As of Thursday, there are three-and-a-half weeks left in the regular season -- meaning the fantasy season is also winding down. For many leagues, the playoffs have already begun, which means it's important to have added goalie support. Knowing how many back-to-back games each team has is a big factor in projecting how many starts each goalie could make.
The Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks have a League-high four back-to-back sets remaining; the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers have none. Seven teams have two remaining sets, 11 teams have three and eight teams have one.
Here's a look at the goalie trends, schedule notes and risk-reward factors surrounding a few of these teams:
The Flyers entered play Thursday one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the final wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference, an improbable scenario based on where they were in the standings earlier in the season. But their goaltending has been a big reason for their climb. Michal Neuvirth made 24 saves in a 3-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, after Steve Mason had started the previous five games, going 4-0-1. Before that, Neuvirth started seven of eight. This is interesting because Neuvirth is owned in fewer Yahoo leagues (47 percent) than Mason (68 percent) despite better peripherals (2.28 GAA, .925 save percentage) than Mason (2.61 GAA, .915 save percentage). Expect the Flyers to continue this rotation but lean slightly more on the efficient Neuvirth in the final few weeks -- especially with the playoffs on the line.
Video: PHI@CHI: Neuvirth keeps the game tied at 2
Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom have split starts the past eight games. Miller made 31 saves in a 3-1 loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. In his past four games he's 1-3-0 and has allowed 12 goals. In his past four, Markstrom is 2-2-0 and has allowed 12 goals. Their numbers for the season also are remarkably similar: Miller has 15 wins, a 2.66 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage, and Markstrom has 11 wins, a 2.65 GAA and .914 save percentage. That said, the two should continue splitting starts for the remainder of the season. Markstrom has the higher upside and is available in more leagues.
The Ducks have one back-to-back left this season and have seen strong goaltending for much of the past month. Frederik Andersen (76 percent owned) and John Gibson (71 percent owned) have alternated two starts in a row. Expect that trend to hold true even though Gibson has lost three straight starts (0-2-1) and allowed a total of six goals. Andersen is 14-1-1 in his past 17 games, so he could be the go-to goalie in a must-win regular-season game.
San Jose Sharks
I said the past few weeks that Martin Jones owners needed to pick up James Reimer, and Reimer has received significant enough playing time to justify an add. Jones (90 percent owned) started 53 of 63 games for the Sharks before Reimer arrived, but Reimer has started three of the past six games. San Jose's backup has won his past two games, including a 31-save shutout against the Oilers on March 8. This could remain a split situation to spell Jones rest before the postseason. Even if you don't own Jones, Reimer adds viable goalie depth to any fantasy roster. San Jose has two back-to-back sets remaining.
New York Rangers
Antti Raanta is a sneaky pickup. He started three games in a row when Henrik Lundqvist was out recently because of neck spasms and has started five of eight games. In those five games, Raanta (15 percent owned) went 4-1-0 and allowed two or fewer goals in four of them. The Rangers want Lundqvist fresh for the playoffs and have three back-to-back sets left, starting with the second leg of a back-to-back Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m. ET; MSG, NHLN, SN360, SNE, SNO). Raanta could get as many as six more starts.
Video: NYR@BUF: Raanta dives to make an excellent stick save
Mike Smith returned Saturday after missing more than three months following core muscle surgery. He made 44 saves in a 4-0 shutout of the Oilers. Smith likely will play out the string since Louis Domingue had an extreme amount of work for a rookie in his absence. Smith is available in 53 percent of leagues, but the big concern is the Coyotes' difficult schedule: 11 of their final 13 games are against teams currently holding playoff spots, including six straight to finish the season. The Coyotes have two remaining sets of back-to-back games.
Whether it's Cam Talbot (60 percent owned) or Laurent Brossoit (1 percent owned), the Oilers are struggling and their goaltenders can't be trusted. Not to mention they don't have any back-to-back games left and play a League-low four games in the final two weeks of the season. Fantasy owners can't afford such risk in their semifinal and final rounds.
Other situations worth watching: New York Islanders (Thomas Greiss, Jean-Francois Berube), Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy); Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov, Calvin Pickard); Buffalo Sabres (Chad Johnson, Robin Lehner).
Remaining back-to-back sets per team (including games Thursday, March 17): PHI- 4, VAN- 4, BUF- 3, DET- 3, NYI- 3, NYR- 3, OTT- 3, PIT- 3, WSH- 3, ARI- 2, BOS- 2, CBJ- 2, CGY- 2, LAK- 2, MIN- 2, NSH- 2, NJD- 2, SJS- 2, STL- 2, TBL- 2, ANA- 1, CAR- 1, CHI- 1, COL- 1, DAL- 1, FLA- 1, MTL- 1, TOR- 1, EDM- 0, WPG- 0
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, goals-against average (GAA), save percentage (SV%) and shutouts. These rankings reflect fantasy value, not necessarily the most talented goalies in order.
1. Braden Holtby, WSH
2. Jonathan Quick, LAK
3. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (+1)
4. Ben Bishop, TBL (+1)
5. Corey Crawford, CHI (-2)
6. Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT
7. Martin Jones, SJS (+1)
8. Frederik Andersen, ANA (-1)
9. Petr Mrazek, DET
10. Roberto Luongo, FLA (+1)
11. Jake Allen, STL (-1)
12. Devan Dubnyk, MIN (+3)
13. Pekka Rinne, NSH (-1)
14. Thomas Greiss, NYI (-1)
15. Semyon Varlamov, COL (+3)
16. Tuukka Rask, BOS (-2)
17. John Gibson, ANA (-1)
18. Craig Anderson, OTT (+2)
19. Steve Mason, PHI
20. Michal Neuvirth, PHI (+2)
21. James Reimer, SJS (+2)
22. Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ (-5)
23. Robin Lehner, BUF (-2)
24. Jonathan Bernier, TOR (NEW)
25. Joni Ortio, CGY (-1)
26. Philipp Grubauer, WSH (NEW)
27. Calvin Pickard, COL
28. Cam Talbot, EDM (-2)
29. Antti Niemi, DAL (-1)
30. Garrett Sparks, TOR
Dropped out: Andrew Hammond, Kari Lehtonen
Key injuries: Carey Price, Cory Schneider, Brian Elliott, Jaroslav Halak, Karri Ramo