NHL Hall of Fame - Lesson 02 - Advanced Goalie Selection Strategy

In this article we are going to discuss the best strategies in picking out a goaltender for both your cash game lineups and your tournament play. We will use advanced National Hockey League team statistics to help us with our decisions.

Cash Game Goalie Selection

NHL: Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars

In daily fantasy hockey cash games, this is where you pay for the stud goalie. Forget the cheap rookie or the value goalie, pay for the stud! Again, you want guaranteed points, and elite goaltenders rarely disappoint, hence them being elite. If you start a value goalie and he gets pulled after allowing 3 goals in the first period, it can absolutely kill your chances to cash. Ideally you are looking for a goalie who is a big favorite to win with a low over/under. Goalies are the closest thing to guaranteed points in daily fantasy hockey, so pay up for one of the top options every night.

To help us figure out what goalies are in play for our cash games on any given night, we certainly look at the projected game totals, but we also want to dig a little deeper. We need to look into NHL team statistics such as shots on goal per game, shooting percentage, power play percentage, and goals per game. All of these stats will help us determine what kind of offense our opponent has. With our cash game goalie, we are not looking for risk; we simply want a lock for the win. Sure, we hope our goalkeeper makes 30 saves, but we are perfectly happy with him making 20 saves, allowing one goal, and getting the win. With more shots, comes more risk, and we can save that for our GPPs. Again, guaranteed points are the key.

By digging in to the statistics, we are looking for an opponent that ranks near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories, like the ones mentioned above (shots on goal per game, shooting percentage, power play percentage, and goals per game), but also, we want to take a look at advanced statistics like Corsi (also known as SAT or Shots Attempted Ratio) and PDO (“On-Ice Shooting Percentage” + “On-Ice Save Percentage”). Facing a weak offense will not only provide us with the all important win, but it will also give us a great chance at a shutout.

GPP Goalie Selection

More often than not, fantasy owners will be looking for a goalie who is a big favorite and facing a weak offensive team. Perhaps they are a big favorite in a game with a low over/under. Taking a netminder whose team is a huge favorite may only lead to 20 or so saves in a dominating team win. It certainly is a very good strategy for cash games, but not so much in large field tournaments.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning

We want our goalie to be the top tender on the night, so we are not necessarily looking for safe. We need shots, and plenty of them. We are still looking for a goalie who is at least a slight favorite, and although the win is very important still, we also want shots against. We are willing to take on a little more risk for the upside it may provide.

The key here is digging deep; again, we need to look into team stats such as shots on goal per game, shooting percentage, power play percentage, and goals per game. There are a lot of teams in the National Hockey League that lack scoring punch, but still fire plenty of shots on goal. These teams are taking low quality shots, which is exactly what we are looking for.

If we see a team averaging around 30 shots per game but ranking near the bottom of the NHL in goals per game, we know they are a team taking low quality shots and they lack scoring punch. This is a nice team to target, and we want the goaltender facing them. He will see his fair share of shots, but the team is likely not going to beat him more than once or twice.

In short, for GPP tournaments we still want a goalie that will win, but we are willing to take on a little more risk. We want our goalie facing a team that can easily fire 25-30 shots on goal, and we hope our tender stops them all. Bring on the shots!

 

Pro Tip

The NHL season can be very long, so as the year goes on, instead of just looking at season long statistics we should also break it down by last month or last couple weeks, and see what teams are recently hot or cold. A team may rank near the bottom of the league overall, but could be one of the top offenses in the past month, so be careful not to overlook their recent play. Sure it is a lot of extra work, but it most certainly will pay off.