Every Thursday during the season, Justin Goldman, the Director of Goalie Scouting for McKeen's 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.
There has been plenty of talk about owning tandems this season, and for good reason. The condensed schedule has already forced nine teams to use three goalies, with Calgary already using four. Backups are playing on a more consistent basis than ever before, and that trend won't change anytime soon.
GAA: 2.28 | SVP: 0.925
Corey Crawford is 7-0-3 with a 1.65 goals-against average and .935 save percentage, which has been a big surprise considering he was drafted 136th overall on average in Yahoo! Fantasy leagues.
Even more impressive than Crawford's play, however, has been the play of Ray Emery.
His fight to overcome Avascular Necrosis was an inspiring story that transcended sports and motivated athletes everywhere. Combined with the time he spent rehabbing and re-strengthening his hips and lower body, then staying healthy since joining Chicago, the lockout was more of a luxury than a layoff for the 30-year-old native of Hamilton, Ontario.
Owned in just 50 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy leagues (up 21 percent from last week), Emery is a perfect 6-0-0 with a 2.27 goals against average and .925 save percentage. That's eerily similar to his late-season stretch with Anaheim back in 2011 -- he went 7-2-0 in 10 games with a 2.28 GAA and .926 save percentage, a stretch that gave the Ducks the late-season push they needed to make the playoffs.
TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES
- 1. Tuukka Rask, Bruins (same)
- 2. Pekka Rinne, Predators (same)
- 3. Carey Price, Montreal (same)
- 4. Craig Anderson, Ottawa (+1)
- 5. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (-1)
- 6. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (+1)
- 7. Antti Niemi, Sharks (+2)
- 8. Ryan Miller, Sabres (-2)
- 9. Jonathan Quick, Kings (+1)
- 10. Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers (+2)
- 11. Mike Smith, Coyotes (+2)
- 12. Niklas Backstrom, Wild (-1)
- 13. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (NR)*
- 14. Jaroslav Halak, Blues (NR)*
- 15. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (+1)
- 16. Cam Ward, Hurricanes (-1)
- 17. Martin Brodeur, Devils (+1)
- 18. Cory Schneider, Canucks (-1)
- 19. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (+1)
- 20. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (-1)
- 21. Devan Dubnyk, Oilers (same)
- 22. Viktor Fasth, Anaheim (+1)
- 23. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders (-1)
- 24. Braden Holtby, Capitals (+3)
- 25. Anders Lindback, Lightning (-1)
- 26. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (same)
- 27. Ray Emery, Blackhawks (NR)
- 28. Brian Elliott, Blues (-3)
- 29. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (-1)
- 30. Steve Mason, Blue Jackets (same)
Goalies that dropped out of previous rankings: Michal Neuvirth
Injured: Kari Lehtonen, Corey Crawford, Miikka Kiprusoff, James Reimer
Most recently, Emery has rattled off three straight wins at home in Crawford's absence, stopping 81-of-86 shots against the Sharks, Kings, and Canucks, respectively.
Emery's ability to battle in the crease has played a major role in his success. His 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame already gives him ample net coverage, but even without high levels of flexibility or agility, he seals the ice well down low, fights through traffic, and does whatever it takes to get pieces of rebound shots.
With a stronger work ethic than ever before, Emery's sheer desire to compete for loose pucks on low plays has been on display in all six wins. Even when he did give up weak goals, he closed the door when it mattered most. He has yet to allow a goal while the Blackhawks are trailing, and of the 14 goals allowed, only four have come while the game is tied. He has also stopped five of six shootout attempts.
Emery's ability to simply out-work opponents was on display a few weeks ago against the Flames. Despite being out-shot by a 2-to-1 margin, he thrived in the third period of a scoreless game and stopped 22 of 24 shots for the 3-2 shootout win. He made 45 total saves that night, stealing two points for the Blackhawks.
It was one of, if not the best "clutch" performance for a backup goalie so far this season, so if anyone was questioning his durability or ability to contribute, they were quickly silenced that night.
Furthermore, knowing that Crawford may not play for a few more days, and knowing that Chicago is still the hottest team in the league, there's absolutely no reason to pass him up if you're in need of a goalie.
Antti Niemi, Sharks -- February hasn't been kind to the Sharks, but Niemi continues to be a solid top-10 goalie. Despite just one win in his past four games (and a shutout in a 1-0 shootout loss), he has only allowed six goals on 109 shots -- a .945 save percentage. He's 1-2-3 overall this month with a 1.78 GAA and .932 save percentage, and he has the exact same stats on home ice (a 1.78 GAA and .932 save percentage) alongside a 4-1-2 record.
Pekka Rinne, Predators -- With back-to-back shutouts agaisnt San Jose and Phoenix last week, Rinne returned to the top five of our rankings in style. He kept his strong play going last week with an overtime loss to Anaheim and an overtime win over Detroit, pushing his record in February to 6-1-1 with a 1.16 GAA, .955 save percentage, and three shutouts. He's also 4-1-3 at home with a .941 save percentage, which is where he'll face the Canucks on Thursday night.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins -- Consistency has always seemed to elude Fleury during the regular season, but right now he's showcasing his sharp focus on a nightly basis. He won all three starts during the past week, stopping 82 of 88 shots and allowing just one power-play goal. He is now 6-1-0 in February with a 2.01 GAA and .927 save percentage, and his road domination continues, where he's 5-1-0 with a 1.82 GAA and .939 save percentage.
Cory Schneider, Canucks -- A 2.64 GAA and .915 save percentage in eight games isn't terrible, but considering he was projected as a top-10 goalie by many poolies, Schneider's value is trending down as Roberto Luongo's value trends upwards. They have split the workload in half during the past two weeks, which is also reducing his workload and his ability to get into a solid rhythm. He has just a 3.43 GAA at home (2-2-0).
Jimmy Howard, Red Wings -- It has been an up and down season so far for Howard, but over the past week, his value trended down once again. After two excellent back-to-back wins on Feb. 9-10 against Edmonton and Los Angeles, he has gone 0-1-1 in his last three appearances, allowing 10 goals on 68 total shots. He left the game Tuesday night against Nashville with an upper-body injury, but was cleared Thursday.
Ryan Miller, Sabres -- Never shy from voicing his true thoughts about his team's play, Miller has vented his frustrations over the past week. He has just one win in his last five games and has allowed 42 goals in 15 games, which is more than any other goalie in the league. His .915 save percentage isn't terrible, but he has just three wins in his last nine games, while posting a 3.00 GAA and .911 save percentage in the month of February.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Jacob Markstrom, Panthers -- The feeble play of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen prompted general manager Dale Tallon to recall the Swedish netminder on Wednesday, so keep an eye on him earning a start Thursday or on Friday against the Penguins. Markstrom is 3-1-0 with a .918 save percentage and one shutout in his last four games in San Antonio, so he could provide a much-needed bolt of energy in the Panthers crease.