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 guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Goldman will be your fantasy goalie expert all season long.
Whether it was adjusting to smaller leg pads, acclimating to a new defensive system, or just trying to stay focused amidst ongoing contract negotiations, it has been a cumbersome first quarter of the season for New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
As a result, Lundqvist has experienced an unceremonious "first" in his eight-year NHL career: a losing record in back-to-back months. He went 3-5-0 with a 2.84 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in October, and then 5-6-0 with a 2.27 GAA and .924 save percentage in November.
That culminated with him riding the pine in consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 5-7, 2011.
Regardless, Lundqvist’s elite skills and overall consistency merited an extension that will make him the highest-paid goalie when his brand new seven-year, $59.5 million contract kicks in next season.
Knowing that Lundqvist’s workload will likely result in another 30-win campaign, expect his fantasy value to rise as the season continues. This is historically his weakest month in terms of save percentage (.913), but over his entire career, Lundqvist has a .921 save percentage in both January and March, a .924 mark in February, and a .928 mark in April.
While all eyes will be on King Henrik moving forward, we suggest you keep close tabs on his backup, Cam Talbot. In nine games, the first-year NHL goalie is now 6-2-0 with a 1.79 GAA and .934 save percentage. And with the Columbus Blue Jackets' Sergei Bobrovsky and the Edmonton Oilers' Ilya Bryzgalov going down with injuries in the past week, it looks like a few more backups and third-stringers may have a chance to showcase their long-term value.
Los Angeles Kings rookie Martin Jones made his NHL debut Tuesday against the high-powered Anaheim Ducks. In doing so, the Kings became the 14th team to use at least three goalies, a remarkable number this early in the season. With the poise of a five-year veteran, Jones stared down Jonas Hiller in a thrilling extended shootout and stopped all nine attempts en route to a 3-2 victory.
Despite a lack of experience and playing time, rookies like Jones have fared extremely well this season. In fact, due in part to their success, if the League’s current save percentage (.915 as of Wednesday) were to hold steady for the rest of the season, it would set a new NHL record.
Marek Mazanec was the NHL rookie of the month in November after going 5-4-1 with a 2.00 GAA and .932 save percentage, including two shutouts. For a 22-year-old that played just five American Hockey League games before being thrust into the Nashville Predators lineup, his skill-set has suddenly revealed solid long-term value.
Frederik Andersen of the Ducks leads all rookie goalies with a .939 save percentage in eight games (7-1-0), while Alex Stalock, getting his first extended look with the San Jose Sharks, has stopped 100 of 105 shots in three games behind Antti Niemi. Eddie Lack has a 2.41 GAA and .911 save percentage in seven games for the Vancouver Canucks, and Antti Raanta is turning heads with wins and a .917 save percentage in his first two starts for the Chicago Blackhawks.
From a League-wide perspective, rookies are excelling to the point where the whole goalie union is stopping the puck at unforeseen rates. Because of this, if your starter goes down with an injury, you shouldn’t hesitate to either claim their counterpart or take a stab at the third-stringer.
With a top-five fantasy asset like Lundqvist expected to see a rise in his value, and with the strong class of rookies and inexperienced backups playing so well, there’s no reason why the League-wide .915 save percentage can’t continue to rise.
1. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils: Allowing three goals or less in each of his 13 games, Schneider is on a 3-0-1 run. He sits fourth in the NHL with a 1.81 GAA and has allowed just seven goals in his past five games.
2. Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild: Currently leading the NHL with a 1.45 GAA, Harding is 11-1-0 with a 1.12 GAA and .949 save percentage at home and has posted a .900 save percentage or better in 21 of 22 games.
3. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars: With 47 saves in a 4-3 win over Chicago on Tuesday, Lehtonen has stopped 102 of 108 shots over his past three games (1-0-2). He’s now 9-2-0 with a .925 save percentage on the road.
2. Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs: Like Reimer, Bernier is winless in his past three starts (0-2-1) and has allowed 13 goals in that stretch. He was just 2-3-2 in November, but still posted a .923 save percentage.
3. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings: After Wednesday night’s 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, Howard has just one win in his past nine games (1-4-4). He is 2-5-6 with a .905 save percentage at Joe Louis Arena.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Curtis McElhinney, Columbus Blue Jackets: With Bobrovsky on the shelf for at least four weeks, the 30-year-old veteran will get his chance to shine. Although he is just 1-3-1 in eight appearances so far, he has stopped 184 of 199 shots, good enough for a .925 save percentage and 2.34 GAA.
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 (same)
3. Carey Price, Canadiens (same)
4. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (same)
5. Steve Mason, Flyers (same)
6. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (+1)
7. Mike Smith, Coyotes (-1)
8. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (+2)
9. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (same)
10. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (-2)
11. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (+1)
12. Josh Harding, Wild (+2)
13. Jaroslav Halak, Blues (-2)
14. Ben Bishop, Lightning (-1)
15. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (same)
16. Ben Scrivens, Kings (+6)
17. Braden Holtby, Capitals (+1)
18. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (-2)
19. Jonathan Bernier, Maple Leafs (-2)
20. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (-1)
21. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (+2)
22. Ryan Miller, Sabres (-1)
23. Martin Brodeur, Devils (+1)
24. Cory Schneider, Devils (+5)
25. Marek Mazanec, Predators (+5)
26. Craig Anderson, Senators (-1)
27. Cam Ward, Hurricanes (-1)
28. Robin Lehner, Senators (same)
29. Tim Thomas, Panthers (-2)
30. J-S Giguere, Avalanche (NR)
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