Continuing a feature we’re going to look at frequently this year, which goalies are getting the majority of starts and who’s job is in jeopardy? Green means the goalie’s job appears safe, yellow would mean they are yielding more starts to their competitor than normal, red means the starting job appears to be more dependent on performance or a rotation.
Uh-oh. Montreal is winning games and shattering Carey Price’s confidence in the meantime. After Price looked sensational in his first two starts, he dropped four straight. Jacques Martin turned to Halak to give the team a spark and sure enough, they’ve won four straight with Price watching from the bench. It’s clear that Martin is favouring the goalie with a 4-1 record and 2.28 GAA over the 2-4 record and 3.36 GAA. We’ve mentioned before the pressure to succeed is very high in Montreal and Carey Price will get another shot, but for now, Montreal is riding the hot hand and that’s Halak. It’s shocking that Halak is only owned in 28% of Yahoo leagues and every owner banking on Price to rebound should pick up the Halak handcuff immediately.
While Gustavsson played well against the Ducks on Monday, his overall play wasn’t astounding. However, it is clear that Gustavsson is providing a better chance to win than Vesa Toskala will when he returns from the IR. There’s a lot of speculation surrounding Toskala’s future with the Leafs and that Brian Burke’s full-fledged support for his goaltender is to inflate his trade value. However, Toskala is not responding well to the pressure and has the league’s worst 5.56 GAA and save percentage .812 among regular goaltenders. Performance like that is difficult to trade and with the Monster returning from injury first, he just may finally outplay Toskala for the starting role. Toskala might just play himself into the minors – he’ll be a UFA after this season. If there is a fantasy goalie option in Toronto, it appears to be in Gustavsson (owned in 24% of Yahoo! leagues) but until Toronto steps up their game, it’s difficult to recommend any Leafs goalie at this time.
What might be most surprising about Semyon Varlamov, 3.25 GAA, is that he still hasn’t lost a regular season game in regulation time in his career, going 4-0-0 this season combined with 4-0-1 last year. While coach Bruce Boudreau has been clear that this job is up for grabs until there is a clear cut starter, it appears as if he is leaning towards Theodore. Theodore has 6 starts to Varlamov’s 4 including games against the more difficult opponents like New Jersey, Detroit, and San Jose, when healthy. Theodore is a UFA at the end of the season and his performance over the season may be indicative of his contract year. If Theodore is still available in your league, and he is in 45% of them, make sure you grab him as a solid third goalie with a good team in front of him.
Dan Ellis’ solid preseason play and Pekka Rinne’s poor preseason play created a worthy goaltending battle here but neither goalie has been able to make a clear break away from the other. When one was struggling, so was the other, and the same when they were playing well. Only recently has Ellis started to slightly move ahead of Rinne as a result of better performance, but Ellis hasn’t won since Oct 8. Rinne is coming off of an uncharacteristic-to-Nashville 6-5 win against Ottawa but has a 3.79 GAA and .882 SV% on the season. While the numbers sway towards Ellis, 2.71 GAA and a .908 SV%, the pure fact is that this battle is still very much up in the air and the bottom line will come to which goalie puts Nashville in the best position to win. If you are desperate for goalie help, Ellis could be of help but anyone still waiting on Rinne (64% of you) might need to scour the wire for another option.
3.45 GAA with a .891 SV% or a 3.36 GAA with a .890 SV%? That’s essentially what’s going on in New York right now. Neither goalie is a clear cut favourite to win the starting gig in Rick DiPietro’s absence. Roloson has the Isles’ only win and 3 OTLs while Biron only has 2 OTLs. Biron has 6 starts to Roloson’s 5. Roloson is signed for two years and Biron is signed for one. That alone might be the deciding factor in who wins this goalie battle but for the time being, the Islanders aren’t providing enough scoring support for both of their goaltenders and they should be avoided until you see better performance.
Giguere is the most expensive backup in the league, at $6M this season and $7M next, and isn’t doing a good job stepping up to the challenge Randy Carlyle announced at the beginning of the season. Hiller isn’t playing great hockey, 3-4 and a 3.22 GAA, and could easily be overthrown with some vintage Giguere play but his performance thus far is far from exceptional. Giguere has no wins and a 3.65 GAA in 4 starts and is now sitting out thanks to a groin injury. Giguere is also now rumored to be on the trade block with a possible deal in the works to the Leafs setting the stage for Hiller to be the clear-cut Ducks’ starter. However, until that happens, Giguere is still Hiller’s handcuff and can still add value in deeper leagues if the Ducks manage to improve their play infront of their goaltenders.
After hearing boo-birds after letting in a Stephane Robidas dump-in, Huet has rebounded nicely, allowing only 1 goal over 2 wins. It’s clear that Chicago has to find a way to overcome goaltending struggles and has the offensive firepower to do so, leaving less pressure on their goalie. Niemi is older than most realize, at 26, and hails from the Finnish SM-Liiga where he started 40+ games for them each season. Niemi may not be able to handle a full NHL starter’s workload but he may begin to see more starts if Huet struggles again. The starts against Nashville and Minnesota, two of the league’s worst teams, have served as confidence boosters for Huet and we’ll see if he rebounds from this when Chicago faces Huet’s former team, Montreal, on Saturday.
It’s hard to have an issue with the situation the Blues are in. Conklin has filled in admirably on Mason’s nights off, going 2-1 with a 2.40 GAA and 1 SO. Mason, on the other hand, has gone 2-3-1 with a 2.81 GAA. Conklin, however, was brought as an insurance policy helping make the transition to a full workload for Mason much easier to deal with. Mason started a career-high 51 games for the Blues last season including starting 32 of 33 games from Feb 3 onwards. Mason has the confidence of the coaches here but Conklin put up some big numbers with the Wings last year too. As the season progresses, Conklin should receive more of a share of the starts and could be a viable spot starter or injury replacement for your league.
It’s yet to be clear if Scott Clemmensen wasn’t just a product of an excellent defensive system in New Jersey or if he really has the tools to challenge for the starter’s role. Vokoun sure is giving him the opportunity to oust him, though, going 1-6-1 with a 3.60 GAA and a .907 SV%. However, Clemmensen has only seen two games (including the preseason) and played well against the Flyers (2 GA) before letting in 2 goals in 2 minutes against the Sabres in his next start. Keep an eye on this one once Clemmensen shakes the rust off but for now, the job is Vokoun’s.