Listen for the soft steps of the Diabolical Backups, lest you fall victim to a sneak attack! Those pesky, conniving, crafty, devious teammates are like a swarm of locusts digging into your skin. They test the patience, irritate the mind and eat away at one's focus. They pressure starters to play at their best on a nightly basis, and like a virus, can exponentially destroy confidence from within. The diabolical backups – they force other goalies to keep their foot on the gas. The diabolical backups – anything can happen when a starter's playing time is cut in half.
As the summer comes to a close, more than 30 goalies are pushing for opportunities at a higher level or for more playing time at their current level. Because of this, more starters are facing a tremendous amount of pressure from their backups than ever before. Every day of the year, that elusive job is there for the taking. Sometimes it's handed over without a fight, other times it's stolen in the blink of an eye. And sometimes it has to be wrestled away over the course of two or three seasons.
But no bother, it's all part of the fantasy goalie dance. It's easy to see that most fantasy managers don't have a clue what's going to happen when it comes to backups breaking out. Most intermediate owners struggle with this issue and learn the hard way that there's no such thing as a guarantee. Just when you think a stone-cold starter will repeat last season's success, another Tuukka Rask or Antti Niemi goes from being a mist in the wind to wearing a big fat diamond ring.
So which NHL backups (or highly touted #3 goalies) are most likely to steal playing time this year? And as I was asked on Twitter last week, not counting any kind of injury situations except for the most oft-injured starters, which backups have the best chance to commandeer minutes from their superiors with some stellar play in limited opportunities? Below are the "backup" goalies I feel have the ability to get this done, along with the amount of certainty or chances they may have to exceed their normal expectations.
Brian Elliott, Dwayne Roloson and Jeff Deslauriers are omitted from this list because they're currently considered starters thanks to Pascal Leclaire, Rick DiPietro and Nikolai Khabibulin being oft-injured goalies. Please keep in mind that "certainty" is the likeliness that a goalie will play more games than expected, not their chances to outright steal or take over the starting job. Click here to learn more about my expectations for Deslauriers this season.
Chris Mason – Some fans won't even consider Mason as the backup, but he still has to win a starting role from Ondrej Pavelec. But hi