Buy? Sell? Or hold? What to do with every goaltender in the Eastern Conference.

With the arrival of the quarter-mark of the season comes the return of the “Real or Imagined” series. This week we will cover every goalie in the Eastern Conference including backups, some of which are surprisingly valuable as quick additions to your roster whenever one of their starts is announced. Goaltenders will be given a recommendation to buy, sell, hold or waive based on a number of factors. First, what they have done so far will be taken into account along with how things might play out in the coming months, both statistically and in terms of opportunity. But more importantly, the analysis will put everything in the context of each goalie’s value in one-year fantasy leagues.

Boston

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Tuukka Rask

14

6-7-1

2.95

.896

BUY

Jonas Gustavsson

5

4-1-0

2.20

.914

WAIVE

 

Rask is certainly not the elite fantasy asset he was when the Bruins were a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference. With that said he is still a high-end goalie who is much better than his numbers suggest. People for the most part have been down on the Bruins this year – probably more so than they should be – which makes Rask a nice buy-low option. He has already turned things around going 5-4 in his last nine games while allowing just 19 goals. In fact, his .922 save percentage during that stretch is on par with his total from last year.

Meanwhile, Rask’s backup Jonas Gustavsson has had a nice start to the year as the team’s backup. However, the Bruins as a team have limited upside at this point so he is unlikely to be a good spot-starter down the stretch. He should be left on the waiver wire unless Rask goes down with a long-term injury.

Buffalo

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Robin Lehner

1

0-0-0

2.18

.917

SELL

Linus Ullmark

8

4-3-1

2.31

.926

HOLD

Chad Johnson

11

4-7-1

2.70

.901

WAIVE

 

Golden boy Robin Lehner’s start in Buffalo did not go as planned as he went down with an injury and has not played since. Despite the team’s recent success the Sabres remain a shallow team and is a long way from providing a stable environment for their goaltenders. When Lehner returns he will get starts but as the team experiences growing pains his numbers will suffer. It would be a good idea to put him on the trade block when he nears his return, especially if the Sabres’ record looks promising.

Linus Ullmark has been the team’s big surprise this year, sporting a record above the .500 mark with a .926 save percentage. It would be unreasonable to expect this rate to continue but he is a viable option while the he remains hot. So far he has not shown any sign of slowing down so he should remain on your roster if you own him.

Chad Johnson has been decent in a backup role but might actually be dispatched to the AHL once Lehner returns if the team opts to keep Ullmark in the NHL. Given his mediocre numbers and uncertain future he should not be owned outside of deep leagues that count saves.

Carolina

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Cam Ward

15

6-6-3

2.44

.902

HOLD

Eddie Lack

5

1-4-0

3.37

.861

WAIVE

 

Cam Ward has put up below-average numbers which is not unexpected given his history since the lockout. If your league is deep enough for him to be worth owning then you should hold on to him. He has a .500 record which may catch some by surprise given he plays for the Hurricanes. In points leagues centered on wins he could be surprisingly valuable as a depth option. His backup, Eddie Lack, has been a bust thus far and will not play enough games to stand out in any area.

Columbus

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Sergei Bobrovsky

18

8-10-0

3.04

.900

BUY

Curtis McElhinney

4

0-4-0

2.46

.915

WAIVE

 

The buy-low window may have closed on Sergei Bobrovsky already but there are still some that will look at his overall stats and be down on him. He has been on fire of late with a 6-2 record in his last eight games along with a .936 save percentage. With a combined .923 save percentage in the three years prior to this one, Bobrovsky certainly has an established track record of great play. His final save percentage is unlikely to hit that level this year due to his poor start but you can rely on him playing on that level from here on out. Backup Curtis McElhinney is not worth owning unless Bobrovsky suffers an injury and the Blue Jackets are rolling as a team.

Detroit

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Jimmy Howard

10

5-4-1

2.34

.917

HOLD

Petr Mrazek

11

6-4-1

2.15

.935

HOLD

 

As expected, the Red Wings have been using Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek pretty equally this year. Mrazek has posted better numbers but Howard has also been very good. Look for the goalies to be used similarly the rest of the year provided both are playing at a high level. Even if Mrazek continues to play better, Howard’s bloated contract will always get him the benefit of the doubt. While owning either goalie will be annoying due to the randomness in allocation of starts, both goalies are good fantasy options playing for an above-average team.

Florida

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Roberto Luongo

16

6-7-3

2.50

.923

HOLD

Al Montoya

4

2-1-1

2.22

.922

WAIVE

 

Winning record aside, Roberto Luongo has performed as expected this year. The lack of wins comes as a result of lack of goal support as the Panthers rank 18th in the NHL with 54 goals. This is a disappointing result as the Panthers were expected to take a step forward this year and be serious contenders for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. As such, backup Al Montoya should not be considered for spot starts despite his appealing .922 save percentage because the Panthers have not been a good source for wins.

Montreal

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Carey Price

11

9-2-0

2.10

.933

HOLD

Mike Condon

11

7-2-2

2.23

.913

SELL

 

The Canadiens have exceeded expectations this year and the team’s improved play has allowed both goalies to achieve great win-loss records. Carey Price missed considerable time with an injury but has nine wins in 11 games and his peripherals are close to his Hart Trophy-winning numbers from last year. Aside from a tendency to get nicked up at times, there is no reason not to want Price on your team even if the Canadiens regress in the coming weeks and do not put up as many wins.

One of this year’s feel-good stories has been Mike Condon, who stole the backup job from Dustin Tokarski in training camp. Condon was outstanding in Price’s absence which allowed the team to continue its hot start. Obviously, his numbers were unsustainable and he came back down to earth in his last couple starts before Price’s return. His successful and well-documented run likely gives him inflated value relative to some other good spot-starters which makes this a good opportunity to sell. Try to improve your skater ranks and then grab another strong team’s backup off of your waiver wire.

New Jersey

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Cory Schneider

16

10-5-1

2.05

.928

SELL

Keith Kinkaid

4

1-3-0

3.04

.881

WAIVE

 

Cory Schneider’s peripheral numbers are not surprising at all. The 29-year-old has had a save percentage of .920 or better in each year since becoming a full-time NHLer. The surprising part is the Devils were expected to finish in the cellar of the league this year. That has not been the case as Schneider has 10 wins in 16 starts after finishing with just 26 last year. With that said the Devils have scored just 50 goals and are even in goal differential. Needless to say it will be difficult for the Devils to continue their strong play all year. If you can somehow package Schneider and land a netminder on a team where wins are more abundant, this would be a great time to make it happen. Due to Schneider’s volume of starts, backup Keith Kinkaid is as irrelevant as any goalie out there in fantasy leagues.

New York Islanders

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Jaroslav Halak

11

5-4-1

2.13

.919

HOLD

Thomas Greiss

9

5-3-2

2.26

.927

BUY

 

The Islanders have gotten solid play from their goaltenders this year. Jaroslav Halak has had a strong start to the year as the team’s starter and remains a good fantasy option playing behind a strong team in New York. However, he has historically not been a workhorse and has also been injury-prone and this year has been no different. With Halak already missing five games, backup Thomas Greiss has emerged as one of the league’s better backups from a fantasy standpoint. He should be one of the most coveted backups for spot starts and could become a must-own if Halak goes down with a major injury at some point.

New York Rangers

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Henrik Lundqvist

16

11-3-2

1.85

.943

HOLD

Antti Raanta

4

4-0-0

1.25

.955

BUY

 

Henrik Lundqvist has broken his own personal trend by starting the year on a high and is currently leading the league with a .943 save percentage. Not much else needs to be said as Lundqvist’s final numbers are always excellent and the Rangers’ team in front of him is equally good which will help in the win column. The quality of the team also helps backup Antti Raanta who has quietly posted very good numbers in a backup role since entering the NHL. The 26-year-old has a career 24-9-5 record with a .916 save percentage. If your league does not have strict limits on transactions he is an excellent spot starter on the rare occasions that Lundqvist is not manning the crease for the Rangers.

Ottawa

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Craig Anderson

15

8-4-3

2.60

.921

HOLD

Andrew Hammond

4

2-0-2

2.42

.930

SELL

 

Based on average draft position in Yahoo drafts, Craig Anderson is an underrated fantasy goalie as he is the 25th goaltender selected. Obviously there was some concern about his status as the team’s starter following Andrew Hammond’s brilliant play late last year. Evidently, Anderson has put any doubts to rest with his strong play while starting 15 of the team’s 19 total games.

Meanwhile, Hammond has gone from a fantasy-league savior late last year to being the Sens’ permanent backup. Barring an injury to Anderson, which is actually not uncommon, Hammond will continue to see limited action which severely limits his value. In the unlikely event that someone in your league still believes in him, you should cash out now.

Philadelphia

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Steve Mason

12

3-6-4

3.08

.902

BUY

Michal Neuvirth

8

3-3-1

2.08

.939

SELL

 

The Flyers have had a difficult start to the year but things could have been much worse if not for the strong play from backup Michal Neuvirth while Steve Mason struggled. With Mason starting the last five games and starting to get back on track, it is time to sell Neuvirth. He might continue to post good numbers but he will not start often and plays behind a weak team.

On the other hand, Mason is a good buy-low option. His overall numbers are ugly but he has been excellent since arriving in Philadelphia. Market corrections from Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek will only help matters.

Pittsburgh

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Marc-Andre Fleury

17

10-7-0

2.19

.925

HOLD

Jeff Zatkoff

4

2-1-0

2.63

.934

WAIVE

 

While many Penguins’ players have struggled mightily this year, Fleury has been outstanding and is the primary reason the team has kept itself in a playoff spot. After many years finishing south of .920 in save percentage, this is the second consecutive year Fleury finds himself above that mark. This could drop as the season progresses but in all likelihood he will get more goal support which should help his overall record. Backup Jeff Zatkoff has also posted great numbers but with the Penguins not being a cohesive unit you have to worry if you use him for spot starts. In regular-sized leagues there will be better options out there.

Tampa Bay

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Ben Bishop

17

8-7-2

2.06

.925

HOLD

Andrei Vasilevskiy

4

2-2-0

2.03

.929

HOLD

 

The Lightning have struggled as a team out of the gate but it is not the goaltending letting them down but rather the offense. Bishop has done an excellent job sporting a .925 save percentage while shouldering the load of 17 starts to date. Assuming the team can get back on track, Bishop should be able to pick up wins more frequently. However, Andrei Vasilevskiy’s return from injury means Bishop will see a small decline in starts while the former first-round pick becomes a strong spot-starter.

Toronto

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

James Reimer

13

7-3-3

2.01

.936

SELL

Jonathan Bernier

8

0-7-1

3.17

.895

SELL

 

The biggest surprise for the Leafs this year has been the resurgence of James Reimer. Historically, when things go well for him he can be an excellent fantasy goalie but when things go wrong the train can fall off the rails. He is in the midst of a great run of late but playing behind the Maple Leafs makes it very difficult to believe the good play will continue for much longer. With that in mind, sell if you have a die-hard Leafs fan in your league.

Bernier, for his part, has taken a significant hit in status as an NHL goalie since his play dropped in the second half last year. So far this year he has arguably been the league’s worst fantasy-relevant goaltender. Things probably cannot get worse but even if his numbers recover it will be very difficult for him to get back on the fantasy radar in this environment.

Washington

Player

STARTS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Braden Holtby

15

11-4-0

2.01

.920

HOLD

Philipp Grubauer

4

2-1-1

2.71

.900

WAIVE

 

Braden Holtby has picked up where he left off last season by once again posting elite fantasy numbers. The only difference so far is his allocation of starts as he is currently on pace for 65, down from 72 last year. This is due to the promotion of Philipp Grubauer to the backup role, an upgrade over Justin Peters. Despite the stability behind Holtby, Grubauer is not playing enough nor is he enough of a peripheral beast to merit much attention for spot starts.

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