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Thomas continues to surge; Brodeur still on radar

by Matt Cubeta /
The last time we re-ranked our goaltenders was back on Nov. 2, with Henrik Lundqvist at the top spot and Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick surging into our top-10. Things have definitely changed since then, as you'll see in our new and updated goalie rankings in today's Fantasy Five. However, before we get into the new ranks, let's talk about one of the more intriguing stories in all of fantasy hockey this season: Martin Brodeur.

1. Ready to turn a corner?

Prior to the season we ranked Brodeur as our top goalie. Many people clearly disagreed with us, and yes, we were off on that prediction. But can you really blame us for giving him that honor in preseason? The guy has been the best goalie in just about every season of his career, including his 2009-10 season at the age of 37 when he posted a 45-win season with a 2.24 GAA and a .916 save percentage. How was anyone supposed to know he was going to have this bump in the road at age 38? Marty is like New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera -- you have to keep plugging him in at the No. 1 spot in their position until they prove you wrong. Maybe Marty has proved us wrong this year and he'll be dethroned come the 2011-12 season.

Of course we all know about Marty's struggles this season -- from his sluggish start to his elbow injury -- but perhaps he is ready to turn the corner and regain that Hall of Fame caliber play. Brodeur put together arguably his best outing of the season -- a 29-save shutout against the Phoenix Coyotes -- on Wednesday night. One start certainly doesn't make this a successful season for the New Jersey netminder, but we need to have faith that he can turn things around. Obviously he'll need much better support in front of him from the rest of his teammates, but never count out Marty -- he is capable of putting a team on his back and going on a mega-hot streak, and we still believe it can happen.

2. Updated goalie rankings

These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is based on our most recent rankings from Nov. 2, NOT our preseason ranks. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings.)

Cam Ward (+4)

Goalies who dropped out of last segment's top-25: Marty Turco, Michal Neuvirth, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Brent Johnson, Dan Ellis

3. Trending Upward

Tim Thomas -- Sporting a 14-2-3 record and ranking first in the League in save percentage and goals-against average, was there really any other choice for the top spot? It won't be easy for Thomas to continue to put up these sparkling numbers, but he did have an outstanding season two years ago when he won the Vezina Trophy, so we have faith that this season is legit.

Marc-Andre Fleury -- As expected, Fleury has officially regained control of the Penguins' No. 1 gig from Brent Johnson. He was arguably the biggest factor for Pittsburgh during its 12-game winning streak -- he allowed less than two goals against in 10 of his 11 starts during the streak. Start him with confidence.

Corey Crawford -- Sure Crawford has lost his last three starts, but before the cold streak, Crawford was as hot as any goalie, winning seven straight starts for the Blackhawks. While his .909 save percentage isn't anything special, taking over the top spot as Chicago's No. 1 goalie is. Crawford could turn out to be last season's Antti Niemi, so make sure you have him in there every time he takes the ice.

4. Trending Downward

Jimmy Howard -- Howard dropped three spots in the ranks because of other goalies performing better, not because he was struggling. Howard could easily crack the top-5 in our next edition of rankings, but for now he's on the outside. The Detroit keeper is currently tied for the League-lead in wins with 17, but has surrendered five goals in two of his last five starts. He is the starting goaltender for one of the League's best teams so he'll continue to put up solid numbers, but remember, this is just his second full season in the NHL, so some struggles could be expected.

Miikka Kiprusoff -- Usually a consistent performer year-to-year, Kipper has really struggled this season for the Flames. He leads the NHL with 14 losses and has a very subpar 2.73 GAA to go along with a .909 save percentage. While he'll continue to start the majority of games for Calgary, it's hard to rely on him as a No. 1 fantasy netminder like we're used to.

Niklas Backstrom -- After getting off to a tremendous start in Minnesota (two goals or less in 11 of his first 14 games), Backstrom has really gone ice cold in his last six performances. He is currently giving away playing time to Wild backup Jose Theodore, and it's possible Theodore ends up taking over the starting job. Backstrom is the superior netminder, so we believe he'll eventually retake his No. 1 status, but the fact that it's in jeopardy is never a good sign.

5. Player to Keep an Eye On

Philadelphia's playoff hero from last season is finally back. Goaltender Michael Leighton was activated from injured reserve on Tuesday and could find himself between the pipes as early as Saturday afternoon against the Rangers. With Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher both playing so well this season, the Flyers decided to just add Leighton to the mix and they will carry all three netminders for the time being. This doesn't happen too often, but head coach Peter Laviolette has decided to see where the three-headed monster will take him.

Leighton finished last season with a 17-9-2 record, 2.83 GAA, .905 save percentage and one shutout in 34 games before turning it on in the playoffs, where he went 8-3-0 with a 2.46 GAA, .916 save percentage and three shutouts in 14 contests. Leighton doesn't carry too much fantasy value just yet, but if you're an owner of Bobrovsky, it would be smart to handcuff yourself with Leighton, just in case he ends up stealing significant playing time.

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