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Shots on Goal: Goalie Drama

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.

Whether it's a timeshare situation or the number one guy is temporarily out of action, we'll take a look around the league to see the latest developments and offer our input on what it all means in the greater roto picture. It's still incredibly early and the next two weeks will help answer many of these questions.

While we're only two weeks into the new campaign there are a few teams that honestly look terrible - Buffalo, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Carolina, Florida - while some others should get better - Washington, NY Rangers, New Jersey. Out of those eight teams just mentioned we'd rank their goalies' fantasy outlook like this: Lundqvist, Holtby, Miller (trade value), Schneider, Ward, Brodeur, Mason, ignore the rest.


Jonas Hiller is playing like a guy who wants a raise. Hiller, 31, is in the last year of his current deal which pays him $4.5 million per season. He's 3-0 with a 1.30 GAA/.959 SV %, and one shutout. His competitor Viktor Fasth has split two starts with a meddling 4.00 GAA and .840 SV %. Hiller could still be trade bait later on in the season, as the team has a blue chip prospect in John Gibson currently in junior. However, if Hiller continues to widely outplay Fasth, he isn't going anywhere at the deadline.


Ryan Miller may be winless in four starts but his peripherals have been quite good - a 2.29 GAA and .941 SV %. The problem is that the Sabres are not a good team. They have little in the way of firepower so they play a tight-checking style which helps Miller's goalie stats but wins are hard to come by. Miller owners will likely hang on hoping for a trade elsewhere (he's a free agent at season's end) while other goalie hungry managers may keep backup Jhonas Enroth (0-2-1 with a 2.65 GAA/.909 SV %) for the very same reason.


Joey MacDonald is your early leader here, over Karri Ramo. The Flames were supposed to be terrible this season but they've been quite stubborn about it. Joey Mac is 3-0-1 with a 2.98 GAA and .897 SV % while Ramo is 0-0-1 with a 3.69 GAA and .897 SV %. Neither goalie will give you good peripherals but at least MacDonald is winning some games.


It what looks to be a long season for the Hurricanes the backup goalie Anton Khudobin has outplayed No. 1 Cam Ward in virtually every statistical category - GAA (2.00 vs. 3.22), save percentage (.929 vs. .903), and wins (2-0 vs. 0-2-2) through the first 10-14 days. Ward replaced an injured Khudobin in last Sunday's loss to Phoenix and Khudobin is now on injured reserve for at least a week. This gives Ward at least a week of starts to himself against the Blackhawks, Maple Leafs and the Islanders. The problem for the talented Ward is that the team isn't scoring much, what with Alexander Semin doing his disappearing act (after getting his big contract) and Jiri Tlusty thus far showing last season's breakout to be a fluke.


Kari Lehtonen is injured again meaning Dan Ellis is a good short term add if you're desperate for goalies, though don't expect Ellis to match Lehtonen's early season lights-out stats, as the Finn is 2-1 with a meagre 1.57 GAA and .sublime 953 SV %. Ellis is winless in two starts and now faces the Sharks Thursday. The Stars are struggling to find their identity. If Tyler Seguin doesn't start clicking at No. 1 center the team should strongly consider moving him back to right wing and let Jamie Benn play center with a scrappy guy like Cody Eakin on the left wing.


Speaking of long seasons, this looks to be another one in Edmonton. The Oilers' defensive issues haven't gone away from last season despite the new coach and a few new D-men in Andrew Ference and Anton Belov. The Oilers are getting beat badly and the plus-minus numbers for some Oilers after just seven games are ugly: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins minus-9, Taylor Hall minus-7, Ales Hemsky minus-7, and Justin Schultz minus-6, Ference minus-5. Devan Dubnyk has been hung out to dry and he's not helping himself either with a .829 SV % and horrid 5.43 GAA. Backup Jason LaBarbera has been better in his three starts with a 3.21 GAA and .871 SV %. Is there goalie help elsewhere? As of now the pickings are slim with Jose Theodore in the KHL. Some are beckoning management to sign Ilya Bryzgalov. Really? Bryzgalov ranked 39th in save percentage last season among goalies who appeared in at least 17 games of the 48-game season. While Sam Gagner is expected back soon, he's a forward and not exactly known as a defensive specialist. Coach Dallas Eakins has his work cut out for him trying to get this young team to play more responsible defensively.


Tim Thomas started the season impressively with a win over Dallas. However his next start was a loss then he was felled by injury in Game 3 vs. Philadelphia. He's 1-2 with a nasty 5.02 GAA and pedestrian .850 SV %. Perpetual goalie of the future Jacob Markstrom is 1-3 with a 3.60 GAA and .882 SV %. If both goalies can stay healthy we expect a 65/35 split in starts going forward. The Cats are so young and with so many new parts that it's hard to get even the most right wing political activist excited about Thomas' 2013-14 fantasy outlook.


Niklas Backstrom has been prone to the occasional short-term injury over a full season of late. While Backstrom played in 42 of 48 games in the truncated season we just had last winter/spring, he's only averaged 53 games played over the previous three full 82-game regular seasons. Josh Harding, currently winning his battle against multiple sclerosis, has been the best backup to own this year what with Backstrom suffering a short-term injury (knee sprain) and Harding coming through with spectacular play. Harding sports a ridiculous 0.94 GAA and .952 SV %. Even No. 3 goalie Darcy Kuemper got in on the action Tuesday in Toronto but he lost 4-1 and only stopped four of seven shots in 32 minutes. Backstrom should be back in the nets soon enough, as he has been able to practice fully since Monday.

New Jersey:

Martin Brodeur trails Corey Schneider in most statistical categories - GAA (3.19 vs. 2.65), save percentage (.870 vs. .908) through the team's winless record now six games into the season. The Devils have been outscored 9-2 games with Schneider getting the start and 21-9 with Brodeur starting. This isn't fun for owning either goalie and neither can be expected to be more than a middling third roto goalie at best until the team starts winning. Moreover neither goalie can get in real rhythm with the starts being split up so evenly.


The timeshare so far between Steve Mason (2.23 GAA, .926 SV %) and Ray Emery (4.04 GAA, .873 SV %) has Mason with the better peripherals but the team is still just 1-6. The team can't score and now they have two top six forwards injured in Scott Hartnell and Vinny Lecavalier. It is very hard to foresee any dramatic turnaround in the near future.

St. Louis:

Jaroslav Halak has put last season behind him. The undisputed No. 1 goalie in St. Louis playing in front of one of the best defensive corps in the league, Halak has gone 4-1 with a 2.36 GAA and .917 SV % with one shutout. Backup Brian Elliott has only seen mop up duty so far while posting a 6.00 GAA and .893 SV %. The Blues are a Cup contender and they play a tough physical brand of hockey while rolling four lines. Halak has the chance to put up elite No. 1 fantasy goalie stats this season if he can stay healthy.

Tampa Bay:

Ben Bishop started the season as No. 1 but then went down with injury giving backup Anders Lindback a shot. Lindback dropped the ball in going 0-2 with a 4.03 GAA and .843 SV %. Bishop returned on Tuesday and was fantastic as the Bolts smoked the Kings 5-1. The young American is now 4-0 with a 1.71 GAA and .939 SV %. Bishop is due for a reality check at some point but his owners will continue to ride this wave of prosperity while Lindback owners have to decide whether they want to stay patient or to cut bait.


Jonathan Bernier, 4-1 with a 1.74 GAA and .946 Sv %, was leaving James Reimer in his dust through the first week and change but then a 6-5 performance despite the win for Bernier got Reimer another start and he responded with a 4-1 win over Minnesota. We still like Bernier over Reimer but this could be one of the more even time shares in the league. Best guess? Bernier 45-47 starts, Reimer 35-37 starts.


The Caps have gotten off to a horrid start this season and Braden Holtby played his part in the early horror show. Thankfully for Holtby and his owners Washington head coach Adam Oates has stuck with him and Holtby is starting to respond. The netminder has allowed just seven goals in his last three starts, a 2.34 GAA. Holtby's overall numbers remain unimpressive - 3.56 GAA, .886 SV % - but he's trending back. Backup Michal Neuvirth had a chance to steal more starts in the short term but he allowed five goals and lost when given the chance to start, Oct. 15 vs. Colorado.