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In the Cage: The Toronto goalie quandary

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.

Poolies are facing quite the quandary with three Maple Leafs goalies right now. James Reimer is out for the foreseeable future due to his curious whiplash injury. Jonas Gustavsson is 3-2 in his last five games, but has a weak 3.68 goals-against average and .880 save percentage. Ben Scrivens won his NHL debut, but quickly went from hero to zero when the Bruins lit him up on Hockey Night in Canada.

Even though Toronto has excelled through October, our advice is to stay away from the goalies. There's simply not a lot of positive energy surrounding their fantasy value right now. Nobody knows how much time Reimer will miss, and while Gustavsson is expected to carry the workload this week, even if the Leafs right the ship quickly after being blown out at home, he's still not posting quality stats. 

Scrivens has terrific long-term upside, but won't be tossed into any more situations where he's likely to fail. Most NHL general managers and head coaches don't want to over-expose their prized prospects, unless they absolutely have to. This is a big reason why Chicago signed Ray Emery, why Washington signed Tomas Vokoun, why St. Louis signed Brian Elliott, and why Florida prospect Jacob Markstrom has been returned to San Antonio of the AHL in exchange for a healthy Scott Clemmensen.

Furthermore, the Leafs don't have an easy schedule over the next two weeks, either. They play Florida, in St. Louis, Ottawa, in Phoenix, in Nashville, and then home against Washington. So until Reimer is healthy and back in the win column again, you're probably better off staying away from all three.  



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 our previous rankings: None
Tim Thomas -- On Saturday night against Toronto, Thomas showcased a new Movember mask and new leg pads. Goalies almost always play with more swagger when they rock new gear, and Thomas was no exception. Behind 24 sharp saves, he cruised to a 7-0 win and earned his first shutout of the season. More importantly, the total team effort was a sign the Bruins are starting to synch up. While Tuukka Rask will start tonight against the Islanders, look for Thomas to be back in goal on Thursday against Edmonton.    

Martin Brodeur -- Whether it was rust or soreness, Brodeur's weak effort in his first game back from a shoulder injury led many poolies to believe he's running on fumes. But on Saturday against Winnipeg, he looked more like the Brodeur of old, stopping 21 shots in a 3-2 OT win. Remember, his injury was the shoulder, not his legs, so his skating and traditional half-butterfly style isn't the issue. Expected to start against Carolina on Tuesday, Brodeur has historically dominated this team. In his career, he has a 35-14-6 record with a 2.07 GAA, a .918 save percentage and eight shutouts against the Hurricanes.  

Carey Price -- Despite giving up four goals on 28 shots in a 5-3 loss to the Rangers last Saturday night, Price has played extremely well over the past two weeks. Before the loss, he was 4-0 and had only allowed five goals in those games, stopping 109 of 114 total shots. It was curious that Price started back-to-back games over the weekend, but that just goes to show poolies how much fantasy value he holds. By starting 12 of Montreal's 13 games, he could easily play in 70-72 total games this season.      


Semyon Varlamov -- Colorado's chaotic 7-6 OT loss in Dallas last Friday night was every goalie's worst nightmare. Not only did Varlamov give up seven goals on 29 shots, but he was timid; he didn't battle hard for loose pucks and he struggled to control rebounds. On home ice, the Avalanche are lacking energy and consistency, so he's not getting much support right now. He might also be forced to try and slow down a rejuvenated Red Wings team on Tuesday. Just 1-5 at Pepsi Center, eight of Colorado's next 11 games are at home, so the odds seemed stacked against Varlamov's fantasy value right now.  

Tomas Vokoun -- Wise poolies recognize the signs of when long-term success is destined to end. One way to do this is by realizing that, with NHL goalies, for every action, there is a reaction. With that in mind, don't be surprised that Vokoun's value has declined since Michal Neuvirth returned from injury. It started on Oct. 29 in Vancouver -- Vokoun was pulled after allowing three goals on 17 shots-- then ended last Saturday with a 5-3 loss (30 saves on 34 shots) against the Islanders. So Neuvirth will not only earn some playing time this week, but Vokoun could struggle with his consistency as a result.

Antti Niemi -- After winning four straight games on the road, Niemi was spooked by the Rangers on Halloween, allowing five goals on 31 shots. Then he was yanked just 2:04 into a home game against the Penguins, one in which he simply appeared inattentive and unprepared. Known for being a strong bounce-back goalie, he failed to live up to that reputation when Nashville beat him four times on 35 shots in a 4-3 OT loss on Saturday night. Moving forward, the Sharks host the Kings tonight, the Wild on Thursday, and then the Coyotes on Saturday before they finally get a four-day break.           


Scott Clemmensen -- In the goalie fraternity, there's an unwritten rule that states no goalie should lose their job due to an injury. And that's just the case for Florida, who sent their talented, rookie goalie Jacob Markstrom back to San Antonio in exchange for veteran goalie Scott Clemmensen. Feeling the heat to perform at his best, Clemmensen is a savvy veteran goalie that could quickly turn into a solid fantasy value with one or two strong games.   
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