4, 2017, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Experienced fantasy hockey players know the importance of strong, reliable and consistent goaltending. Just like in the NHL, goaltending will play a massive part in your season and the success of our team. Which is why it is so frustrating to see so many high-caliber goaltenders stumble out of the gate. Drafting a goalie with an early pick, only to see him struggle to get it together, really is a tough pill to swallow.

The Goaltending Equation

Goalies in fantasy hockey are almost like a math equation. You will need two quality goaltenders to succeed. One great goaltender will have his value compromised by a poor partner, so finding that middle ground is important. In this edition of the 2017-18 Fantasy Hockey Series, we are going to look at some emerging trends in the goalies who have caused us concern, using some advanced stat metrics, career numbers, and the good old-fashioned eye test.

Carey Price

3-7-1, .877 SV%,317 Shots Against

A very frequent talking point so far this season, Price is currently trying to make his way back on the ice. A popular high draft pick for years now, many have begun to wonder if Price’s time has come and gone as he has struggled to start this season. The open crease has also given Charlie Lindgren his moment to shine, which he has taken full advantage of.

Price’s issues likely aren’t stemming from his age. Even at 30, Price should be right on the tipping point of his goaltending prime. Rather, it seems like he is in his own head or simply not himself. The Montreal Canadiens are averaging just under six high danger scoring chances against with Price in net, with 16 goals coming in those high danger areas. Montreal has averaged 7.5 high danger chances throughout Price’s career with him in net, so he has actually faced easier shots so far. Interestingly, Price averaged a .889 HDSV% before this season, while he sports a .746 HDSV% so far. He also has appeared visibly frustrated which is very uncharacteristic of him.

It really seems as though his slump has gotten to him. But if you own Price in a league, don’t drop or trade him because you are frustrated. He could be a great buy-low target if he has an impatient owner in your league. His numbers should work their way back into his favour and Montreal has been playing much better hockey (7-3 in their last ten games). A better team in front of him and career average numbers would make Price the high-end draft pick you were expecting.

Frederik Andersen

10-6-0, .901 SV%, 527 SA

Similar to Price, Andersen has taken his share of criticism so far. A Toronto Maple Leafs squad that struggled for two weeks did not receive much help in net, as Andersen had a poor .896 SV% through October. His numbers and history may indicate a mid-round pick, but the allure of a powerhouse Toronto team in front of him bumped his draft position up a few rounds.

Andersen is still an excellent fantasy hockey goalie for a few reasons. He is facing tons of shots, for one. He actually leads the league in shots faced so far. Andersen also does have a very capable team in front of him. Toronto should be able to win their way into the post-season, with Andersen picking up a good number of those wins. Finally, this slump may be history repeating itself. Andersen has actually been better so far this year than he was at this point last season. After a rough October in 2016 (.876 SV%), Andersen played outstanding through November and December (.931 SV% and .948 SV%). And we may already see this reversal happening, as he has a .913 SV% and four wins in five games so far in November. So if you were thinking of moving on from Andersen already, maybe wait a few more weeks before you sell him for 50 cents on the dollar.

Cam Talbot

6-8-1, .912 SV%, 464 SA

Another struggling goaltender who may have been drafted too high. Or was he? I still don’t know. Talbot’s draft position varied wildly, from the first goaltender off the board to sixth or seventh. Most analysts and hockey minds pegged the Edmonton Oilers as Cup contender. Of course, they would have a great season en route to a strong playoff run. So far, that hasn’t been the case.

Talbot has not been terrible. His stats show that he has been about average so far this season. The Oilers as a team have been the issue. McDavid has been great, though not outstanding like he should. Their defence has been very unreliable in front of Talbot. Ultimately, they have lacked any secondary scoring as they sit last in the league in goals for.

There is good news though. Edmonton is shooting three whole points below the league average shooting percentage at 6.4%. They also have the seventh-most shots in the league. As long as they continue shooting at these rates, the correction in shooting percentage will result in far more goals. Talbot has played 15 of Edmonton’s 16 games, so it looks like he will see tons of minutes once again this year. High minutes coupled with a .921 SV% on his career makes Talbot a good starting goalie, as long as the team in front of him can start winning. Similar to Price, don’t sell low because you have lost faith in the team. The Oilers are too good to be this bad, and Talbot should be on the good end of the stats shortly.

Cory Schneider

7-3-1, .922SV%, 424 SA

The surprisingly capable New Jersey Devils owe a lot of thanks to Schneider so far this season. The Devils are averaging 35 shots against per game, the second-highest average in the league. A very lackluster defense corp made Schneider a bit of a gamble, especially coming off of last season where he posted a .908 SV% and won only 20 games. He has been great as a Devil with a .920 SV% in five years with the team, even when the team has been less than stellar.

Schneider has been great so far, and in all likely hood, he should continue to put up very strong numbers. The Devils, however, may be riding a bit of a hot start that will cool off shortly. Currently, the Devils are shooting two points higher than the league shooting percentage. They also have the third lowest CF% at 45.3, indicating low amounts of puck possession. They have a similarly low FF% at 45.6, indicating lower scoring chances than their opponents. Individually, these stats may not be all that telling, but a team with an unusually high shooting percentage, low puck possession, and less scoring chances than other teams they play almost always has trouble winning all year.

However, it all comes back to Schneider and his ability to help his team sustain these numbers. The Devils have been bottom three in CF% in each of the last three seasons. Schneider has posted .925 (2014), .924 (2015) and .908 (2016) in those seasons. But he has put up less than 30 wins in each of those years, as well.

So while the statistics may indicate a team that should start losing soon, take from it what you will. A great year from 31-year-old Schneider could buck the trend again and prove to be a great goalie pick. If you were lucky enough to land Schneider in the mid-to-late rounds as a second goalie, kudos. But if you are heavily relying on him as a starter, you may want to look at improving your backup at the very least.

Devan Dubnyk

6-6-1, .920 SV%, 402 SA

The often forgotten Dubnyk, representing the often forgotten Minnesota Wild, has had an interesting start to the year. Back to back shutouts this week have catapulted his value in fantasy leagues, but prior to, he was simply average. His Minnesota Wild have been similarly average at 7-7-2. But as we will see, there a number of factors playing into the Wild’s mediocrity.

First off, injuries have been an issue in Minnesota. The Wild have the third highest CHIP (Cap Hit of Injured Players) in the league. This means they have had plenty of injuries to higher paid (Read: important) players. Missing players like Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise has taken a huge toll on the team. Even still, since having Niederreiter and Granlund return the Wild are still 5-5 in their last ten. So looking at Dubnyk now, it becomes a bit more clear what is driving the Wild’s success.

In Dubnyk’s six losses this year he has a .895 SV%. In his six wins so far, he has a .951 SV%. Even if you disregard his two shutouts, he would have a .924 SV%. So the Wild seem to be living or dying on the shoulders of Devan Dubnyk. He is averaging 31 shots against per game which is about average. It really just seems like Dubnyk is on or off from game-to-game. He has always been a streaky goaltender. Last March he had a .889 SV%, in February 2016 he had a .900 SV%. His career numbers suggest he is an average goalie at .916 SV%. So as far as fantasy advice goes; take the good with the bad. If he starts looking shaky for a few games, lay off. But when their schedule looks good and they are heating up he is one of the best goaltending options in the league. With a good team in front of him, Dubnyk should be a reliable number one fantasy starter.

The Bottom Line

This advice may not be enough to solve your goaltending equation, but it should help you work your way there. Sellers should not be looking at Price and Talbot if they want proper value but may see Schneider as a high-value trade piece. Buyers may want to look for a cheap Carey Price or buy into Andersen before his value really skyrockets. Ultimately, do not make any ill-thought decisions on your goaltending. If you’re tired of poor goaltending after five weeks and looking to cut bait, be sure you get proper value at least.

 

Main Photo:

MONTREAL, QC – FEBRUARY 04: Look on Montreal Canadiens Goalie Carey Price (31) inbetween plays during the Washington Capitals versus the Montreal Canadiens game on February 4, 2017, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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