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Fantasy top 30 goalies: Panthers' Luongo underrated

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

There's just something about Roberto Luongo that brings about debate in most hockey circles.

For whatever reason, a segment of hockey's talking heads has difficulty placing Luongo exactly where he belongs: as the greatest goalie since the turn of the century of his generation.

Perhaps it's that he's never won the Stanley Cup, despite playing for some very dominant Vancouver Canucks teams (his two Olympic gold medals, along with three other gold medals from various tournaments, should quell that), or perhaps it's that he's never won a Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie (something completely out of his control).

Where this becomes more relevant is that Luongo is still a very, very good goaltender and, playing for the much-improved Florida Panthers, the 35-year-old should continue to be treated as such.

If there were question marks as to whether Luongo could continue to perform into his mid-30s, those questions were only exacerbated when he joined the Panthers, who have qualified for the playoffs once over the past 13 seasons. Florida picked first at the 2014 NHL Draft, a sure sign they were too far off to be competitive, and had Luongo destined to put up middling numbers.

That simply hasn't been the case of yet.

In his return to the Sunshine State, Luongo has looked like, well, Luongo, and the Panthers, with a mix of young talent and veterans, are sniffing the Eastern Conference's top eight and remaining relevant enough for Luongo to also remain relevant. He ranks tied for ninth in the NHL in save percentage (.925) and 11th in goals-against average (2.30). When the regular season is over, it's likely he could finish in the top 10 in each category.

Again, the question entering this season should not have been whether Luongo was still good enough to be a top-flight fantasy goalie; it really should have been whether his teammates would be good enough not to muddle the picture.

Thus far, Florida has navigated the early regular-season waters and shown signs of being able to sustain its level of play. The Panthers have posted steady possession numbers (a Corsi For of 51.6 percent, according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com), better than some very good teams, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks.

What bodes especially well for Luongo there is that, generally, teams that control the puck allow fewer goals. If that doesn't sound like a well-kept secret, it's because it isn't, nor is it an overly complex concept to digest: allow fewer shot attempts than your opponent and you're likely to allow fewer goals.

Roberto Luongo
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 18 GAMES
RECORD: 11-6-6
GAA: 2.30 | SVP: .925
In fact, of the teams ranked in the bottom third in the League in terms of Corsi For, only the Ducks, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Calgary Flames don't rank in the bottom third in terms of even-strength goals allowed per game. And that's subject to change.

But this is really more about Luongo. He's still at a level more than capable of leading a mediocre team into the playoffs, something that will take big numbers, and big numbers mean good fantasy results.

Since the turn of the century, only Martin Brodeur has won more games than Luongo's 377, only Brodeur has more shutouts than Luongo's 66, and only Tuukka Rask, who has started 142 fewer games, has a better save percentage than Luongo's .920.

Those numbers, which rank him ahead of his generational peers, essentially are what he's posting this season. The fact that his save percentage this season is actually higher than the .920 number he's maintained since 2000 is a great indicator of how well things are going.

There certainly are other arguments to be had when it comes to this distinction of “the best,” but Luongo is generally never where the conversation starts, something indicative of the lack of respect he's received over the past decade or so. And this season, as has been the case all those years, Luongo is still deserving of your respect.


Frederik Andersen
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 18 GAMES
RECORD: 17-5-4
GAA: 2.46 | SVP: .912
TRENDING UP

Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks

Backstopping one of the hottest teams in the NHL, Andersen has been undervalued in these rankings in weeks past. His loss Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs snapped his and the Ducks' seven-game winning streak, but for a goalie who has started 25 of 33 games for the team that has the most points in the League, Andersen is a major commodity.

TREDNING DOWN

Scott Darling, Chicago Blackhawks

There were big questions as to who between Darling and Antti Raanta would be sent down to make way for starter Corey Crawford, and although Darling, the unproven rookie, put a major scare in Raanta, the Blackhawks shipped him back to Rockford of the American Hockey League on Tuesday. If you were able to cash in on Darling's short run, good on you, but that run is now over.

Andrei Vasilevskiy
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 18 GAMES
RECORD: 1-0-0
GAA: 1.00 | SVP: .958
KEEP AN EYE ON

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

While all indications are Ben Bishop could be back as early as this weekend, Vasilevskiy made his first career start Tuesday, picking up a 3-1 win against the Flyers. The super-prospect may be headed back to the American Hockey League, unless Tampa decides Evgeni Nabokov's sub-.900 save percentage warrants keeping the 20-year-old around for backup duties. Bishop battled injuries last season, and if the Lightning want to lean more on a backup when he returns, and that guy is Vasilevskiy, he'll be a must-add.


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 Pekka Rinne, NSH (SAME) 16 Cory Schneider, NJD (-3)
2 Ben Bishop, TBL (+1) 17 Ryan Miller, VAN (-7)
3 Corey Crawford, CHI (NR - IR) 18 Craig Anderson, OTT (-6)
4 Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT (-2) 19 Jake Allen, STL (+3)
5 Tuukka Rask, BOS (-1) 20 Braden Holtby, WSH (SAME)
6 Carey Price, MTL (SAME) 21 Kari Lehtonen, DAL (-3)
7 Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (+2) 22 Darcy Kuemper, MIN (-3)
8 Jonathan Quick, LAK (-3) 23 Calvin Pickard, COL (NEW)
9 Jaroslav Halak, NYI (SAME) 24 Antti Raanta, CHI (-3)
10 Jimmy Howard, DET (-2) 25 Martin Jones, LAK (NEW)
11 Frederik Andersen, ANA (+6) 26 Robin Lehner, OTT (SAME)
12 Antti Niemi, SJS (-1) 27 Jhonas Enroth, BUF (+1)
13 Jonathan Bernier, TOR (+1) 28 Michael Hutchinson, WPG (+2)
14 Roberto Luongo, FLA (+2) 29 Karri Ramo, CGY (-5)
15 Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ (SAME) 30 Steve Mason, PHI (NEW)

Dropped out: Jonas Hiller, Martin Brodeur, Ondrej Pavelec, Cam Ward

Key injuries: Brian Elliott, Semyon Varlamov, John Gibson, Jonas Gustavsson

NR - IR: Not ranked last week because of injury

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