NHL Starting Goalies

The starting goalie is the backbone of a hockey team, and he is likewise the foundation piece of your fantasy hockey team. While your skaters may go all night without figuring in the scoring or managing any fantasy-relevant actions, your goalie will always be a focal point of the game and make at least some saves. Further, he is the player who has the most different ways to score fantasy points, since he can actually be credited with assists and goals while being the only one on his team who performs the functions of a goaltender.

Verifying Starters

As obvious as this seems, one of the most critical things you have to do is to make sure your goalie is actually playing. Because of the number and frequency of games played over the course of a long NHL season, teams will periodically rest their top goalie even if he is playing well and is not injured. It is accordingly important check your DFS site or a reputable media outlet for confirmation of starting goalies for each game night. Making assumptions can saddle you with a score of zero from the position that will normally be counted on to be one of your top scorers.  DFS sites typically award bonus points to the winning goalie in each game. The normal bonus is three points, and these points can be huge difference-makers in the relatively low-scoring worlds of hockey and its fantasy equivalent. The implication of this is that, especially in cash games, you want to lean toward paying up for an elite goalie instead of taking a chance on one whose probability of victory is slim.  The most basic strategy for picking a likely winner is to review the Las Vegas betting lines. Oddsmakers have much at stake in setting accurate lines, and they normally do so fairly well. A goalie starting for a team that is favored to win is, therefore, generally a better bet than one on an underdog. 

For the same reasons, star goalies who win a lot and have high save percentages are better choices than ones who are struggling or unproven. The ideal scenario is having a stud goalie on a team that is heavily favored to win. Further, while contrarian plays make more sense in tournaments, you still want a goalie who has a reasonable probability of winning. In these situations, you might take a chance on a backup on a good team that is playing against a lesser team, but you still probably do not want to roster the worst goalie on the worst team.  Reviewing the betting lines is a good research strategy because it is a way to benefit from the research done by the professional oddsmakers without having to do all of the same research yourself. However, you can quickly and easily compare the offensive production of competing teams. You want a goalie on a team that typically scores a lot of goals, thereby increasing the chance that he will still win even if he gives up a few on his end.

Looking for a High Volume of Save Opportunities 

It goes without saying that you want your goalie to give up as few goals as possible, preferably none. DFS sites give a bonus to goalies who post a shutout. Although sites vary, this bonus is typically two points and is added on top of the bonus given for winning the game. So, a goalie who manages a shutout win usually adds around five points in bonuses alone to your fantasy team's scoring.  On the flip side, goalies are normally penalized a point for each goal they give up. While this means, on the surface, that you want to target goalies who are playing against low-scoring teams, the math on this can get a little tricky. This is because DFS sites give points for each save made, typically 0.2 points per save. Accordingly, even accounting for bonuses, your goalie's ceiling can be capped by facing a team that normally does not shoot that much.  Putting all of this together, you see that the ideal scenario is to find a goalie who is playing against a team that scores few goals but tends to shoot a lot. In other words, they fire a lot of poor-quality shots that are easy to save. This sets your goalie up with the best of all worlds wherein he can rack up a high volume of saves, win the game, give up few goals and maybe even compete for a shutout.

You do not want to overlook the quality of defensive play of the team in front of your goalie. A goalie's best friends are skaters who are effective at limiting the shot quality of the opposition. In contrast, even great goalies will not usually hold up forever when they are constantly facing a deluge of good scoring chances.

Chasing Offensive Upside and Penalty Minutes

By far, the criteria previously discussed are the most important ones to look at. However, if you have to make a close call, then you can look at more marginal upside opportunities. While goalies are not generally involved in their team's offensive attack, they can handle the puck, and some are better and more aggressive at doing this than others.  Although this is rare, goalies do sometimes manage to score if they are good at shooting into an empty net. This happens when they are ahead late in the game, and their opponents have pulled their goalie in favor of an extra skater. Even if they do not score, good puck-handlers will also have chances to pass the puck to goal-scorers and get credit for an assist, which also pads fantasy scoring.  Some DFS sites actually give fantasy points for penalty minutes. When this is the case, it may make some sense to look at goalies who are aggressive at engaging their opponents and accordingly more likely to be penalized. Of course, this can be a double-edged sword because you do not necessarily want a goalie who faces an unusually high number of power plays.