In every sport, there is a position that is pivotal to championship success. In baseball, it’s the pitcher. In football it’s the quarterback. In soccer, it’s the center mid-field. In hockey, it is without a doubt the goaltender. A strong goaltender can make or break a team. Just ask the Montreal Canadiens how confident they feel going into a season without Carey Price. The same can be said about a hockey pool. Your choice of goaltender is important, especially if you only choose one. Unlike other positions, goaltenders rarely come into the league early and dominate (with the exception of Carey Price and, most recently, Matt Murray and John Gibson). A goaltender’s development curve generally takes a while, and most hockey experts do not consider a goaltender to be in their prime prior to the age of 27-28. Thus, when it comes to goaltenders, you must pick a goaltender based on past statistical performances, as well as projected team performance going forward.
The fact that goaltenders are counted on to provide wins for points makes the choice of goaltender a little more complicating than the simple goals and assists count of forwards and defensemen. In these cases, it is important to look for the can’t miss goaltenders playing on stacked teams. Last year, goaltenders like Cam Talbot, Martin Jones, Brayden Holtby, Sergei Bobrovsky, Devyn Dubnyk and Carey Price played on teams that had over 100 points and thus had a minimum of 37 wins or more. It is also important to note that these goaltenders, with the recent exception of Talbot who will certainly continue last year’s trend of 70 starts, often play upwards of 60-70 games a year. These goaltenders are sure to provide you with the necessary wins to keep your pool afloat, but wins aren’t the only important statistic in a hockey pool.
A save percentage, the amount of saves made in comparison to the amount of shots on net, and goals against, the number of goals allowed per game on average, also becomes huge point producers for any pool. A goalie who is consistently at the top of each category will generally have similar success in the win column and would be an ideal all-around goaltender to pick up. If we look at last year’s statistics, Bobrovsky, Craig Anderson, Holtby, Gibson, Dubnyk, Price, Talbot and Antti Rantaa were the top of the class for save percentage and goals against. These goalies found great success in the win column as well, but there are always exceptions to this rule. For example, Robin Lehner of the Buffalo Sabres or Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings had a save percentage over .920% (which is generally in the top 15 in the NHL) and did not win more than 50 % of their games due to horrid team offense. This discrepancy will always leave poolers scratching their heads as to which goaltender can help lift their team to the next level, rather than being the goaltender that keeps their team respectable. We’re looking at you Buffalo!
Lastly, a shutout, when a goaltender plays the whole game without having conceded a goal, is the biggest point producer for a goalie due to the rarity of its occurrence. Generally, an elite goaltender will have 4-6 shutouts a year out of 60+ games played. Last year, Holtby, Tuuka Rask, Talbot, Bobrovsky, Gibson, Dubnyk, Frederick Andersen, Jake Allen and Murray all excelled in this category with a minimum of four shutouts. Due to the fact that all hockey pools covet goaltender shutouts and attribute a high point award for them, goaltenders who produce shutouts are far more coveted than those who have higher save percentage or goals against numbers. In as such, a goaltender with a consistent track record for 5 + shutouts a year would be an ideal candidate for drafting.
In a hockey pool with more than one goaltender, is it always ideal to pick an elite goaltender within your first three picks, as they will certainly solidify your place in the race for the pool’s number 1 spot. Such goalies as Price, Bobrovsky, Holtby, Talbot, Dubnyk, Rask, Pekka Rinne, Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist are generally can’t miss first picks. For those with the luxury of a second pick, I would always suggest going for the goalies that have something to prove this season. This means goaltenders that have recently been traded or have been anointed as number 1 goalies should be heavily considered here. Goaltenders like Ben Bishop, Murray, Marc-André Fleury, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Rantaa, Scott Darling, Mike Smith, or Cory Schneider. You would ultimately have a stronger chance at winning your risky second bet by going with players who have a strong track record like Bishop, Murray or Fleury, but newcomers like Vasilevskiy or Darling should not be taken lightly due to their very high potential.
In the end, our three-piece guide to hockey pool drafting should put you on the road to success in your respective competitions. Beyond the draft, it becomes a matter of proper bench management, a watchful on waiver wires in case a forgotten player takes the league by storm and, above all, a significant amount of luck in regards to the consistent health of your chosen players. Enjoy your various pools and pre-season en route to the start of the season!