Fantasy Hockey: Avoid Goaltender Blow Ups – Eastern Conference

Earlier this week, I had a post that discussed the blow up rates for goaltenders that had at least 41 starts and had the majority of those starts come in the Western Conference. For those that may have missed that one, these are the conditions for a goaltender blow up:

  1. A game in which a goaltender posts a save percentage of .850 or less.
  2. A game in which a goaltender allows at least five goals on 40 or fewer shots.
  3. To avoid double-counting, blow ups that satisfy both conditions will only be counted as one.

The reason for this, as described by the Vancouver Canucks SBNation blog ‘Nucks Misconduct, is that a goaltender who blows up gives his team only about a 15 percent chance of winning. When factoring in the frequency with which a goalie gets pulled when he has a blow up game like that, thus negating the possibility of a win, the prospects are grim.

Wins, of course, aren’t a way to measure a goalie’s performance. With that said, the majority of fantasy hockey leagues will have goaltender wins account for at least 10 percent of available categories. Along with the extreme likelihood of a non-win in a blow up is the accompanying save percentage and goals against numbers that will not help, either.

The real relevance for goaltender blow ups in fantasy hockey is in head-to-head leagues. As any fantasy hockey owners that has played in a head to head league knows, having a goalie get shelled for six goals can pretty much end the hopes of winning a week (at least comfortably). Also, a goalie that allows four goals on 23 shots will kill ratios to the point that there would be a lot of ground to make up.

While predicting when a goalie blow up will happen is near-impossible, predicting the frequency with which a blow up occurs is still possible. Knowing which goalie will blow up the first week of April is futile; knowing which goalie is likely blow up once every eight starts as opposed to once every five will reduce the likelihood of a blow up in a given week, and thus the likelihood of the first week of April.

For those that want to read on my work from last year, here are Eastern Conference goalie blow up rates from 2010-2013, and Western Conference goalies in the same time frame. With all that out of the way, these are the goalie blow up rates for Eastern Conference goalies (min. 41 starts with the majority of them in the East).

Goalie Starts 5+ Goal Blow Ups < .850 SV% Blow Ups Starts Per 5+ Goal Blow Up Starts Per < .850 SV% Blow Up Starts/Blow up Team FenwickFor%(ScoreClose)
Cory Schneider (NJD) 43 2 4 21.5 10.75 7.17 53.9%
Braden Holtby (WSH) 45 7 6 6.43 7.5 3.46 47.5%
Tim Thomas (FLA/DAL) 39/7 3 5 15.3 9.2 5.75 51.8%49.4%
Jonathan Bernier (TOR) 49 3 3 16.33 16.33 8.17 41.6%
Jimmy Howard (DET) 50 4 3 12.5 16.67 7.14 51.2%
Craig Anderson (OTT) 52 6 5 8.67 10.4 4.73 50.8%
Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ) 58 1 4 58 14.5 11.6 50.7%
Tuukka Rask (BOS) 58 3 7 19.33 8.29 5.8 54.1%
Ryan Miller (BUF/STL) 40/19 4 5 14.75 11.8 6.56 40.9%53.2%
Carey Price (MTL) 59 2 5 29.5 11.8 8.43 48.4%
Steve Mason (PHI) 60 1 9 60 6.67 6.0 48.2%
Henrik Lundqvist (NYR) 62 3 6 20.67 10.33 6.89 53.6%
Ben Bishop (TBL) 63 4 3 15.75 21 9 51.7%
Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) 64 7 6 9.14 10.67 4.92 50.2%

*Sorted by ascending number of starts

This is the best time to remind the reader that single-season goaltending statistics, of any variety, can be (and usually are) a bit wonky. The volatility of goaltending stats compared to most anything else can be extreme – ahem, Jonathan Quick – and the same applies here.

With that said, a few notes about the numbers:

  • Despite a litany of injuries to his team and an otherwise down season, Jimmy Howard did a pretty good job at keeping the Red Wings in games. He wasn’t bad in this regard from 2010-2013, so maybe a rebound is in order for him if the Wings stay healthy and their young players take a step forward.
  • Henrik Lundqvist declined from what his numbers were by nearly half. Again, the nature of goaltending leads to this possibility, but with Anton Stralman and Brad Richards gone, and Derek Stepan out for up to a month, this could be worrisome for Lundqvist owners this year.
  • This makes four years in a row that Craig Anderson ranked poorly in this regard. I don’t have much confidence in him as even a second goalie this year in 12-team fantasy leagues.
  • Carey Price and Jonathan Bernier performed admirably on weak possession teams, something to keep in mind for H2H leagues this year.
  • Tuukka Rask didn’t have strong numbers relative to his team from 2010-2013, and they got worse last year. Maybe he’s not the goalie everyone thinks he is, but the Boston Bruins as a team make up any deficiencies.
  • I want to see another year from Ben Bishop, but his numbers on a team missing their star player for the majority of the year last year were beyond stellar.
  • Braden Holtby won’t be good for fantasy this year unless Washington is significantly improved. He’s a high-risk pick.
  • When will Pittsburgh get a good goalie? Fleury might rack the wins, but he’s an ongoing concern in H2H leagues.
  • Schneider and Bobrovsky could very well end up both being in the top three goaltenders from the East this year.

Hopefully this helps with your goaltender selections this year. Remember, this applies particularly to H2H leagues. Blow up frequency is somewhat irrelevant as long as the numbers at the end of the year look good in roto leagues, such as the case with Fleury and Rask. In H2H leagues, though, maybe there are other directions owners should go.

*As always, thanks to Hockey Reference and NHL.com for their resources.

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