Forensics: Between the Pipes
In looking back on all my writings, I have come to find that we’ve never touched on goalies so naturally this trend must come to an end. We are seeing some upheaval in the crease these days, such as with the atrocious start for Carey Price and on the opposite end of the spectrum the meteoric rise of Connor Hellebuyck. For some leagues goaltending is arguably the most important position with a good percentage of scoring categories falling upon it. A historically finicky position, there are some options out there that have consistency on their side and should be valued highly by owners.
Let’s start this off by taking a look at one of the more consistent goalies in the game today. Jones has quickly cemented himself in workhorse goaltending territory with 65 starts in each of the two seasons prior to the current campaign. In said prior years, Jones posted win totals of 35 and 37 respectively with a save percentage that deviated by just 0.006% and a GAA difference of 0.13. In both campaigns he lost 23 times as well. This screams consistency, yet he never seems to get the credit he truly deserves as a set and forget goaltending asset which is seemingly becoming ever rarer. Now in his third season as the Sharks number one so far he has only one really bad start where he finished with a save percentage below .850. In 13 games played he’s collected eight wins so if he receives the ~65 starts by season’s end again we’re talking about a potential 40-win season. The Sharks have been excellent in the early going at shot suppression, so this coupled with his excellent play in net could very well lead to a career year for Mr. Jones.
Although he is getting older nothing has stopped Quick from being one of the more consistent options in the net across the league. Only contested by the likes of Cam Talbot for the workhorse throne as far as starts Quick looks well on his way to a 35-plus win season barring no injuries. With an astounding .930 save percentage so far in 16 games played in front of a improved Kings squad any and all who invested in him are grinning from ear to ear. Of importance with goaltenders such as Quick is not having an alternative option in goal breathing down his neck so to speak. He is all but assured his number one gig throughout the season, meltdown or no meltdown. No disrespect to Darcy Kuemper but he cannot wear Quick’s jock strap. Quick is yet to post a real stinker of a start as far as save percentage is concerned thus far. In the four seasons prior to 2017-18 his save percentages were as follows; .915/.917/.918/.917(17 GP). Quick is so consistent his nickname should be Hellman’s Mayonnaise. Deploy with confidence any time he gets the starting nod regardless of the opposition.
Now that he is actually a true greybeard everyone is seemingly getting scared off of owning Lundqvist. Yes, to start this season he and the team as a whole were truly atrocious but there is no denying anymore that the Rangers have turned the tide. Now having rattled off six straight wins in goal, Lundqvist is rounding into form and back in the hunt for yet another 30-win campaign. Say what you will about Lundqvist but he has won 30 or more games every season of his career except for the shortened 2012-13 lockout season. Even in that campaign he posted 24 wins in 43 games played. Fact of the matter is nobody touches him in winning consistency and it needs to be valued more by fantasy owners. Sure, his goalie stats may not be what they were in his prime anymore but you need wins from your goalies to win your fantasy matches. Despite the early woes he has still only had three games to date where he finished a game with a save percentage below .850. Now that Kevin Shattenkirk has settled in and the defensive pairs have been straightened out, expect Lundqvist to keep posting wins for the Rangers and your fantasy squad.
Carey Price is taking the cake for giving fantasy owners migraines, but Dubnyk was in a close second. Now with three straight shutouts I am sure his owners have started to feel an immense sense of relief, but they should never have fretted during the wretched start. Though I cannot vouch for where the Wild fall on the man games lost to injury plot, it would seem they must be up towards the top. Even so they are currently without two top six players in Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle. Through Dubnyk’s first 11 starts things were rocky, 32 goals allowed in that time frame were making Wild fans and fantasy owners alike grimace in pain. Yet something has seemingly clicked in the midst of this shutout run and he is back to looking like the 40-win goaltender from last season. Though he never looked to be fighting the puck throughout this year lately the cool, calm collected-ness seems more apparent. Confidence is certainly key, and Dubnyk seems to have rekindled it so if you’re an owner feel free to exhale at least a little. Dubnyk has been studly since coming to Minnesota in that robbery of a trade from Arizona a few seasons back so keep the faith and deploy him anytime he gets the starting nod.
So much for a goalie conundrum in Manitoba this season. This summer the Jets went out and spent big on Steve Mason to hopefully alleviate the goaltending woes of season’s past, but the answer was internal all along with Hellebuyck’s emergence. Coming into this month, the Jets were taking the least amount of shots on goal per 60 minutes while allowing the fourth most shots against. This right here speaks to how integral Hellebuyck has been to their recent success since taking over for Steve Mason. With 10 wins in 14 starts coupled with a .929 save percentage the crease is his to lose. Hellebuyck is leading the league in even strength save percentage and the Jets as a whole have cut down on taking penalties which bodes well for goaltender fatigue. An offseason change in training regimen while working with goaltending guru Adam Francilia has seemingly done wonders for his game both physically and mentally. In seasons past Hellebuyck would get down on himself and lose confidence when scored upon. Now he appears to have matured showing an ability to steady the ship and be the franchise goalie the Jets so desperately need.
The Islanders possess the most frustrating timeshare in the league if you ask me. Both goalies can go on runs where they show number one capability and then somehow someway it always ends up back in a split. Lately Greiss seems to be winning the crease as Halak has floundered in his past couple starts. In the past few campaigns Greiss has emerged as an under the radar asset to own. In 2016-17 he secured 26 wins in 51 games played with a .913 save percentage and in 2015-16 23 wins in 41 games played with a .925 save percentage. Though it is clear he will never win this crease full time with the presence of Jaroslav Halak, he does possess the ability to make ample starts and produce results for fantasy owners. Plain and simple the one thing holding the Islanders back from loftier goals is the average goaltending as they have no issue burying the biscuit. Doug Weight himself has said “Thomas in the past two weeks has gained momentum. We’ve played some good teams with dangerous shooters, he was confident and our team was feeding off of it. I definitely took note of that.” Though you should not be relying on Greiss as your fantasy number one in net he is more than capable to fill in as a secondary option if you are really hurting in the crease and an excellent third option.
Bishop coming to Dallas was supposed to be a major competent of shoring up the Stars defensively and keeping pucks out of the net. But even he, an uncontestable upgrade over the Antti Niemi/Kari Lehtonen timeshare of past cannot mask the defensive woes of their blue line. Still regularly giving up three or more goals the Stars have serious issues away from the offensive zone. With Bishop’s 31st birthday just days away there is an argument to say he may be passing his peak already. Not since the 2015-16 season have we seen the dominant Bishop of past that could be relied on to assist in carrying your fantasy squad to a title. After a hot start to the season he has cooled down significantly allowing three or more goals in eight of his past ten starts including his trouncing last night at the hand of his former squad. That is not a good sign and although it is still relatively early on he is going to need to right the ship immediately to give the Stars a chance. There is still hope for his owners but the days of posting save percentages of .925 on the season may be coming to an end.
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