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Fantasy Five: Plenty of goaltender shakeups

by Matt Cubeta
With most teams having played in at least 10 games (only six have not reached the 10-game plateau heading into Tuesday night's action), the NHL Fantasy Five takes a look at our new goaltender rankings. From the goalies who are hot, cold, on the rise, or on the decline, we'll give you our updated rankings and then analyze some interesting points revolving around the men between the pipes.

1.   These re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries) -- positions predicated on's preseason rankings.

Ryan Miller (same)
Tim Thomas (N/A)
Marty Turco (-4)
Cam Ward (-3)
Dan Ellis (+4)

Goalies who dropped out of the preseason top 25: Antti Niemi, Tuukka Rask, Semyon Varlamov, Steve Mason, Brian Elliott, Chris Mason

2. Trending Upward

Henrik Lundqvist -- The King started the season as our third-ranked goalie, but the fact that none of the elite netminders have gotten off to great starts, gives Lundqvist the edge. Oh, and he's won four of his last five starts while allowing just five total goals in those four victories. He's pretty good to say the least.

Tim Thomas -- It's been said in nearly every fantasy story this year: Thomas has been the League's biggest surprise to date. Six starts, six wins with a microscopic 0.50 GAA, three shutouts and an absurd .984 save percentage. Thomas is Boston's new No. 1 goalie (sorry, Tuukka Rask) and he should continue to get the majority of starts going forward.

Jonathan Quick -- The Kings goalie started the season ranked No. 21, but like last season, Quick has gotten off to a tremendous start. The reason we had Quick so low at the start of the season was because of the emergence of youngster Jonathan Bernier. But in the Kings' first 11 games, Quick has gotten the call eight times and posted a 7-1-0 record to go along with a 1.84 GAA and a stellar. 936 save percentage. Keep rolling him out there if you're fortunate to have him on your team.

3. Trending Downward

Martin Brodeur -- Our reigning No. 1 goalie now finds his name in the No. 4 spot. In 13 appearances this season, Marty is just 3-8-1 with a 2.79 GAA and a .902 save percentage. However, if you look a little harder, there are still some positives surrounding Brodeur's season. First off, he's started 12 of the team's 13 games, proving there is no threat of him losing any playing time, and secondly, he has two shutouts. Basically, Marty's been hit or miss so far -- though having his team score some more goals wouldn't hurt. Something tells me there's a hot streak coming for the future Hall of Famer.

Marc-Andre Fleury -- Fleury took the biggest nosedive in our modified rankings, dropping eight spots. His owners can thank teammate Brent Johnson for the brutal decline. Fleury and Johnson each have started six games, with Johnson clearly emerging as Pittsburgh's best goalie early on. Fleury has struggled with just one win, a 3.35 GAA and a horrendous .863 save percentage. I'm not saying you should ditch Fleury and grab Johnson, but be very careful with Fleury. If these trends continue for both players, Johnson will continue to get more work.

Antti Niemi -- While Fleury still has a shot at regaining the No. 1 job for his team, it appears for now that Niemi has completely lost the starting gig in San Jose. The former Blackhawk has started just four of the Sharks' nine games this season and has struggled badly: 1-3-0 record, 4.49 GAA and .854 save percentage. On the other side, Antero Niittymaki has made five starts and has posted a 4-0-1 record with a sparkling 1.88 GAA and .929 save percentage. In this case, if possible, get rid of Niemi and add Niittymaki.

4. Goaltender battles are always one of the hardest things to solve in fantasy hockey. Do you drop one guy who's on the rise for the guy who's the starter but has struggled recently? Do you drop a forward or defenseman and add the team's backup? There are so many questions surrounding a fantasy team's goaltender situation.

None have been more curious than the situation in Philadelphia, where Sergei Bobrovsky has gotten off to a solid start. Then there's Brian Boucher, who played a critical part in Philadelphia's Stanley Cup run last season. Oh, and there's also Michael Leighton, Philly's usual No. 1 goalie who is sidelined with a back injury. So where do you go from here if you own any of the three netminders?

Well, let's start by saying that for the time being, Bobrovsky is the guy you want. The 22-year-old has started eight of the Flyers' 12 games, winning six them with a 2.39 GAA and a .918 save percentage. He has started their last four games and has won all of them. Leighton, who's expected to return near the end of November, would be the second guy you want to own. However, even when Leighton is declared healthy, there is a very good chance Bobrovsky could be the team's permanent No. 1 goalie when that time comes. Boucher would be the last guy you want on your team, and he's valuable only if Bobrovsky gets hurt or if Philly does the unthinkable and sends Bobrovsky down when Leighton returns -- and don't expect that to happen with the way Sergei has been playing.

5. Fantasy Tip

Pay attention to teams' power-play and penalty-kill percentages -- they are very important on how a goaltender is performing. The Boston Bruins have the League's best penalty-killing percentage at 93.1 percent (hence Tim Thomas' unbelievable start) -- they've allowed just two power-play goals. The Detroit Red Wings have the second-best PK unit at 91.2 percent, and it shows in Jimmy Howard's solid stats.

Conversely, the Edmonton Oilers and the Buffalo Sabres have surrendered the most power-play goals on the season -- 13. The Oilers have killed off just 70.5 percent of their power plays against, while Buffalo has a percentage of 74.5 on the season. Clearly, these team statistics reflect the slow starts from both Nikolai Khabibulin and Ryan Miller. Hopefully, each team will learn to stay out of the box a bit more and then their goaltending numbers should improve.

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