So you’ve decided to focus this week on obtaining goalies that play consistently and actually produce. Well, there are some remarkable stories that are evolving this month, including the explosive number of “unproven” goaltenders like Ondrej Pavelec, Carey Price and Jason LaBarbera playing a surprising number of minutes.
But other stories are freaking us out, including goalies that haven’t been as successful as we were led to believe, such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Miikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala. But if there’s one story that’s capturing my attention more than any other, it has to be Jose Theodore’s recent revival and the current rotation situation in Colorado.
Before I get to Theodore, however, there are many people asking me whether or not to trade Starting Goalie A for Backup Goalie B. Well – not surprisingly - my answer is always the same. “It’s not the quantity of starts, it’s the quality.” The win column is just one goalie statistic and it can be highly overrated in most fantasy leagues, especially those with equal weight for all stats.
Just look at the enigma that is Tim Thomas. He’s only won twice in six games in November, yet he has incredible numbers (1.65 GAA and .950 save %). Yes, he may only have a record of 6-4-2, but his value is extremely high, for a strong will and the desire to win goes quite a long way these days.
Also remember that “backups” like Josh Harding may only play once a week, but that’s all it takes for them to set the GAA standard very low. So while your opponent could have five games played and three wins, their goals against average is so high that you end up winning the week 6-4 because you won GAA, SAVE % and shutouts and he only won on wins and saves.
Therefore you should look around the league and try not to think about who is necessarily winning and losing. Instead, it’s more important to ask questions. Why are some goalies going from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the pit in less than a year? How come there are so many goalies with little or no NHL experience playing so well and with so much poise? It’s not always technique and skill at this level, because most goalies are so close in their skills, but their determination and mental strength.
Each goalie has different reasons for why they succeed or struggle, meaning certain trends arise within each NHL organization. They are difficult to pinpoint because each one is unique in their own way, depending on the dynamics of both or all three goaltenders currently in the system.
My case in point this week is the Avalanche. Not once have they ever employed a goalie rotation, yet for the past two weeks Theodore and Peter Budaj have gone back and forth in what is a classic rotation system. Theodore is 3-0-1 since it began and has dropped his goals against average from 2.7 to 2.22 and his save percentage from .907 to .920, while Peter Budaj has gone 3-1-0 and dropped his GAA from 3.12 to 2.86 and his save percentage from .893 to .897 and has yet to lose a home game.
So why is it working? Well, there are a handful of reasons. First of all, Jeff Hackett is doing a tremendous job as the team’s goalie coach. He’s refining the game for both goalies, a luxury the organization hasn’t had in years. Before Hackett was Craig Billington, but he would travel often and wasn’t always at practices. Hackett, however, keeps a very close eye on things. He will see something in a game that needs work and at the next practice, attacks the problem until it is fixed. This is something Theodore needs badly, as it keeps him working hard and doesn’t allow for any complacency to settle in.
Another reason for Theodore’s recent redemption is the faith his teammates have in him. The team is working hard to give him this chance to revive his career, while both he and Budaj actually want each other to win, because both know they’ll be counted on to play well the next game and keep the momentum going.
It’s a fun, competitive battle with friendships quickly developing into great camaraderie and chemistry. It takes two unique goalies to make a rotation work, which is why you don’t see it often, even if both goalies are playing well. Overall, it’s a situation where I would take either goalie if they were available, because their quality of play warrants some awesome fantasy value.
So look around the league before games begin tonight and delve into each tandem “situation” in order to get a better perspective on who will play well and who might be worth signing. Pavelec and Johan Hedberg, Fleury and Dany Sabourin, Mikael Tellqvist and Alex Auld … they’re all unique situations yet they all have answers hidden beneath the surface. Read the local papers and find quotes from the goalies that can give you more insight into their mental state of being.
It takes hard work, determination and a real competitive nature to stay successful and consistent for more than a few weeks in this day and age of the NHL. Teamwork leads to great success, as no one player can dominate a division, conference or league anymore…not even Martin Brodeur or Roberto Luongo.