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How Important Is it to Know the Starting Goalie Before Making an NHL Bet?

Knowing the starting goalie before placing an NHL bet can significantly impact the betting decision. Here’s why:
  • Impact on Odds: Bookmakers consider who the starting goalie is when calculating the odds. A team playing with their top goalie generally has better odds of winning.
  • Defensive Strength: The starting goalie is often the backbone of a team's defense. A top-performing goalie can significantly affect the game's outcome, potentially keeping the score low even if the rest of the team is underperforming.
  • Team Confidence: Teams may play differently depending on their confidence in their goalie. A strong starter can boost a team's aggressive play, knowing they have a reliable last line of defense.
  • Back-to-Back Games: For games on consecutive days, teams will often rest their starting goalie for one of those games. Knowing which game the starter will play can be crucial to betting strategies.
  • Recent Performance: If a starting goalie has been on a winning (or losing) streak, this can affect team morale and the likelihood of future wins.
  • Goalie Matchups: Sometimes, the decision on which goalie to bet on depends on the matchup against the opposing team's offense. Certain goalies may have better track records against specific teams or playing styles.
  • Over/Under Bets: A strong starting goalie can influence the total number of goals expected to be scored in the game, which is critical information for over/under bets.
  • In-Play Betting: If you're betting in-play (live betting), knowing the starting goalie is crucial, as a goalie change can happen due to performance issues or injury, which could change the game's dynamic.
For all these reasons, bettors often wait for the official announcement of the starting goalie, which typically happens on the morning of the game or during the pre-game warm-up, before placing their bets. Bettors who stay informed can sometimes capitalize on early odds before they adjust to goalie announcements. However, always consider that betting carries risks, and no single factor can guarantee the outcome of a game.

How Often Do Most NHL Starting Goalies Start?

The frequency with which NHL starting goalies start games can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the goalie's health, performance level, the team's playing schedule, and coaching strategy. Here are some general patterns:
  • Workhorse Starters: Some starting goalies are considered "workhorses," often starting 60-70% of their team's games in a season. This typically amounts to 50-60 games in a regular 82-game season. These goalies are usually the clear number ones on their team and are relied upon heavily for their consistent performance.
  • Tandem Systems: Some teams employ a tandem system where two goalies split starts more evenly. This could mean each goalie starts between 40 and 50% of the games. This system is often used when a team has two strong goalies and wants to keep them both fresh throughout the season or when determining which goalie should be the definitive starter.
  • Rest and Rotation: Coaches also consider the need for rest, particularly during demanding parts of the schedule, such as during back-to-back games, road trips, or stretches with a high density of games. Backups might see more starts in these cases to keep the starter rested.
  • Playoff Considerations: As the playoffs approach, if a team has already secured their playoff position, the starting goalie might start fewer games to rest for the postseason. Conversely, the starter might see more frequent action if a playoff spot is on the line.
  • Performance-Based Decisions: If a starting goalie is in a slump or the backup goalie is on a hot streak, the number of starts each gets might shift temporarily.
  • Injury Impact: Injuries can, of course, significantly impact the number of starts a goalie gets. Teams must carefully manage their goalies' health; injury prevention is vital to starting goalies' routines.
In the modern NHL, the trend has been moving slightly away from having a single goalie start most games. This shift is due to the increasing recognition of the physical and mental demands of the position, the rise in talent level across the board allowing for more reliable backups, and the strategic advantage of having two game-ready goalies heading into the playoffs. However, elite goalies who are performing well will still often see a large number of starts.

How Many Goalies Do Most NHL Teams Carry on Their Roster?

Most NHL teams carry two goalies on their active roster: a starting goalie and a backup goalie. This setup allows a team to have a fresh goalie available if the starter needs a rest, is experiencing a slump, or if an injury occurs.
During the regular season, teams usually alternate between their starting and backup goalies based on the schedule, the opponents, and the goalies' performances. The starting goalie typically plays most of the games, but the backup will often see action in back-to-back game situations or against less competitive teams to ensure the starter receives adequate rest.
In addition to the two goalies on the active roster, teams often have one or more goaltenders playing for their affiliate team in the American Hockey League (AHL) or other minor leagues. These goalies can be called up in the event of an injury or if there's a need for a roster change.
Furthermore, due to the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL implemented a temporary rule requiring teams to carry a third goalie on their taxi squad to ensure they would only be with a goaltender due to illness or quarantine measures. However, whether this practice will continue in future seasons may depend on the evolving context and league regulations.