If anything seems to ever impede what is a juggernaut of a fantasy squad from winning a title, it’s satisfactory goaltending. Many a team has fallen when it matters most in the playoffs because their goaltending just was not sufficient enough to capture those all too important categories. In many leagues like some of my own, goaltending weighs heavily on who wins or loses at week’s end, hence why I am drafting Cam Talbot in Round 1 this past draft though that has been a disaster to this point. Alas let us take a look at some options that are coming through in waves thus far for owners.
Early on in the season in my main league an owner dropped Vasilevskiy prematurely after a rocky start and I in my stubborn confidence in my goaltending trio passed up a waiver claim. Boy that was not my finest hour as far as choices. Now sporting an absurd 27-8-2 record with a 2.23 GAA and a .928 SV%, Vasilevskiy is far and away the number one goaltending option in fantasy hockey these days. Certainly, playing on the offensive juggernaut that is the Tampa Bay Lightning plays its part in his ascent to the top of the goaltending heap, but we must realize that coupled with this, Vasilevskiy has found the consistency that long eluded him in the past. Known for his Jekyll and Hyde performances last year, this season prior to his current ugly stretch it was customary to see him not let in more than two goals more often than not.
Though the Lightning are well known for their offense, this team has done a phenomenal job at suppressing high danger scoring chances on Vasilevskiy. To this point when breaking down distances of shots against, only 181 have come from the 1-15 feet range, what one quantitates as high danger chances. Another 326 have come in the 16-30 feet range and 639 from 31 feet or more out. This breakdown alone tells you that the Lightning are doing a great job at keeping play to the outside wall in their zone and giving Vasilevskiy every opportunity to succeed which certainly is the case so far. With an average shot distance from the opposition of 37 feet, this often gives Vasilevskiy the opportunity to get into proper position and make the save. Should the Lightning continue to roll as they have all season we are looking at a goalie that is going to flirt with 50-plus win territory so sit back and enjoy the show if you’re one of his lucky owners.
As a Rangers fan let me put it bluntly; this team is not good anymore. After a decade’s worth of contention, the window is now shut and it is time to sell, sell, sell. Yet when you look at the Rangers record if you’re not following them game-to-game, it doesn’t look all that bad with a 24-17-5 record and currently in the first wild card position holding a game in hand on a rounding into form Pittsburgh. This season certainly is not the first time but more prevalent than recent years is the absolute dependency on Henrik Lundqvist playing out of his mind. One can realistically state that without his renaissance performance after a spotty start to the season, this team would be a bottom dweller in the Eastern Conference standings.
In comparison to Vasilevskiy seeing fewer than 200 shots from the 1-15 -foot range, Lundqvist has seen 317 to this point in time. That speaks volumes to why the Rangers are one of the worst in the league as they concede high danger scoring chances routinely. Yet despite this he still owns a .924 SV% and without the MVP caliber goaltending they’ve been receiving since late November this team has no prayer. Lacking any elite offensive talent a la Vladimir Tarasenko who they could have drafted instead of the mighty Dylan McIlrath, the time has come to tear it down and start anew. You cannot win titles in the modern era without the acquisition of elite talents to carry you. Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Chicago all went through awful years in order to stockpile high end talent in the draft. Known for buying talent the Rangers need to move away from this completely and embrace the process. On pace for 70 starts, Lundqvist deserves Hart Trophy consideration soon to be 36 years of age and performing like his prime years. The only goaltender to put together 13 straight seasons of at least 20 wins, those who invested in him in their drafts are reaping the immense benefits.
If you recall I mentioned drafting Cam Talbot in Round 1 of my main league. The only reason this hasn’t haunted me as it should is because I managed to grab Hellebuyck 250th (Rd. 21) to save my skin. What was honestly a hail mary pick has turned into a grand slam with Hellebuyck emerging in 2017-18 and remedying the Jet’s long cumbersome goaltending woes. On pace for heralded 65 start territory which is where I’d be comfortable labeling any goaltender a workhorse; he is becoming a top-five option in the league.
A trend is starting to emerge when you look at the spreads of the top options in net. Like Vasilevskiy, Hellebuyck has only seen 182 shots from 1-15 foot -range. Basically, if any team is limiting those high danger chances in this fashion, chances are the team is performing well in the standings and such is certainly the case for both these goaltenders’ respective squads.
As impressive as Vasilevskiy’s average shot distance is at 37 feet, Hellebuyck’s team is one upping the Lightning with Hellebuyck seeing an average shot distance of 39.44 feet! Kudos to the Jets as for a majority of players in the league not named Alexander Ovechkin, scoring from this distance is not a routine occurrence. Though he’s been a little up and down in recent times as far as performances, coming off their bye week should do this squad well as a whole and look out for him to continue being an excellent option for you between the pipes.
Let’s have a well-deserved round of applause for Mike Smith because he just does not get the credit he deserves for playing such a large part in the Flames being in the thick of the playoff hunt. Much like Lundqvist in that he is at an advanced age, Smith has started 38 of Calgary’s 45 games to this point while sporting the second lowest GAA of his career at 2.46 and a solid .924 SV%. Someone give Brad Treliving a raise for acquiring Smith at an excellent price that only consisted of journeyman goaltender Chad Johnson, college prospect Brandon Hickey and a conditional third round pick.
Second in both saves and shots against, he is every bit the main reason why the Flames are even in the postseason hunt. For the first time in what seems like ages there is stability in the crease for the Flames and with the trade of Eddie Lack to the Devils in late December, barring injury Smith is prospering as he moves full steam ahead towards the workhorse realm. With an ADP of 159.5 on ESPN, Smith has been one of the best bargain picks this year by a mile. With 71 of 73 shots turned away in his past two games, Smith is hot right now and working towards stats reminiscent of his career 2011-12 season with the Phoenix Coyotes. Spoiling teammates with his elite puck handling skills that allow for quick transition out of their zone and avoiding being trapped defensively, hope that he can avoid the injury bug of past as this is turning into a season to remember in the twilight of his career.
Long before his time in Toronto on many occasions Andersen hinted at his potential greatness during his tenure with the Anaheim Ducks. Now well into his second season with the Maple Leafs, he’s well on his way to best-ing his admirable totals in 2016-17. Coming off a 35-win campaign last year, we see him in position to post 40-plus wins with improved GAA and SV%. Not to beat a dead horse but going back to distances of shots against, we have yet another example of limited attempts in close proximity directly correlating to top of the heap goaltending production. With 213 reaching him at the 1-15 feet range he is relatively close to Vasilevskiy/Hellebuyck territory but even the slightly greater amount of high danger chances arguably translates to Andersen’s higher GAA than the two and SV% (same as Hellebuyck).
2017-18 so far in my book has solidified his place in top-ten goaltending territory if not top five whilst in the midst of his prime. Behind an offensively stacked Toronto squad he is set up for continued success in the current campaign. Despite a current offensive drought, Andersen is still doing his part to keep the Leafs in games. His game against the Blues where he took a loss in overtime was truly inspiring seeing him stop the rubber 42 times only to unfortunately take the loss. Andersen will easily cross 65-start territory regardless of the presence of Calvin Pickard. Expect more solid efforts going forward as Andersen seemingly should benefit from the extended time off.
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