The 10 most surprising goalies so far…
Choosing a goalie for a hockey pool is always a crapshoot. An injury can derail your team pretty quickly and for head-to-head leagues, a bad game or two from a goalie can spell disaster.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure you have the right goalies. In the roto Dobber Expert’s League, the computer autodrafted Mike Smith and Steve Mason for me. I’m dead last in all three goaltending categories (wins, GAA and saves) and also dead last overall. I’m pretty much dead in the water in that league, unless one of those goalies go on a massive run, or Robin Lehner (my third goalie) somehow becomes a number goalie (not likely after writing this list).
While some of us miss out on those elite goalies during the draft, there are always plenty of netminders who step up and play great. Maybe they start contributing in categories they never have before. Or maybe they’ve been a bright light in a sea of misery.
For the 10 goalies below, they’ve surprised us in a good way somehow this season. So here are the top 10 surprising goalies so far (and no, Smith and Mason do not make the list).
10. Jake Allen
While it’s surprising that Allen doesn’t get more starts, he’s been excellent in the games he has appeared in. In just five games, Allen has a 4-1 record, with two shutouts, a .944 save percentage and 1.40 GAA. Many expected the rookie to be handed the starters job out of the gate, or at worst a 50-50 split. While Brian Elliott has started twice as many games as Allen, Allen is proving he can keep up at the NHL level.
Imagine what would have happened to the Wild if Kuemper did sign in the KHL in the offseason. But Kuemper not only re-upped with the Wild (for just $1.25 million a year for the next two seasons, a steal for those of you who own him in cap leagues), but took over the starter’s job. He’s been dynamite for leagues that count goals against average (1.99) and shutouts (three), but his other stats (a 6-4 record, 217 saves and .916 save percentage) keep him from being ranked higher on this list.
8. Ryan Miller
We all knew Miller was going to post better numbers in Vancouver than he did the last couple of years with the Sabres, but I don’t think anyone imagined he would have this kind of success so early. His 10 wins are tops in the league, and he’s only lost two games so far this season. He’s just average in the rest of the categories (.913 save percentage, 2.42 GAA and one shutout) but a couple of rough outings skew those numbers. In his 12 games, he’s let in two goals or less in nine of them.
7. Pekka Rinne
A lot of poolies lost faith in Rinne over the Nashville netminder’s last couple of seasons, but Rinne is showing us this year why he was once the goalie to own in fantasy hockey. The guy has been almost unbeatable on the ice. So far this year, he’s got a 9-2-1 record, and is sixth in the league in saves (317), save percentage (.935) and GAA (1.81).
Admit it, you probably don’t even realize how good he’s been this season. After all, Buffalo sucks and is tanking for Connor McDavid. But Neuvirth hasn’t been that bad. So far, he has a 2.66 GAA and a .929 save percentage, which are better numbers than Semyon Varlamov, Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist, Sergei Bobrovsky, Jaroslav Halak, Cory Schneider, and Kari Lehtonen. Of course, he’s not going to help you with wins (just a 2-4-1 record), and since the Sabres are tanking, they give more starts to Jhonas Enroth (1-7-1 record, 3.63 GAA and .901 save percentage) and will probably continue to do so. Still, Neuvirth has been a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dreary Buffalo season.
Wait, wasn’t John Gibson supposed to be the top goalie for Anaheim? For suave poolies who saw through the Gibson hype to know Andersen would be the top dog, you deserve a giant pat on the back. Andersen was awesome last year, but this year, he’s been even awesomer. He has a 7-1-1 record, with a .939 save percentage and 1.63 GAA. And with Gibson on the IR for the next few weeks, there’s no chance of a goalie controversy rearing its ugly head. (Note, this column was submitted before the end of the Canucks-Ducks game last night).
We touched upon Fleury in last week’s top 10 list, but suffice to say, he’s quickly earning his new contract. While he could always be counted on to provide wins and a half-decent save percentage, this year Fleury has taken his game to a whole new level. His nine wins is tied for second in the league, but his 1.90 GAA is half a goal better per game than he’s had for the last five seasons. One thing that helps is that unlike most other teams that play their backups against poor teams, Pittsburgh goes the other route. Fleury is getting those starts against Buffalo and Carolina, so the opportunity for him to pad his numbers is there.
3. Jonas Hiller
Hiller and the Flames have been two of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season. Only twice in 11 starts has Hiller posted a sub-.900 save percentage. And he only has one regulation loss in his last nine games. So he’s been huge for poolies who drafted him late. So far this season, Hiller has a 7-3-1 record, with a .931 save percentage and a 2.07 GAA.
Let’s admit that not many people are fans of Ondrej the giant. Most believe he’s unworthy of being a number one goalie and will poke fun of him at every opportunity. He even went undrafted in the experts league. But he’s still the top dog in Winnipeg, and has been one of the top goalies in the league so far. He’s let in two or less goals in eight of his 13 starts, and has only looked bad in one game. On the season, he has 7-4-2 record, a .928 save percentage and a 1.98 GAA. Excellent numbers for a goalie that mostly went undrafted in one-year leagues.
Anderson is one of those rare goalies where he’s great one season, then horrible the next. This year, he’s on cue for a great season, and he’s been delivering. The wins aren’t there (just four wins in eight starts), but everything else is dynamite. He’s got a .951 save percentage (he holds the record for best save percentage in a season when he had .941 from two seasons ago) and a 1.72 GAA. What’s more is that when he starts, you know you’re getting lots of saves in your pools. Anderson is averaging 35.6 shots against per 60 minutes of ice time (second highest in the league). Easily the most surprising goalie so far this season.
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