I apologize for missing my streamer column this week. I’m a college admissions counselor and my weekends have been taken up with reading applications and watching the Olympics. I stumbled into some free time and need to solve a pressing problem on one of my own fantasy hockey teams, so join me as I explore the world of goalies before the fantasy playoffs.
As some of you know I only use one goalie, and stream when necessary. This strategy gets me an additional skater to play for 3-4 games a week, and prevents me from fretting about ratios and wins- I can focus on getting offensive categories and can roll the dice on my ratios (sv% and GAA). I drafted Braden Holtby for this role, but his last few starts have been absolutely terrible: 5, 4, 6, and 4 goals allowed in his last four starts. His GAA on the season is 2.95, nearly a full goal greater than last year and a full half goal above his career average.
Because the playoffs are coming, I need to figure out why this is happening. I’ve been content to let Holtby’s performance slip and slide, but now the heat is on to get decent performances- a championship is on the line. So, I’ve built a goalie-stats spreadsheet to try and figure out where I can gain an advantage and if need be, work a trade before the end of the weekend, or decide to ride out the storm.
I started with Oddshark’s Defensive rankings to start building my sheet. I also have the difference in Goals Save Against Average (GSAA) divided by 60, as a way to compare how goalies are playing against league average. I have Corsi numbers (which I love), shooting numbers, and the magic potion of High-Danger and Medium-Danger Scoring Chances allowed.
Tier 1, AKA Teams with great defenses and great goaltending
Winnipeg, Las Vegas, Boston, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Carter Hutton
Each of these teams has excellent high- and medium-danger shot metrics, meaning the defenses in front of the goalies are preventing opponents from getting good chances in. The goalies themselves have solid-to-brilliant GSAA, and it’s no wonder that these teams are the top of the standings (except Dallas) with their Corsi numbers. The ones you might be able to pry off of an unassuming opponent would be Fleury or Hellebuyck- both don’t have terrific name recognition and could probably be shipped off for an above-average forward. Carter Hutton has basically moved past streamer status- if he’s available, you might want to grab him as goalie insurance. The Blues have great numbers and Hutton compares extremely favorably against the league in GSAA.
Ben Bishop is a unique case- only play him at home, where is GAA is a full goal better than his away splits.
Tier 2, AKA great goalies with mixed-bag defenses
Nashville, Toronto, L.A., San Jose, Columbus
Odds are good that if you have any goalies in this group, you’re pretty pleased with yourself. You could make a case for Rinne or Quick to have the best situation of all goalies, taking into account their GSAA, Corsi and shooting numbers, and the defenses in front of them. Trading for one of these guys would be a challenge, as any owner is likely to feel that their situation couldn’t be improved. However, if the defenses in front of Andersen, Gibson, or Jones go down for a night, that might be a good time to pounce. Keep your eyes open and send some texts. I might also keep an eye on Aaron Dell and Juuse Saros for streaming opportunities.
Tier 3, AKA Teams with great defenses and OK goaltending
Colorado, New Jersey, St. Louis, Calgary, Minnesota
This group of starting goalies have OK GSAA numbers, but what I love is how their defenses keep their high-danger chances down. The one outlier here would be Calgary, but Mike Smith has proven that he can keep pace with flashier names. If you were to attempt a goalie upgrade, this is the group I would aim for. You could find an owner who would take Matt Murray for Smith, and if your league counts GAA and Sv%, that’s a definite win in my book. If you’re feeling edgy I might even sell high on Dubnyk for one of the tier 1 goalies- Minnesota’s Corsi numbers aren’t amazing, and people might be willing to ship Rask or even Vasilevskiy for the Dubnyk brand.
Tier 4, AKA teams with good defense and bad goaltending.
Montreal, Philadelphia, Jake Allen, Florida, Buffalo
This is an interesting and mixed group of goalies, but this is where- if someone is available- you might want to roll the dice and pray for a good night. Each of these teams keeps high-and medium-danger scoring chances to a minimum, but something else is just missing. For Montreal, Price doesn’t look like himself, for Buffalo, the high-danger chances are super low, Lehner has just been asleep. If Johnson or Ullmark are playing, definitely give them a long look. I don’t know if I would trade for anyone in this group, but if I saw them and needed an upgrade, or wanted to poach a streamer, I might look this way.
Tier 5, AKA getting wins and holding your breath
Washington, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers
What can you say? I’m disappointed that I can’t comfortably slot Holtby into a higher group. Grubauer sure, maybe Tier 2.5, but the Washington defense has given up a ridiculous amount of high-danger scoring chances (2nd most in the league), and neither goalie has responded too well. Holtby has been tough to shop, but if you’re as fed up as I am, you’ve gotta keep trying. Pittsburgh has been a mixed bag tending twine, but the wins are there and you never know when their excellent ratios will lend themselves to a blowout playing with lockdown defense. Lundqvist and NYR are slightly better, but their Corsi and high-danger numbers are miserable. Best advice might be to hold these guys and keep rolling them out there, and cross your fingers.
Tier 6, AKA Antti Raanta
The big dog in the desert has started to turn things around, and even though the team in front of him has failed to keep possession, shoot more than opponents, or prevent high-danger chances, his GSAA is one of the best in the league. If he’s available, keep an eye open for soft matches or matchups that your gut feels good about.
Tier 7, AKA Bad goalies on subpar defenses
Ottawa, Detroit, Edmonton, Carolina, Vancouver, Chicago
I would avoid these guys, except for the rare spot start. I personally have called on Darling and Ward numerous times, especially when the betting lines are favorable, but for the most part you can ignore these guys. I will say, if you’re in a close playoff match and looking to hunt down Wins or Saves, you should stop ignoring and give these guys a look. In Chicago’s case, neither Forsberg nor Glass blow me away, but in a pinch you could do worse.
Tier 8, AKA the Islanders
New York Islanders
Terrible Corsi, terrible shots for/shots against, the worst high-danger team and the worst medium-danger team. I wouldn’t touch these guys, as their way to win games is just offense-first. It’s been working, but the goalies, whether Halak or Greiss, have been left behind. Don’t take the chance unless you’re looking at matchups and are in desperation mode.
Like I said, I hope this is helpful, and I’ll be around when I can to answer questions and provide some advice. Good luck!!