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Forecaster: Rinne rewarding patience

11/27/2009

There is a reason that patience is the first virtue in fantasy sports. We had Pekka Rinne ranked No. 4 among goaltenders before the season, and when he started the season slightly behind Dan Ellis on the depth chart, we screamed for patience. Those who stuck with him are being paid off in spades.

Rinne was 1-3 with a 3.79 goals-against average over his first five games of the season, and Ellis was receiving a fair share of the goaltending in October (each played in eight games). Sure, there was reason to be concerned, but there is a reason Rinne finished among the league leaders in GAA and save percentage last season.

Rinne has quickly turned the tides since late October, taking over the No. 1 goaltender job and leaving absolutely no questions surrounding his job security. Since Nov. 12, Rinne has been the most valuable goaltender in fantasy by a wide margin. He's 7-0 with a 1.80 GAA over that span. The next closest on the ESPN Player Rater is Tomas Vokoun and his 4-0-3 record and 2.03 GAA.

The dominance will only continue, as Rinne has a solid schedule over the next week, according to the Forecaster. Two contests against the lowly offense of the Minnesota Wild and a favorable start against the Calgary Flames will go a long way. There is a toughie in there against the Chicago Blackhawks, but overall, Rinne will continue to be the hottest goaltender around.

"O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 21 days' statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The Games T / H column lists the team's total number of games played as well as home games (T / H), and lists the cumulative rating from 1-10 of that week's matchups.

Offensive highlights

Avalanche are best bet: It's not a very favorable week for any team's offense, but the Avs do have a four-game week with a slightly above-average offensive rating. It's not a strong combination, but it's one that can be used to your advantage. David Jones is your first target for output off the waiver wire. Jones is seeing time on the top line with Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski and also on the first power-play unit. Jones has six points in the past six games, but there is more to the story. Usually when you see a big boost in production from a player who is suddenly skating with his team's best offensive weapons, you will see those superstars also produce even better numbers. But oddly enough, Stastny and Wolski have fewer points than Jones over that span (five points and four points, respectively), meaning Jones is outpacing them. As long as he sticks with them, Jones will continue scoring like a fantasy starter. Go as deep as the top two lines for the Avalanche when setting your lineup this week, and don't be scared by their troubling plus/minus of late.

A lot from a little: The Philadelphia Flyers have just two games next week, but they also have the best offensive rating of the week. With Danny Briere back from suspension for next week, he, Scott Hartnell, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux become must-starts even with a light schedule. Careful with Ray Emery, though, as the defensive rating isn't that great against the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals.

Category two Hurricanes: Only two games on the schedule for the Carolina Hurricanes, but they play the same two teams that have allowed the Flyers to have the best offensive rating of the week. Not only that, but Eric Staal is now back in the fold and centering his usual linemates, Erik Cole and Ray Whitney. The offensive rating for the Canes does not tell the whole story, and you should feel comfortable in rolling them back into your lineup as they begin to emerge from the woeful hockey they've played so far this season.

Defensive highlights

Luongo could struggle: First off, Roberto Luongo has been brutal on the road: 2-5, 3.02 goals-against average and .888 save percentage. With three games on the road against the New Jersey Devils, Flyers and Hurricanes, Luongo should be kept away from your lineup unless you absolutely need the starts. As a side note, the Canucks' offense doesn't rate that well against Martin Brodeur, Emery and Cam Ward, either, so maybe it's wise to just stay away from most Canucks, even with Daniel Sedin back in the fold.

Good week for Kipper: Yeah, I know I recently went on a tirade against Miikka Kiprusoff, but recommending him for this week perfectly illustrates the point I was trying to make: You must be selective with Kipper if you don't want him killing your ratios. He starts the week against the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes, which should parlay into two great starts. Be cautious about the Saturday matchup with the San Jose Sharks, but even that game could turn into good numbers thanks to Kiprusoff's strong numbers on the road (6-1-3, 2.14 goals-against average).

Keep a close eye on Rask: Tuukka Rask has been spectacular while filling in for Tim Thomas (hand). Overall in November, Rask has gone 5-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. The trouble with blindly using him is that Thomas' return is on the horizon (he was taking shots in practice on Friday). The Boston Bruins have a terrific defensive rating on the Forecaster, with games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. There are going to be three great games played by the Bruins goaltenders; it's just a matter of who is in net.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com and the 2008 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here

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