Every Monday during the season, goalie specialist and founder of The Goalie Guild Justin Goldman will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy goaltenders in NHL.com's weekly segment: "In the Cage." From updated goalie rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Goldman will be your fantasy goalie expert all season long.
During the 2009-10 campaign, a total of 82 goaltenders appeared in an NHL regular-season game. For the 2010-11 campaign, a total of 86 goalies appeared in a regular-season game. As of today, we've already seen 87 goalies appear in a game this season, and there's still one more week to go.
In fact, only 10 teams have made it to this point with their two original goaltenders penciled into every game's roster sheet. The other 20 have tossed at least three goalies in the crease, while some have even used four or five, and that's not including goalies that have dressed as backups, either.
With the totals rising in each of the last three years, the element of durability has become a more important ingredient in the recipe for fantasy goalie success. For poolies, that means a big chunk of your success stems from the ability to draft rookies and sleepers that will earn quality starts, and the ability to quickly pull the trigger on call-ups and when injuries inevitably occur.
Ultimately, there's a clear-cut rising trend in the world of fantasy goaltending; poolies looking for an edge must become more familiar with future crops. The pool of prospects (a list that includes, but is not limited to, Matt Hackett
, Leland Irving
, Richard Bachman
, Allen York
, Jacob Markstrom
and Robin Lehner
) is overflowing with talent. So as the number of injuries and obstacles getting in the way of teams having stable creases for a full season rises, the number of opportunities for youngsters will also rise.
Before we hand out our end-of-season awards, we'll close the book on the first season of "In the Cage" with one final thought.
There's a vibrant kaleidoscope of premium backup and third-string talent in the NHL right now, so as time goes by, the position improves as a whole. More goalie-specific coaching and development has really improved depth around the League, so get to know the next wave of future fantasy phenoms better, and you'll reap the rewards when drafting your goalies next season.
THE MOST VALUABLE GOALIE
At this point, everyone knows that Henrik Lundqvist
is almost a shoo-in for the Vezina Trophy. But if we had to choose the true fantasy goalie MVP, it would be Jonathan Quick
. His goal support is much lower than Lundqvist's, and combined with his workload, nine shutouts, and 1.92 goals-against average, we tip the scales in his favor. It's one thing to win when a team consistently provides stable offense, but it's quite another when a team scores just 2.34 goals per game. For this reason alone, Quick proves that he belongs in any conversation regarding the best fantasy goalies, and he proved he has the durability to do it on a consistent basis. Runner Up: Henrik Lundqvist
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE
Back in September, we asked the 10 burning fantasy questions for goalies this season. Near the top of the list, we wondered about Mike Smith
and his fantasy value as a starter in Phoenix. But his style meshed perfectly with Coyotes goalie coach Sean Burke
, and the results (35 wins, a 2.29 GAA, seven shutouts, and a .927 save percentage) have been way beyond what we imagined. Sure, goalies like Corey Schneider and Curtis Sanford
have been big surprises, but in terms of sheer fantasy value, Smith's transformation wins this award. Runner Up: Evgeni Nabokov
THE BIGGEST UNDERACHIEVER
For this award, we need to clarify that no goalie suffering a major injury can be nominated. An injury, especially concussions, can completely derail a goalie's season, and most of the time, they happen due to no fault of their own. With that in mind, Dwayne Roloson
is considered as the biggest fantasy underachiever. Age is certainly a factor, but on too many nights, his lack of rebound control and his unsettled presence wrecked any momentum Tampa Bay was able to create throughout the season. Some of his struggles can be attributed to the injuries sustained to a few of his defensemen, but at the end of the day, Roloson was paid to lead this team back to the playoffs, and that task, despite the obstacles and frustrations, resulted in failure. Runner Up: Steve Mason
, Blue Jackets
THE ROOKIE STANDOUT
With solid play from rookies and third-stringers acting as the main theme for this season's fantasy goaltending story, the best protagonist would be Richard Bachman
. Not only did he prove that smaller goalies can still succeed at this level, he also proved that steady development (he transitioned from the NCAA to ECHL to AHL to NHL), can breed the exact type of success every team
wants. Kari Lehtonen
has been a killer fantasy asset this season, but almost every time Bachman was asked to come up big for Dallas, he delivered in an impressive, confident, and composed manner. And he did all of this as a rookie that started the season in the AHL. Runner Up: Jacob Markstrom
THE NEXT BIG SLEEPER
For our final award, we've selected one goalie that displayed the signs of an ability to generate the most fantasy value from the lowest expectations. Our list included a number of viable fantasy risers, but we think at this time next year, we'll look back and wish we drafted Devan Dubnyk
sooner. His play to end this season should give him enough of a confidence boost to begin next season as a starter, and the Oilers will be more experienced as a team as well. He has the size, skills, and now the experience needed to take that next big step, and he should have plenty of support from the club that drafted him in the first round back in 2004. Runner Up: Ben Bishop