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Fantasy top 30 goalies: Canucks' Lack gets job done

by Evan Sporer / NHL.com

Every Thursday during the season, NHL.com's Evan Sporer will provide you with in-depth analysis of goaltenders. From updated weekly top 30 rankings to trending players and more, Sporer will be your go-to guy for advice on fantasy goalies all season long.

UPDATED TOP 30 GOALIE RANKINGS

Whatever problems the Vancouver Canucks have encountered the past few seasons, they've always had a very strong backup plan when it comes to their goaltending situation.

In fact, in some cases "Plan B" was, even in smaller sample sizes, outperforming the starter.

So while the Canucks stand to lose a veteran goalie in Ryan Miller for the next 4-6 weeks, their crease will be just fine with Eddie Lack and the recently recalled Jacob Markstrom.

The Canucks went through stretches of goaltending competition over the past number of years. It started with Roberto Luongo and Corey Schneider, then it became Luongo and Eddie Lack, and this season, it's been Ryan Miller and Lack. What's remained consistent is that whoever the No. 2 was has put up strong enough numbers to at the very least make a compelling argument for more playing time.

In his first season with the Canucks, Miller has posted numbers right around his career averages. His .913 save percentage is two points below his career .915, while he was on pace for his seventh 30-win season, with a chance to win 40 games in a single season for a third time.

But right in Miller's rear-view mirror this season was Lack. Before Miller was injured against the New York Islanders on Sunday, he had played 43 games to Lack's 19, a much more appreciable sample. Their numbers were quite similar, with Lack a nose ahead in some statistics. The goalies posted almost identical save percentages, with Lack's four-tenths of a percentage point higher than Miller's. In even-strength situations, Lack's save percentage was about two points higher than Miller's.

Those differences didn't scream for a change in the crease, but in the weeks leading up to Miller's injury the scales began to tilt more in Lack's favor. Since Jan. 15, with Lack playing five times to Miller's 13 appearances, Lack posted a save percentage five points higher than Miller. In even-strength situations, the difference was starker: Lack's save percentage (.943) was 27 points higher than Miller's, according to war-on-ice.com.

Whether Lack could sustain such a high level was up for debate, but Miller's injury will now give him a chance to answer that question. Miller had faced significantly more shots than Lack at even-strength since Jan. 15 (263 compared to 106), but the situation was beginning to trend toward Lack seeing more time. Five games isn't enough to draw meaningful conclusions from, but a .943 5-on-5 save percentage is certainly eye-catching.

Eddie Lack
STATS PRIOR TO FEB. 26 GAMES
RECORD: 7-7-2
GAA: 2.40 | SVP: .921
Lack will get his turn now to prove he can put up quality numbers with a starter's workload. The 27-year-old ended up playing exactly half the schedule last season, first serving as Luongo's backup, and then the starter after Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers. Again Lack finds himself in a situation where he can run with a No. 1 role. The early results have been good: since relieving Miller in the game he was injured against the Islanders, Lack has made 67 saves on 68 shots faced in 98:47 of ice time. That's a per-60-minute average of over 41 shots, and despite the stiff workload, Lack has been nearly perfect.

Markstrom is also out to prove himself. He's played well in NHL stretches, but also suffered behind some struggling Panthers teams. In the American Hockey League, Markstrom has done about all he can: In 26 appearances for the Utica Comets this season, he had a .932 save percentage. In 157 career AHL appearances, Markstrom has a .920 save percentage. He and Lack will be valuable fantasy assets down the stretch, especially if the NHL Trade Deadline goes by quietly for goalies. Lack (owned in 40 percent of Yahoo leagues), and Markstrom (owned in 2 percent) could be the biggest additions to make as the deadline approaches.


TRENDING UP

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

John Gibson
STATS PRIOR TO FEB. 26 GAMES
RECORD: 6-5-0
GAA: 2.69 | SVP: .915
It's certainly a situation in flux for Anaheim when it comes to goaltending, but for the time being Gibson is the starter and playing quite well. Recalled after Frederik Andersen was placed on injured reserve, Gibson quickly usurped Ilya Bryzgalov on the depth chart, and after a shaky opening appearance in which he relieved Bryzgalov, has gone 4-3-0 with a .914 save percentage. His save percentage would be higher if not for two ugly games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals in which he got little help. Andersen is still out, and coach Bruce Boudreau will have a difficult decision to make once he's healthy. At some point though, it was always going to be Gibson's time.

TRENDING DOWN

Cam Talbot, New York Rangers

The good news: The Rangers sans Henrik Lundqvist have gone 8-1-2, with Talbot going 7-1-2 in his 10 appearances. The not-so-good news: Talbot has posted a .903 save percentage over that stretch, three times allowing four or more goals, and three times allowing two or fewer in those 10 starts. He's still racking up wins, and recorded his first shutout since Lundqvist's injury on Tuesday making 21 saves against the Calgary Flames. Talbot and the Rangers have a few more games on the schedule coming up that could play out like that Calgary game (Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes, and Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, two teams in the bottom-third of the League in terms of 5-on-5 shots per 60 minutes), but we're nearing the end of Lundqvist's recovery timetable, and even if he takes a little longer than expected, it still means Talbot's days as a starter are running out.

Scott Darling
STATS PRIOR TO FEB. 26 GAMES
RECORD: 6-2-0
GAA: 1.96 | SVP: .938
KEEP AN EYE ON

Scott Darling, Chicago Blackhawks

If you need goalie help, go out and add Darling (owned in 12 percent of Yahoo leagues). Even before the injury to Blackhawks leading scorer Patrick Kane on Tuesday, there was speculation Chicago was in the market to make a trade, and Darling was recalled and Antti Raanta was sent down because the former carries a lighter cap hit. Now there's certainly pressure on the Blackhawks to make a move, and Darling could be hanging around for a bit longer. He's been good when called upon this season: He split time with Raanta when Corey Crawford was injured earlier this season, and has gone 6-2-0 with a .938 save percentage.


TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES

These modified re-rankings are a projection of a goalie's fantasy output for the entire season. Our ranks are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, goals-against average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). It is important to note that our rankings reflect sheer fantasy value, not talent. A less-talented goalie could be ranked higher due to their team's strong defense and offense.

1 Carey Price, MTL (SAME) 16 Michael Hutchinson, WPG (-1)
2 Pekka Rinne, NSH (SAME) 17 Semyon Varlamov, COL (-1)
3 Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT (+1) 18 Steve Mason, PHI (NR - IR; DTD)
4 Tuukka Rask, BOS (-1) 19 John Gibson, ANA (+9)
5 Braden Holtby, WSH (+1) 20 Craig Anderson, OTT (NR - IR; DTD)
6 Brian Elliott, STL (-1) 21 Sergei Bobrovsky (NR - IR; DTD)
7 Roberto Luongo, FLA (+1) 22 Cam Talbot, NYR (-4)
8 Corey Crawford, CHI (-1) 23 Kari Lehtonen, DAL (-4)
9 Jaroslav Halak, NYI (SAME) 24 Antti Niemi, SJS (-3)
10 Cory Schneider, NJD (+2) 25 Jonas Hiller, CGY (-3)
11 Ben Bishop, TBL (SAME) 26 Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL (-3)
12 Devan Dubnyk, MIN (+1) 27 Jake Allen, STL (-1)
13 Jonathan Quick, LAK (+4) 28 Alex Stalock, SJS (-1)
14 Jimmy Howard, DET (SAME) 29 Scott Darling, CHI (NEW)
15 Eddie Lack, VAN (NEW) 30 Jacob Markstrom, VAN (NEW)

Dropped out: Ray Emery, Mike Smith, Martin Jones, Antti Raanta, Curtis McElhinney

Key injuries: Henrik Lundqvist, Frederik Andersen, Ryan Miller, Robin Lehner

DTD: Day-to-day; NR - IR: Not ranked last week because of injury

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