Top 10 goalie storylines
Your fantasy season lives and dies with your goaltending. You can have the best squad in the world but if your two netminders are below-average, it doesn’t matter how many points Connor McDavid gets for you. This year has seen plenty of surprises when it comes to the nets. Elite players struggling. Goalies that weren’t even expected in the NHL at the start of the season putting up decent numbers.
Here are the top 10 goalie storylines so far this season.
10. Cam Ward becoming fantasy relevant
This has definitely been one of the biggest surprises of the season. Ward has only been average overall but most fantasy general managers didn’t think he could ever be fantasy relevant again. Ward put together a great stretch from Nov. 1 to Dec. 4 when he won seven games and had a 1.55 GAA and a .943 SV %. There’s no other challenge in nets for Carolina so Ward will continue to get lots of starts the rest of the way.
9. Matt Murray’s roller coaster season
It seemed a foregone conclusion that Marc-Andre Fleury was going to be traded this season and Murray was going to be number one. That trade is less likely to happen as Murray has been on the injured reserve list twice already. But even when healthy, it’s sometimes hard to tell what the coaches have in mind for Murray. Fleury started six of 11 games in November to make it seem like there would be a timeshare. Murray let in seven goals in an 8-7 win against Washington last week. Most would have thought Fleury would have started the next game. But Murray got the next three starts, letting in a total of three goals and making 93 saves. It’s tough to tell who has the inside track.
8. Halak in the minors
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Jaroslav Halak was the most impressive player at the World Cup of Hockey and bringing the surprising Team Europe to the best-of-three finals against Canada. And then the NHL season started. And Halak was awful. He was 6-8-5 with a 323 GAA and .904 SV %. He was waived, no one claimed in and is now in the minors as the Islanders are trying to figure out what to do in net.
7. Tampa Bay goalies
Both Lightning netminders look like they are both playing with an expansion team.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: 10-11-2, .907 SV %, 2.86 GAA, 2 shutouts
Ben Bishop: 11-11-3, .905 SV%, 2.78 GAA, 0 shutouts.
Both of them have been terrible. They’d be in the running for the worst goalie tandem in the league if it weren’t for Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. Bishop was considered elite and Vasilevskiy was expected to be even better.
6. Tuukka Rask
It’s been easy to overlook Tuukka Rask as there have been so many surprise goalies this season. But the Boston goalie has gone back to his old self. He has 22 wins and is on pace for 37 wins, which would be a career high. He’s also got a .920 SV % and 2.11 GAA, which are his best numbers in a couple of years. His five shutouts are also tied for second in the league and he is only two shutouts off his career high.
5. Frederik Andersen
I joined a points-only keeper league last summer as an expansion team. I got to select 19 players plus two rookies. Andersen was my last choice and I almost didn’t select him. I only took him hoping I could trade him but no one wanted Andersen. He’s always been good but has a consistent history of being injured. He’s like the Kris Letang of goaltenders. This year he’s been healthy. And he’s been good on a surprising Maple Leafs team. He’s actually the ninth-best player in my league and all of a sudden I don’t want to trade him anymore.
4. Price’s struggles
Despite a 21-9-5 record, Carey Price has actually struggled for much of the past two months. Since the start of December, he’s let in at least four goals in eight of 19 games. Since Christmas, he’s let in four goals in six of 10 games, has won just three games and has a 3.45 GAA and a .887 SV %. This isn’t a two-week blip. He’s been struggling for some time now. He’s the best goalie in the game, but poolies who chose him high in the first round are experiencing frustration every time the Habs play.
3. The dead arise
Two goalies that were pretty much left for dead in fantasy hockey have turned out to be outperforming many top drafted goalies. Peter Budaj started the season in the AHL and even when starter Jonathan Quick went down with a long-term injury, everyone thought it was a matter of time before the Kings traded for another netminder. But Budaj has a 20-14-3 record with a .917 SV %, 2.14 GAA and four shutouts. The next given up for dead player was Mike Condon. Claimed on waivers by Pittsburgh at the start of the season, Condon was dealt to Ottawa for a fifth rounder. In the absence of Craig Anderson, Condon has become the de facto number one goalie in Ottawa, starting 22 straight games and amassing a 13-7-4 record with a .915 SV %, 2.48 GAA and three shutouts.
2. Bobrovsky’s and Dubnyk’s dominance
How good has Sergei Bobrovsky been this season? We’re at the halfway point of the campaign and Bob is only four wins shy of his career high. His 28 wins leads the league. He’s on pace to play 67 games (easily a career high) and to win 51 of them, which would be an NHL record. He’s third in the league in both save percentage and goals against average. And as great as Bob has been, Devan Dubnyk has been just a smidgen better with 25 wins, .935 SV %, 1.91 GAA and five shutouts. These two have been easily the best two goalies in the league this year.
1. The struggles of young goalies
In an era where youth is king, the same can’t be said for netminders. Goalies that were tagged to take over the crease this year has struggled mightily in some form. Matt Murray has been on the injured reserve list twice this season. Jake Allen was given a game off from the Blues. Connor Hellebuyck has been poor enough that the Jets had to recall — and forced to play — Ondrej Pavelec. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Calvin Pickard and Louis Domingue all struggled when they had a chance to wrench the starter’s job. John Gibson is pretty much the only young goalie that is living up to his billing.