Fantasy Hockey Friday

Two weeks ago, we brought you an in depth breakdown of team stats around the NHL that could help give a better indication on how your goalie may fare on any given night against any given opponent. This week we turn the tables a bit to analyze more team stats, but this time focus on the impact of these stats for forwards and defenseman.

A good Fantasy Hockey league setup has roster positions and bench positions so that on some nights, when most everyone on your team is playing, you have to make the tough decisions regarding who to bench and who to play. So as a Manager, how do you decide which players to play and which to sit?

Sometimes it comes down to a “hunch” or intuition. Obviously your star players will likely get spots because they are more likely to put points on the board. Players on hot streaks may also get the nod over someone that is slumping. Or you may choose to go by which team any given player is playing against that night.

For instance, if you’re trying to decide between two players, and one is playing against the New York Rangers while the other is playing against the Tampa Bay Lightning, you may want to consider playing your guy against Tampa Bay. Why? Because Tampa Bay averages 3.47 goals against per game while the Rangers average 1.98 goals against per game, meaning there is a greater probability that your player will score against Tampa Bay.

Here is a breakdown of the top five teams in the league with the lowest goals against averages per game:

New York Rangers (1.98)

St. Louis Blues (1.98)

Boston Bruins (2.02)

Los Angeles Kings (2.13)

San Jose Sharks (2.28)

Similarly, here are the worst five teams in the NHL with the highest goals against averages per game:

Tampa Bay Lightning (3.47)

Columbus Blue Jackets (3.22)

Carolina Hurricanes (3.17)

Ottawa Senators (3.08)

Toronto Maple Leafs (3.07)

The Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders also have averages of 3.00 goals against per game or better as well.

You can also get a good idea of how your players will fare by looking at which goalie he will face that night. And these numbers don’t always correlate with the team average.

Boston has a low enough team goals against per game average, but backup netminder Tuukka Rask actually has a lower goals against average than starter Tim Thomas. This means that your player is more likely to score on Thomas than on Rask, but the likelihood that he will score against Boston at all is slim.

Consider the Colorado Avalanche as well. As a whole, the team averages 2.85 goals allowed per game. However, goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere have basically split time, but Varlamov’s goals against average is much higher at 3.00 goals against per game than Giguere’s 2.12 goals against per game. So if Varlamov gets the start, play against him with confidence.

The Philadelphia Flyers have a similar issue with Ilya Bryzgalov (3.00) and Sergei Bobrovsky (2.42). Thankfully for Fantasy Managers, Bryzgalov gets the majority of the starts with 30 this season compared to Bobrovsky’s 14.

It doesn’t happen often when you have a full slate of games and have to make the tough choices as a manager on whom to bench and whom to play, but knowing the odds can help you make the right decision in the future. It’s not fool-proof by any means, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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