September 02, 2011
Pekka Rinne(notes) will probably never get the respect in the NHL that his numbers indicate he deserves because he (a) plays for an unglamorous franchise and (b) plays behind a defensive system and (c) can't overcome these hindrances like Martin Brodeur(notes) did by simply being a Canadian goaltender with ties to Montreal.
In the fantasy NHL, however, the Nashville Predators keeper is suddenly a rock star.
With the end of Martin Brodeur's reign as the top-ranked goalie heading into the season, we welcome Nashville's Rinne as our new No. 1. After posting a 33-win season with an outstanding 2.12 goals against average, .930 save percentage and six shutouts, expectations are extremely high for the 28 year-old.
Rinne was top three in GAA and save percentage, placing 15th in wins having played 64 games, which was a career high for Rinne despite missing some time with a knee injury.
Which brings us back to fantasy. Everyone has his or her own draft philosophy, but I go for the workhorses in goal: Players that are durable and can get me upwards of 70 starts in a season. Granted, this has become increasingly rare in the NHL: Even Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) is going to be playing less than 70 games this season, as mandated by his GM. But if you can find them, draft them -- and Rinne appears to be one of them.
If Rinne can start between 65-70 games with those same numbers, he belongs in the Top 5. Maybe even Top 3. But if you're playing head-to-head in a non-keeper league, you're insane if you don't draft Henrik Lundqvist(notes) before Pekka Rinne.
Lundqvist is essentially playing behind the same unit that helped him produce a league-high 11 shutouts last season. He had more wins than Rinne, and will likely do so again given what the Rangers added up front in the summer. The save percentages between the two could be a wash: Lundqvist is going to hover around .920, but there's no guarantee Rinne pops another .930, which was second only to Tim Thomas(notes).
Lundqvist was ranked seventh overall in the Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey list; Rinne was 13th, behind Roberto Luongo(notes) (11th). Dobber has Rinne 10th in his latest ranking, but that's for keeper-league goalies and, well, Nashville is known to occasionally swap theirs out. The fact that Rinne is an impending free agent, and this could play behind a less generous defense, factors in as well.
You can't go wrong with Rinne, but Lundqvist would be our call. Who would be your top goalie in a fantasy draft?