There’s something primitive and personal that lives, nay, grows inside every single fantasy hockey manager. For as each day of the National Hockey League season turns into night, we slowly morph into a primal animal and become consumed by personal superstitions that wreak havoc on our hockey souls. This creature – this animal – is known as the freedom of choice.
We all know that choosing the successful goaltender on a nightly basis is a vital key to success, yet it can also be the most difficult situation to handle. And while having a solid starting duo and some classy backups is every team manager’s dream, not everyone is so lucky. Some managers place offensive talent in front of goaltending in their fantasy hockey hierarchy, but either way, things happen during the draft that’s beyond your control, and so you’re forced to live with the cards you’ve been dealt by the cynical lords of fate.
Regardless of what happens it honestly matters not, for the regular season is underway and the time has come to produce. You better be ready, for with the setting sun comes the realization that the fine line between success and failure boils down to one thing – your choices.
For example, who starts between Roberto Luongo and Peter Budaj if Vancouver is in Denver? What if Marc Denis is up against the Hurricanes but Chris Osgood is starting in a home-and-home series against Phoenix on the same night – and you own both of them? What if Jonathan Bernier gets the nod over Jason LaBarbera but he’s playing a hungry San Jose Sharks team as opposed to a lame Anaheim Ducks squad? What of Mike Smith against Miikka Kiprusoff? What of Carey Price against Ryan Miller?
These are the choices that haunt and disturb us all. Like a wound that won’t fully heal, they fester and itch and never leave us alone. Not only can the exasperation of choosing the wrong goalie linger for weeks and affect future decisions, these choices must be made daily. There’s no way around it. It’s going to happen. The best thing you can do is recognize it, live with it and move on. Even more irritating is the fact that you can make the best decision in the world and still get creamed.
So realize this right now before choosing your goaltenders tonight; you’re going to get stuck with difficult situations – even those that fall on a Sunday night when just one more win is needed to swipe the week from underneath your opponent’s helpless and feeble grip.
So what advice do I have to help you make good decisions?
Well, all it takes is a little situational awareness.
Situational awareness is a term I use while coaching my goalies and it’s very simple to explain. Just recognize your unique situation. Have an open mind and widen your focus. Take into account a variety of different outcomes. Anything can happen on any given night in the NHL, so understand the specific matchup, the sole “surroundings” of said game and the recent nuances of your goalies. All of this is of vital importance in order to make daily educated decisions. This goes beyond knowing if a goalie is slated to start the game or not. It takes analysis of his previous game – it takes an understanding of his team’s style versus that of his opponent. Matchups are dynamic and therefore your decisions must be as well.
Trust yourself, your thoughts and your own opinions. For those who visit Dobber Hockey, trust the resources made available to you. Take all other fantasy hockey advice with a grain of salt. Understand the source and recognize the fact that things change until the very moment the puck drops. Daily research on websites like this one is the only antidote against ridiculous and obtuse decisions.
Know how your goalies have been playing the last couple of game and understand what the team is doing in front of him as well. How a goalie and his team match up against their opponent is more important than a win-loss record. Think of “situation” over statistics. Think of individual trends over technicality and overall skill.
Don’t allow personal biases to hold any weight. This isn’t a problem for some but it can be for others. My idol and hero is a backup goaltender (still a secret – for now…), so I always want him on my roster and in the lineup when he plays. But if his team is at the tail end of a five-game road trip and is facing San Jose in the Shark Tank, well, I have to be strong enough to bite the bullet and bench him. It’s tough, but it has to be done.
Do I always make the right decisions? Nope. In fact, I swear I’m hexed, for while I consider myself knowledgeable in the realm of righteous goaltending, my fantasy history might show otherwise. Look, we’re all going to say this at some point this season.
“This is crazy! Ugh, I swear I’m getting totally screwed over.”
So remember, the only way to battle your superstitious psyche and be able to still sleep at night is by trusting your instincts. You win some, you lose some, but the more aware you are of the situation taking place, the better decisions you will make.
Hungry for goalie information and/or have thoughts on this article? Check out Justin's blog - The School of Block and comment there!