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In the Cage: Tight schedule adds value to backups

by Justin Goldman

Every Thursday during the season, Justin Goldman, a regional goalie scout for USA Hockey and founder of The Goalie Guild, 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 a few days before standard Yahoo Fantasy league playoffs begin (March 17), it's time to pinpoint some hidden talent that can help you squeeze more points out of your goaltending categories.

Fortunately, the condensed NHL schedule has opened the door for plenty of backups to gain some crucial fantasy points that, if earned a few months ago, would have largely gone unnoticed.

To get an idea of how jam-packed the schedule will be over the next month, look at the remaining back-to-back games. The Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins will play five sets over the next month. The Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens and the New York Islanders all have four sets remaining. The rest of the League has two or three.

Now is a great time to consider adding an Edmonton Oilers goaltender. Not only are the Oilers 8-3-2 in their past 13 games, but their schedule is not as grueling as the rest of the League. They only have two back-to-back sets remaining and they play 10 of their final 16 games at home.

Ben Scrivens
Ben Scrivens
Goalie - EDM
RECORD: 12-10-4
GAA: 2.10 | SVP: 0.934
Owned in 49 percent of Yahoo leagues, Ben Scrivens continues to be a hidden gem. He has allowed 12 goals in his past five games (3-2-0) and continues to sustain a League-best .934 save percentage. He's also 6-0-3 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in games following one day of rest. That's a key stat right now, because Edmonton plays its next four games, and its final six of the season, with one day of rest between each game.

Oilers newcomer Viktor Fasth allowed three goals in a span of 4:16 during the first period of a come-from-behind shootout win against Minnesota on Tuesday, but he settled in quickly and finished with 28 saves for the win in his first NHL appearance since Nov. 18, 2013. With the Oilers surrendering 32.6 shots per game, both goalies will get plenty of chances to play the spoiler role down the stretch.

The San Jose Sharks' Alex Stalock (14 percent ownership) is another readily-available asset. The rookie is 10-4-1 with a .932 save percentage and San Jose plays the remainder of its schedule without a single two-day break. The Sharks' only break beyond one day is a three-day break from April 6-8, so expect Stalock to earn a solid share of starts down the stretch.


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 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.
  • 1. Tuukka Rask, Bruins (same)
  • 2. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (same)
  • 3. Ben Bishop, Lightning (+1)
  • 4. Carey Price, Canadiens (-1)
  • 5. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (+3)
  • 6. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (same)
  • 7. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (-2)
  • 8. Antti Niemi, Sharks (-1)
  • 9. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (+1)
  • 10. Ryan Miller, Blues (-1)
  • 11. Jonathan Bernier, Maple Leafs (+2)
  • 12. Jonathan Quick, Kings (+2)
  • 13. Steve Mason, Flyers (-2)
  • 14. Cory Schneider, Devils (+1)
  • 15. Roberto Luongo, Panthers (+1)
  • 16. Mike Smith, Coyotes (+1)
  • 17. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (+1)
  • 18. Darcy Kuemper, Wild (+1)
  • 19. Jaroslav Halak, Capitals (+4)
  • 20. Ben Scrivens, Oilers (+2)
  • 21. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (same)
  • 22. Anton Khudobin, Hurricanes (-2)
  • 23. Pekka Rinne, Predators (NR)
  • 24. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (+1)
  • 25. Craig Anderson, Senators (-1)
  • 26. Eddie Lack, Canucks (same)
  • 27. Martin Brodeur, Devils (+1)
  • 28. Braden Holtby, Capitals (-1)
  • 29. Alex Stalock, Sharks (+1)
  • 30. Tim Thomas, Stars (NR)
*Appeared on injured list last week

Players that dropped out of previous rankings:
Evgeni Nabokov

Kari LehJosh Harding, Niklas Backstrom

Now that the Dallas Stars are without Kari Lehtonen (concussion), Tim Thomas is the most obvious waiver addition right now due to a heavy projected workload. The Stars have three more back-to-back sets remaining, but only once in the final month do they have more than one day of rest between games. With that rugged travel schedule (10 of 16 games on the road), Thomas, who is owned in 43 percent of Yahoo leagues, will have his chances to shine. He's been a subpar asset all season long, but lately he has played well, going 3-1-0 with a .929 save percentage in his past four games.

Last week, we advised you to keep an eye on rookie goalie Joni Ortio. Since then, he has gone 3-2-0 with a 2.23 GAA in his past five games for the Calgary Flames. Even with Karri Ramo returning to action soon, Ortio (seven percent ownership) should continue to earn plenty of starts down the stretch since Calgary appears to be closely evaluating the restricted free agent.

Finally, take a look at Buffalo Sabres incumbent starter Jhonas Enroth. Despite being 1-3-0 in his past four games, he has played extremely well, stopping 128 of 137 shots for a .934 save percentage. Enroth is owned in just 13 percent of Yahoo leagues and will see plenty of action down the stretch as well.

If you don't get good vibes from any of the goalies mentioned above, make a safe bet and add backups that produce a majority of quality starts on solid teams, like New York Rangers rookie Cam Talbot. Boston Bruins backup Chad Johnson, 4-0-1 in his past five games with a .918 save percentage (one shutout), is another example. He'll benefit from five more back-to-back sets in the next month (not including games Wednesday and Thursday), and he's owned in just 12 percent of Yahoo leagues.

As we've discussed all season long, this truly is the year of the backup. Plenty of goalie assets are readily available in most fantasy leagues at a time when they're expected to be well-utilized down the stretch, so don't feel rushed to make a decision, and choose your hidden weapon wisely!


Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche -- With a 4-1-0 record in his past five games, Varlamov is getting hot at the right time. He has a .936 save percentage in March and is facing an average of 34.2 shots per game.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins -- The Olympic break recharged Fleury's batteries. He's on a three-game winning streak, allowing three goals on 82 shots. That includes a brilliant 32-save shutout against the Washington Capitals.

Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Not only is Bernier 6-1-2 in his past nine games, but he's 3-0-1 in March with 130 saves on 142 shots, a .930 save percentage. His 1,501 saves ranks second in the League.


Anton Khudobin, Carolina Hurricanes -- With only two wins in his past eight appearances (2-5-0), Khudobin's stats have been regressing rapidly. He's allowed 11 goals on his past 132 shots, a .917 save percentage.

Eddie Lack, Vancouver Canucks -- Vancouver has been on a downward spiral since the trade deadline, and Lack's value is being victimized as a result. He's 2-4-0 with a 3.16 GAA and .888 save percentage this month.

Peter Budaj, Montreal Canadiens -- With Carey Price out of the lineup, four straight losses, and a .869 save percentage since the Olympic break, Budaj lost a rare opportunity to earn key fantasy value.


Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes -- With Khudobin trending down, Ward has a chance to pull off a late-season surge. A 3-1 win Tuesday against the Rangers (24 saves) was his first since Dec. 31, 2013.

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