The Buffalo Sabres are currently 11 points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. But while they will likely be on the outside looking in of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they are much improved from last season.
Some of that has to do with Jack Eichel, a Calder Trophy candidate, All-Star center Ryan O'Reilly and breakout defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. But let's not forget the impact the Sabres' goaltending has had.
Buffalo acquired Robin Lehner on June 26, 2015 with the hope he would be their No. 1 goalie, but he sustained a sprained ankle during the first game of the season and missed nearly three months.
Chad Johnson, who has posted solid peripherals (2.45 goals-against average; .917 save percentage) in 29 games, shared time with Linus Ullmark while Lehner was sidelined. Lehner returned Jan. 15 and lost his first three games, but has quickly bounced back with wins Jan. 26 at the Ottawa Senators (34 saves on 36 shots faced) and Wednesday at the Montreal Canadiens (33 saves on 35 shots faced). He has allowed two goals and posted a SV% of .943 or better in each of his past four outings.
One area in which Lehner has separated himself from Johnson and Ullmark is power-play save percentage. He has stopped 25 of 26 shots faced with opponents on the power play (.962), compared to sub-par percentages in those situations from Johnson (.878 in 29 games) and Ullmark (.854 in 19 games). He has a smaller sample size than his teammates, but his efficiency at even strength (.933) is also superior to Ullmark (.924) and Johnson (.923).
Video: BUF@OTT: Lehner makes a diving save on Hoffman
Lehner is owned in just 19 percent of Yahoo leagues and could be a key player in your late-season fantasy playoff run. If you need goalie help because of injuries or underperformance, he is worth a gamble. Johnson (15 percent owned) is a reliable backup but more of an insurance policy at this point.
Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues
Elliott (75 percent owned) made 16 saves in a 1-0 shutout against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday and has allowed six goals in his past five games. Elliott has played all nine games in place of Jake Allen (84 percent owned) who is out because of a knee injury sustained Jan. 8, and gone 6-2-1 with a .945 save percentage and a 1.68 GAA; he's allowed 15 goals in that span.
Allen has yet to resume skating, so Elliott will continue to get the bulk of starts. Pheonix Copley is the backup goalie but he has yet to play an NHL game. Elliott has been a No. 1 before and should continue to thrive in that role.
Louis Domingue, Arizona Coyotes
Domingue was named the NHL Rookie of the Month for January, going 6-3-2 with a 2.20 GAA, .925 save percentage and one shutout in 11 games. However, he allowed five goals on 25 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday and was pulled in the third period. It was the second straight game Domingue (44 percent owned) was pulled; he also allowed five goals on 25 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 26, and was pulled after the second period.
The problem is that Domingue has started 18 of the past 20 games and appears to be slowing down. The Coyotes are relying on him too heavily, and the 23-year old should be given more rest than he has. The Coyotes are in postseason contention, which means another bad outing could land Domingue on the bench in favor of Anders Lindback (two percent owned). Your best bet is to trade Domingue now.
KEEP AN EYE ON
New York Islanders' trio
The Islanders are carrying three goalies at the moment. Jaroslav Halak (86 percent owned) was the clear starter entering the season, but injuries have opened the door for Thomas Greiss (30 percent owned). Then there's Jean-Francois Berube (one percent owned), who made his second NHL start in surprise fashion Tuesday and got his first win with 40 saves against the Minnesota Wild.
The Islanders are contending for a playoff spot but are in a stretch of 10 games in 18 days and play 29 in 60 days, including a seven-game road trip from Feb. 19 to March 6. Halak is 12-9-4 with a 2.14 GAA, .923 SV% and two shutouts in 26 games; Greiss is 13-6-2 with a 2.32 GAA, .927 SV% and one shutout in 21 games. Halak has started six of the past eight games so it may be a battle between Greiss and Berube for the backup spot. Then again, one could also be traded before the Feb. 29 NHL Trade Deadline.
Ben Bishop got his 100th win with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, making 24 saves in a 3-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings. He lowered his GAA to 1.99, which ranks second in the League. ... The Anaheim Ducks have won four games in a row but John Gibson has taken a back seat to Frederik Andersen in the past two starts. ... Calvin Pickard has started the past three games for the Colorado Avalanche and is expected to go again Thursday, but Semyon Varlamov could return this weekend after dealing with a legal matter. ... In his past six games, Montreal Canadiens goalie Mike Condon has allowed at least three goals five times.
TOP 60 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. Corey Crawford, CHI
2. Braden Holtby, WSH
3. Jonathan Quick, LAK (+1)
4. Ben Bishop, TBL (+4)
5. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (-2)
6. Cory Schneider, NJD (-1)
7. Roberto Luongo, FLA (+2)
8. Petr Mrazek, DET (-2)
9. Brian Elliott, STL (+1)
10. Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT (-2)
11. Martin Jones, SJS
12. Pekka Rinne, NSH (+2)
13. Tuukka Rask, BOS (-1)
14. Devan Dubnyk, MIN (-1)
15. Connor Hellebuyck, WPG (+1)
16. John Gibson, ANA (-1)
17. Jaroslav Halak, NYI
18. Antti Niemi, DAL (+2)
19. Semyon Varlamov, COL
20. Frederik Andersen, ANA (NEW)
21. Louis Domingue, ARI (-3)
22. Eddie Lack, CAR (+1)
23. Robin Lehner, BUF (+7)
24. Mike Condon, MTL
25. Ryan Miller, VAN (-3)
26. James Reimer, TOR (+1)
27. Craig Anderson, OTT (-5)
28. Steve Mason, PHI
29. Karri Ramo, CAL (-4)
30. Cam Talbot, EDM (-1)
Key injuries: Carey Price, Jake Allen, Sergei Bobrovsky, Michal Neuvirth, Ondrej Pavelec, Mike Smith