FH 101: Looking Back At Those Goalies…

The thing that any expert fears is looking back at his predictions to start the season and when he mostly cringes, you know it did not go quite as well as it planned.  There is no way in Hades that everyone can get everything right.  It is just mentally and physically impossible.  Now do I really want to look at this list?  Honestly I really should because it gives an insight of just what we were thinking at the time compared to the reality that transpired.

Everyone has heard of the whole fantasy vs. reality construct.  Well it is time to apply it to our projections.  Like we said before, the first victims are the goalies.  Here is the original post in its entirety first from the start of the year and then we will get to work on it like a teacher with big red X’s and all that good stuff.  All edits will be in red so do take note of it.

Top 25 Fantasy Goalies

#1: Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks)


Rôberto Luongo


Why?: With all due respect to Tim Thomas who’s stats were a hair better. Luongo over a 70 start season or more just produces more points in leagues where wins and shutouts are essential. The last two full years of Luongo produced a 2.31 GAA and a .920 save percentage with 11 shutouts and 82 wins. Then in just 54 starts last year he had 9 shutouts and 33 wins. Project those numbers over a 72 start season and you have 44 wins and 12 shutouts….that is nasty!

Skinny: For this year…Luongo may not quite get 12 shutouts. I am thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 shutouts and 44 wins with a 2.29 GAA and a .923 save percentage. He is going to be pretty well automatic this year as far as fantasy goalies.

The Actual: Well the reality is this.  Luongo had a pretty good year but not by Luongo standards.  Whether it was the Olympics or whatever, the grind of the season and the compressed schedule took a toll on him over the second half.  Whatever happened, his 40-22-4 was a bit off from expectations and the 2.57 GAA with only a .913 save percentage was quite a surprise.  I do understand that a lot of top goalies took a hit in save percentage at the end of the year but when you are expected to be #1 or are taken in the first round in most drafts, there comes a certain expectation that you are going to get the job done.  Roberto Luongo got the job done in the Olympics but we do not count them here.  So to be fair and objective based on our rankings, Luongo did not meet expectations for fantasy owners this year.


#2: Martin Brodeur (New Jersey Devils)


Martin Brodeur


Why?: Because he is Martin Brodeur. Do you really think a fluke injury is going to slow him down or an average team in front of him? No. The two years before his biceps tear were scary enough. I don’t know…16 shutouts, 92 wins, and a 2.17 GAA to go along with a .921 save percentage is just too good to pass up in fantasy leagues. Brodeur usually gets drafted as the #1 goalie based on reputation alone. Even at 37, he is still THAT good. Where most goalies are slowing down…I have a feeling that last year left a sour taste in his mouth.

Skinny: Martin Brodeur will be nominated for the Vezina Trophy once again. His numbers will be around 41-43 wins….a 2.35 GAA and a .921 save percentage. Toss in 8 or 9 shutouts and people will forget all about that nightmare that was the 2008-2009 season.

The Actual: Well the .921 save percentage did not quite happen.  It was .916 but a lot of goalies saw about a .005-.007 dropoff at the end of the year.  However the 45 wins, 2.24 GAA exceeded expectations while the 9 shutouts met what we predicted.  Remember no one cares about the playoffs in fantasy hockey, unless you are in a fantasy playoff hockey pool.  With the below average defense in front of him, imagine what Brodeur would do with a little more rest and a halfway decent defensive unit in front of him.  I would have to say just based on stats, he actually exceeded expectations and was one of the top 3 fantasy goalies of the season.


#3: Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins)


Tim Thomas


Why?: If there is one guy in Boston that needs to step up and earn his new deal…it is Tim Thomas. Thomas won the Vezina last year amid little controversy. Of course the two big boys were hurt….so the path was a little more wide open. That being said Tim Thomas is a very solid goalie that can be downright brilliant and is not afraid to take a leadership role on the ice. Sure he is 35 but that Boston defense is just about tops in the league even without a guy like Steve Montador. The numbers do not lie last year…a 2.10 GAA, .933 save percentage and 5 shutouts along with 36 wins. Even if he gets 10-12 more starts which is almost certain…the numbers will still be up there.

Skinny: Bottom line is Tim Thomas will not be the third goalie taken in most fantasy drafts but he should be. Numbers that you could expect from the Flint, Michigan native are about the following. I am figuring a 40-42 win season with a 2.24 GAA and a .923 save percentage. Add in 5 or 6 shutouts for good measure and you have the recipe for a very happy fantasy owner if you take him.

The Actual: Clearly the pressure got to Tim Thomas and it did not help that he got a nice juicy contract, the team traded away Phil Kessel, and they literally were 30th most of the season in goals for.  The margin of error was far less than last season and his 17-18-8 record was just not good enough though the .915 save percentage was pretty good and the 2.56 GAA was respectable.  Tuukka Rask came in and played like Tim Thomas did last season and that was the true dagger in the Thomas year. Quite a few owners drafted him high and they paid an even higher price.  The bottom line is Tim Thomas did not even come close to meeting expectations and killed his share of fantasy teams.


#4: Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota Wild)


Niklas Backstrom


Why?: With Jacques Lemaire gone….its the end of the world….right? Wrong! His numbers will suit him well in whatever system he plays. Minnesota will play a bit faster but they will still need a positionally sound goalie like Backstrom and he more than fits the bill. He was nominated for the Vezina last year for a reason and his 2.33 GAA and .923 save percentage were no fluke. Still in his early 30’s, Backstrom has get this…room for improvement still. A scary thought for all teams that face him this year. Bad news maybe is the fact that he did get a shiny new contract that he will have to play up to but not many foresee that as a major problem.

Skinny: Backstrom may actually get a few more wins with a slight uptick in offense. Ask Josh Harding last year about hard luck losses from lack of support. That will not happen now. Interestingly enough the signing of Greg Zanon (from Nashville) may help Backstrom have a better season than 08-09. This season I am expecting a 2.27 GAA and a .928 save percentage from Backstrom. He may even get nominated for the Vezina again when all is said and done.

The Actual:  Then reality struck again.  Injuries and a slow start doomed the goalie but this time the team’s slow start is what doomed Backstrom and not his own.  As a matter of fact, the goalie only started in 58 contests and spent the most of the last 1/3 of the season injured or battling thru various ailments and boo-boos.  The 2.72 GAA and .903 save percentage were an unmitigated disaster for fantasy owners who were trying to score some gold after Luongo and Brodeur.  He also had just three wins after the Olympic Break.  Some of that was injury but some of that also falls on Backstrom trying to do too much.  The goalie will have to learn next year not to try and save the world while in net.  Needless to say, he did not meet expecations at all.


#5: Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary Flames)


Miikka Kiprusoff


Why?: This was exceedingly tough…there were several fine goalies who could have went into this spot and I know what happened to Kipper last year but with a new coach and a healthier defense along with Jay Bouwmeester and Miikka will get back to his form from a few years ago. The wins are already there and will be there this year. Remember the 45 from last year and think much better with the other numbers. Six shutouts the last two seasons? Nah he should get that all in one year this year….no sweat! Those 2.7 and 2.8 GAA? A thing of the past this season. Expect a marked improvement.

Skinny: We kind of expect Kipper to start off a bit slow again but not with the outrageous GAA. As the team gels in Calgary, he will get on a roll. Then from there look out! What can be expected this year? Well about 43-45 wins…..a 2.45 GAA and a .918 save percentage with at least 6 or 7 shutouts. They do look a lot like his numbers from 3 years ago but I think Brent Sutter brings in a defensive accountability and faith in his netminder that Mike Keenan clearly did not have.

The Actual: Well wer were surprised a bit on this one but not really.  Calgary did for the most part play a little better defensively at first but then afterwards, it will all Miikka Kiprusoff.  Now his win total was not impressive at 35 but everything else about his game was.  The 2.31 GAA was over a half goal less than last year and his .920 save percentage was amongst the league leaders.  Just imagine if the Flames scored a few more goals (they were 30th in the league in scoring).  Everything fell apart for Calgary except for Kiprusoff and his 4 shutouts combined with his solid play all year definitely helped him exceed expectations and justify a top 5 goalie ranking for the 2010-11 year.


Now 6-10……..

6. Henrik Lundqvist (NY Rangers)

Why?: Simply he carries the Rangers on his back. In four years with the Rangers, Henrik has done something that is so rare…its scary. Winning 30 times in his first four seasons will get you more than noticed. He is also on the cover of oh never mind no one cares about that. Bottom line is Lundqvist is solid in net and behind a team that kills penalties very well and plays close to the vest….that 2.43 GAA should come back down a hair this year. Likely he will have more than 3 shutouts as well….he did go 35 straight games without one during the 08-09 season.

Skinny: Tough to predict this sort of thing because of the team he plays in front of but expect Lundqvist to have at least 35 wins and closer to 40. I say 39 wins with a 2.35 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Throw in 7 or 8 shutouts and you can see why it was tough to place him #6 on this illustrious list.

The Actual: Perhaps on another team, Henrik Lundqvist would be a Vezina favorite perennially.  However in this realm of reality, he is a New York Ranger.  He only had 35 wins but his 2.38 GAA was pretty close and so was his .921 save percentage.  Now Lundqvist had only four shutouts but really that is a minor detail when compared to the overall body of work.  I still firmly believe that at some point Lundqvist will either ask for a trade or actually be traded.  Playing in front of a defense that would frustrate even Patrick Roy, Lundqvist showed several episodes this season where he wanted to throw his team under the bus.  It is that sign of frustration that I actually like most about him as a goalie.  He cares and overall I have to say he slightly exceeded expectations.


7. Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose Sharks)

Why?: He wins…bottom line. 41 in total last year with some pretty good numbers along the way. Granted San Jose plays very well defensively and some will say that Nabokov benefits greatly from goal support that is second to very few if any. However, he did have an off year last year by his standards. Since the lockout he has been kind of up and down…so expect a little more of an up year from the 34 year old Russian who let’s face it is playing for some serious coin this year.

Skinny: Here is the deal…he will win at least 40 games and probably closer to 45 if he stays healthy. If you can put up with the relatively low save percentage compared to almost all of this list…he is a great 2nd starting goalie. Bottom line a GAA of around 2.35 and a save percentage of about .912 with 7 or 8 shutouts should do it for this Russian netminder.

The Actual: Well he had a much better year that is for sure.  The goals against was a bit higher at 2.44 but the save percentage was much better at .922.  He also won 44 times and did only garner 3 shutouts but the .922 save percentage was the big number here.  That made fantasy owners very happy who stuck with Nabokov.  No one cares about the Olympics amongst fantasy hockey junkies.  In a year where shutouts were at more of a premium, I cannot knock Nabokov’s shutout total because San Jose’s defense was a bit porous than previous years.  To be fair, the goalie slightly exceeded expectations this year and may get rewarded with a higher draft position in fantasy drafts next year depending where he ends up.


8. Cam Ward (Carolina Hurricanes)

Why?: Carolina is a team on the rise. The Conference Finals appearance may be a sign of things to come. This could be the year that Ward breaks the 40 win plateau at last. With years of 30,37, and 39 wins in the last three seasons….is it really that far of a leap to expect? Of course not. The goals against has also come down in the last three and let’s face it this team’s defensive corps is a lot better than it was three years ago. The type of team that might actually win a division. With Ward in net…..that goal is indeed possible.

Skinny: A 40-42 win season is what we are calling for. Ward will have around a 2.40 to 2.45 GAA and close to a .920 save percentage. Six or seven shutouts thrown in and a solid backup in Michael Leighton will give Cam Ward the proper rest he needs to be at his best late in the regular season or your fantasy playoffs. Just some food for thought considering how hot he was last year down the stretch.

The Actual: When we are wrong…we are wrong and this is one of those picks that simply just missed the mark badly.  The scary part is the next one was even worse despite foreshadowing.  Now the save percentage at .916 was not too far off and the five shutouts was not either but the injuries that killed Carolina and even Ward as well are things that you cannot always account for.  The team defense was just not there or hurt or some (Joe Corvo got traded).  The below .500 record hurt as well but Ward was 7 over .500 over the second half.  It just shows you how disasterous over the first half.  Needless to say he did not meet expectations.


9. Steve Mason (Columbus Blue Jackets)

Why?: I can hear it already. Why so far down? Well one great year does not make you the next coming of Patrick Roy…you have to do it again. Yes I think Mason will do it again but not quite as well as last season. He is the perfect type of goalie in the Ken Hitchcock system which means most of the numbers will be there again this year. As a matter of fact wins may be an improvement just because if he stays healthy he will play more than 61 games. Mason is a perfect #2 to have on a team because most nights its a 2-1 or 3-2 game. His 33-20-7 record with 10 shutouts to boot won him the Calder. And do not forget that 2.29 GAA…that was nice.

Skinny: I will take some heat for this as well. Mason is barely a top 10 goalie in fantasy leagues but because this seems to be the year of 1a and 1b again….Mason will benefit greatly. Add in the fact that some other goalies are in for down years (Carey Price, whoever plays on LI) and you get eggroll. About 36-38 wins…..a 2.32 GAA and a .917 save percentage along with 7 or 8 shutouts would not be a surprise for Steve Mason.

The Actual: Just basically a total sophomore slump of biblical proportions.  At one point late in the season, Mason was still over a 3.50 GAA.  To be somewhat fair, the team fell apart under Ken Hitchcock and played out the string under interim Coach Claude Noel.  However he did start playing somewhat better and got his GAA down to around 3 and his save percentage at .901.  Considering what it was for a long stretch, there may be hope next year fantasy hockey fans.  I would expect a bit more of a bounceback but Mason is not going to toss 10 shutouts at you.  Mason definitely missed the mark big time expectations wise.


10. Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres)


Why?: Simple look at how well he was playing before he got hurt. Thanks Scott Gomez. Remember that Miller had 34 wins in only 59 games last year…he likely would have topped 40 wins with around a 2.50 GAA and maybe 7 shutouts. However, we will never know. Now for all the guff that Darcy and Lindy have gotten this offseason (mostly Darcy)…the Sabres will still have Miller in net and that definitely counts for something and something good for fantasy owners!

Skinny: Well about 38-40 wins for Miller is about right. Add in the 2.45 to 2.50 GAA and a save percentage close to .920 and you have a guy that should sneak in under some radars in fantasy leagues. People may take Pekka Rinne or Jonas Hiller but the key is you have to prove it in year two. We know what Miller can do. That is the bottom line. Sometimes the veteran gets it over the young guns.

The Actual: All he did was pretty much finish near the top 5 in just about everything and played out of his mind like we thought there was potential if he could stay healthy.  He did and the results speak for themselves.  The 2.22 GAA with the .929 save percentage are pretty much fantasy #1 type numbers to me.  Hey Miller even tossed in 5 shutouts as well.  If Miller could have scored some goals, he probably could have accomplished that too.   There is a reason why he may just walk away with the Vezina, his year was just that damn good.  He FAR exceeded expectations this year and expect more of it next season.



And now the rest but by no means least….11-25

11. Pekka Rinne (NSH) — Last year was no fluke and he will prove it. YES!

12. Jonas Hiller (ANA) — Will be the #1 in Anaheim and rack up #’s.  Not exactly.

13. Nikolai Khabibulin (EDM) — He will be better than Huet this year. Oh hell no!

14. Cristobal Huet (CHI) — With that offense…he should be up here.  Not even close.

15. Marc Andre-Fleury (PIT) — Hangover yes but better 2nd half.  About right.

16. Tomas Vokoun (FLA) — Still solid numbers but little support.  BINGO..great #’s though.

17. Chris Mason (STL) — Which C. Mason will we see????  Not bad but not good enough.

18. Chris Osgood (DET) — He will have a better regular season…  Oh no he did not!

19. Jon Quick (LA) — An up and comer that could be top 10 soon.  He has arrived!

20. Craig Anderson (COL) — Could put up some nice numbers….. He sure did…playoffs even.

21. Simeon Varlamov (WSH) — Takes the bull by the Caps horns.  Injuries slowed him down.

22. Marty Turco (DAL) — Has to have a better year for Dallas.  That answer is NO!

23. Ray Emery (PHI) — We had to put him on here somewhere.  But should have stayed off…

24. Jonas Gustafsson (TOR) — I like the monster to do pretty good.  Showed flashes but no so much.

25. Carey Price (MTL) — Because it cannot get much worse than yeah.  Halak too OVER!


So what did we learn this year?  As always, expect the unexpected.  Next week we will nitpick at our 25 Left Wingers because well there were even more landmines there than here.  Pretty scary isn’t it?  Let that be a lesson that sometimes hockey just happens!

About Chris Wassel

Simply I am a hockey writer who is a jack of all trades. Whether it is draft, fantasy, NHL, KHL, AHL, etc...I probably can write about it. The challenge in hockey is to be able to step out of your comfort zone and write like you are still there. Hopefully you enjoy the humor in the writing on the site and tell your friends. Thanks for reading!