Former NHL goaltender Mike McKenna gives his Daily face-to-face Start of the goalkeeper game of the day for Saturday. April 8, 2023:
Why I love this game:
Nashville and Winnipeg are battling for the second wildcard spot in the NHL Western Conference. Each team has four games left in the 2022-23 regular season and the Jets currently lead the Predators by just one point in the standings. Saros and Hellebuyck are not only two of the best goaltenders in the NHL, they are also the most valuable players on their respective teams.
To monitor :
Incredible skating from Saros. And a great expectation from Hellebuyck. For two goalkeepers separated by five inches in height – Saros is 5ft 11in while Hellebuyck is 6ft 4in – you wouldn’t know from the stats. Each has a .918 save percentage this season and has played in 61 games. But Saros and Hellebuyck are quite different in the way they play.
I love Saros’ crisp, precise footwork and how it incorporates a small amount of backward flow. He’s so good at getting past shots with lateral movement because he rarely has flat feet – something Hellebuyck can sometimes be guilty of. The Jets guard is much more static in his approach to goaltending. Hellebuyck’s crease moves tend to be very calculated and he thinks the game on an elite level.
The reality for both goaltenders is that allowing more than two goals would likely equate to a loss. Nashville and Winnipeg were unable to muster a sustained and consistent offense. This puts additional pressure on both goalkeepers. Without Saros and Hellebuyck, the Predators and Jets wouldn’t even be in the conversation for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
What fantasy owners should do:
Both Saros and Hellebuyck are death locks to begin with. And it’s worth thinking long term as goaltenders if your league allows it. The only category that is not strong is the win column. Lesser goalkeepers racked up more wins. But Saros and Hellebuyck are catching up in just about every other category.
Conclusion for Juuse Saros:
Nashville has four games left, and there’s a good chance Saros will play them all as long as the Predators are still in Stanley Cup Playoff contention.
Conclusion for Connor Hellebuyck:
See above for Saros. It’s do or die for the two star goalies in tonight’s game.