A Finale: Late-Season Sleepers

Justin Goldman



Now that March Madness is in full swing, poolies everywhere are right in the middle of the playoff push. Desperation mode consumes our minds, we consume more coffee than ever before, we stay up later to watch games in the Western Conference, and we keep a website tab locked on the NHL standings page until the regular season ends.


The madness of March has been exponentially greater in goal, due in large part to injuries sustained by Craig Anderson, Niklas Backstrom, Tuukka Rask, Mathieu Garon, and Tomas Vokoun, who returns tonight after going 15 days between games.


That's a lot of fun for me, as I've been able to evaluate Michal Neuvirth and impressive rookies Matt Hackett, Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop, then bask in the glory of vintage Marty Turco donning a Bruins jersey, and know that Dustin Tokarski is finally going to earn his NHL debut either tonight or in the next few days.


That's not so fun for a bunch of you poolies out there, as seasons could have had the life squeezed out of them due to one of those workhorses being sidelined. But have no fear, when one goalie's value is suddenly crushed, another's is sure to rise. The end of one surge is merely the beginning of another.


"End of the season" sleepers. Suddenly, base metals and raw-skilled prospects have the potential to turn into pure gold, almost overnight. Nobody sees them coming, nobody really knows where they're going once the season ends, and most poolies don't even care. You guys need points right now, and that's all that matters. So below I've listed three sleepers that are tough to decipher, but ones that I feel could be steady risers over the next three weeks.


Steve Mason: With three straight wins and 101 saves on his last 105 shots, Mason transcends the one-year league paradigm and has keeper-league managers turning heads as well. Is this a sign of things to come? Has he gotten over the proverbial hump of inconsistency and focus issues? Unfortunately, I pose those questions because I don't know the answers. Furthermore, Columbus still has four more back-to-back sets this season, and that includes a home-and-home with the Blues this weekend. This is a volatile situation, where just about anything could happen.


My advice for one-year poolies would be to hold off on acquiring him until after this weekend. If he plays well again tonight against the Kings, then that adds more fuel to this fire, and maybe that gives him enough momentum to play well against the Blues. If he doesn't, you saved yourself a costly mistake. It's always good to err on the side of caution with Mason, but this depends on your needs. I would personally wait until Sunday night, then reevaluate.


My advice for keeper poolies would be to wait for him to cool off a bit, and then snag him. For next season, he may not be wearing a Blue Jackets uniform, which is the best thing that could possibly happen to his long-term value. There has been serious disharmony in both the external and internal states of his game this season, but in another city, with a clean slate and a fresh start, I see promise in Mason's future over the next three to four years.


I'll be honest, no goalie has been tougher to decode than Mason. I thought he was going to be a silent killer this season due to his strong off-season and new goalie coach, but that clearly didn't happen, and I was dead wrong there. Most of his issues still stem from within, and technically speaking, he still has the talent and skills to evolve into a steady and consistent performer.