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In the Cage: Predicting bounce-back games

Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:00 PM
Justin Goldman  - NHL.com Correspondent

Every Thursday during the season, Justin Goldman, the Director of Goalie Scouting for McKeen's Hockey and founder of The Goalie Guild, 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.

In order to make better daily starting goalie decisions in this condensed and chaotic season, you need to be able to predict strong bounce-back efforts.

Bounce-backs are vital this season because coaches are more likely to have shorter leashes in goal by being less hesitant to use their backups. But beyond doing your daily homework on team matchups, how can you determine when a goalie is primed for a big bounce-back win?

Unfortunately, because so much of this is tied to the mental side, there's no formula or fail-proof plan for predicting them. And while every starting goalie will be motivated to nip a losing streak in the bud in different ways, oftentimes the "bounce-back" takes place after they watch their counterpart play well.

Not only will most starters feel a higher sense of urgency when a bad outing is followed by the backup playing well, but the rest they receive is beneficial as well. They get to recharge the batteries a bit, while also pushing the mental "reset" button. For many goalies, that simple "fresh start" can do the trick.

Knowing that this might be one way to unravel the "bounce-back" riddle, below are a few recent examples where this dynamic successfully played out:

1. Marc-Andre Fleury allowed five goals on just 24 shots in a 5-2 loss to Toronto last Wednesday. In Pittsburgh's next game, Tomas Vokoun played well in a 4-2 loss to Winnipeg, stopping 28-of-31 shots. That effort may have sparked Fleury to bounce-back with an excellent 31-save effort in a 2-1 win over the red-hot Senators.

2. Sergei Bobrovsky dropped a 4-0 game to Colorado last Thursday. Then Steve Mason played well in a 3-2 loss to Chicago last Saturday. But Bobrovsky's next start was unquestionably his best game of the season so far, stopping 24-of-25 shots in a 2-1 win over Dallas.

3. Back on Jan. 22, Devan Dubnyk gave up six goals on 17 shots in the first period against the feisty Sharks. Yann Danis relieved him and stopped all 14 shots he faced. In the next game, Dubnyk bounced back in fine fashion by stopping 30-of-31 shots in a 2-1 win over the Kings.

4. Following Anders Lindback's only loss so far this season, Mathieu Garon stopped 35-of-36 shots in a 4-1 win over the Hurricanes. Lindback bounced back by rattling off three straight wins, and continues to be a pleasant surprise in his first month as a starter in the NHL.

This bounce-back dynamic won't always work in your favor, but so far this season, we feel it's a solid predictor for success, and it may just give you the edge you need to win a weekly matchup or two.

TRENDING UPWARD

1. Carey Price: Nobody will argue that Price is one of the most technically solid and positionally sound goalies in the NHL. But now that he has steady goal support on his side, the fantasy value is soaring. He's 4-1-0 with a 1.98 GAA and .924 SV%, while Montreal has scored four goals in every win he's earned. All of this comes on the heels of a slightly tweaked groin, which happened during one of the team's first practices.

2. Craig Anderson: For the second week in a row, Anderson continues to prove he's one of the top goalies to own this season. After another win last night against Montreal, he's now 5-0-1 with a 0.99 GAA and a .967 SV%. What's even more remarkable about his early-season success is the fact that he hasn't allowed goal after the first period in a single game.

3. Anders Lindback: Although he currently has just a 2.80 GAA, Lindback has played well above his projected fantasy value so far. His average draft selection was 160.9 overall, the same average as Jonas Gustavsson. Owned in 94-percent of Yahoo! Fantasy leagues, Lindback has won three straight games and has allowed just three goals on his last 53 shots. He has a .914 SV% overall.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

1. Jose Theodore: Last season, Theodore wrote a story of resurgence, as he played a vital role in the Panthers making the playoffs, and nearly defeating the New Jersey Devils in the first round. To begin this season, it appears to be the opposite. After stopping 41-of-42 shots in his first game, he has allowed 15 goals in his last four games. He currently sits 1-4-0 with a 3.48 GAA and .904 SV%.

2. Semyon Varlamov: Since the Avalanche is now dealing with a glut of injuries, Varlamov's fantasy value has been damaged, especially in the wins column. Without Steve Downie, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly, Colorado's special teams are struggling. He's racking up the shots against, but in a condensed season, wins are paramount, and that could victimize Varlamov moving forward.

3. Pekka Rinne: With a .899 SV% and 2.67 GAA in five games, Rinne would be the first to tell you that he's still trying to erase some bad habits he may have developed in Russia during the lockout. What's more troubling, however, is the fact that he's still winless, sitting 0-2-3. To his defense, the Predators are struggling to find the back of the net, scoring just two goals in their past three games.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

Niklas Backstrom: With a vastly improved team in front of him, Backstrom was a steal in most drafts. His average selection was 124.9, or halfway through the 11th round. His first game showed some promise, but since then, he looked sloppy and hesitant. But last night, Niklas came off the bench just 6:45 into the game and stopped 28 shots for a personal shutout and a big shootout win. The rust is gone, meaning he could be primed for a big week with games against Anaheim, Phoenix, and then Vancouver in one week.

TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES

These modified re-rankings are a projection of a goalie's fantasy output for the entire season. Our rankings are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, and GAA and SP%. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). It is important to note that our rankings reflect sheer fantasy value, not talent. A less-talented goalie could be ranked higher due to their team's strong defense and offense.

1. Tuukka Rask, Bruins (+1)

2. Ryan Miller, Sabres (-1)

3. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers

4. Jaroslav Halak, Blues

5. Carey Price, Montreal (+3)

6. Jonathan Quick, Kings

7. Pekka Rinne, Predators (-2)

8. Craig Anderson, Ottawa (+2)

9. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (-2)

10. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas (-1)

11. Antti Niemi, Sharks (+1)

12. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (-1)

13. Cory Schneider, Canucks (+1)

14. Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers (+5)

15. Cam Ward, Hurricanes (-2)

16. Niklas Backstrom, Wild

17. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (-2)

18. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings

19. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (+7)

20. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (+2)

21. Martin Brodeur, Devils (-1)

22. Brian Elliott, Blues (-1)

23. Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames

24. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders

25. Anders Lindback, Lightning (+2)

26. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (-1)

27. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (+1)

28. Devan Dubnyk, Oilers (+2)

29. Michal Neuvirth, Capitals (NR)

30. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (NR)

INJURED RESERVE: Mike Smith, Coyotes

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