Frozen Pool Forensics: Goaltending Studs (Part 2)

by Chris Liggio on January 26, 2018

 

Last week we took a look at some top options in the net for fantasy managers in 2017-18. Beyond the five covered though there are still plenty of quality options that deserve their nod of appreciation. To continue the trend this week we look to another five in net that are helping fantasy squads in their quest for a postseason berth. Before anyone chews me out, Braden Holtby was not covered in either week because he is a blatantly obvious top option.

 

Pekka Rinne

 

Though nobody could be judged for thinking his downfall was in full swing after two seasons of declining win totals since his 41-win 2014-15 campaign, 2017-18 sees Rinne back on track for 40-win territory and he’s quieted those who questioned his ability to still produce at the highest level. Between the pipes for a deep and talented Predators roster, Rinne currently is sporting an impressive 23-8-3 record in 34 starts so far with a respectable 2.42 GAA, which is in line with his average over the course of the past three years. Beyond that his SV% currently sits at .925 which is an improvement on the prior two seasons and also slightly better than his 2014-15 campaign.

 

On pace for 60-plus starts, the presence of Juuse Saros seemingly has not affected his ability to maintain a firm grasp on the starting gig. Though he is the heir apparent, Saros is firmly the backup whilst Rinne is still producing in the fashion he is. Like many of the better goaltenders in the league, the Predators do a fairly decent job at suppressing the high danger scoring chances coming from the 1-15 -foot range. Seeing 235 shots from in close to this point in time, that is above average across the league but not in the realm of Tampa Bay’s shot suppression. Nonetheless the team is collectively doing their part to help Rinne succeed and with Ryan Ellis back in the fold things could stand to get better in the second half as this is arguably the deepest defense in the game. Only three times this year has Rinne posted a SV% below .850 so the consistency is more than established therefore you can expect him to be one of the best netminders as far as production by season’s end.

 

Tuukka Rask

 

We are witnessing a renaissance season for Tuukka Rask since his return from injury in late November with the Bruins as a collective steamrolling their opposition. I always have to tip my hat to the Bruins as I can never fathom how a team that’s traded away the star power they’ve had over the past decade plus never seems to falter. Since returning on November 26th, Rask has let in more than two goals but four times in nineteen starts. More impressive is that he hasn’t lost in regulation since returning on November 26th; wow. Basically, Rask is flying under the radar, but he has been an absolute force for some time now with 15 wins in 19 games since his last regulation loss.

 

Besides Rask playing in god-mode the Bruins defensively are restricting high danger scoring chances in substantial fashion with only 153 from that range. Yes, Rask has played significantly less than many workhorse goalies with 31 starts on the season but even translating this up to 40 or so starts puts the grand total around 200 at best which is still phenomenal. The recent loss of Brad Marchand to suspension could be a significant threat to the team’s hot streak but Rask has entered must start territory regardless of the opposition with or without his services until proven otherwise.

 

Jonathan Bernier

 

To go a different route, Bernier is not the person one would think of regarding starting goaltending for the Avalanche, yet he was stellar during Colorado’s nine-game win streak playing every time in that stretch. Though on paper he is the backup to Semyon Varlamov, he’s certainly going to make Jared Bednar think twice about who he deploys primarily between the pipes once he has both goalies at his discretion again. Bernier allowed more than two goals once during the winning streak making him one of the hottest netminders in the league at this point in time. Playing behind a starkly improved Avalanche squad in comparison to last season, any and all who scooped him up on the wire when Varlamov went down have been immensely rewarded.

 

Though his sample size is limited compared to the other goalies listed here, we see the same characteristics that seemingly translate to elite goaltending production across the league. So far only 114 shots have come from the 1-15 -foot range while 135 came from 16-30 feet out and 429 from 31 feet and beyond. The Avalanche much like any top performing team do a great job at keeping the high danger scoring chances limited and Bernier is making the necessary saves at farther out shot distances. Sporting a 14-8-1 record in 23 starts on the season, Bernier is more than deserving of more starts even once Varlamov returns. Be on the lookout for the establishment of a timeshare if not a complete swapping of the two on the depth chart in time.

 

 

Marc-Andre Fleury

 

I still cannot fathom how well the Golden Knights have performed in their inaugural season, especially in a city filled with so much nightlife temptation. Nonetheless fueled by an “I’ll Show You” mentality as the team is essentially cast-offs from around the league, they have worked their way to the top of the Western Conference. A team loaded with players overproducing for their expectations such as William Karlsson, David Perron, Jonathan Marchessault, and Nate Schmidt, the Golden Knights also are receiving quality goaltending from their well-known number one. Much like Rask in that there was an injury episode although far longer, Fleury is rewarding his patient owners who rostered him during his time out with excellent play since mid-December.

 

Because his sample size alone is not enough to truly see how exemplary the Golden Knights are at suppressing shots, I look to the netminding ranks as a whole. Look at any name and just like all the other top teams in the league there is a dearth of high danger scoring chances from the 1-15 -foot range making their way to the netminder. Not one of them has seen over 100 of this kind throughout the season yet far more from the 31-foot and beyond range. The Golden Knights are a relentless squad, coming at you constantly and harassing the opposition to no end when in their zone. Fleury is the uncontested number one for this squad so going forward expect him to be making a majority of the starts barring injury. Since his return on the 12th of December he has let in more than two goals but three times in 13 starts and of those three times he won twice despite this and lost in overtime on the other game. Fleury makes for a strong start behind a formidable squad so look for him to be one of the best options in the second half.

 

Jonathan Quick

 

He’s been far from stellar as of late as has the Kings all around, but you’d be hard pressed to find a much more locked in workhorse goaltender across the league than Jonathan Quick. Because of his quintessentially guaranteed starter spot you could be fairing far worse between the pipes whether he is performing well or as he has through the majority of January’s starts. Despite his current injury/poor stretch, he has already ascertained the 20-win mark which he’s done every season he has not had cut short. With an improvement of play, a quick recovery and a revamped Kings after the break, Quick can easily contest for high 30’s win territory by season’s end.

 

Even with recent starts taken into consideration where we’ve seen him give up three goals or more five times in eight starts this month, he still has a respectable .921 SV% overall. His GAA is a tad high for an owner’s taste at 2.44 though it could be worse and some improvement will easily remedy this as he is all too capable of. There is no denying this is not the Kings juggernaut of a few seasons prior when they captured two Stanley Cups but know that they are about to receive what is basically an in-house trade deadline acquisition with the return of deadly sniper Jeff Carter. Carter has been out for quite some time and he instantly improves the offensive depth overall for the Kings and allows them to rebalance their line deployments. The reuniting of the “That 70’s Line” of Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson theoretically should kick start the offense and when Quick is on it doesn’t take many goals for him to secure the win.

 

Antti Raanta/Brian Elliott/Carter Hutton

 

And to end this here’s a trio of options that may be available to you on the wire and are quietly providing solid play in net for their respective squads. Raanta will always be looked over because of the squad he is playing for, but he’s only let in more than two goals once in all seven of his January starts and collected three wins. With a .918 SV% which is impressive playing behind an inconsistent team, he’s worth utilization if you are selective with the Coyotes opponents.

 

Though his ratios leave something to be desired, Brian Elliott has been the Flyer’s horse with 38 starts to this point and delivering 19 wins in the process. He certainly has issues limiting the goals to less than three but no denying he receives the lion’s share of the work in net for Philadelphia. Despite Michael Neuvirth’s presence he is of service as a solid number two for your fantasy squad behind a far improved Flyers offense compared to 2016-17.

 

Poor Jake Allen has seemingly lost his starting position to career backup Carter Hutton since the calendar turned to 2018. Hutton has shown flashes of brilliance like this in the past and we can’t blame Mike Yeo for giving him an extended look as he has let in more than two goals twice in eight January starts collecting five wins. Until he falters Yeo will seemingly ride the hot hand so get in on the action before the inevitable collapse if in dire need of a plug. For those owners of Allen this makes for a perfect handcuffing opportunity and hopeful motivation for him to improve his play.

 

2 responses to “Frozen Pool Forensics: Goaltending Studs (Part 2)”

  1. Andrew says:

    Thoughts on Lehner’s future?

    • Chris Liggio says:

      Lehner is a good goalie if you ask me and if the team can improve steadily he has potential to rise into top-10 in future but he will need the team to get better he cannot carry a mediocre squad a la Lundqvist.