Best in the West (2015) – Goalies

by Doran Libin
[caption id="attachment_29657" align="alignnone" width="300"]DevanDubnyk2 Devan Dubnyk - USA Today Sports Images[/caption] Libin takes a look at the best fantasy bets for goaltenders in the Western Conference By Doran Libin - This series will examine the best goalies, defensemen, right and left wingers and centers in the Western Conference. The rankings will be a subjective accounting of top players at each of five positions. The basis will be on the value for the coming year. Thus age will not be a huge factor other than the decline that occurs from year to year as a player ages.   For the goalies the key factors will be individual talent, the team the goalie plays behind, other goaltending options and the trend over recent years. Individual talent will be measured by save percentage at even strength. That will be further broken down by type of shot, specifically high danger shots. The team in front of the goalies will be measured based on how many shots the team gives up as well as how many wins the team should get. Other goaltending options should be self-explanatory. Finally the overall trend will look at whether the goalie in question is ascending, declining or plateauing.  
  1. Frederik Andersen
  With only two years of NHL experience there is a very limited amount of data off of which to go. The two years have, however been very impressive.  In 82 regular season games, the equivalent of a full season, Andersen has a save percentage of 92.33%. He also had a slightly below league average save percentage on high danger shots of 81.67%. The 28 games he played in 2013/14 were better than the 54 games he played last season. Although his save percentage on high danger went from 79.44% to 83%. This is encouraging as his overall save percentage dropped by less than a point while his high danger save percentage rose by nearly four points.   Andersen plays behind an a good defensive team as he faces just under six high danger shots per game and faced 27 shots per 60 minutes played. Anaheim routinely puts Andersen in a good position to win. As a team they sport an obscenely good record in one goal games which has helped them maintain their spot amongst the best teams in the conference. They should be up near the top of the conference again which bodes well for Andersen’s win total, although a slight drop could come with any change to their fortunes in one goal games. Andersen also sits farther down the rankings because he now faces more competition with the arrival of Anton Khudobin as well as the lurking presence of John Gibson.  
  1. Semyon Varlamov
  The Avalnche struggled last year as they were unable to continue their PDO ways. Those struggles were largely related to their offense as opposed to their goaltending. Varlamov continues to thrive posting a 92.13% even strength save percentage with an impressive 84.29% save percentage on high danger shots. Over the last five years Varlamov’s had only one season where he did not perform at a league level. He dipped last year but still had a save percentage of just under 92%. He has shown that he is a very dependable goalie and can be counted for a high level of play.   As good as Varlamov has played the Avalanche have played equally as poorly in front of him. He regularly faces over 30 shots per game with nearly ten of those shots coming from high danger areas. While the Avalanche have improved slightly this offseason Varlamov should still see plenty of rubber. That means that in leagues that count saves he will be able to make up for some up the deficiencies of the team in front of him. With no quality back-up nipping at his heels he will play more than 60 games if healthy, but his wins will remain as long as the Avalanche struggle.  
  1. Jonathan Quick
  Quick does not have the outlandish save percentages that many of the other goalies in the top five. His save percentage over the last six years has hovered around the league average. Quick is very consistent, generally finishing with a save percentage of 91.7%, but he has fluctuated between 90.7% and 92.8%. His save percentage on high danger shots is similarly consistent at around 82%. Based on these numbers Quick does not really belong on this list as this suggests that he is not the same caliber of goalie as the guys behind him on this list. That being said Martin Jones has moved on, replaced by Enroth, and should be good for 55 to 60 games this year.   In this case the team in front of Quick makes a huge difference. The Kings failed to make the playoffs last year but it was largely an anomaly as they were still a high-end possession team, they could not win in the shootout or one goal games. The Kings remain an elite defensive team as Quick averages 26 shots faced per 60 minutes played with 7.25 of those coming from high danger areas. Those numbers did not change much last year but they are up from the previous two years. The Kings likely will not return to their previous levels of defensive stinginess but they will continue to be elite from a shot suppression standpoint.  
  1. Pekka Rinne
  Other than 2013/14 you can set a watch by Rinne’s stellar numbers. His lowest save percentage at even strength since 2009/10 is 92.7%; that is ridiculous as league average is 91.5%. The only drawback to Rinne is his age as he showed signs of slowing down at the end of last year, it was the only time he was even close to league average. He is as safe a bet as there is in the Western Conference to excel in net.   Rinne plays behind another very good defensive team, however it is unclear just how much that helps. The Predators are basically a carbon copy of the Minnesota Wild as they allow amongst the fewest shots in the league while averaging just under three goals scored per game. The Predators do not have the same offensive upside as the Wild though. There is no quality back-up in Nashville so Rinne will play a lot but the reason he loses out on the number one spot is some concern over his age and the higher team projection for the Wild.  
  1. Devan Dubnyk
  The Minnesota have a reputation as an elite defensive team, which they are, while being offensively challenged, which they are not. Dubnyk found himself in Minnesota having resurrecting his career in Arizona after misplacing it in Edmonton and Nashville. With the exception of the 2013/14 season Dubnyk has been a league average starter his entire career. In fact the 2013/14 season was the only season Dubnyk had a save percentage under 92%, that includes three previous seasons in Edmonton. There is every reason to believe that Dubnyk can maintain something close to the high levels of play he achieved last season.   The team in front of Dubnyk is equally as impressive as they are an elite shot suppression team. The Wild allowed the seventh lowest shots against at even strength while allowing the fifth fewest high danger chances. The Wild contrast that with scoring the twelfth most goals in the league, and that is with a disastrous power play. The Wild look to be one of the best teams for the coming season which bodes well for Dubnyk. The only potential drawback for Dubnyk is that if Darcy Kuemper rebounds there could be something of a goalie controversy, Dubnyk’s new contract, however gives him some security.   Honourable Mention: Corey Crawford – There was enough of a reason with all the changes in Chicago, and their defense having already slipped last year, to bump Crawford from this list.   Newcomers: Cam Talbot   Talbot will start the season as the new starting goalie in Edmonton, having been signed away from New York. He was extremely impressive in New York but faces a much different situation in Edmonton. The good news is that he is the only Rangers back-up goalie to consistently post above league average numbers in the last decade. The bad news is the Oilers’ defense has been a tire fire in recent years. He also faces some competition in Ben Scrivens and Anders Nilsson. This will be a big test for Talbot as he has less than 60 games of NHL experience and few Edmonton goalies have succeeded recently.   Martin Jones   Jones moved up the I-5 after making a brief detour to Boston. He will likely find that he would have found that there are more similarities between Boston and LA than with San Jose. The Sharks allow considerably more shots, 2.5 per 60 minutes, and three extra high danger shots per 60 minutes played. Jones is in for a shock and likely looks more like a league average goalie than the stud he was in 2013/14.    


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