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In the Cage: Lessons learned this fantasy season

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.

With only two weeks left in the regular season, it's the final countdown for fantasy leagues across the globe. At this point, most poolies have either been eliminated, or are up for not-so-consolation awards. For those still in the running for a trophy, ride your horses until the bitter end, and keep an eye out for a few sleepers like Marty Turco, Dwayne Roloson, or maybe even Al Montoya and Ty Conklin.
Regardless of where your team stands, we hope you learned some valuable lessons about fantasy goaltending this season. It's not only the most important position on the ice, but it's also the most difficult to predict and manage. As such, below are a few topics we discussed this season, all of which will help you decipher future goaltending trends, and therefore make better daily fantasy decisions.


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

Not Ranked: Jonas Gustavsson, Maple Leafs (30), Niklas Backstrom, Wild (IR), Tuukka Rask (IR), Mathieu Garon, Lightning (IR)
Goalies Bolstering Roles: Some goalies have played so well this year that their fantasy value is sure to rise next season due to a bigger role and heavier workload. This list includes, but is not limited to, Cory Schneider, Devan Dubnyk, Tuukka Rask, Semyon Varlamov, and Josh Harding. Even goalies that have struggled for most of the 2011-12 campaign could be more valuable next season, like Steve Mason.  

The Sophomore Slump: Although it is considered to be a phenomenon, when it comes to NHL goalies, the sophomore slump is a very real and hazardous obstacle. James Reimer, Corey Crawford, Michal Neuvirth, and Sergei Bobrovsky are all perfect examples of goalies that failed to match or improve upon their fantasy success as rookies. Even if they play more games in their second season, very few goalies escape the clutches of the dreaded sophomore slump.

The Next Wave: Some goalies played so well in their limited action this season that they could be full-timers for the 2012-13 campaign. This list includes Braden Holtby, Richard Bachman, Ben Bishop, Jacob Markstrom, Brad Thiessen, Leland Irving, Matt Hackett, Kevin Poulin, and maybe even Dustin Tokarski, Anders Nilsson, and Robin Lehner. A lot can happen between now and next season, but these guys are either destined to stick, or will have a good chance to earn an NHL gig during 2012 training camps.

Patience is a Virtue:
If an elite goalie struggles for an extended period of time, don't give up on them. There's a reason they are considered elite in the first place, so it's usually the space between their ears that acts as the problem, and the solution, to their issues. Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Cam Ward are important lessons in patience, so keep that in mind if it happens again next season.


1. Kari Lehtonen:
By far and away Dallas' MVP this season, Lehtonen was huge in the second and third period against the Flames last Saturday afternoon. He made 29 saves in the final two periods (35 overall), and added an assist as the Stars fought hard for a 3-1 win. He's now 7-2-0 in March with a 1.73 goals-against average and .942 save percentage, stopping 88 of 94 shots in his last three games (2-1-0).      

2. Jonathan Quick:
Now that the Kings have been scoring more than three goals a game since the addition of Jeff Carter, Quick has finally been able to play a more relaxed game. His statistics aren't fantastic in March, but he has gone 7-2-0 with a 2.30 GAA and .911 SV% in March, along with a fantastic 35-save shootout shutout over the Blues last Thursday.    

3. Devan Dubnyk: Similar to his late-season run last year, Dubnyk is once against stopping pucks at a high rate to close out the 2011-12 campaign. He is 5-1-1 in his last seven games, posting a 1.66 GAA and .945 save percentage, allowing just 12 goals on 217 shots. His play should continue to trend up as he looks to prove that he's ready to be a full-time NHL goalie next season.     


1. Henrik Lundqvist: After posting at least a .929 save percentage in every month this season, March has been an alarming stretch of hockey for the King. He's just 5-4-1 with a 2.75 GAA and .888 save percentage this month, proving he has some work to do before the playoffs begin. He has allowed eight goals on his last 78 shots, and despite being 3-1-0 in his last four games, has allowed 10 goals on 100 shots (.900 save percentage).

2. Martin Brodeur: It has been so much fun seeing Marty Brodeur make those vintage two-pad stacks, desperation saves, and the flashy glove saves over the past few months. But by going 0-3-1 in his last four games, doubt is starting to creep back into his future. He has allowed 16 goals in those four games, stopping just 99 of 115 shots, good enough for just a .861 save percentage.

3. Steve Mason: Just when poolies think Mason is set to finish the regular season strong, he turns around and drops two bombs in three games. He was pulled last night after allowing five goals on 26 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Oilers, and on March 20, he allowed five goals on 27 shots in a 5-1 loss to Chicago. Sandwiched in the middle was a real solid 39-save effort in a 5-1 win against Carolina. So what kind of Mason will we see this week when Columbus plays Detroit twice, then Florida and St. Louis?  


Last Monday we gave you a heads up on Braden Holtby, a rookie that surged due to the injury of Tomas Vokoun. We suggest you keep an eye on a similar situation in Ottawa, as Ben Bishop went down with a lower-body injury on Saturday against the Penguins. It's unknown how much time Bishop will miss, but if Robin Lehner is recalled, he could provide some last-minute fantasy value in the final two weeks.

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