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Shots on Goal: Necessary Evil

Peter Maingot

Peter has been covering fantasy sports for Rotowire for over 10 years. He's covered hockey, football and basketball over the past decade but now focuses strictly on the frozen game. From the Great White North, Peter is a strong proponent of physical, up tempo hockey.

Owning backup goalies is a necessary evil for managers who prefer to stock up on elite forwards and 50-point potential defensemen early on in drafts and ignore/refuse to give in to goalie runs. The expectation for owning a backup is usually somewhere between 20-35 starts, sometimes less. How many owners drafted Jhonas Enroth for his 15-20 starts? The point of this exercise is that owning backup goalies can be like owning a lottery ticket. When Ryan Miller got steamrolled by Boston's Milan Lucic, it propelled Enroth from being a top-10 backup to a top-10 starting goalie. As it's impossible to accurately predict the recovery time for concussions, owning Enroth can change the balance of power in your league. He's 7-1 with a 1.95 GAA and already has a shutout.

In this week's edition we'll look at teams with various levels of uncertainty with regard to their goalie situation, whether it be due to injury in goal, poor play in nets, porous defense, or some other calamity.


In our last edition of SOG, on Halloween, we called the B's poor start an aberration. They are 7-0 since. Tim Thomas is up to 7-4 for the season with similar peripherals to last season - 2.09 GAA and .930 SV %. Meanwhile Tuukka Rask is 3-0 in November after an 0-3 October and sports a 2.32 GAA and .919 SV %. One thing we did not see coming was the huge leap forward in Tyler Seguin's progression of NHL learning. After 22 points in 74 games last season, Seguin has 11 goals and 20 points in 17 games so far this season and a ridiculous plus-15 defensive rating. Seguin is six points ahead of the nearest Bruin forward, Milan Lucic, in team scoring. Can he keep up the pace? No, he cannot, but he should finish with 25+ goals and 60+ points.


By now it's most likely too late to pick up Jhonas Enroth. However, if you need a No. 4 or No. 5 D-man, Marc-Andre Gragnani should be seeing more regular deployment with fellow Buffalo D-man Mike Weber out indefinitely after sustaining what the team's calling an upper body injury at New Jersey on Wednesday.


Semyon Varlamov's backup, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, is outplaying him. While Varlamov is 0-4 in his last four starts with 15 goals allowed and just 77 saves on 92 shots (a woeful .837 SV %), Giguere is 4-0 on the season with a 1.68 GAA and .934 SV%. This situation is very fluid. If you're in need of a No. 3 or No. 4 roto goalie, go ahead and pick up JSG.


The situation in Columbus remains fairly miserable. Owning Steve Mason, who's 3-12-1 with a 3.63 GAA and .875 SV%, seems rather pointless. Speaking of miserable, D-man James Wisniewski is a minus-10 in 10 games and purported No. 1 center Jeff Carter has but three assists in eight games. Carter's agent denies that Carter wants to be traded but who would want to trade for a center with a bloated long-term contract, a bad foot, a history of hard partying and one who doesn't play to his size?

Some managers in need of goalie help have been picking up Curtis Sanford, the 32-year-old backup journeyman. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Goalie prospect Mark Dekanich, a star in the AHL the past two seasons, has suffered a groin injury and his return could be anywhere from a week to a month, according to Columbus GM Scott Howson. Dekanich may be their best bet in nets but he has to stay healthy enough to play a couple of games for their AHL affiliate before he'll get any chance to start in Columbus.


Any time a team plays way above expectations, there's bound to be some sort of market correction. Similarly, when a player is putting up numbers far ahead of any sane projection, a correction is in order. Case in point - Nikolai Khabibulin. Khabby had an insane 0.95 GAA and stunning .962 SV % after three starts to the season. Those numbers have adjusted to 1.74 GAA and .937 SV % and they will continue to slide back. He's lost his last three starts and stopped just 60 of his last 71 shots - an .845 SV percentage.

Realistically, Khabibulin is a No. 3 fantasy goalie but right now, with the Oilers decimated by injury on the blueline (Cam Barker out three months after ankle surgery, Ryan Whitney is perpetually injured, Corey Potter out with a sprained ankle, Sutton out with a groin injury), he's more like a No. 4 fantasy goalie. Devan Dubnyk will also get his fair share of the goalie starts. Neither is better than a spot starter presently until the blue line gets some more healthy bodies back.


Jacob Markstrom went back down to the AHL when Scott Clemmensen returned from injury. Clemmensen then won his first start of the season, with a shutout (no less) vs. Dallas. That got my full attention - I immediately picked him up in one experts' league. Even though 35-year-old Jose Theodore has been excellent value thus far ($1.5 million) with a 6-4-2 record, 2.49 GAA and .920 SV % for the Panthers, he's averaged only 44 starts over the previous five seasons due to an array of injuries and, at times, inconsistent play. With 68 games left in the season, Clemmensen should see at least 25-30 starts.


Josh Harding had a nice run but it's all over now, as Niklas Backstrom is 3-0 in his last three starts with a 1.33 GAA and a shutout. Moreover, Backstrom has two shutouts in five November starts along with a 4-1 record. Meanwhile Harding was pulled in his last start, after winning four straight. Amazingly, the Wild are 11-5-3 this season. Sadly, they play the trap and put on a rather dull display of hockey while scoring just 2.32 goals per game. Backstrom owners don't care, as long as they win more than they lose.

New Jersey:

Martin Brodeur will start Saturday vs. Tampa Bay after beating Buffalo on Wednesday. Johan Hedberg had two straight starts prior to Wednesday's game, both against tough opponents, in winning at Washington Nov. 12 before losing at Boston three days later. The Devils could go on a run now that Ilya Kovalchuk is back in the lineup but it looks as though there will be some sort of a time share in nets for the two aging netminders for the foreseeable future.

NY Islanders:

It's been difficult for Al Montoya owners. The three ring circus has been painful to watch. Rick DiPietro has been healthy of late while the Isles have been trying to showcase Evgeni Nabokov. The situation is slowly improving for Montoya owners, as Nabokov is out indefinitely with a groin injury after getting injured Thursday vs. Montreal. Nabokov will be out at least three weeks. Now Montoya needs to get healthy. He's day-to-day with a groin injury. For now Rick D. has the nets to himself but Montoya's chance will come soon enough. Despite all the barriers, Montoya remains their best goalie.


Mike Smith has proven us all wrong. With an 8-3-3 record, 2.17 GAA, .934 SV %, and a shutout in 14 starts, Smith has been beyond impressive. It also makes us realize that the defense, led by Keith Yandle, Adrian Aucoin and Derek Morris, is vastly underrated. Ditto for rookie D-man Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has four goals and seven points in 17 games. Our thoughts go out to the Coyotes' No. 2 center Daymond Langkow, who's on a leave of absence due to a death in his immediate family. Langkow could return to the lineup Wednesday against Anaheim.

St. Louis:

When the Blues changed coaches most figured that Jaroslav Halak would get the lion's share of starts, as Hitch is not known as a guy who juggles goalies. As such I dropped backup Brian Elliott in an experts' league and, of course, he immediately posts a shutout then beats Detroit. That's painful but the fact remains that Hitch went back to Halak in the next game while stating to the media that Halak is his unquestioned No. 1 goalie. Hence, if you own Elliott you can't expect more than one start per week unless he posts a shutout. Halak is the No. 1 goalie here, despite Elliott's 7-1 record, 1.43 GAA and two shutouts. In other news, if you need a No. 4 or No. 5 D-man, take a long look at the recently acquired Kris Russell. Russell has two goals in three games and is getting decent power play time on the second unit.

Tampa Bay:

Dwayne Roloson has won three of his last four starts while Mathieu Garon is winless in his last three appearances. Owning Garon requires patience, for the fact remains that he will get 30-35 starts backing up the NHL's oldest player. The Tampa Bay defense continues to miss Mattias Ohlund (out another 3-4 weeks). Surprisingly, Eric Brewer has averaged 4:09 on the power play during the past two games. Those in deeper leagues may want to keep an eye out on the situation.

James Reimer, out since Oct. 22 with a concussion, was on the ice with goalie consultant Francois Allaire before practice on Friday. He was skating and passing the puck with Allaire in full equipment. That's great news for Reimer fans and Leafs Nation. Ben Scrivens has started the last four games and appears to have usurped Jonas Gustavsson. Gustavsson has stopped just 41 of his last 49 shots (.837 SV %) over his last 120 minutes in goal whereas Scrivens is 1-2-1 during his last four starts with 10 goals allowed in stopping 108 of 118 shots (.915 SV %).


Roberto Luongo owners have to be happy these days, even if Bobby Lou is injured (upper body). Why should they be happy? Because backup goalie Cory Schneider has failed to capitalize on the situation. Schneider has allowed five goals in each of his last two starts. Moreover, the backup hasn't won a game since October 22. Luongo should be back by early next week, with Sunday's tilt vs. Ottawa looking like Schneider's last start for a long while.


Ondrej Pavelec has started the past 11 games but user beware as in two of those starts he allowed a total 10 goals on 60 shots - that's a 5.00 GAA and .833 SV%. Thankfully for Pavelec owners who use him as a No. 2, he's stopped 86 of 91 shots over his last three starts - a 1.67 GAA and .945 SV %. Backup Chris Mason, who hasn't played since injuring his groin Oct. 27 vs. Philadelphia, has been activated off injured reserve. Mason will likely see a start next weekend when the Jets play back-to-back at Carolina Friday and at Boston Saturday. The Jets' offense should get a boost when Winnipeg native Eric Fehr makes his debut this week, possible as soon as Saturday. The former WHL scoring leader has scored 20 goals before and the hope is that playing in his hometown will rejuvenate him and perhaps propel him to play more physical and use that 6-4/215 frame to his advantage.