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Frozen Fantasy: Goalies in Trouble

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Goalies disappear from just about every fantasy draft board faster than the mussels at a Chinese buffet are scooped up. And don't we all just love to gloat about our so-called intelligence at getting that buffet - and this season's breakout goalie - on the cheap.

Is it gloating or are we just bloated with luck (and indigestion)?

Tuukka Rask. Ben Bishop. Josh Harding. Even Braden Holtby. And to a lesser extent, Cory Schneider and Jonathan Bernier.

They're running on luck right now. So is it trade time?

Hear me out before you go all troll on me. Tuukka Rask hasn't started more than 39 games in a season. Bishop? Twenty one. Harding and Schneider? Thirty. Holtby has started 35 while Bernier started 22. But that was three seasons ago.

See the trend yet?

Just how long can we expect elite-level performance from guys with no track record of endurance? Even a conservative 20 percent increase in starts would mean Rask would get 47 starts. He's on track to start 67. That's a 72 percent increase on his heaviest-ever workload.

Would a baseball pitcher be allowed to pitch 120 innings one season and 207 the next? It's about the same increase.

Oh my aching elbow.

It's not if, but when they'll hit that fatigue wall. Rask has already admitted he's feeling a bit tired. Both Bishop and Holtby are 2-3-1 in their last six. And Bishop was yanked at the 22-minute mark of the game right before that run. Bernier is 2-3-2 in his last seven starts and he's only had 16 starts this season. Harding? Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Add in the minimum nine-hour time difference to the Olympics in Sochi and that's a big drag on guys like Rask, Bishop and maybe even Harding.

None of this is guaranteed. Will they all falter? Will any? What happens to your roster when they do? I'm not big on letting things happen to me, so I'm inclined to try to find a fix sooner rather than later. I've already stashed Anders Lindback on one of my squads and Neuvirth on another. And I'm eyeballing Chad Johnson (below).

I hope I'm wrong about all this - I'm rolling Bernier as a major cog in two of my biggest leagues and Holtby in one other. And Harding has given me a huge boost in yet another. Clearly, I can't afford to take a hit between the pipes. And I doubt you can, either.

I have my action plan, about you?

Now let's take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Reid Boucher, C, New Jersey (0 percent owned) - Reid who? Keeper leaguers know his name after his explosive 2012-13 with the Sarnia Sting - he flashed his elite sniping ability and found twine 62 times in 68 games last year. That broke the Sting's single-season record set by none other than one Steven Stamkos. Yes, you read that right. Boucher will never be a Stamkos-like scorer in the NHL, but there's a solid chance he'll hit the 35-goal mark one day (if he gets the right linemates). He hits Jersey with 10 goals in 21 AHL games this season and he immediately picked up an assist in his first NHL game. He skated with Andrei Loktinov and Michael Ryder, and he also saw time with Patrick Elias and Steve Bernier. Owners with large rosters are always trying to catch lightning in a bottle. He might just be it for a few games. Take a look at least.

T.J. Brodie, D, Calgary (1 percent owned) - Is Brodie ready for a run? He seems to have found some real confidence skating with Kris Russell and that has resulted in three points (one goal, two assists) in his last three games. And then there are the six points, including two goals, in his last eight games - not bad for a guy who had four points in his previous 20. Brodie skates well and is a good passer, and those two tools can add up to points in today's NHL. Think of him as a poor man's Nick Leddy - or better yet, a similar player who's actually available in your league. He just happens to play for a crummy team.

Sean Couturier, C, Philadelphia (9 percent owned) - What an offensive explosion. And it came just when I thought the Flyers had ruined him. Couturier started to show a few signs of life last Friday night when his shortie stood up as the game winner against the Jets. He picked up a goal Saturday night and then blew the doors off the Wings with a four-point (two goals, two assists) night Wednesday. That's six points, including four goals, and a plus-5 rating in his last four games. So which is he - the six in four stud or the eight in 24 that preceded his current run? Neither, but he is somewhere in between. Couturier is a valuable asset in medium-to-deep leagues, but move fast - his ownership took a six percent spike on Friday alone. He won't last long.

Nick Foligno, LW, Columbus (5 percent owned) - Nick, Nick, Nick - where have you been since you left Ottawa? Oh right. I forgot. Yah, I've heard Ohio is...pretty. Yah, that's it - pretty. Seriously though, Nicky has caught fire lately, but almost no one has noticed...except you, of course. He looked like a soopa-star Tuesday night with that nifty between-the-legs roof daddy winner against the Bolts. But look closely and you'll see he's quietly put up 16 points in 23 games this season. Included in that are three goals in his last four games and six points in his last six games. Put that together with his willingness to lay the body (he's on pace for more than 200 hits this season) and you have some serious value in medium-sized leagues and those that use specialty stats. Scoop him up.

Brian Gionta, RW, Montreal (6 percent owned) - Gionta's best is well behind him, but it's clear he still has something left in the tank - just check out his last five games (one goal, five assists). Good health is key - he's an old 34 (just don't tell him I said that). He and Tomas Plekanec seem to have found some solid chemistry, and they've both been productive of late. But there's a lot more return available on your Gionta investment than there is on the 69 percent owned Plekanec. Bare minimum? Use Gio as an injury replacement until he cools off or blows another bicep.

Chad Johnson, G, Boston (3 percent owned) - You know why the freak Chad Johnson is on this list. For now, he basically plays once every eight to nine games and he wins just about every time he starts. So short term, the Bruins have back-to-back games this weekend and that means there's a solid chance he starts one of those games. You can always dump him the day after his start. But then again, you should think about what I wrote above - Tuukka Rask hasn't started more than 39 games in a season and he's already dropping hints that he's “not as fresh as at the start of the year.” Couple that with the upcoming Olympics and Johnson could be a lot more than a once-every-nine-days kind of guy. Just playing the odds here.

Justin Peters, G, Carolina (8 percent owned) - Spot starts. That's the name of the game when you own Justin Peters. He was miscast as a starter when Cam Ward was hurt. It's not that he was horrid; it's more that no-one seemed to have confidence in him. And that's a massive uphill battle for a young guy to climb. But he rolled out back-to-back wins this week and allowed just three goals in those two games. That's the kind of performance that makes him a great matchup man in daily-play leagues. Goalie points are the hardest to come by in Yahoo! leagues and you need every inch of gain you can get. He's a pluck and dump guy. Don't be afraid to do it. Someone else will if you don't.

Brendan Smith, D, Detroit (1 percent owned) - I drafted this guy this season, thinking he would really step up offensively. Not. Then came no points and a minus-9 rating in his first eight games and I dropped his underachieving arse. His game is still remarkably raw for a player in the Wings' system, but those tools still tantalize. He has three assists in his last three games and is plus-6 in his last five games. Yes, it helps that the Wings went 4-1 in that span, but this little stretch could be the start of a nice little run for the guy with superstar potential. Stash him - my gut says you'll be able to rub your astute waiver grab back in my face pretty darn soon.

Jared Spurgeon, D, Minnesota (5 percent owned) - I'd almost forgotten about this slick little puckmover. That is, until I watched him orchestrate a comeback win over my beloved Hawks on Thursday night. Nice work, little man, but you didn't really get any credit. His three points in two games heading into action Friday night may foreshadow a nice little offensive run. After all, he's getting some power-play time and his shooting percentage is less than half of his career average. There's room for improvement here and he might as well be on your roster when he does it. Right?

Cheap Shots...or SOG

Steve Bernier, RW, New Jersey (0 percent owned) - Bernier is slow and he's seriously underperformed this season. But he's firing pucks this week like a top-20 scorer. And as a bonus, he found twine twice. Yes, the Devils are nauseating to watch. But Bernier might help you if you're pushing for an extra point in SOG.

Last Chance

Tomas Tatar, LW/C, Detroit (4 percent owned) - It's OK that you didn't listen last week. I don't mind. But it's your loss if you don't at least check this guy out right now. He's on a three-game, five-point (three goals, two assists) streak and has seven points, including four goals, in his last five games. And in a third-line role. #dangle #smartscorer #miningforfantasygold

Opportunity Knocks...

Trevor Smith, C, Toronto (0 percent owned) - Tyler Bozak just went on long-term IR and the Leafs need help down the middle. Again. Enter Smith, who has done everything the Leafs asked of him (and then some). Yes, he's overachieving, but ice time with the Leafs has given him seven points, including three goals, in his last nine games. If anything, you know how Toronto loves its underdogs. And that fits Smith to a T. Deep, deep leagues should check him out.

Back to those goalies.

It's really easy to get caught up in the euphoria of rolling a hot, young goalie. I've been there. Marc-Andre Fleury smoked me one year. And bad.

I'd even consider trading almost all of those guys (Rask, aside - I'd need to weigh that for a long time). One of my leaguemates tried this same tactic on me this week - offering me a strong goalie, but one with restricted go-forward value in our scoring format.

Thank gawd I gave the offer a serious second look. I was almost fooled by the inclusion of my beloved Jonathan Toews. I wonder if he knew I have three Toews jerseys in my closet...

Until next week.