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.
The month of March seems to bring out the best in Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier. In 58 career games, the former first-round draft pick (11th overall in 2006) is 10-2-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
That includes this month's current stat line of 3-1-0 with a 2.33 GAA and .914 SV%, as well as one of the best games in his career, a 40-save gem in a 3-2 win over the Coyotes Tuesday night.
And since volume (games played, shots faced) is intimately tied to a goalie's fantasy value, when forced to sit behind one of the league's best goalies, every single start and save is that much more important.
Now that Bernier's value has gained some momentum over the past few weeks, instead of merely playing in the second game of a back-to-back, or getting the nod when Jonathan Quick needs a rare night off, he's earning some starts based mainly on the merit of his most recent performances.
Bernier's recent success didn't come out of nowhere, either. He was 4-1-0 in February with a 1.64 GAA and .931 SV%, and in each of his first five wins, he had allowed just one goal against. In fact, only twice in 10 appearances this season has he allowed more than two goals, while one of his two losses was a relief effort in which he stopped 13 of 14 shots in a 3-4 loss to the Sharks on March 14.
Along with the benefits of a condensed schedule, the recent increase in minutes behind Quick is changing the perception of Bernier's value in a keeper league. Clearly a prospect with starter potential, the fact remains that he has always been considered a very technically sound and patient goaltender.
Listed at just 6-foot-0 and 185 pounds, Bernier's positioning, angle play, and overall net coverage makes him seem a whole lot bigger. He's calm, composed, and efficient when making different save selections, his rebound control is clearly improving, and he does an excellent job of staying big in the butterfly, letting pucks come to him, and having a healthy balance of positional and reflex-based styles.
Although the Kings only play four of their next 10 games at home, his play on Staples Center ice this season is impressive. He's 5-0-0 with a 1.87 GAA and .927 SV%, stopping 127 of 137 total shots. He was 1-0-1 at home with a .939 SV% last season, and 6-2-1 with a 2.85 GAA during the 2010-11 campaign.
Bernier probably won't earn a string of consecutive starts over the next month, but with eight starts to Quick's 21, he's currently holding a 27-percent workload split. Owned in just 24-percent of Yahoo! Fantasy leagues, even if he only ends up earning one-third of the total playing time for the Kings this season, he's clearly on the rise, both in the short and long term.
The more he plays, the better he does. The better he does, the more he plays. That's forcing GM's around the league to take notice, and inevitably, just like we've seen with high-caliber backups like Anders Lindback and Sergei Bobrovsky, he'll earn an opportunity to be a starter somewhere else.
1. Sergei Bobrovsky – Blue Jackets: The subject of last week's "In The Cage" continues to stay red-hot for Columbus. He's now 7-0-2 in March with a 0.98 GAA and .968 SV%. He pitched a 39-save gem against Phoenix on March 16, and kept his team's unbeaten streak alive with a 32-save effort in a 4-3 win over Nashville on Tuesday.
2. Marc-Andre Fleury – Penguins: With a second-star effort in a 2-1 win over Washington on Tuesday night, Fleury stayed perfect in March, stretching his record to 6-0-0 with a 2.34 GAA and .911 SV%. He has allowed only two goals in his last three games and has just five losses in 21 games this season.
3. Niklas Backstrom - Wild: During his current four-game winning streak, Backstrom has earned big wins over Detroit, division rivals Vancouver, and another Northwest foe in Colorado. He has posted a .928 SV% during this winning streak, and he's 7-2-0 with a 2.50 GAA and .916 SV% in March.
1. Ryan Miller – Sabres: Frustration has clearly seeped back into Miller's game, and at the wrong time. He went 0-1-1 and allowed nine goals on 59 shots in back-to-back starts over the weekend, so now he's 0-3-2 in his last five games and just 1-3-3 with a 3.34 GAA and .882 SV% in his last seven.
2. Semyon Varlamov – Avalanche: After earning huge wins over Chicago and San Jose back on March 8 and 10, Varlamov has dropped four of his last five decisions (1-5-0). He has allowed 18 goals in that stretch, stopping 131 of 149 total shots (.879 SV%). His lack of value on the road is even more troubling, where he's 0-8-2 with a 3.50 GAA and .899 SV% this season.
3. Antti Niemi - Sharks: With only six wins in his last 19 games (6-7-5), Niemi's value has been slowly declining in March. He's 4-3-1 with a 3.04 GAA and .898 SV% in his last nine games, and just 2-3-0 in his last five games, allowing 17 goals on 129 shots, a concerning .868 SV%.
KEEP AN EYE ON…
Martin Brodeur – Devils: After missing exactly one month with a bad back, Brodeur finally returns to the crease tonight against Carolina. He went 3-1-1 with a .921 SV% leading up to the injury, but the question for poolies is whether he hits the ground running, or if he'll need a few games to get his timing back.
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. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (+1)
4. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (+1)
5. Carey Price, Canadiens (-2)
6. Jonathan Quick, Kings (+1)
7. Niklas Backstrom, Wild (+2)
8. Antti Niemi, Sharks (-2)
9. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (+1)
10. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (+2)
11. Ryan Miller, Sabres (-3)
12. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (+1)
13. Mike Smith, Coyotes (-2)
14. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (same)
15. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (+1)
16. Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers (-1)
17. Braden Holtby, Capitals (+1)
18. Cory Schneider, Canucks (+1)
19. Jaroslav Halak, Blues (-2)
20. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (+2)
21. Viktor Fasth, Ducks (same)
22. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (+3)
23. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (-3)
24. Ray Emery, Blackhawks (same)
25. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (-2)
26. Martin Brodeur, Devils (NR)(IR)
27. Devan Dubnyk, Oilers (-1)
28. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders (-1)
29. Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames (-1)
30. Ben Bishop, Senators (same)