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Crashing the Crease: Slow Start for Quick Owners

Sasha Yodashkin

Sasha Yodashkin writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The NHL season is just one week old, but 48 different goaltenders have already taken the ice. Notably absent from the list is Canadiens star Carey Price, who has been kept out of commission by a severe case of the flu. That ailment isnít serious in the grand scheme of things, and should have nearly zero effect on the 2014 Hart Trophy winnerís value moving forward.

Itís hard to draw many conclusions based on the tiny 1-to-2 game sample sizes currently available, so it would be unwise to overreact to any early successes or struggles. Early-season injuries, however, make more easily quantifiable impacts by eliminating certain playersí playing time and subsequently giving others increased opportunities.

While the injury report hasnít been very extensive thus far, there are a few notable injuries that have impacted fantasy owners:

Five goalies have dealt with ailments of some sort up to this point: Matt Murray (hand), Tuukka Rask (soreness), Carey Price (illness), Jonas Gustavsson (head) and Jonathan Quick (groin). Murray broke his hand playing for North America at the World Cup of Hockey, but should be back on the ice for the Penguins in 2-to-3 weeks. He will likely still push veteran Marc-Andre Fleruy for the starting job, and merely had his timetable for doing so delayed by a few weeks. While Rask didnít start Bostonís second game due to mysterious soreness, he subsequently returned to beat the Jets just two days later and looks to be at 100 percent. Price was back on the ice Monday, and is due back soon. Gustavsson left Sundayís game after colliding with Sabres forward Johan Larsson. Edmontonís backup has no timetable for a return, but his absence just gives the few owners that inexplicably drafted him more reason to drop him. Finally, Quickís groin injury is by far the most impactful in both the real and fantasy realms, as it leaves arguably Los Angelesí most important player and a consensus top-five fantasy goaltender sidelined for 3-to-4 months. Kings backup Jeff Zatkoff gave up four goals on 30 shots in his first start, and unsurprisingly looks incapable of filling Quickís shoes.

With all of the injury news out of the way, here are six guys who are healthy and thriving in the early going, as well as three who have left much to be desired thus far:

Top Three Performers

Roberto Luongo, FLA
- Luongo allowed just one goal in each of his first two appearances while making 44 saves en route to a 2-0-0 start for the Panthers. The 37-year-old netminder should continue to be effective as the starter for a young team that's projected to improve after making the playoffs last year, though he could get some extra days off to rest as the season progresses. He went 35-19-6 with a 2.35 GAA in 2015-16, so this hot start isn't exactly surprising.

Tuukka Rask, BOS - Rask is also off to a 2-0-0 start with road wins over the Blue Jackets and Jets under his belt. He has given up four goals while stopping 62 shots for a .939 save percentage while backup Anton Khudobin was shelled for four goals by the Maple Leafs in Boston's only other game. The Bruins have scored 11 goals through three games, and their offensive firepower should help lead the Finnish netminder to his fourth straight 30-win season.

Jake Allen, STL - Allen has only faced 40 shots in his two starts for the Blues, which is why heís 2-0-0 despite a .900 save percentage. The St. Louis defense has been relentless in limiting opposing opportunities thus far, which bodes well for the 26-year-old netminderís chances of piling up wins in his first campaign as the full-time starter. He posted a .920 save percentage last season, and should start to inch closer to that mark as his sample size expands.

Three Trending Up

Michael Neuvirth, PHI
- Neuvirth was outstanding after taking over for Steve Mason in the playoffs, and parlayed that success into the starting nod in Philadelphia's opener. He won that game while stopping 23 of 25 Kings shots, and clearly looks to be in line for more work after playing in only 32 games last season. The 28-year-old Czech posted a 2.27 GAA and .924 save percentage in that campaign, and would be quite the asset if he can maintain those rates over a larger sample at Steve Mason's expense.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, TB - Vasilevskiy is supposed to see roughly 30 starts in net this year behind Ben Bishop, but his quest to further cut into the veteranís playing time got off to a good start with a 32-save performance in Saturdayís 3-2 win over the Devils. Bishop gave up four goals in Tampa Bayís opener, and will have to right the ship quickly if he wants to remain the starter. Even if the Lightning canít find a suitable trade partner for Bishop at any point, Vasilevskiy continues to creep closer to taking over his job the old-fashioned way.

Calvin Pickard, COL - Pickard, like Vasilevskiy, was highlighted as a possible starter down the road in last weekís column, and further helped his cause by beating the Penguins in his season debut. Heís still the backup to Semyon Varlamov for now, but is starting to build a stronger case for taking over the job with a .926 save percentage through 37 NHL appearances. While Varlamov opened the door just a crack further by surrendering five goals in Coloradoís opener, itís still the Russianís job to lose for now.

Three Trending Down:

Brian Elliott, CG
Y - Elliott made this section last week due to the expected downgrade in the defense in front of him that came with moving from St. Louis to Calgary, and now there's hard evidence to back that theory. He gave up 10 goals in his first two starts with the Flames, and will quickly start ceding time to backup Chad Johnson if he can't right the ship.

John Gibson, ANA - Gibson is off to an 0-1-1 start with a 3.59 GAA and .860 save percentage. It's not time to press the panic button quite yet with those unimpressive numbers coming against a pair of offensively gifted teams in the Stars and Islanders, but this certainly isn't how owners envisioned the 23-year-old kicking off his tenure as the unquestioned starter in Anaheim. If he's still in this section this time next week, it will be time to really worry.

Henrik Lundqvist, NYR - Lundqvist is 1-1-0 on the young season, but his 3.03 GAA and .870 save percentage fall well below expectations for a goaltender that was picked in the second or third round of most drafts. He should be fine long term, but it could be a bumpy ride while the Rangers continue to build chemistry after bringing in seven new bodies this offseason. Lundqvist has been the epitome of consistency with at least a .920 save percentage and 30 wins in every full season since 2009-10, so he has earned the benefit of the doubt despite this subpar start.