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In the Cage: Turnarounds for Pavelec, Lundqvist

Thursday, 01.23.2014 / 12:00 PM
Justin Goldman  - NHL.com Correspondent

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.

Over the past few weeks, two goalies on opposite ends of the fantasy value spectrum have experienced positive turnarounds. This happens throughout the season for most of the top-30 fantasy goalies, but because of the workload these two carry, the timing may be shedding light on at least one hidden gem.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has mostly been a fantasy dud this season. He had just 11 wins in his first 35 games and suffered an NHL-high 19 losses. Allowing an average of more than three goals a game, his ownership was hovering around the 60-percent mark in Yahoo Fantasy leagues.

With just two wins in December (2-6-1 with a 3.87 GAA and .863 save percentage), January started off as more of the same. Pavelec lost his first three games of the calendar year, allowing 13 goals on just 87 shots (.851 save percentage), further reducing his already well below-average value.

But ever since new coach Paul Maurice stepped in, Pavelec's value has done a complete 180-degree turn. Stopping 98 of his past 105 shots (.933 save percentage), Pavelec is now riding a four-game winning streak. Combined with an unexpected switch in gear (a Vaughn guy for his entire NHL career, Pavelec now wears Brian's pads), there may be some legitimacy behind adding him to your roster.

On the other hand, numerous advanced statistics indicate Pavelec is a risky proposition. Highly touted since his rookie season, the 26-year-old has just a .906 save percentage in 270 career games. Furthermore, his best statistical season came back in 2010-11, when he posted just 21 wins in 58 games with a 2.73 GAA and .914 save percentage. The following year, he posted 29 wins in 68 games with just a 2.91 GAA and .906 save percentage.

Four straight wins under a new coach is clearly not a good sample size to project Winnipeg's final 31 games, but with the ability to handle a heavy workload (currently 39 games played, which is sixth overall), this could be a great time to buy low on a goalie that, at least to this point, has failed to live up to high expectations as a starting NHL goaltender.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, maybe no turnaround has been more welcomed by the entire fantasy hockey community than that of New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

After going just 4-4-2 with a 3.08 GAA and .888 save percentage in December, the King is quickly reclaiming his throne by posting a 1.98 GAA and .938 save percentage in his past eight games (5-2-1). That includes five wins in his past six games, a 38-save shutout over the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 16, and much more consistency in his overall execution. He has not allowed more than two goals in his past six games.

Beyond Pavelec and Lundqvist, a few other goalies are currently experiencing turnarounds in their value. As we note in our Trending Up section, the Toronto Maple Leafs' Jonathan Bernier has flipped a four-game losing streak into a four-game winning streak, all while starting 10 of Toronto's past 12 games.

Another turnaround, one that is flying under the radar, comes from the New York Islanders' Kevin Poulin. Not only does he have six wins in his past eight games, but his monthly save percentage continues to rise. It was at .881 in October (0-2-0), .888 in November (3-8-0), .903 in December (2-2-0), and currently at .906 in January.

While those aren't strong numbers for most fantasy teams, it's important to note that Poulin's play is enhancing his future value and role as an NHL goaltender. For the Islanders, the timing of this is crucial, as they will likely be without the services of veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov next season.

Turnarounds will come and go during every season, but they are important to track, especially with the rising number of unfamiliar goalie prospects earning playing time throughout the League.

TRENDING UPWARD

1. Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs: Keeping with this week's theme, a four-game losing streak was flipped into a four-game winning streak, including his most recent 39-save effort in a 4-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday.

2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets: Russia's Olympic brain trust must be ecstatic to see Bobrovsky is a perfect 6-0-0 this month, complete with one shutout, a 1.95 GAA, and a .938 save percentage.

3. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils: Despite the lack of goal support, Schneider is 3-1-2 in his past six games with a 1.13 GAA and .958 save percentage. He has also allowed two goals or less in seven straight games.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres: A potential starter for the United States, Miller has allowed 10 goals on his past 96 shots and is winless in his past three games (0-1-2). Two of his three shootout losses this season came in consecutive games.

2. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils: After posting a 5-2-1 record with a 2.35 GAA and .902 save percentage in December, Brodeur has just a 3.02 GAA and .890 save percentage over his past four games (1-2-1).

3. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens: Montreal's workhorse has allowed 13 goals on his past 94 shots over four games (1-3-0). After a loss Wednesday, his overall GAA jumped from 2.30 to 2.40, while his save percentage dropped from .924 to .921 overall.

KEEP AN EYE ON …

Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota Wild: With Josh Harding still out of the lineup, Kuemper has taken over for the Wild. Even after a loss Tuesday in Dallas, he is 4-2-0 with a 1.80 GAA and .941 save percentage in January.

TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES - sidebar widget

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 (same)

3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (same)

4. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (+2)

5. Antti Niemi, Sharks (-1)

6. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (-1)

7. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (same)

8. Ben Bishop, Lightning (same)

9. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (NR)*

10. Steve Mason, Flyers (-1)

11. Jonathan Bernier, Maple Leafs (+2)

12. Ryan Miller, Sabres (-2)

13. Jaroslav Halak, Blues (-2)

14. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (-2)

15. Jonathan Quick, Kings (-1)

16. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (+3)

17. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (-2)

18. Cory Schneider, Devils (same)

19. Mike Smith, Coyotes (-2)

20. Martin Brodeur, Devils (-4)

21. Anton Khudobin, Hurricanes (+3)

22. Craig Anderson, Senators (-2)

23. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (+3)

24. Antti Raanta, Blackhawks (-3)

25. Braden Holtby, Capitals (same)

26. Tim Thomas, Panthers (+2)

27. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (same)

28. Ben Scrivens, Oilers (-5)

29. Kevin Poulin, Islanders (NR)

30. Darcy Kuemper, Wild (NR)

* Appeared on injured list last week

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Philipp Grubauer, Marek Mazanec

Injured: Josh Harding, Pekka Rinne, Jimmy Howard, Cam Ward, Evgeni Nabokov

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