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In the Cage: Midseason mysteries

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 the official midpoint of the regular season here,'s fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will release his updated top-175 overall fantasy rankings on Tuesday, with a breakdown of the top-50 players to come on Wednesday.

Since Monday is the official midpoint of the regular season, we think this is a perfect chance to discuss six mysterious situations (in no particular order) facing poolies in the second half. These unknown elements of NHL goaltending could make or break your playoff run over the next two months, so keep an eye on these developing situations as you jockey for positioning in all of your fantasy leagues!


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.
Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Jonas Hiller, Ducks; Curtis Sanford, Blue Jackets

Players on IR: Jose Theodore, Panthers
1. Marc-Andre Fleury's fate: Despite earning 19 wins in the first half, what should poolies make of the mystery surrounding the latest onslaught of injuries to his teammates? Furthermore, one stat that raises concern is the number of games in which he has allowed three goals. In his last 23 starts, this has happened an alarming 14 times, yet he still has a solid 2.31 goals-against average. We also point out that his worst month historically is February, where he holds a 3.16 GAA and .897 save percentage in 49 career games. If Fleury's second half is to be an improvement, he has to hit "playoff-mode" right now.

2. Reaching the 40-win plateau:
With so many backups playing so many games in the first half, what should poolies make of the mystery surrounding the elusive 40-win mark? Since the 2006 season, very few goalies have put together seasons of such high caliber, but with Jimmy Howard clearly leading the way with 24 wins in 35 games, he appears to be a shoo-in. Stranger things have happened in the second half, however, and burnout could be a factor if Detroit doesn't give Ty Conklin some starts down the stretch. Pekka Rinne (20 wins in 37), Fleury (19 in 33), Henrik Lundqvist (18 in 29), Jonathan Quick (18 in 35), and Antti Niemi (18 in 30) could all push for 40 wins as well.

3. Tampa's terrible goaltending:
Sooner or later, something has to give. Despite plenty of practice time, Dwayne Roloson doesn't seem to be getting any better (6-9-1 with a 3.76 GAA and .881 save percentage). Mathieu Garon isn't providing enough consistency to make him anything more than a third goalie for poolies, either. So how will this mystery be solved? Is Roloson traded? Could top AHL prospect Dustin Tokarski get a chance to prove his worth? Will Steve Yzerman acquire a long-term solution like Cory Schneider or Jonathan Bernier? So many things could happen here, but only time will tell. If you ask us, we won't be surprised if the unlikely transpires and Roloson finds one last burst of energy late in the regular season.

4. The pending trade deadline: Poolies will be on high alert for the upcoming trade deadline (on Feb. 27), as it's always a big mystery in the goaltending department. What teams will look to bolster their talent or depth in goal heading into the playoff push? We already know Tampa Bay is starving for some timely saves, but Anaheim, Columbus and Toronto could look to upgrade their tandems as well. The Sharks have a glut of goalies now that Antero Niittymaki is finally healthy again, and there's always the ongoing saga of Evgeni Nabokov as well. Aside from a few goalies that have bloated, long-term contracts, not too many goalies are considered "untouchable" right now, so let the trading games begin.

5. The second-half hidden gem: Last year, James Reimer came out of nowhere in January and shocked poolies everywhere by posting a .921 save percentage in 37 games. In the first half of this season, Richard Bachman was the hidden gem, as he stepped up during Kari Lehtonen's groin injury and not only won a string of starts, but overthrew Andrew Raycroft for the backup role. So who will be the hidden gem in the second half? Could it be Iiro Tarkki for the Ducks? What about Jacob Markstrom for the Panthers? Don't lose sight of Kevin Poulin, who has three straight shutouts in Bridgeport to kick off 2012, or forget that Mark Dekanich is destined to get his well-deserved chance in Columbus as well.

6. Changing of the guards: Every season, it seems like one or two goalies entangled in a 1A-1B tandem eventually reverse their roles. It happened a few seasons ago with Boston's unbeatable duo of Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, and we feel there are solid odds that it could happen again in the second half. Rask hit another gear in December (0.75 GAA in six games), and even though Thomas is still stopping a ton of pucks (.946 save percentage in December), the next two months could see Rask reach a level of play we've never seen before. It's a mystery in St. Louis as well, as both Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak are splitting games right down the middle. We won't be surprised if both guys end up playing 41 games each. Finally, Devan Dubnyk has started to earn a few more starts in Edmonton (1-4-0 in December), so he's a candidate for a role-reversal with Nikolai Khabibulin (2-5-0 in December)..


With Jonas Hiller suffering a lower-body injury Sunday night (considered day-to-day), Iiro Tarkki was thrown into the game and came out on top with a win in his NHL debut. Dan Ellis is already on the shelf for the next month due to another groin injury, so it looks like Tarkki will get a few more starts during his stay. Keep an eye on Mark Dekanich as well; he won his debut in Springfield (5-4 shootout win) last Saturday night, and should earn a chance with Columbus, which now has a new head coach in Todd Richards. .
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