This article is part of our Crashing the Crease series.
We've officially hit the stretch run, with March right around the corner and 24 or fewer games left for everyone but the Hurricanes. Teams are still jockeying for position in the standings, but those at the very top have the luxury of providing their starting netminders a bit more rest down the stretch by giving their backups increased work. The cream of the crop consists of nine contenders, all of which sit at least nine points clear of the top non-playoff teams in their respective conferences. All nine have backup goaltenders more than capable of beating inferior opponents, but it's still useful to know just how much they can be trusted as the fantasy season winds down.
The Atlantic division consists of a bunched-up group of mediocre teams, but the Metropolitan's top four teams all sit comfortably in playoff position. While the four will continue to jostle for seeding, it's important to remember that the top Wild Card will actually have an easier path to the Conference finals than a third seed that has to stay in the Metropolitan bracket. The Capitals, Penguins, Blue Jackets and Rangers will therefore all be incentivized to throw their backups some bones.
Washington's dominance makes Philipp Grubauer a strong option every time he's called upon, as evidenced by the 25-year-old's 10-4-2 record, 1.98 GAA and .932 save percentage. He could get a significant workload should the Capitals wrap up the Presidents' Trophy with time to spare, especially if Braden Holtby's quest for a