As the sense of urgency rises for teams hinging on a playoff spot, so too does the sense of urgency for their goaltenders. We've seen hints of brilliance from a few savvy veterans over the last week, so we want to give you the lowdown on four interesting buy-low candidates for the rest of the regular season. There will always an inherent risk with these goalies, but this is universal; if you own them, expect a lot in return. If you want to acquire them, try to sneak a buy-low steal from otherwise unaware managers!
TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES
- 1. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (same)
- 2. Pekka Rinne, Predators (+1)
- 3. Tim Thomas, Bruins (-1)
- 4. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (+2)
- 5. Antti Niemi, Sharks (-1)
- 6. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (+1)
- 7. Jonathan Quick, Kings (+1)
- 8. Carey Price, Canadiens (-3)
- 9. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (same)
- 10. Niklas Backstrom, Wild (same)
- 11. Ryan Miller, Sabres (+2)
- 12. Tomas Vokoun, Capitals (+5)
- 13. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (-2)
- 14. Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers (-2)
- 15. Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames (same)
- 16. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (-2)
- 17. Mike Smith, Coyotes (+2)
- 18. Jaroslav Halak, Blues (same)
- 19. Brian Elliott, Blues (-3)
- 20. Tuukka Rask, Bruins (+2)
- 21. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (-1)
- 22. Cam Ward, Hurricanes (+1)
- 23. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (-2)
- 24. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders (+2)
- 25. Martin Brodeur, Devils (-1)
- 26. Craig Anderson, Senators (+4)
- 27. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Avalanche (+2)
- 28. Cory Schneider, Canucks (same)
- 29. Nikolai Khabibulin, Oilers (-4)
- 30. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (NR)
2. Cam Ward: With a monumental 3-2 win over the Bruins last Saturday night, the Hurricanes finally came up on the right side of a tight one-goal game, and Ward was a big reason for that. Sunday's return of Jeff Skinner acted as another morale booster for the team, and now Ward's value is rising. He stopped 89 of 95 shots in his last three games, and has allowed just two goals against in each of his last five games (3-2-0). Keep in mind that Ward's best month in his career is in March (35-11-4 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .924 save percentage), so we feel he fits the profile of a buy-low candidate.
3. Jonas Hiller: By taking just a few days off to rest a tweaked groin, Hiller also rejuvenated his mind. Rest is a weapon for workhorses, especially in the second half. Even if it lasts just one or two days, time off from the grind can shift a struggling goalie's mindset from servant to savior. With a solid 4-2 win over Vancouver last night, Hiller's swagger is back, and his skill-set dictates good odds for a big second half run. He is 2-0-1 in his last three games with 72 saves on his last 75 shots faced, but more importantly, is now making timely saves. He's also 3-0-1 (one no decision) with a 1.38 GAA and .939 save percentage in his last five.
4. Ondrej Pavelec: When it comes to uncovering a buy-low candidate, you want to look for a goalie with the highest skill potential possible. In that regard, maybe no other goalie fits that category better than Pavelec. With every game that the Jets play, fans are discovering his hidden talent for themselves, so keep him on your radar. His current 2.89 GAA and .910 save percentage are truly deceptive, and his numbers in December (7-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .939 save percentage) could be duplicated in February or March. If anything, just spot-start him at home; he holds a very solid 2.30 GAA and .925 save percentage in 19 games.
1. Sergei Bobrovsky: Considered to be one of the most improved goaltenders on the ice this season, Bobrovsky put together two of his finest NHL games last week. He stopped 68 of 71 total shots in two road wins over Carolina and the Islanders, and is likely to play more in the second half if Ilya Bryzgalov continues to play uninspired hockey. Bobrovsky now has a 10-3-1 record with a 2.42 GAA and .921 save percentage, and with four games in the next seven days for the Flyers, he could easily earn more than one start.
2. Mike Smith: Since returning from his groin injury, Smith has experienced a near-seamless return to his top form. Although he's only 1-1-3 in his last five games, he single-handedly salvaged single points for the Coyotes in two dramatic road games against the Rangers (31 saves on 32 shots) and Red Wings (40 saves on 42 shots). This run has catapulted Smith right into the top 10 of some key fantasy rankings, including saves (1,002), and the all-important save percentage (.925) category.
3. Tomas Vokoun: With a big 2-1 win over Carolina last night, Vokoun continues to look more and more like the durable workhorse that powered the Panthers for so many years. He is 3-0-0 in his last three games and has allowed just four goals on 105 shots (a .962 save percentage), and earned his second shutout of the season on Jan. 11 with a 30-save 1-0 win over the rival Penguins. Sunday's 43-save win over Carolina also made him a perfect 3-0-0 when facing 40 or more shots in a single game.
1. Ilya Bryzgalov: Even though the HBO cameras are long gone, Bryzgalov still looked distracted and off his game last week. He went 0-2-0 in two road games and allowed eight goals on just 61 shots, good enough for a .869 save percentage. Since the show "24/7" started airing, he has just two wins (2-5-1) and has allowed four goals or more five times. This is not the type of goaltending that instills confidence in a team already without its captain, and his playing time in the next seven days could suffer as a result.
2. Jonas Gustavsson: After displaying some solid goaltending in four straight wins (Jan. 3-10), back-to-back losses (49 saves on 55 shots) over the weekend likely opened the door for James Reimer to start on Tuesday against Ottawa. Gustavsson earned his string of starts, but Reimer could do the same this week. He's totally rested and is hoping to repeat last year's success, so keep a close eye on Tuesday's game.
3. Nikolai Khabibulin: Although he was quite valiant in October, the fight back to being a quality fantasy asset is taking a turn for the worse. He is currently 0-4-1 in his last five games and has allowed 16 goals on 124 shots (a .871 save percentage) during this stretch. Furthermore, it appears as if Devan Dubnyk will begin to get more looks from coach Tom Renney as the season rolls along. In the last 10 games, Dubnyk has started four, while he has come in relief for Khabibulin twice.
KEEP AN EYE ON...
Mark Dekanich is now 1-1-1 with a 3.83 GAA and .876 save percentage in Springfield (AHL), so the moment when he earns a recall to Columbus continues to draw near. There's also the situation with Antero Niittymaki still not playing in San Jose; he becomes trade bait as each day goes by. Finally, the goaltending in Tampa Bay continues to struggle, so maybe this is the week Steve Yzerman finally gives Dustin Tokarski a shot.