Time and time again, goaltending makes or breaks fantasy championship dreams.
In most cases, you should start the guys who got you to this point (Henrik Lundqvist, Braden Holtby, Ben Bishop, etc.). But there are some goalies you may consider benching because they've been struggling (Semyon Varlamov, Petr Mrazek) and others who bring concerns because of split starts (Frederik Andersen, John Gibson, Martin Jones, James Reimer).
That said, here's a list of five goalies who are most likely available in your league and could be the key piece to you winning the championship:
Jean-Francois Berube, New York Islanders, 4 percent owned
Heading into Thursday, the Islanders have seven games left, including five in the final week of the season. There's no way Thomas Greiss will play all seven games, and definitely not five in seven days which includes two back-to-back sets. Berube is 3-1-1 with a 2.30 goals-against average and .927 save percentage and has won his past two starts. Berube has allowed one goal in three of his past four starts and has the confidence of his teammates. Playing in a race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs also puts more pressure on Berube, who has responded when called upon this season.
Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators, 29 percent owned
Hammond made 20 saves in a 2-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. He's started three of the past five games, allowing a total of four goals with one shutout. Despite his subpar 5-9-4 record, 2.72 GAA and .912 SV%, the Ottawa coaching staff has said he will get to play down the stretch. Ottawa has been eliminated from playoff contention and has five games remaining, so figure Hammond will get at least three starts.
Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs, 33 percent
It usually goes against the grain to recommend picking up a Maple Leafs goalie, but Bernier has been solid of late. He has won four of his past six starts, with one shutout, one one-goal outing and four two-goal games. Three of the four wins have come against potential playoff teams in the Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Maple Leafs have six games remaining, including games against the Red Wings, Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers, but also non-playoff teams in the Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. Bernier and Garret Sparks have split starts in the past six games, but Bernier is the better fantasy option.
Video: TOR@DET: Bernier makes a series of stellar saves
Scott Darling, Chicago Blackhawks, 37 percent owned
Corey Crawford (upper body) hasn't played since March 14 and hasn't resumed skating. That means backup Darling should see all the starts in the meantime. He's started seven in a row and allowed three, zero, two, four, one, two and three goals respectively; not exactly consistent. Darling is 3-3-1 since taking over for Crawford and with the Blackhawks' offense, he always has an opportunity to win a game, even if he allows a few goals.
Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals, 7 percent owned
The Capitals have six games left and the plan is for Braden Holtby to start four of them. Holtby needs three wins to break Martin Brodeur's single-season record (48). The Capitals have already clinched the Presidents' Trophy and don't have much else to play for, so Holtby could rest more. Either way, Grubauer is in line for at least two starts. He's 8-7-1 with a 2.30 GAA and .920 SV% and has played exceptionally well all season as Holtby's backup.
Steve Mason, Philadelphia Flyers
Mason has been outstanding for the Flyers in the past two weeks. On Wednesday, he made 29 saves in a 2-1 shootout win against the NHL-best Capitals. Mason improved to 4-1-1 in his past six games and has allowed 10 goals with a .946 SV%. With Michal Neuvirth injured, Mason has started the past seven games and likely will start a majority of their six remaining games as they try to make the playoffs. Mason (74 percent owned) is there for the taking in some leagues and more than capable of leading you to a fantasy championship.
Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings
Mrazek got the hook less than 12 minutes into the first period after he allowed two goals on seven shots of an eventual 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. Mrazek was also pulled in his start before that in the second period after allowing four goals on 27 shots in a 7-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. Mrazek has allowed 16 goals in his past five appearances (about 10 periods) and is 1-3-0 in his past six appearances. His numbers on the season are great (27-16-6, 2.35 GAA, .920 SV%, four shutouts) but he's far from a stable fantasy option these days.
Cory Schneider was taken off injured reserve Wednesday and will start Saturday against the Lightning. The Devils sent Scott Wedgewood, who went 2-1-1, to Albany of the American Hockey League, so they will start Keith Kinkaid, who made 39 saves in a 2-1 win against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, against the Panthers on Thursday. … Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson left in the second period Wednesday of an 8-3 win against the Calgary Flames after a collision with teammate Hampus Lindholm and was replaced by Frederik Andersen, but Gibson returned in the third period.
Video: TBL@NJD: Schneider robs Stamkos on the doorstep
TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES
These rankings indicate fantasy expectations for the rest of the season. Value is quantified by projected starts, peripheral category coverage, timeshare situations, team defenses, past performance and upside in standard Yahoo categories, which include wins, GAA (GAA), SV% (SV%) and shutouts. These rankings reflect fantasy value, not necessarily the most talented goalies in order.
1. Braden Holtby, WSH (SAME)
2. Ben Bishop, TBL (+2)
3. Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT (SAME)
4. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (+1)
5. Jonathan Quick, LAK (-3)
6. Brian Elliott, STL (+6)
7. Devan Dubnyk, MIN (+2)
8. Martin Jones, SJS (-1)
9. Pekka Rinne, NSH (+1)
10. Frederik Andersen, ANA (-2)
11. Roberto Luongo, FLA (SAME)
12. Jake Allen, STL (+4)
13. John Gibson, ANA (+2)
14. Steve Mason, PHI (+6)
15. Tuukka Rask, BOS (+2)
16. Thomas Greiss, NYI (-2)
17. Petr Mrazek, DET (-4)
18. James Reimer, SJS (+1)
19. Scott Darling, CHI (NEW)
20. Semyon Varlamov, COL (-2)
21. Jonathan Bernier, TOR (SAME)
22. Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ (+3)
23. Chad Johnson, BUF (+1)
24. Andrew Hammond, OTT (NEW)
25. Craig Anderson, OTT (-3)
26. Kari Lehtonen, DAL (-3)
27. Jimmy Howard, DET (NEW)
28. Mike Smith, ARI (NEW)
29. Philipp Grubauer, WSH (-3)
30. Joni Ortio, CGY (NEW)
Dropped out: Nicklas Backstrom, Calvin Pickard, Jacob Markstrom, Cam Talbot
Key injuries: Carey Price, Corey Crawford, Jaroslav Halak, Michal Neuvirth, Robin Lehner, Karri Ramo