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.
Kuemper has shattered the previous club record for consecutive starts by a rookie (four) with eight in a row, going 5-2-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .935 save percentage during this stretch. For rookies that have played at least 10 games this season, Kuemper is currently fourth in GAA (2.26) and save percentage (.924), and tied with the Washington Capitals' Philipp Grubauer for sixth overall in wins (six).
Not only have the Wild been outshot by a considerable margin, but the team is being dominated in puck possession categories. Kuemper has faced 286 shots in nine games this month, while Minnesota only has 211 shots on goal. That means he's facing 57.5-percent of the total shots produced.
Corsi numbers also heavily favor Minnesota's opponents in January. Kuemper has faced 566 total Corsi events this month, or an average of 62.9 events per game. Minnesota has only tallied 408 Corsi events during Kuemper's time on ice, or an average of 45.3 per game. That means Kuemper has faced a hefty 58.1-percent of the Corsi events in January.
You can take Darcy's timely play one step further by looking at his performance when games are close (called the "5-on-5 close" metric). During these situations, Kuemper has stopped 134 of 141 shots in his 11 appearances this season, a .950 save percentage.
Kuemper's 5-on-5 close save percentage also sits atop the same rookie class. Grubauer has a .936 save percentage, Eddie Lack (Vancouver Canucks) has a .922 save percentage, Antti Raanta (Chicago Blackhawks) has a .920 save percentage, Frederik Andersen (Anaheim Ducks) has a .916 save percentage and Marek Mazanec (Nashville Predators) has a .905 save percentage.
TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES
- 1. Tuukka Rask, Bruins (same)
- 2. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (+1)
- 3. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (+1)
- 4. Carey Price, Canadiens (-2)
- 5. Antti Niemi, Sharks (same)
- 6. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (same)
- 7. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (same)
- 8. Ben Bishop, Lightning (same)
- 9. Jaroslav Halak, Blues (+4)
- 10. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (-1)
- 11. Steve Mason, Flyers (-1)
- 12. Jonathan Bernier, Maple Leafs (-1)
- 13. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (+1)
- 14. Ryan Miller, Sabres (-2)
- 15. Jonathan Quick, Kings (same)
- 16. Cory Schneider, Devils (+2)
- 17. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (-1)
- 18. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (-1)
- 19. Mike Smith, Coyotes (same)
- 20. Anton Khudobin, Hurricanes (+1)
- 21. Craig Anderson, Senators (+1)
- 22. Ben Scrivens, Oilers (+6)
- 23. Martin Brodeur, Devils (-3)
- 24. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (-1)
- 25. Braden Holtby, Capitals (same)
- 26. Darcy Kuemper, Wild (+4)
- 27. Antti Raanta, Blackhawks (-3)
- 28. Tim Thomas, Panthers (-2)
- 29. Kevin Poulin, Islanders (same)
- 30. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (-3)
While Kuemper's 5-on-5 play is eye-opening, his production on the penalty kill is troubling. He has allowed nine goals on just 41 power-play shots against, a .780 save percentage. It's not uncommon to see rookies struggle in this area, but with 23 total goals against this season, a lofty 39 percent are on the PK. On the flip side, Kuemper has a .945 even-strength save percentage, allowing just 14 goals on 256 shots during 5-on-5 play.
While this type of 5-on-5 production is well above the norm for a 23-year-old rookie, Kuemper's ability to post solid save percentages over extended periods of time is nothing new.
In 2011, Kuemper embarked on his pro career in the ECHL with the Ontario Reign. After going 7-1-0 in eight games with a 1.74 GAA and .941 save percentage, he was promoted to the Houston Aeros in the American Hockey League and never looked back. The success continued while he split time with Matt Hackett, as Kuemper went 6-6-4 with a 2.36 GAA and .923 save percentage until he suffered an injury in early-March.
In his final year of juniors, Kuemper went 45-12-5 with a 1.86 GAA and .933 save percentage for the Red Deer Rebels in the Western Hockey League. He finished the season first in wins, GAA, save percentage, and shutouts (13). He was also named both the WHL goaltender and player of the year, so most scouts have held him in very high regard since he was drafted by the Wild in the sixth round (No. 161) back in 2009.
Looking ahead, Minnesota has four more games before the Olympic break. The Wild play at the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and at the Calgary Flames on Saturday, then host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday and Predators on Thursday. Niklas Backstrom is still nursing a strained abdomen and Josh Harding is not healthy enough to play, so Kuemper is expected to continue getting the nod from coach Mike Yeo.
Currently owned in just 28 percent of Yahoo Fantasy leagues, Kuemper will get his ninth straight start against the Avalanche. Minnesota is 13-2-3 in its last 18 games in Colorado and 4-1-1 in its last six road games, so the odds are certainly in his favor as his breakout month of January comes to a close.
Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues -- In his past four starts, Halak has earned four wins while posting a 1.23 GAA and .957 save percentage. He is 6-1-0 in January, stopping 202 of 215 shots (a .940 save percentage).
Alex Stalock, San Jose Sharks -- Although he only plays sparingly, we want to give credit to Stalock, who has stopped 103 of 107 shots this month (3-2-0). He has a .943 save percentage in 13 games this season.
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals -- With 68 saves on his past 74 shots, Holtby may finally be starting to turn a corner. His two-game winning streak heading into Thursday is his first such streak since Nov. 29-30.
James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Reimer has played six games in each month so far this season. But January has been his weakest statistically, as he is 2-1-0 with a 4.68 GAA and .864 save percentage.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Ben Scrivens, Edmonton Oilers -- With a 59-save shutout in a 3-0 win Wednesday over San Jose, Scrivens re-wrote the history books by breaking Mike Smith's record for the most saves (54) in a regulation shutout. He has stopped 118 of his past 121 shots on goal and leads the NHL with a .937 save percentage.