In the Cage: Candidates for fantasy goalie MVP

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 3:20 PM
Justin Goldman  - NHL.com Correspondent

Overall workload always plays a key role in which goaltenders earn consideration for the Vezina Trophy, but due to the 48-game schedule, determining three finalists will be a tricky endeavor for the National Hockey League.

With so many injuries suffered by the goalie union this season, a solid argument could be made for nearly eight or nine goalies. And while you can point to save percentages and win totals to validate those arguments, it ultimately comes down to the individual votes of 30 general managers.

We've held our own internal discussions here at NHL Fantasy, and with 10 days left in the regular season, we feel the Vezina Trophy is still up for grabs. So with that in mind, we've gone ahead and presented our case for three goalies we feel are the most-deserving -- with a fantasy slant, of course!

Sergei Bobrovsky -- Blue Jackets: With only eight goals against during a current five-game winning streak, Bobrovsky continues to be one of the best goaltending stories of the season. Boasting a brilliant 2.03 goals-against average and .931 save percentage (second only to Craig Anderson's .949 save percentage), he's the driving force behind Columbus' push for the playoffs. His .938 even-strength save percentage is better than anyone who has played 20 or more games, and his .731 save percentage in shootouts is fifth-best for goalies facing more than 10 attempts. Widely considered the most improved goaltender this season, if Columbus punches a ticket to the post-season, there's no denying Bobrovsky has strong odds to win the Vezina.

Antti Niemi -- Sharks: When it comes to earning a GM's vote for the Vezina, Niemi has it all. His overall durability is most impressive, as he currently sits first in the NHL in minutes played (2,344:07), while posting a 22-10-6 record. His 2.12 GAA and .926 save percentage are proof of his consistency, as he's second overall in shots against (1,117), but hasn't lost more than two regulation games in a row all season long. His eight wins in the shootout also puts him first in the league, and his .727 save percentage is in the top five for goalies facing more than 10 attempts. Furthermore, Niemi has accomplished all of this while San Jose has been mired in one of its worst offensive outputs in over a decade at 2.35 goals-per-game, which ranks 26th in the NHL.

Craig Anderson -- Senators: When it comes to building Anderson's case for the Vezina, the only knock against him is games played. The unfortunate ankle injury on Feb. 21 kept him out of the lineup until April 7, but otherwise he has been pure gold for the injury-riddled Senators. His 19 games played limits his sample size, but his League-leading 1.55 GAA and .949 save percentage are things to behold. And while a .955 even strength save percentage seems beyond comprehension, his .920 power-play save percentage is even more impressive (103 saves on 112 PP shots). Considering the talent the team is already missing, including defenseman Erik Karlsson, that's a telling stat. His three shutouts did not come easy, as they included shot totals of 31, 42, and 33, and he has done all of this behind a team that allows 32.3 shots-per-game (28th overall).

Other Contenders: Tuukka Rask, Bruins; Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers; Ray Emery, Blackhawks; Corey Crawford, Blackhawks; Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders; James Reimer, Maple Leafs

TRENDING UPWARD

1. James Reimer -- Maple Leafs: With a 4-0-1 record in his last five games, Reimer has solidified a playoff spot for Toronto behind a .942 save percentage in April. He posted his third shutout of the season in arguably his best game when he made 32 saves in a 2-0 win over the Devils on April 15.

2. Jonathan Quick -- Kings: It has clearly been a disappointing season for poolies, but Quick deserves credit for his recent play. He's 2-0-1 in his last three games, stopping 78 of 83 shots, and in his last six games, he's 3-2-1 with a 2.28 GAA and .917 save percentage. It's better late than never as the playoffs inch closer.

3. Evgeni Nabokov -- Islanders: Thanks to Nabokov's 5-0-2 run in April, the Islanders are in prime pouncing mode to solidify one of the final playoff spots in the East. He has stopped a remarkable 165 of his last 174 shots during this stretch, which is good enough for a sparkling 1.26 GAA and .948 save percentage.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

1. Carey Price -- Canadiens: With four losses in a row, Price's roughest stretch of the season has come at the worst time imaginable. He has allowed 12 goals in his last three games, stopping just 41 of 53 shots. Clearly lacking confidence, Price has just two wins in his last seven games and a .868 save percentage in April.

2. Martin Brodeur -- Devils: For the second week in a row, the iconic veteran legend remains stuck on career win No. 666. He's now 0-6-1 in his last seven games, stopping just 116 of 132 shots faced. That's good enough for a 2.32 GAA, but a measly .879 save percentage. He has just 10 wins in 25 games this season.

3. Ben Bishop -- Lightning: Since his spectacular 45-save shutout debut on April 4, Bishop has just one win in his last six appearances (1-3-1). He has allowed 12 goals on 85 shots in his last three games and was pulled after giving up three goals in the first period of a loss to Washington on April 13.

KEEP AN EYE ON …

Steve Mason -- Flyers: Mason was impressive in a 4-2 win over the Rangers on April 16, stopping 38 of 40 shots. Although he has just one win in four appearances with the Flyers, he has stopped 95 of 101 total shots and figures to see additional action down the stretch.

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. Antti Niemi, Sharks (+1)

3. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (+1)

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

5. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (+3)

6. Niklas Backstrom, Wild (+1)

7. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (+3)

8. Pekka Rinne, Predators (-2)

9. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (same)

10. Carey Price, Canadiens (-5)

11. Jonathan Quick, Kings (+1)

12. Ray Emery, Blackhawks (+3)

13. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (-2)

14. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (+2)

15. Ryan Miller, Sabres (-2)

16. Braden Holtby, Capitals (-2)

17. Cory Schneider, Canucks (same)

18. Craig Anderson, Senators (+7)

19. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (-1)

20. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders (+3)

21. Viktor Fasth, Ducks (-2)

22. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (-2)

23. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (-2)

24. Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers (-2)

25. Ben Bishop, Lightning (-1)

26. Devan Dubnyk, Oilers (+2)

27. Mike Smith, Coyotes (same)

28. Martin Brodeur, Devils (-2)

29. Anton Khudobin, Bruins (same)

30. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (same)

Dropped out of previous rankings: None

Injured: Cam Ward, Jaroslav Halak, Anders Lindback, Jose Theodore

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