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In the Cage: Stay patient with your picks

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.

Even though we're only five days into the new season, it's never too early to assess your fantasy goalies, so if there's one piece of advice we can give you for this week, it would be to stay patient with your picks. It's easy to overreact after a starter gets shelled in their first game, but it's wise to give these guys a chance to bounce back. Let them shake off the rust, get into a rhythm and get comfortable in their new surroundings.

If things went terribly wrong for you in the shortened fantasy week, don't despair and show no fear. Stay the course you started down and trust your choices. If you drafted Craig Anderson, it's easy to discard him after two rough outings, but your patience could pay off in the long run. If you drafted Jose Theodore, temper your excitement and realize he's not going to pitch a shutout every night. If you drafted Tim Thomas, don't lose sight of the fact that, despite two strong outings to start the season, Tuukka Rask is still being penciled in to play much more this year.

When it comes to goaltending at the NHL level, patience with your picks might be the most important lesson you learn all year. Regardless of whether your goalies are elite or fringe backups, things change quickly. A goalie's confidence can be gained with a single glove save or destroyed with a single missed poke check. Don't do anything drastic this early in the season, and try not to second-guess yourself until you have a good sample-size to work with. One or two games reveals a lot, but not enough to go out and drop true starters or goalies that could have an elevated role or value in the season's second half.


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 preseason (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. An injured goalie (Niemi) that has yet to play this season will be ranked lower than their true value due to our inability to gauge their performance.
Players that dropped out of our previous rankings: Steve Mason, Rick DiPietro, Mike Smith, Nikolai Khabibulin

Kari Lehtonen: Heading into the regular season, everyone expected Lehtonen to struggle under Dallas' feeble defense. But because he's even more durable and confident than ever before, it was clear in the season opener that he's capable of single-handedly winning games for the Stars. His active mindset and meticulous practice habits will help him stop way more pucks than most poolies expect. He made 37 saves on 38 shots last Friday night against the Blackhawks and allowed the only goal with less than 15 seconds left in the game.

Devan Dubnyk: In our first fantasy goalie piece this season, we mentioned Dubnyk as being one of five "under the radar" goalies you'll want to keep an eye on. After stopping 33-of-34 shots in a 2-1 shootout win over the Penguins on Sunday night, it's safe to say he's quickly maturing right before our eyes. Owned in 88-percen of Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey leagues, there's a rapidly-growing sentiment that Dubnyk will earn the role of a true NHL starter. He played a patient game against the Penguins, displayed a lot of confidence and is destined to get more goal support than he got last season.

Jose Theodore: After an unimpressive exhibition season, things were looking bleak in Florida before the season had even started. But with a 2-0 shutout in his Panthers debut (27 saves), Theodore's veteran savvy and poise helped him instill confidence in his teammates and coaching staff virtually overnight. For a goalie that has been through a plethora of personal ups and downs over the past two years, Theodore has the poise and perseverance to continue playing well for the Panthers.


Craig Anderson: After the Senators acquired Anderson from the Colorado Avalanche last season, the native from Illinois went on a late-season tear that probably took some of your fantasy teams deep into the playoffs. With that reputation resonating throughout the summer and preseason weeks, most poolies expected him to pick up right where he left off. This clearly wasn't the case, as an opening night loss to Detroit was doubled by another frustrating outing against the Maple Leafs. Through two games, Anderson (0-1) has a bloated 5.41 GAA and .857 SP%, stopping just 54-of-63 shots through his first 100 minutes of play this season. We preach patience if you own Anderson, but it will take some time for the defense to tighten up around him.

Mike Smith: Giving up six goals was a rough way to begin the season for Smitty, but that's not the only reason he's trending downward. Part of it has to do with the fact Phoenix is simply not a strong team in either zone. Smith faced 52 shots against the Sharks, and he actually played extremely well in the third period, which was a great sign of his ability to battle. But Jason LaBarbera, who is more comfortable playing behind this Coyotes team, has nothing to lose and lots of games to gain. So it's not just the six goals Smith allowed, but it's also the fact that we might see LaBarbera sooner rather than later.

Steve Mason: One of Mason's biggest issues in his short NHL career has been his ability to play up to his potential on a consistent basis. For whatever reason, he's always giving up one or two goals a game that would normally be stopped if he was just a little more prepared, a little more square, and a little more alert. He also historically gives up a lot of goals in the first few minutes of games and periods, a sign he might not have the preparation needed to be a consistent puck-stopper. Through his first two games, Mason (0-2-0) has a 4.25 GAA and .870 SP%, stopping just 47-of-53 shots.


Another one of our five "Under-the-Radar" goalies last week was German goaltender Thomas Greiss. We felt he was a perfect fit for that list due to his rough season in Sweden, as that led many poolies to believe he was destined to struggle in the NHL. But after gaining even more confidence in the 6-3 win over Phoenix, the odds are high that Greiss will play in his fair share of games in the first half. Antti Niemi's knee is still keeping him out of the lineup, and he's traditionally a slow starter. Furthermore, Greiss hasn't lost a game yet (he was a perfect 4-0 in the preseason) this year and he's on a stacked team, so it's time to monitor Thomas even closer than before. 

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