Shots on Goal: Crystal Ball Edition
By Peter Maingot
Rather than looking back on what's transpired in the blue paint over the past seven days, we're going to look forward and provide projections on playing time and pecking order for teams that have some element of a time-share in nets. This presents a good opportunity to do an inventory on your goalie tandems and discern whether you have enough manpower to maximize your allotment of starts in goal.
Chris Mason's GAA continues to rise. That will happen when you allow eight goals in your last 51 minutes. Mason's 3.90 GAA is ugly and his.900 SV % isn't special either. Ondrej Pavelec, with a 2.38 GAA and.930 save percentage, appears to be making a move here and the landscape is shifting whereby we see a 60/40 split for Pavelec in the near term with a chance of increasing his workload even further. Wednesday's start at home to Florida is an important one for Pavelec and it's a situation worth watching closely if you're an owner of either goalie.
Tim Thomas has four shutouts in his 11 starts this season while Tuukka Rask has yet to register a win this season in four starts. Rask owners have to be realistic here, as Thomas doesn't appear to be slowing down. We foresee a 70/30 split going forward. Good news for B's fans and Thomas owners: Johnny Boychuk should be back in the lineup by the weekend, if not sooner.
Marty Turco is winning games, he's 7-5-2, but he's not helping his owners much in the other goalie categories - 2.74 GAA and.911 SV %. Turco has 15 starts to Corey Crawford's five starts (he's 2-4 with a 2.64 GAA and.908). That equates to a 75/25 split, which seems about right going forward.
Craig Anderson should be back in the Avs' lineup within 10-14 days. Once he gets comfortable in goal, Peter Budaj will revert to his start once every-other-week mode. Budaj owners need to remember that he only started 11 of 82 games last year and appeared in just 15 games overall.
Steve Mason has 10 starts to Mathieu Garon's five. While Mason is 5-5 with a 3.24 GAA and.895 SV % and Garon is 4-1 with a 1.28 GAA and 0.951 SV %, we still expect Mason to retain at least 60 percent of the starts in nets going forward.
Nikolai Khabibulin could be challenged for playing time by Devan Dubnyk soon, as the consequences of playing behind such a young group of forwards is taking its toll on the former Bulin Wall's numbers: he's 4-9-1 with a 3.97 GAA and.880 SV %. We're not even sure if Patrick Roy or Vladislav Tretiak in their primes could do much better playing goal for this Oilers team. Dubnyk has started 2 games and each resulted in OT-losses. Dubnyk has stopped 105 of 144 shot attempts resulting in a 2.99 GAA and a solid.920 SV %. While we foresee Khabibulin keeping at least 60 percent of the goalie starts going forward, avoiding all Oilers goalies may be the most prudent strategy for any contending roto squad.
Brian Elliott is a streaky player so it's not easy projecting the workload between he and Pascal Leclaire going forward. While it would appear that Elliott has at least a 65-70 percent share of the starts going forward, a two or three-game losing streak by Elliott combined with a few solid starts by Leclaire could quickly change the goalie landscape in Canada's capital.
Sergei Bobrovsky has a stranglehold on the top spot in Philly, starting 15 of the 19 Flyers games this season and amassing great stats in the process. Bobrovsky, known as "Bob" to his teammates, is now 11-3-1 with a 2.07 GAA and a.930 SV %. Former playoff hero Michael Leighton (back surgery) will return to the lineup in about two weeks and, despite Bobrovsky's impressive play thus far this season, there are a couple of reasons for cautious optimism for Leighton owners and they center around the fact that Bobrovsky has never played more than 35 games in any pro season. The 22-year-old risks running into the proverbial "rookie wall" if they overplay him. Thus Leighton will see starts and will have a chance to remind everyone in the Flyers' organization what he did last spring and how much of all that playoff revenue his great play helped bring home to the Flyers' bottom line. The team will have to identify which goalie gives them the best chance to win in the playoffs and they'll have to play that goalie down the stretch. Either way Leighton should see at least 20-25 starts on a formidable Flyers team and he makes for a solid No. 3 or 4 goalie on most roto rosters. Moreover, he's a real and soon-to-be present danger for those managers who are relying on Bobrovsky's ample playing time for a significant portion of their goalie stats.
Brent Johnson is like Cinderella and it's past midnight. Translation: Johnson's run as the top dog in Steel Town is over. Marc-Andre Fleury is 2-1 in his last three starts and MAF will make his fourth consecutive start for the Penguins Wednesday night. He's 2-0-1 over his last three with a GAA under two as he's stopped 68 of his last 74 shots over 184 minutes of play. Going forward we like Fleury to own a 70 percent share of the goalie starts over Johnson's 30 percent share.
Current and prevailing No. 1 goalie Antero Niittymaki has had 10 starts while Antti Niemi has had six starts. Niitty is an impressive 7-1-2 with a 1.91 GAA and.930 SV %. Niemi has a 2-4 record with a 3.73 GAA and.880 SV %. We see this as a 60/40 split, with Niemi's floor at 25 percent and his ceiling 40 percent barring an injury or major slump to Niitty. Wednesday night in Colorado will be a tough test for Niittymaki as the Sharks are likely playing without both Douglas Murray and Nicolas Wallin on defense while their opposition is third in the league in goals scored with 58.
Dan Ellis and Mike Smith are in a very fluid time-share situation, as neither goalie has a big pedigree as a successful proven NHL netminder. Ellis, with a 2.53 GAA and.900 SV %, has started nine games. Smith, with a 3.62 GAA and.870 SV %, has started eight games. They each have four wins. Ellis starts Wednesday but he's 0-2 in his last two starts with a 4.00 GAA. We foresee a 55/45 split in favor of Ellis but advise extreme caution if you're thinking about relying on either goaltender as anything more than a possible No. 3 or No. 4 roto goalie.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere has started 12 of the Leafs' 17 games this season. However, JSG tweaked his groin and had to leave his last game meaning Jonas Gustavsson should see more starts in the near term. In fact, Giguere will be out one to two weeks with a groin strain. They both share a losing record, a.900 SV %, and a GAA above 2.77. Thus you have to ask yourself, "do I really want a piece of this action?" The Leafs' early start to the season was an aberration and they are who we thought they'd be, namely a terrible hockey team with a dearth of talented forwards. Speaking of aberration the Leafs' five-goal outburst on Tuesday was only the fourth time in their last 14 games that they managed to score three or more goals in a game.
Michal Neuvirth has started 15 of the Caps' first 18 games. At some point he'll need a little rest. At some point they'll have to decide if they think he's the man between the pipes come playoff time. As such, we can expect Sergei Varlamov to play at least once a week upon his return. Assuming the young Russian can stay healthy, Varlamov should get a chance to re-establish himself as a guy that the team can count on should anything happen to Neuvirth. Looking forward we see a 60/40 split in favor of Neuvirth, as the Caps don't want to risk burning out the two-time Calder Cup winner before springtime.
Yahoo! Friends & Family Update:
We currently sit in second place in the 12-team league with the standard nine statistical categories, four of which are devoted exclusively to goaltenders. Drafting Michael Neuvirth, Tim Thomas and Michael Leighton between rounds 11 to 16 has proven most beneficial, as has trading Craig Anderson and Tomas Vanek at the beginning of the season for Henrik Lundqvist. This gave me five goalies; two more than virtually every other team. After stashing Leighton on IR I still had four active goalies, all from promising teams - Lundqvist, Anterro Niittymaki, Neuvirth, and Thomas.
As the season progressed I knew I was going to have to move a goalie before I activated Leighton. Injuries at center (both Lecavalier and Oshie went down) created a stronger sense of urgency. My priority was to secure a 30-goal scorer type of forward who would also accrue penalty minutes. Initially I went after Bobby Ryan, offering Niittymaki (who had quickly established his dominance over Niemi) along with Mason Raymond for the young power forward. Ryan's owner was adamant about not trading him but, as a Niemi owner, he remained quite interested in securing the Sharks' No. 1 goalie. His problem, though, was that he failed to recognize the true value of a starting goalie on a great team. He even declined to take Niittymaki and Kubina for Frolov and Wideman. All he had to do was give me a slight upgrade at defenseman (our league starts five of them) and Niittymaki was his. Moreover, Frolov wasn't even going to give me PIMs. Thankfully, he declined the two-for-two offer. Another owner was loaded at center (Stamkos, Thorton, Spezza) but had major needs everywhere else. I offered various packages (each one including Niittymaki or Neuvirth plus useful players like John-Michael Liles, Raymond and/or Niklas Bergfors) but the owner was not quick to respond and seemed unrealistic about the players' values.
I thought I had exhausted all avenues then I examined one last possibility and it was the perfect storm. The owner had punted goalies on our draft day and had Marty Turco as his No. 1 fantasy goalie. He was getting by thanks to market timing: he had grabbed Brent Johnson from our league's free-agent pool just as he was getting hot, he had snapped up Jean-Sebastien Giguere as an FA just as the Leafs were winning games early in the season, and he had picked up Johan Hedberg when Martin Brodeur was hurt. All of these market-timing moves had taken a turn for the worse: Johnson's 15 minutes of fantasy fame were evaporating with Fleury playing three straight games (all of which were quality starts), the Leafs had fallen back down to Earth thereby establishing themselves as the lousy team that we always thought they were while the goals against was rising with the protracted loss of Dion Phaneuf, and Brodeur's return to full health had rendered Hedberg essentially useless fantasy-wise. The owner was loaded at right wing, enjoying both Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux among others. I identified Briere as a player who could deliver both goals and a decent amount of penalty minutes. I also went for a slight upgrade on defense while sacrificing a young right winger who, though he was playing well, was among the least penalized players in the NHL over the past 82 games (check stats). The owner in question accepted my offer of Neuvirth, Kubina and Bergfors for Briere and Jovanovski. The fact that I was able to keep Niittymaki yet obtain Briere was very much to my liking. Moreover the addition of Jovanovski should deliver slightly better power-play points and a healthier plus-minus defensive rating, as the expectation is that the Coyotes will improve upon their dreary start to the season. The 3-for-2 also opens up a roster spot to use on a center, as my team is down to just Ryan Getzlaf and Logan Couture (with Vincent Lecavalier on IR) after I dropped Nikolai Antropov (playing 12 minutes and still recovering from off-season hip surgery - he was slow to begin with!) for Johnny Boychuk (six points in 12 games before a Ranger slash broke a bone in his arm on Oct. 23), who should provide decent penalty minutes and some power-play points in addition to a healthy plus-minus playing alongside Zdeno Chara.
The next plan is to try to shop Liles for a center, though it's hard to get deals done when you've been in the top three of the standings for the better part of the past month. I am not down on Liles but I could use a center. Moreover, my other D-men, except my No.1 D-man Lubomir Visnovsky and perhaps my No. 2 guy Ryan Whitney (the Oilers' leading scorer), have less value currently than Liles and all of them provide more PIMs than Liles. Failing that, I may just play the matchups and stream centers until Lecavalier gets healthy.