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Fantasy top 30 goalies: Schneider needs time

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

Of the items on the checklist for New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer to begin the regular season was to make sure goaltender Cory Schneider knew he was the team's starting goalie.

He's accomplished that and more. Schneider started the Devils' first 20 games of the season, a stretch that broke Martin Brodeur's New Jersey record for most consecutive starts.

Schneider is on pace to shatter his own single-season record for games started. Already with an NHL-high 32 games played this season, Schneider easily should start more than the 45 games he did last season, which was his personal high entering the season.

The numbers Schneider has compiled this season don't reflect the same high standard when he played fewer games in previous seasons. His save percentage is down, his goals-against are up, and fantasy owners who were expecting Schneider to continue to produce while playing more frequently are looking for answers.

Schneider, like many before him, is making the adjustment from backup to full-time starter.

No position in the League is more taxing than goaltender. The best skaters in the League hope to play 82 games; the best goalies in the League usually will play somewhere in the 60s.

A backup making the move to starter is similar to a starting pitcher making the jump from Triple-A baseball to the major leagues. NHL coaches won't put a games-played cap on goalies transitioning from backup to starter, but the question remains as to how effective one can expect a goalie to be during that transition.

For Schneider, the uptick in minutes hasn't gone as smoothly numbers-wise as his fantasy owners would have hoped for. His .917 save percentage would be the worst of his career for any full season; the same goes for his 2.51 goals-against average. And while Schneider is on pace to win 25 games, which would be a career-high, he's also on pace to start 73 games. In 2011-12 Schneider won 20 games in 28 starts.

That 73 number is probably a bit high; since starting the Devils' first 20, Schneider has appeared in a more regular (from a historical standpoint) 12 of 16. If he starts 75 percent of the Devils' games from now until season's end, he'll end up with around 67 starts, which still is a very high number.

There have been plenty of goalies before Schneider who have faced the same transition. The Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask is an excellent comparable, especially from a situations standpoint. Like Schneider, Rask spent years as a backup. Also like Schneider, one could argue Rask plays in a system that inflates goalies' numbers.

Rask took over as starter in 2012-13. In a 48-game season Rask started 34 times (an 82-game equivalent of 58 starts). He was third in the League with a .929 save percentage, sixth in GAA at 2.00 and his 19 wins were tied for 11th.

Cory Schneider
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 11-16-4
GAA: 2.51 | SVP: .917
A goalie who just last season made the same transition was Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bayh Lightning. After never starting more than 21 games in his career (that occurred during 2012-13, which constituted 43.7 percent of the schedule), Bishop started 61 times last season.

Like Rask, Bishop championed the promotion. His .924 save percentage and 2.23 GAA both ranked seventh in the League.

Schneider is no stranger to being "the guy," he's just new to it at a professional level. In his final season at Boston College, Schneider started all 42 games, including eight back-to-backs. Another 12 of his starts were made with one day of rest between them.

If Schneider's numbers are down a bit this season, the main culprit more likely is his teammates' performance in front of him. The Devils are 21st in the League in Corsi-For percentage and 25th in 5-on-5 shooting percentage, according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com. Those numbers are out of Schneider's control but very directly affect his statistics.

It's not easy to take on significantly more starts as a goalie in the NHL, and a lot is going against Schneider right now in terms of aiding in that adjustment.


TRENDING UP

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars -- I expect the Dallas Stars to make a run at a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, and recently Lehtonen has been pretty good. He's 4-2-0 in his past games starts; he got pulled and didn't factor in the decision against the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 21. Excluding the Edmonton game he's got a .928 save percentage during that stretch. Lehtonen is 7-2-1 since Nov. 20, and appears to be helping the Stars begin to turn things around.

TRENDING DOWN

Darcy Kuemper
Goalie - MIN
RECORD: 11-10-0
GAA: 2.64 | SVP: .901
Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota Wild -- I think the Minnesota Wild will be a team that challenges for a spot in the postseason, but Kuemper isn't making things easy for them at the moment. He is 2-5-0 in his last eight games; he was pulled from a game against the Nashville Predators on Dec. 20 after allowing three goals on 14 shots. He's allowed 25 goals in those eight games. The Wild have increased their scoring from 24th in the League last season in goals per game and to 11th in 2014-15. However Kuemper has been struggling despite the added run support. Minnesota has even tried Niklas Backstrom in three of its past four games.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Cam Talbot, New York Rangers -- No, Talbot isn't going to usurp Henrik Lundqvist on the Rangers depth chart, but the backup is posting stellar numbers for the second consecutive season. He shut out the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 21 to earn his third win this season, all of which have been shutouts. The Rangers and coach Alain Vigneault are learning they can lean on their backup more now to ensure a fresher Lundqvist down the stretch, and Talbot, currently the 13th-ranked Yahoo fantasy goalie, has made good on those minutes.


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

Dropped out: Robin Lehner, Jhonas Enroth

Key injuries: Ben Bishop, Brian Elliott, John Gibson, Jonas Gustavsson

NR - IR: Not ranked last week because of injury

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