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In the Cage: A string of starts makes a difference

by Justin Goldman
Every Monday during the season, goalie specialist and founder of The Goalie Guild Justin Goldman will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy goaltenders in's weekly segment: "In the Cage." From updated goalie rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Goldman will be your fantasy goalie expert all season long.
To truly gain an edge on your competition, procure darkhorse goalies that could earn a string of starts.
Getting a string of starts can be career-altering for "1-B" goalies and backups. It allows them to get into a rhythm, while instilling confidence in themselves, their teammates, and coaches. The more games they play in a row, the more they realize they're capable of carrying a larger role with the club, and the better they're likely to play. Roles change, momentum is gained, and their perceived fantasy value rises.
Right now, a number of lesser-owned goalies are improving their fantasy value due to getting a string of starts. This list includes Jonas Gustavsson (13 percent owned in Yahoo! Fantasy leagues), Sergei Bobrovsky (14 percent), Al Montoya (20 percent), Curtis Sanford (20 percent), Cory Schneider (44 percent), and Brian Elliott (66 percent).


These modified re-rankings are a projection of a goalie’s fantasy output for the entire season. Our rankings are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, and of course GAA and SP%. 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.
*Please note that we are now removing goalies currently on IR from the weekly rankings

Players on IR: Ryan Miller, Kari Lehtonen
Of those goalies, we feel the three that have the best odds to keep improving their fantasy value are Montoya, Elliott and Sanford.
Now 10-1-0 with an NHL-leading 1.31 goals-against average, Elliott is likely to be treated as a 1-B goalie by Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.

Montoya is healthy again, and it's becoming clear he's the most consistent Islanders goaltender. A string of starts was the main reason why he was so successful after being acquired from Phoenix last year, so the odds are good it could happen again over the next few weeks.
Sanford's string of starts has been the catalyst for the Columbus conversion. He's 3-1-2 in six November starts, stopping 158 of 167 shots. Steve Mason has passed his baseline test and is back in the lineup, but Sanford's poise and veteran presence could keep him with the Blue Jackets for good.
If you're looking for an edge on the next goalie to thrive from a string of starts, look toward Mathieu Garon in Tampa Bay, and then Andrew Raycroft in Dallas now that Kari Lehtonen is on the shelf with a groin injury. Raycroft is much more of a risk since he's 0-5, but might be worth it for one or two weeks.    
Tim Thomas: With a 1.86 GAA and .937 save percentage through 16 games, Thomas' stock is soaring. For all of the talk about resting him this season, he has actually played in one more game compared to this point last season. When Tuukka Rask does play, Thomas understands he must battle, as he has done his entire career, to earn his next start. So while it's no surprise to see him playing well once again, it is a surprise to see that he's just as valuable to poolies as he was last year.
Brian Elliott: Now that Elliott is part of a defensive-minded system, the odds of him posting shutouts and earning more wins (and starts) are on the rise. The biggest improvement to his game has been playing in a more relaxed and patient manner, so not only is his fantasy value and role improving, but so too is his consistency. Combined with the coaching change and Jaroslav Halak's leaky play, the past week has been the perfect storm for the most cost-effective ($600,000 salary) goalie in the NHL.
Cory Schneider: Two straight shutouts, four straight wins, and 117 saves on 120 shots turned the Canucks goaltending situation into one of the hottest fantasy topics last week. Alain Vingneault has a tough decision to make for his starter in Tuesday's game against Columbus, but regardless of who gets the nod, the string of starts has initiated Schneider's inevitable metamorphosis into a full-blown NHL starter.             
Pekka Rinne: No matter how elite a goalie may be, they always experience a set of surges and crashes every year. Last week was the first major crash this season for Rinne, as he's 0-3-1 in his last four games. Nashville plays four games in six days this week, and with a hefty workload possibly acting as part of his current problems, expect Anders Lindback to play one game this week to give Rinne a little bit of rest.    
Dwayne Roloson: Things have gone from bad to worse for Roloson over the past ten days. He allowed four goals on 24 shots in a 4-2 loss to the Devils back on Nov. 19, and then got lit up for six goals on just 21 shots three days later against Toronto. It's impossible to not admire his durability and work ethic, but the leash gets shorter every day as the urgency to win rises in Tampa Bay. Garon has won two in a row, allowing just two goals on 49 shots, so he could get a third consecutive start tonight against the Wild.
Ilya Bryzgalov: Since giving up three goals on nine shots in the first period of last Wednesday's game against the Islanders, Bryzgalov has been chained to the Flyers bench. Sergei Bobrovsky has played extremely well in relief, allowing just three goals in three appearances. For fantasy owners, goalies out of sight are out of mind, and this is the current situation facing Bryzgalov. The Flyers don't play again until Friday and Saturday in Anaheim and Phoenix, both of which are his former teams.   
With Kari Lehtonen on the IR, keep an eye on former Colorado College Tigers star Richard Bachman. A small-framed goalie that will remind poolies of a mix between Jhonas Enroth and Jonathan Bernier, Bachman could get a chance to prove he's NHL-caliber. Andrew Raycroft is winless in five games this season, so don't be surprised if Bachman gets a few good looks during Lehtonen's absence.


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