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.
Before the season started, very few people expected Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop to be a venerable fantasy asset. In fact, on average, 38 goalies were drafted before he was eventually selected 171st overall in Yahoo Fantasy leagues.
Less than three months later, Bishop has established himself as one of the best goalies to own this season. Not only does he sit fourth overall in goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.934), and second in wins (18), but his three shutouts also ties him with six other goalies for first overall.
Beyond the dominance in basic statistical categories, with so many injuries plaguing goalies around the NHL, Bishop’s consistency has made him extremely valuable. In 26 games, only once has he lost two straight in regulation, and even in those outings he allowed just three goals on 49 shots. Furthermore, he has allowed three goals or more just five times this season.
Bishop has also been solid both early and late in games. Of his 50 goals against, only 11 have come in the first period and 12 in the third. He's also excelling in the shootout, stopping 16 of 20 attempts (.824 save percentage) to go with his 4-1 shootout record (7-2 overall in overtime).
Bishop also sits comfortably near the top of the League on special teams. For all goalies that have started at least 15 games this season, he is third overall with a .909 power-play save percentage (150 saves on 165 power-play shots), behind only Cory Schneider (.926) and Marc-Andre Fleury (.925).
It's also worth pointing out that, despite the Western Conference's well-documented dominance over the Eastern Conference, Bishop has a stellar 7-1-1 record with a 2.42 GAA and .928 save percentage against teams in the West.
All things considered, Bishop's play so far this season has put him in the running for a roster spot on the U.S. team in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Currently leading all U.S.-born goalies in GAA and save percentage, when considering Bishop's potential for making the team, his recent play gives him an edge on the competition. With a 4-1-1 record, 1.61 GAA, and .944 save percentage in his past six games, his odds are improving on a daily basis.
Most analysts are projecting Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (currently on injured reserve, but recently resumed skating) and Buffalo Sabres workhorse Ryan Miller as the USA's main tandem, but the third spot is still wide open.
Jimmy Howard and Tim Thomas are obvious choices, but both are currently dealing with injuries, which may push them out of the picture. Craig Anderson had a great opportunity to earn a spot after last season's Vezina-caliber run, but he has struggled this season, posting a 3.36 GAA and .898 save percentage in 22 games. That leaves Schneider as Bishop's main competition for the third spot, a good battle that will rage on until the team is selected and announced on Jan. 1.
Regardless of who makes the team, it's safe to say that, since the start of the season, no starting goalie has seen his fantasy value rise more than Bishop. His perfect 5-0-0 run to start the season put him a giant step ahead of other starters around the league, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
1. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks: The Swiss native is 5-0-1 this month with a 1.79 GAA and .939 save percentage. He has allowed 10 goals in his past five games and is now 8-0-2 with a .942 save percentage at home.
2. Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes: As Justin Peters continues to earn more minutes, Ward's value continues to plummet. He has not played since Dec. 10 and is just 5-5-5 with a 3.04 GAA in 15 games played.
3. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars: Just 2-3-2 with a 3.80 GAA and .896 save percentage this month, Lehtonen is giving up goals in bunches. In his past three games (1-2-0), he has allowed 13 goals on 116 shots.
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild: With Josh Harding on IR until at least Dec. 27, the Wild must turn to Backstrom to keep them in the Stanley Cup Playoff hunt. He has lost four straight games and has a .900 save percentage in 12 games this season.
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. Carey Price, Canadiens (+1)
3. Antti Niemi, Sharks (-1)
4. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (same)
5. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (+2)
6. Ben Bishop, Lightning (+5)
7. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (-2)
8. Steve Mason, Flyers (-2)
9. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (+5)
10. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (-2)
11. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (+2)
12. Mike Smith, Coyotes (-2)
13. Jaroslav Halak, Blues (-2)
14. Jonathan Bernier, Maple Leafs (+3)
15. Ben Scrivens, Kings (same)
16. Braden Holtby, Capitals (same)
17. Ryan Miller, Sabres (+2)
18. Cory Schneider, Devils (+3)
19. Martin Brodeur, Devils (+3)
20. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (same)
21. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (-3)
22. Antti Raanta, Blackhawks (+4)
23. Jonas Gustavsson, Red Wings (+1)
24. Justin Peters, Hurricanes (NR)
25. Robin Lehner, Senators (+3)
26. Craig Anderson, Senators (-1)
27. Ilya Bryzgalov, Oilers (IR)
28. Cam Ward, Hurricanes (-1)
29. Martin Jones, Kings (NR)
30. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders (IR)
NR: Marek Mazanec, Predators (same)
NR: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Avalanche (29)
IR: Josh Harding, Wild (9)
IR: Tim Thomas, Panthers (23)
IR: Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (same)
IR: Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (10)
IR: Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (20)
IR: Jonathan Quick, Kings (10)
IR: Pekka Rinne, Predators (10)
IR: Anton Khudobin, Hurricanes (NR)
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