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.
Heading into Thursday night's game with Chicago, the Columbus Blue Jackets have tied a franchise record with their eight-game point streak (5-0-3). Without question, a major reason why the club could make history against the Blackhawks is the red-hot play of Sergei Bobrovsky.
Like many goalies, the undrafted 24-year-old was inconsistent in the first half of the condensed season. He was 2-2-1 with a 2.97 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in his first five games, and then 1-4-2 with a 2.86 GAA and .892 SV% over his next seven games.
This month, however, he's a near-perfect 5-0-1 with an 0.83 GAA and .970 SV%. During this stretch, he has allowed just five goals on 166 shots and earned his first career shutout, a 30-save gem against Detroit on March 9. For his efforts, he was voted as the NHL's First Star of the Week on Monday.
But where did this sudden surge in Bobrovsky's fantasy value come from?
First of all, and most importantly, he's displaying much better positioning than ever before.
During his tenure with the Flyers, and even during the first half of this season, he relied more on quick feet and raw reflexes to make saves, which often pulled him out of position and forced him to scramble unnecessarily. As a result, he would often lose his net and kill any chance of making efficient saves on rebounds or through heavy traffic.
Without any North American experience to lean on after coming over from Russia, Bobrovsky still thrived as a rookie by going 28-13-8 with a 2.59 GAA and .915 SV%. He regressed last season by going just 14-10-2 behind Ilya Bryzgalov, posting a .916 even-strength SV%, a .841 power play SV% (116-138), and stopping just four of eight shots in three shootouts (1-2).
Listed at 6-foot-2, one of Bobrovsky's biggest issues was that he played too small for his size. He had a deep crouch and an upper body that was often angled too far forward, which restricted his hand movements and cause bad rebounds or "leaky" goals. Long lateral strides and pushes also forced him to turn his body and momentarily lose squareness to the puck, which was then opening up too many holes.
But now Bobrovsky is utilizing his solid frame more effectively due to a better understanding of angles, depth, and overall body positioning on the smaller ice. He's displaying better control when making initial saves, which allows him to do less reaching, lunging and stretching.
As a result, he's staying more "centered" in the net when dropping and recovering, so he's better positioned to make those raw athletic saves.
Bobrovsky is currently 8-6-4 with a 2.19 GAA and .923 SV% overall. He has a .928 EV SV%, an .889 PP SV% (64-72), and has stopped 13 of 17 attempts in five shootouts (3-2). He also crossed the 100-game plateau in the NHL, so more experience and playing time may also be lending a hand to more consistency. He may have also needed some time to adjust back to the smaller ice after playing in the KHL during the lockout.
Maybe the only thing more surprising than his recent play is his ownership in Yahoo! fantasy leagues, which sits at just 38 percent. The Blue Jackets have been desperate for stability in goal, and now that Bobrovsky has sparked Columbus to a 5-0-3 run, he'll likely play the bulk of their remaining 21 games.
Jonas Hiller – Ducks: It's never easy to bounce back from an injury, especially when the other goalie is playing well. But Hiller is proving healthy competition is the best kind, going 4-0-1 in his past five games with a 1.77 GAA and .941 SV%. During this unbeaten streak, he has allowed just nine goals on 153 shots.
Jimmy Howard – Red Wings: For the second straight week, Howard is trending up. He is 2-0-2 in his past four games, stopping 109 of his last 113 shots. He has now allowed just six regulation goals in his past five games, and is 9-4-3 with a 2.11 GAA and .925 SV% on home ice.
Pekka Rinne – Predators: Rinne is on fire after a remarkable three-game stretch. He posted a 24-save shutout in a 6-0 win over Edmonton on March 8, stopped 28 of 29 shots in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota on March 9, and then posted a 32-save shutout over Dallas on Tuesday. As a result, he's now 2-2-1 with a .942 SV% in his last five games.
James Reimer – Maple Leafs: Allowing 17 goals in his last five games, Reimer is trending down after being pulled in a 5-2 loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday night. He stopped just 24 of 28 shots in that game, and now has a 3.56 GAA and .901 SV% in the month of March.
Ilya Bryzgalov – Flyers: Currently stuck in the worst stretch of play this season, Bryzgalov has just one win in his last five games. He's just 2-3-0 this month, with a 3.42 GAA and .873 SV%. He's only 4-9-0 on the road with a 3.24 GAA and .882 SV%, where the Flyers play two of their next three games.
Corey Crawford – Blackhawks: With only a 3.36 GAA and .868 SV% in March, the expected statistical regression is hitting Crawford owners like a ton of bricks. He has just 79 saves on 91 shots in his last four games and is facing a red-hot Blue Jackets team tonight in Columbus.
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Miikka Kiprusoff – Flames: After making 36 saves in a 5-2 win over Detroit on Wednesday night, we suggest you put Kiprusoff on your radar. He's just 2-2-0 with a .889 SV% since returning from injury, but every veteran needs time to shake off the rust, so beating the Red Wings was a good indication he's warming up.
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 (same)
2. Pekka Rinne, Predators (same)
3. Carey Price, Canadiens (+1)
4. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (-1)
5. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (+1)
6. Antti Niemi, Sharks (-1)
7. Jonathan Quick, Kings (same)
8. Ryan Miller, Sabres (+1)
9. Niklas Backstrom, Wild (+2)
10. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (-1)
11. Mike Smith, Coyotes (-1)
12. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (+2)
13. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (+2)
14. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (-1)
15. Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers (-3)
16. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (+2)
17. Jaroslav Halak, Blues (same)
18. Braden Holtby, Capitals (-2)
19. Cory Schneider, Canucks (same)
20. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (same)
21. Viktor Fasth, Ducks (same)
22. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (+1)
23. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (-1)
24. Ray Emery, Blackhawks (same)
25. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (+5)
26. Devan Dubnyk, Oilers (-1)
27. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders (same)
28. Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames (-2)
29. Anders Lindback, Lightning (-1)
30. Ben Bishop, Senators (-1)
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