In the Cage: Lack proving worth down the stretch

Thursday, 03.27.2014 / 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.

On Wednesday night, while New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was busy earning his 30th win of the season for the eighth time in his legendary career, a rookie Swedish goalie was also making some big saves in a key conference matchup for his team.

Eddie Lack stopped 29 shots in a 5-2 win against the Minnesota Wild, which placed his Vancouver Canucks just four points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the final wild-card spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference. The win also pushed Lack to 4-1-0 in his past five games with only 11 goals against on 138 shots, a .920 save percentage.

With eight games remaining in the regular season, Lack is currently 15-14-4 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. His four shutouts are eighth overall in the NHL, while his GAA is 11th overall.

Things did not go well for Lack leading up to and directly following Roberto Luongo's surprising trade to the Florida Panthers. In fact, prior to this recent five-game surge, Lack was just 2-5-0 in March with 22 goals against on 181 shots, a meager .878 save percentage. But now, with all of the chaos and controversy behind him, Lack's play could become the driving force behind a late-season push for one of two wild-card spots.

But does he have what it takes to get the job done in such a pressure-filled market?

When projecting fantasy goalie statistics, a major factor in overall assessment is having a large sample size. This is the main X-factor for Lack, who has just 36 games of NHL experience, making it very difficult to estimate what kind of numbers he might put up over the next two weeks.

One way to extrapolate pertinent information is by determining how Vancouver's puck possession and defensive support could trend until the season ends. In that regard, strength of schedule becomes a key factor in Lack's overall value. The Canucks are facing an uphill battle, as they play six of their final eight games against playoff teams, including two each against the Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks.

Although these stats don't really act as clairvoyant indicators of how Lack will perform in the final eight games, it does help that, as of late, Vancouver is scoring well above its season average. The Canucks currently sit at 2.38 goals per game, which is third-worst in the NHL. But in their past eight games, the Canucks have scored 28 goals, an average of 3.5 goals per game.

Beyond all of the team-related analytics and projections, there's still plenty more we can learn about Lack's value down the stretch.

In order to provide another angle for our analysis, we looked back at the past five seasons (2009-14) and found all of the 26-year-old goalies that had played in 40 or less NHL games. Only Antti Niemi (26 wins in 39 games), Brian Elliott (23 wins in 38 games), and Cory Schneider (17 wins in 30 games) had a stronger output than Lack in that category (15). For 26-year-old goalies that played between 30 and 40 games over the past five seasons, Lack's .915 save percentage was fourth overall, behind Elliott (.940), Schneider (.927), and Dubnyk (.920).

Another group of comparables would be this year's class of 20 rookies. This is where Lack exhibits some solid value. He is first in volume categories like games played (36), saves (845), shots against (923), and shutouts (4). For rookies that have played in 10 or more games, he is tied with Darcy Kuemper for third in GAA (2.32) and is fifth in save percentage (.915).

Lack's current ownership is only 42 percent in Yahoo fantasy leagues. Although most fantasy teams are probably out of the playoff picture in their respective leagues, we feel he's an important goalie to watch and a solid goalie to own if you're still fighting for a league title.

Not only will Lack be a major player in the bloody battle between the Dallas Stars, Phoenix Minnesota and Vancouver for the two final playoff spots, how he performs will reveal some vital clues when it comes to projecting his fantasy value as Vancouver's undisputed starter next season.

TRENDING UPWARD

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens -- Since returning from injury, Price is 4-1-0 with 149 saves on 162 shots (.920 save percentage). His fifth shutout of the season was a 24-save effort in a 2-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.

Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks -- With only seven goals against and one shutout in his past five games (4-1-0), Crawford has quietly posted a 1.57 GAA and .934 save percentage in March (6-3-0).

Karri Ramo, Calgary Flames -- He has only played in eight games since Jan. 20, but is 5-1-0 in that stretch. Ramo was excellent in a 3-2 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday night and has now stopped 88 of his past 93 shots.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins -- The playoffs are on the horizon, so the pressure's rising for Fleury. He's 0-3-1 in his past five games and has allowed 16 goals on his past 141 shots, an .886 save percentage.

Ben Scrivens, Edmonton Oilers -- Despite having one of the League's best save percentages (.927), Scrivens has now allowed 11 goals in his past three games and 22 goals in his past six appearances (1-4-0).

Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota Wild -- The 23-year-old rookie has now lost three straight games, allowing nine goals on 70 shots, an .871 save percentage. He is just 1-3-1 in his past five games and 2-4-2 in his past eight.

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

Thomas Greiss, Phoenix Coyotes -- Since Mike Smith is currently listed as day-to-day without a timetable for his return, Greiss assumes the starter role in Phoenix. He is owned in just 11 percent of Yahoo leagues and is currently 8-5-2 with a solid 2.35 GAA, .924 save percentage and two shutouts.

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. Ben Bishop, Lightning (same)

3. Carey Price, Canadiens (+2)

4. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (-1)

5. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (+1)

6. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (-2)

7. Antti Niemi, Sharks (same)

8. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (same)

9. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (same)

10. Ryan Miller, Blues (same)

11. Roberto Luongo, Panthers (+1)

12. Jonathan Quick, Kings (-1)

13. Jaroslav Halak, Capitals (same)

14. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (+2)

15. Steve Mason, Flyers (-1)

16. Jonathan Bernier, Maple Leafs (NR)*

17. Anton Khudobin, Hurricanes (+3)

18. Darcy Kuemper, Wild (-1)

19. Ben Scrivens, Oilers (-1)

20. Cory Schneider, Devils (-1)

21. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (same)

22. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (same)

23. Eddie Lack, Canucks (+1)

24. Pekka Rinne, Predators (-1)

25. Alex Stalock, Sharks (+2)

26. Craig Anderson, Senators (-1)

27. Braden Holtby, Capitals (+1)

28. Chad Johnson, Bruins (NR)

29. Karri Ramo, Flames (NR)

30. Martin Brodeur, Devils (-1)

* Appeared on injured list last week

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Tim Thomas

Injured: Josh Harding, Mike Smith, Ondrej Pavelec, Niklas Backstrom

Back to top