Shots on Goal: Musical Goalies
by Peter Maingot, RotoWire Writer
The New Year has brought about a game of musical goalies in several cities. Let's take a closer look at what's happening among those teams that are actively employing more than one goalie on a regular basis these days...
Chris Mason, who has not started a game since Dec. 31, has posted a save percentage below .900 in six of his last eight starts. Mason has but one win in his last six starts and received only four starts in December. Meanwhile Ondrej Pavelec is 8-3-2 since Dec. 4. Pavelec has started 14 of the last 18 games for Atlanta and boasts an impressive 2.14 GAA and .936 SV % for the season.
The Tim Thomas vs. Tuukka Rask battle for goalie supremacy in Boston has been a blowout win for Thomas owners for most of the 2010-11 campaign (Thomas has 27 starts, Rask has 11 starts) but there may be cause for concern for Thomas owners going forward as the Bruins will likely look to reduce the wear and tear on the 36-year-old Thomas' workload to keep him relatively fresh for the playoffs. With 44 games left we wouldn't be surprised to see a 27/17 split in favor of Thomas.
Marty Turco has 23 starts thus far to Corey Crawford's 19 starts. However, Crawford has 15 starts since Nov. 14 and he's 11-2-2 in those starts. Since Nov. 14 Turco has had just eight starts and he's posted a record of 2-5 in those games. The other game Turco started he was pulled after allowing four goals in 21 minutes yet Crawford was tagged with the loss. Turco has allowed three goals or more in six of his last seven starts while Crawford has only allowed three goals or more in five of his last 16 starts. The tide has turned decidedly against Turco in favor of Crawford. We foresee a 65/35 split going forward.
While some pundits think Peter Budaj will start pushing Craig Anderson for starts, coach Joe Sacco insists that Anderson is still the team's No. 1 goalie and we'd vehemently agree. On the surface their stats are pretty even on the season. Budaj has a 10-6-3 record with a 3.03 goals-against average and .899 save percentage while Anderson is 11-8-2 with a 3.13 average and .901 save percentage. A closer examination shows us that Budaj has allowed three or more goals in each if his last 11 starts while Anderson has allowed three goals or more in seven of his last 11 starts. Neither goalie is going to win your league unless you're deploying them as a No. 3 at best.
Amazingly, No. 2 center and 16-goal scorer (thus far) Matt Duchene will only turn 20 on Jan. 16. He's gone from a 55-point rookie to now playing at an 82-point clip (40 points in 40 games). Totally off topic but he would've looked good in red playing for Canada last night in Buffalo, as would have Evander Kane or Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin or Jeff Skinner. Okay, we're officially over it.
The Blue Jackets are floundering lately, going 4-6 in their last 10 games and being outscored 30-25 in the process. Former top-four D-man Mike Commodore has demanded to be traded after being a healthy scratch for the past four games. You have to be really hurting to not be able to crack Columbus' top six on defense. Worse news for owners of either goalie Mathieu Garon (2-6-2 since Dec. 2) or goalie Steve Mason (4-3 since Dec. 2) is that checking forward Ethan Moreau is probably headed to injured reserve after suffering a rib cartilage injury in his last game. Moreau forms a key part of an effective checking line with Sami Pahlsson. Mason has won three of his last four, though the wins came against league doormats Toronto, Ottawa, and Minnesota. While Garon holds a 10-7 edge in starts since Dec. 2, we expect Mason to own at least a 50-percent share going forward. Neither goalie is serviceable as anything more than a No. 3 guy for any contending roto squad.
Nikolai Khabibulin is 0-5 in his last five starts with a 3.00 GAA. That's after going 4-1-1 in his six starts prior to that. This a very young Oilers team and one cannot expect steady production from any Oilers goalie this season so don't get too excited about the fact that Devan Dubnyk is 1-1-2 in his last four starts with a 2.49 GAA. Ales Hemsky is back in the lineup after a four-week absence but No. 1 center Shawn Horcoff (MCL) is out until the middle of February. Thankfully rookie forward Jordan Eberle (ankle) is just day-to-day after what looked like a much worse injury when Calgary forward Ales Kotalik fell on him and Eberle landed awkwardly bending his leg and ankle backwards like Gumby. If you own rookie Magnus Paajarvi now is the time to use him, as he's been elevated to first-line action now with Hemsky and Sam Gagner.
Times have certainly changed. For one thing the Devils are essentially out of the playoffs after just 40 games played and for another Martin Brodeur doesn't seem to mind relinquishing some starts to Johan Hedberg. With the Devils 10-27-2 on the season do you really want a piece of this goalie action? They are 1-4 in their last five games with a 3.60 GAA. I actually dropped Brodeur in one league. Times have truly changed in New Jersey.
Dwayne Roloson has been traded and Nathan Lawson has performed admirably in two starts since his call up. Lawson has stopped 60 of 64 shots in 99 minutes of play for a 2.42 GAA and .938 SV%. Lawson may get the start on Thursday at Edmonton depending on the status of Rick DiPietro (groin strain). Don't fall down or pass out but the Isles have won seven of nine after losing 21 of 22. Truth is truly stranger than fiction.
Brian Elliott, with just two wins in 11 starts since Nov. 27, was pulled in his last start after just 16 minutes and only seven shots against the non-powerhouse Leafs. Pascal Leclaire is considered just day-to-day though he's missed the last six games. The Sens are in free fall, playing without No.1 center Jason Spezza for at least another month and getting a horrible return on investment from Sergei Gonchar (minus-20 in 40 games) and Alex Kovalev (18 points in 40 games). Even Daniel Alfredsson is a minus-10 and playing at a 49-point clip. It would seem prudent to stay away from the Ottawa goalie situation until both Spezza and Leclaire return to active duty.
The Flyers have decided to cut bait on Michael Leighton after giving him just one start, a 7-4 win over the Kings where he posted a save percentage below .900. Still, it seems a bit strange that they would unload him after just one start. He must have looked pitiful in practice. While Leighton has cleared waivers and been sent down to Adirondack, the AHL's worst team, we don't see him playing a significant role for the Flyers anymore. Leighton may not clear re-entry waivers and could be picked up by another team at 50% of his salary. Even if Leighton were to be claimed by another team, it would be for inexpensive insurance on their current starter. It's hard to blame the salary cap on this move because Chris Pronger's $4.9 million cap hit is currently off the books until he's back in mid-February. In fact upon further review, thanks to capgeek.com, one can see that the Flyers are currently $1,448,746 under the cap.
So what gives? Do the Flyers really intend to put their playoff fate into the hands of a Russian rookie 22-year-old named Sergei Bobrovsky, who's already apparently hit the rookie wall after 25 starts? Bob is just 3-3-2 in his last eight starts, dating back to Nov. 26, with a 3.12 GAA. If not Bob then do the Flyers really think that the 34-year-old journeyman Brian Boucher will deliver them the Cup? Really? We know he looked great at Detroit the other night stopping 25 of 27 shots in the Flyers' 3-2 win but really? Brian Boucher? We are strong believers that the Flyers will make a run at a veteran goalie by Feb. 28 – the NHL trade deadline. Florida stalwart Tomas Vokoun, an impending UFA, seems the most likely candidate though Jean-Sebastien Giguere or others could emerge.
Antti Niemi is now No. 1 for the Sharks and they seem determined to give him at least a 60-percent share of the goalie load in preparation for what they hope to be a protracted playoff run. It makes perfect sense if you're a Sharks fan, as Niemi won the Cup last June as Chicago's starter while Antero Niittymaki hasn't shown he can deliver in the clutch since he won Olympics MVP for silver medalist Team Finland at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
What a difference 24 hours makes. On Tuesday new acquisition Dwayne Roloson shuts out Washington in a thrilling 1-0 OT win. The next night the Lightning get scorched 8-1 at Pittsburgh. Somewhere between the two performances lies what we can realistically expect from Roloson as Tampa Bay's new No. 1 goalie. The Bolts are rolling three scoring lines now: Malone-Stamkos-St. Louis, Gagne-Lecavalier-Bergenheim, Downie-Moore-Purcell. This level of skill and depth should help Roloson pile up wins though don't expect his GAA to dip below around 2.65. The addition of Marc-Andre Bergeron will be mixed blessings for Roloson, as he's great on the power play but a clear liability at even strength. With "Rollie the goalie" now firmly entrenched as the top goalie in T-Bay it remains to be seen who stays between Dan Ellis and Mike Smith. With Smith (knee) out until mid-January the Bolts have another week-to-10 days to think about it. Contending roto players shouldn't be staying up late wondering about it.
Jonas Gustavsson was a miserable 2-7 in December. He's only won five games in 19 starts all season. If you add a 3.04 GAA and .897 save percentage it adds up to very little in the way of helpful activity for any fantasy hockey team. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Leafs goalie who's actually achieved meaningful things in the NHL, should be back in the lineup within 10 days. The team is playing it safe with his groin injury, for the man is 33 years old and has played in 562 NHL games including the playoffs. Moreover he may be trade bait in the upcoming weeks. While James Reimer has posted a 1-1 record with an impressive 1.35 GAA and .960 SV % so far it's far too early to anoint the 22-year-old Winnipeg native as any sort of savior.
Michal Neuvirth, who started 15 of the Caps' first 18 games, has not played since Dec. 23. While Neuvirth is just 2-3-3 in his past eight starts, he only allowed an average of 2.63 goals each game. Basically, Neuvirth had the unfortunate luck to be the main goalie during the Caps' December swoon. Before the 2-3-3 run Neuvirth had won six of seven starts yet allowed three goals or more in five of the seven games. Meanwhile Semyon Varlamov has not allowed more than two goals in a game in his last five starts. Moreover, he's allowed less than three goals in 9 of his last 12 starts dating back to Nov. 24. Varlamov's 2.09 GAA and .928 SV % have him clearly in the driver's seat at this point.