Top 10 Surprise Goalies – 2015

by Tom Collins on November 16, 2015

 

Taking a stab at picking the Top 10 surprise goaltenders so far in 2015-16…

It's pretty much impossible to win a fantasy hockey championship without good goaltending.

You were laughing last year if you owned Carey Price and Andrew Hammond. If you owned Ben Scrivens and Mike Smith, then you probably finished in the bottom half of the standings.

While there have been many goalies that have struggled early this season, there have been a lot of surprises out there. Owning some of these goalies while waiting for starters like Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov to get back on track may be saving your season.

Here are the top 10 goalie surprises so far.

 

10. Anders Lindback

Every goalie who needs to revive his career needs to go to Arizona. It's worked for Mike Smith, Devan Dubnyk, Ilya Bryzgalov and now Anders Lindback. This ranking comes with a huge caveat: Lindback has only started two games this year. But he did win those two starts. He's also been great in relief. Overall, Lindback is 2-2 with a 1.99 GAA and a .928 save percentage. It's only a matter of time before Lindback begins to steal starts from Smith.

 

9. Henrik Lundqvist

This may seem like a strange choice as Lundqvist is consistently one of the best fantasy options. But anyone who has followed Lundqvist's career knows he's a slow starter. That's why this year's start has been a surprise. Look at his stats from the last few years.

2014-15: 5-3 record, .891 save percentage, 3.25 GAA, one shutout

2013-14: 2-5 record, .895 save percentage, 4.43 GAA, one shutout

2012-12: 3-5 record, .900 save percentage, 2.83 GAA, zero shutouts

It's not until around the eight-game mark that Lundqvist turns it on. This year has been completely different of what was to be expected. Lundqvist won his first three starts and in his first 14 games allowed more than two goals only twice (both three-goal games). He's only had one game with a sub-.910 save percentage. He's one of the best, but based on his history, no one could have predicted this fast start.

 

8. Linus Ullmark

Ullmark started the season in the AHL before being recalled thanks to an injury to Robin Lehner. Ullmark was thrust into the starter's role after Chad Johnson faltered as the number one. And he's responded in a big way. Ullmark has a 4-2 record, a .924 save percentage and a 2.45 GAA. He's started five of the team's last seven games, and looks to be the number one goalie until Lehner comes back.

 

7. Michal Neuvirth

When I did a top 10 column earlier this year about goalie battles, I never bothered to include Philadelphia. Steve Mason has been solid enough in Philly that I never would have guessed that Michal Neuvirth could steal the top spot. But Neuvirth has been amazing. While the lack of offence is not leading to victories for Neuvirth, he has posted a 2.08 GAA and a .939 save percentage, both well above career highs.

 

6. Cory Schneider

Don't tell anyone on the New Jersey Devils they were the pre-season favourites to win the Auston Matthews sweepstakes. There was always concern about Cory Schneider's fantasy value with the Devils. The whole team is buzzing. Schneider is already a third of the way to his total wins from last year. His 1.98 GAA is fifth-best in the league, and his .928 save percentage is ninth.

 

5. Thomas Greiss

It shouldn't be any surprise that Greiss has played at least half of the Islanders games so far this season. After all, starter Jaroslav Halak is the biggest goaltending Band-Aid boy in the league. And while Halak has been putting up great numbers, Greiss is matching him start-for-start. In eight games, Greiss has a 5-1-2 record, a .930 save percentage and a 2.22 GAA. You can't count on Halak to play more than 55 games. That means Greiss could be getting at least another 25 starts this season.

 

4. Kari Lehtonen

Lehtonen has quietly put together one of the best win-loss records in the league. He has an 8-1 record so far, much better than teammate Antti Niemi's record of 6-3. His overall stats are much better as well.

Lehtonen: 8-1, 2.38 GAA, .921 save percentage, zero shutouts

Niemi: 6-3, 2.80 GAA, .907 save percentage, one shutout

Niemi was brought in to push Lehtonen. So far it looks like the move was a success.

 

3. Martin Jones

I originally thought there would be a goaltending battle in San Jose between Jones and Alex Stalock. But it hasn't even been close. Stalock has struggled this year. Jones started the season on fire before cooling off a bit. He's started to pick it up again lately, with just three goals allowed combined in his last two starts. On the season, he has an 8-5 record, a .923 save percentage and a 2.11 GAA.

 

2. Mike Condon

Condon was horrible on Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche, finishing with a .636 save percentage and a 6.00 goals against average. That was his first real stinker and his first loss of the season as he's been absolutely outstanding. He currently sits with a 6-1-2 record, a .921 save percentage and a 2.06 GAA. He's making the Canadiens not have to worry about rushing Carey Price back into action.

 

1. Reto Berra

Berra has been seeing a lot of action the past week because of an injury to starter Semyon Varlamov. However, Berra's play the entire season is enough that he should be rewarded with starts even when Varlamov comes back. Berra leads the league in save percentage (.953) and GAA  (1.50). He also has two shutouts. He's only allowed more than two goals in one of his eight starts this season. He's easily been the biggest goaltending surprise this year.