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In the Cage: Is Gustavsson worthy of a pickup?

By Justin Goldman - NHL.com Correspondent

Every Monday during the season, goalie specialist and founder of The Goalie Guild Justin Goldman 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.

Now that Randy Carlyle is the new coach in Toronto, every player has a clean slate and a chance to elevate their role and playing time with the team. For the goalies, Jonas Gustavsson already has a head start on James Reimer after backstopping the Leafs to a 3-1 win against Montreal on Saturday.

With serious lower-body injuries to Tuukka Rask and Niklas Backstrom last week, many poolies are looking for replacements. But is Gustavsson -- aka, "The Monster" -- worth acquiring at this crucial stage of the fantasy season? He only stopped 21 of 22 shots against Montreal, and that was his first win in over a month.

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 of course 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.
*Please note that we are now removing goalies currently on IR from the weekly rankings

Not Ranked: Craig Anderson, Senators (IR), Niklas Backstrom, Wild (16) (IR), Tuukka Rask (25) (IR)
But before you shrug him off, understand how Gustavsson won that game against Montreal. It's one thing when a goalie sees shots cleanly and comfortably from start to finish, but it's quite another when they have to fight off bad bounces and turnovers. Gustavsson battled through the adversity of an early weak goal and then stopped a few tough scoring chances after standing around for most of the game.

So even though he only faced 22 shots and struggled in the first period, the 3-1 win was a big morale booster for Gustavsson, one that could spark a surge in confidence moving forward. He also could be the beneficiary of Carlyle implementing a new defensive (and offensive) system, which could insulate the goalies and allow them to stop pucks in a more consistent and controlled manner.

Numerous times this season we have advised poolies to stay away from both Leafs goalies. But now that Carlyle has a win in his first game, that opinion has changed, and there's reason to believe Gustavsson could regain the form he had back in January. It's a risk for sure, but he's a potential sleeper pick to give you a boost this week, or to help compensate for any sustained injuries.

If you look elsewhere for a sleeper, try Matt Hackett. The skilled rookie stopped 34 of 36 shots in a 2-0 loss to Colorado on Sunday, and in six games with the Wild this season, he has stopped 134 of 138 shots.

TRENDING UPWARD

1. Ryan Miller: Miller owned the West Coast last week by pitching back-to-back shutouts and stopping 114 of 117 shots in three wins, which earned him NHL First Star of the Week honors. He stopped 43 shots in Anaheim last Wednesday, and then followed it up with a 39-save shutout on Thursday in San Jose. Then on Friday he stopped 32 of 35 shots in a 5-3 win against the Canucks.        

2. Mathieu Garon: A winner in six of his last seven games, Garon's game continues to rise for the Lightning. He has stopped 64 of 71 shots in his last three wins, and even though he's not being peppered in these games (28, 19, 24 shots faced, respectively, in three games last week), he's making the big save at the right time. It's not always pretty, but Garon has done a great job keeping the Lightning in the mix. 

3. Ray Emery: When Corey Crawford was pulled after the first period of a game against the Maple Leafs last week, Emery took over and stopped 21 of 22 shots to help Chicago secure a 5-4 win on home ice. He followed that with an impressive 2-1 win in Ottawa, and then another 2-1 win in Detroit on Sunday. Since replacing Crawford on Feb. 25, Emery has stopped 126 of 132 shots (.954 save percentage) and on Monday was named the NHL Third Star of the Week.   

TRENDING DOWNWARD

1. Tomas Vokoun: The veteran has been pulled from two of his last three games, and he hasn't earned a win since Feb. 17 against Florida. He has stopped just 33 of his last 41 shots and his save percentage is down to .917 for the season. And he's been battling a lower-body injury, meaning he's missing games at the most important time of the season. He skated Monday morning, however, and told reporters he'll evaluate his condition Tuesday morning.

2. Corey Crawford: As one Blackhawks goalie trends up, the other trends down. Inconsistency continues to plague Crawford this season, as he went from winning four in a row to losing two straight and being pulled in a third after allowing three goals on 10 shots to Toronto. He has stopped just 35 of 45 shots in his last three appearances.    

3. Niklas Backstrom: Now on the injured reserve due to a lower-body injury, Backstrom's fantasy value crashed last week. He was inconsistent leading up to his injury, going just 2-2-0 in his last five games and stopping just 93 of 106 shots, a .877 save percentage. The best his owners can hope for now is a speedy recovery and enough wins by the Wild that he's still needed for a playoff push.        

KEEP AN EYE ON …

With Robin Lehner suffering a second straight loss last night, keep an eye on the transaction wire over the next few days to see if Ottawa recalls Ben Bishop from AHL Binghamton. If they do, he's another great sleeper pick to put on your radar. Also, we would be remiss if we didn't mention the rising value of Ilya Bryzgalov, as a nice string of consecutive starts last week has improved his rhythm and overall play.

TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

RANK TEAM PLAYER
1. Sidney crosby
2. Steven Stamkos
3. Corey Perry
4. Alex Ovechkin
5. Evgeni Malkin

CUBETA'S COMPLETE TOP 100 FORWARD RANKS