Every Thursday during the season Justin Goldman, a regional goalie scout for USA 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 players you should keep a close eye on and much more, Goldman will be your fantasy goalie expert all season long.
Last week we detailed the remarkable start of Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov. While he remains undefeated heading into the Avs' game Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings, there's another starting goalie currently benefitting from a new goalie coach - the Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price.
Labeled by many as being too robotic and too reliant on the butterfly, Price has taken a leap of faith with new goalie coach Stephane Waite and made some tweaks to his style. Not only is he being slightly more aggressive, but he's starting to utilize his natural athleticism on a more consistent basis. Already considered by many scouts as one of the most positionally sound goalies in the NHL, Price appears more creative with his save selections, all while keeping his solid technical base intact.
By embracing this more dynamic approach, Price is showing an unpredictable element to his style. He still maintains the same calm and quiet demeanor in the crease, but now that he's starting to reveal a more reactive mindset, shooters seem to be having a tougher time getting a good read on him.
The proof of this is in the results. His most recent game was a 36-save shutout against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Price has dominated the Jets throughout his career (11-3-3, .921 save percentage). In his past two games, he's stopped 75 of 76 shots and has allowed just two goals all season in the third period.
As if all of this wasn't enough, Price's current goals-against average and save percentage actually mark the best five-game start of his NHL career. In the 2008-09 season Price posted a 1.91 GAA and .937 save percentage in his first seven games, but allowed 10 goals on 144 shots. Last season was his next best start, as he went 4-1-0 with a 1.98 GAA and .924 save percentage, but allowed 10 goals on his first 131 shots.
Price's sample size this season remains very small, but just like we're seeing with Varlamov, when you pair one of the world's best goalie coaches with an elite athlete, you get results. There's no telling how high Price's value could reach this season, but at this rate he's primed to be a solid top-10 fantasy goalie.
1. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning: Rather quietly, Bishop is off to a 4-0-0 start. With 107 saves on his first 114 shots, a 1.71 GAA and .939 save percentage, he's the latest "tandem-buster" on our list. He's up against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and likely will start on Saturday against the Boston Bruins as well.
2. Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild: In five games, two of which came in relief, Harding has allowed four goals total, and no more than one in each game (3-1-0). The Wild are playing stellar in the offensive zone and limiting scoring chances, but he has stopped 79 of 83 shots for a .952 save percentage.
3. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres: Despite winning once in his first five games, Miller appears to have reclaimed his elite form. He's already accumulated 185 saves on 197 shots, which is most in the League in both categories. He has faced 40-plus shots in a game three times, but has allowed six goals in those three games.
1. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings: With a 3-3-0 record, a 2.90 GAA and a .896 save percentage, it's safe to say that Quick has been underwhelming so far this season. He has allowed three or more goals in four of his six starts and has a .903 even-strength save percentage. The bright spot is his perfect play in the shootout, where he’s 5-for-5.
2. Ray Emery, Philadelphia Flyers: With eight goals-against in two games (0-2-0), and combined with the impressive play of Steve Mason, it looks like Emery has been resigned to the backup position for the time being. He has an .873 save percentage on 63 shots-against and five of his eight goals-against have come on the power play.
3. Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes: With an 0-2-3 record in his first five games, Ward likely is feeling frustrated. He's averaging 37 shots-against per game in four starts, yet his team has scored seven goals in those games, so he's not getting a lot of support from his teammates right now.
KEEP AN EYE ON…
Tim Thomas, Florida Panthers: After missing a week with a minor groin injury, Thomas can't be ignored now that he's healthy again. Thursday provides him an opportunity to beat his former team, the Boston Bruins, and a big win could spark a surge in his fantasy value. He currently is owned in just 31 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues.
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 SV%. 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 only 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 (same)
3. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (+2)
4. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (+2)
5. Jonathan Quick, Kings (-2)
6. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (+1)
7. Mike Smith, Coyotes (+1)
8. Carey Price, Canadiens (+4)
9. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (+1)
10. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (+6)
11. Craig Anderson, Senators (-2)
12. Pekka Rinne, Predators (-1)
13. Ryan Miller, Sabres (+2)
14. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (-1)
15. Jaroslav Halak, Blues (+2)
16. Niklas Backstrom, Wild (NR - IR)
17. Jonathan Bernier, Leafs (+3)
18. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (+4)
19. Braden Holtby, Capitals (+2)
20. Cory Schneider, Devils (-1)
21. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders (+3)
22. Steve Mason, Flyers (+3)
23. Cam Ward, Hurricanes (-4)
24. Ben Bishop, Lightning (NR)
25. Devan Dubnyk, Oilers (-2)
26. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (same)
27. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (NR)
28. Viktor Fasth, Ducks (-1)
29. Josh Harding, Wild (NR)
30. Jacob Markstrom, Panthers (-2)