Fantasy Hockey Cheat Sheets: Workhorse goalies vs. 1a/1b rotations

jonashillertakesadrink.jpgWhile Pro Hockey Talk doesn’t specialize in fantasy hockey (our Rotoworld cousins do, though), we still think that there are areas where we can help you, the budding imaginary general managers. For that reason, we’re going to discuss different philosophies, strategies and cheat sheets as fantasy drafts begin to increase around North America.

Previous entries: Penalty Minutes, Faceoff winners, Shots on Goal leaders, Hits leaders, Blocked shots.

Today’s entry: Goalie tandems vs. workhorse goalies

Drafting a goalie is trickier than most people think. One of the biggest reasons why it’s a tough choice is because the position is often very fluid. Not every netminder can approach Martin Brodeur’s mind blowing consistency; just look at Steve Mason’s about-face in the 2009-10 season for an example of the volatility in net.

Ultimately, it’s all about bang for the buck. If you’re going to draft a goalie early, make sure that person will be likely to keep the starting job and be worth the pick. Much like running backs in the NFL, 1a/1b situations often benefit their teams but hurt fantasy owners. To clear up these problems, I thought I’d give my best guess on which duos are near-equal and which goalies should rack up the games played.

Keep in mind this is subjective and subject to change.

Anaheim: Jonas Hiller is the clear starter.

For years, the Ducks had steady competition whether it was Jonas Hiller, J.S. Giguere or Ilya Bryzgalov playing the role of backup. The good news is that Hiller is the clear starter … the bad news is that their defense is awful.

Atlanta: Chris Mason is likely the starter.

Mason should take on the No. 1 job, but Ondrej Pavelec could make things interesting.

Thumbnail image for raskybizness.jpgBoston: Tuukka Rask is likely the starter.

Still, Rask is a risky pick. When you have a $5 million backup in Tim Thomas, chances are you might want to give him every chance to reveal is value.

Buffalo: Ryan Miller is the clear starter.

I’m not so sure that Miller will be the best goalie in the NHL again, but if he’s healthy, he should get a ton of starts.

Calgary: Miikka Kiprusoff is the clear starter.

He might not always put up the best numbers, but he should push 70 GP like usual.

Carolina: Cam Ward is the clear starter.

After an injury-racked 09-10 season, Ward could slip under the radar a bit.

Chicago: Marty Turco is the clear starter.

I haven’t heard many good things about Corey Crawford, so Turco is an interesting fantasy choice next season.

Colorado: Craig Anderson is the clear starter.

I would be very surprised if he approached the elite level of his last season, but he’s obviously the No. 1 and is also in a contract year.

Thumbnail image for masonpulled.jpgColumbus: Steve Mason is the clear starter.

Unless he turns into Sieve Mason again …

Dallas: Kari Lehtonen is the clear starter.

Considering the fact that Lehtonen is so injury prone, Stars fans see the likely proposition of Andrew Raycroft being their starter for a stretch of the season. Yikes.

Detroit: Jimmy Howard is the likely starter.

Both Howard and Chris Osgood are in contract years. Osgood has plenty of championship rings and Howard might decline after a surprising rookie year.

Edmonton: Nikolai Khabibulin is the likely starter, but just stay away.

You have to be in a pretty deep league to even look at the Oilers goalies.

Florida: Tomas Vokoun is the clear starter.

He’s a good choice in leagues that reward quantity of starts (saves) along with the typical categories because he probably won’t earn many wins on a weak Panthers squad.

Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick is the likely starter.

Jonathan Bernier could really push Quick, who logged a bunch of minutes in 09-10. You might be wise to pick up both to hedge your bets.

The rest of the NHL teams’ goalie scenarios can be found after the jump.


Thumbnail image for pricehalak.jpgMinnesota: Niklas Backstrom is the clear starter.

Josh Harding is widely considered a top backup, but Backstrom is a workhorse.

Montreal: Carey Price is the clear starter

Alex Auld is solid, but this is Price’s team now. Could be a nice, late-round gamble.

Nashville: Pekka Rinne is the clear starter.

I think Rinne is a sneaky steal. The Predators play rock solid D, he won’t have to worry about being usurped by Dan Ellis anymore and he seems like a legitimate talent in net.

New Jersey: Martin Brodeur is the clear starter.

The most consistent goalie in fantasy hockey should be considered useful until proven otherwise.

NY Islanders: Dwayne Roloson is the probable starter.

See: the Edmonton Oilers entry. In other words, just stay away.

Thumbnail image for lundqvistpads.jpgNY Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist is the clear starter.

Martin Biron might take a solid amount of Lundqvist’s starts, though. He’s the first capable backup the Swedish star has had in New York.

Ottawa: It’s a bit of a tossup.

You’re probably better off staying away from that not-so-dynamic duo.

Philadelphia: Michael Leighton is the probable starter.

The Flyers could provide some nice goal support and defense in front of whomever their goalie might be. The question is whether or not Leighton will keep the job.

Phoenix: Ilya Bryzgalov is the clear starter.

Like Craig Anderson, it’s hard to imagine Breezy’s encore season matching last year, but the Greed is Good principle of a contract year could be enough incentive to keep him going.

Pittsburgh: Marc-Andre Fleury is the clear starter.

I’ve often been hard on M.A.F. but he could be a worthy pick with the improved defense in front of him.

San Jose: Antti Niemi is the likely starter.

The Sharks defense is a little shaky and they no longer have Evgeni Nabokov as an obvious rock in net. It should be a solid 1a/1b situation between Niemi and Antero Niittymaki.

St. Louis: Jaroslav Halak is the clear starter.

Halak will have every chance to prove himself as a legitimate starter while Ty Conklin is a very solid backup.

Tampa Bay: Dan Ellis is the probable starter.

Ellis has never been a No. 1 and Mike Smith should provide some solid competition. Use caution with this situation.

Thumbnail image for bertuzzihitsluongo.jpgToronto: It’s a bit of a toss-up.

The Maple Leafs might improve this year, but I’m not crazy about J.S. Giguere or Jonas Gustavsson.

Vancouver: Roberto Luongo is the clear starter.

He should get a ton of starts on a team that has a great chance to be a contender next season.

Washington: Semyon Varlamov is the probable starter.

The Capitals’ goalie situation is a little murky, but Varlamov could be a nice pick if you don’t snatch him too early.

So that’s my take on the NHL’s goalie situations. Feel free to voice any disagreements with these choices in the comments.

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    Golden Knights pad Pacific lead, even with Burns’ first goal

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    Coming into Friday’s game, what was stranger: Brent Burns having zero goals on the season despite 84 shots on goal in 20 games, or the Vegas Golden Knights leading the Pacific Division?

    Both points ended up being relevant to the discussion, as Burns finally scored his first goal of 2017-18 to help the San Jose Sharks rally for a “loser point,” but the Golden Knights ultimately won 5-4 in OT.

    With that, the Golden Knights won their fourth game in a row and now have 29 standings points, making for at least a slight cushion for the Pacific Division lead (the Kings are in action, but at 26 points, they’ll trail Vegas even if they manage a comeback win).

    Vegas probably wasn’t happy to see a three-goal lead dissolve, yet the Golden Knights just keep plugging away. They enjoyed a strong output from three forwards with plenty to prove in James Neal (one goal, one assist), William Karlsson (two goals), and Jonathan Marchessault (one goal and two assists). Both Neal and Karlsson are at 12 goals on the season now.

    The Golden Knights do have a bit to be concerned with, though, and that’s not limited to giving up the lead. Maxime Lagace “wasn’t feeling good” so he left the game for Malcolm Subban, while David Perron suffered an upper-body injury and did not return thanks to this questionable check:

    Even in defeat, Burns has to feel relief with this goal:

    Heck, even the Sharks seemed to wipe a little sweat off of their brows as the beastly blueliner finally scored.

    (Eh, Burns might need a few more goals to get people to stop complaining about his fantasy value. Sorry, Sharks.)

    Joe Thornton‘s two assists helped the Sharks secure a standings point, and now he sits alone at 12th all-time in assists, passing Joe Sakic.

    The Golden Knights continue to be one of the most heartening stories in the NHL, but even in grabbing the extra point, they’re only five ahead of the Sharks. Fighting off regression won’t be easy for the Golden Knights, yet they have incentive to push for some sort of home-ice advantage, as they improved to an impressive 9-1-0 in Vegas so far in their inaugural season.

    You never know how far a good run might take you, so don’t blame the Golden Knights for letting it ride.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Video: Devils’ Butcher with some razzle dazzle to set up Boyle

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    If you’re the type to get annoyed when college free agents soak up a lot of attention during the dog days of the hockey summer (Brandon Dubinsky is nodding), you were probably fed up with defenseman Will Butcher by the time he chose the New Jersey Devils as his destination.

    Well, at least the 22-year-old blueliner is backing up the hype, especially when it comes to setting up goals.

    Butcher’s 15th assist (and 17th point of the season) ranks as one of his best yet, as he totally baffled the Vancouver Canucks before setting up a Brian Boyle goal. You can watch that sweet helper in the video above this post’s headline.

    Speaking of Devils rookies, it seems like Nico Hischier is OK after this Alex Edler hit, but the Devils might be wise to keep an eye on the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, as this looked a little worrisome:

    Again, it seems like Hischier avoided injury, yet we shall see.

    There was also this big hit by Taylor Hall on rising Canucks forward Brock Boeser:

    The Devils ended up beating the Canucks 3-2 on Friday.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Well, at least Flyers are getting ‘loser points’

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    Love it or hate it, the loser point is a reality in the NHL, and the Philadelphia Flyers are one of the teams that really make things weird with what is now an 8-9-6 record in 2017-18.

    8-9-6. Look at that. It almost makes your eyes hurt, right? Something just seems wrong about that.

    No doubt about it, there are a lot of reasons to be frustrated if you’re a Flyers fan right now. Most obviously: they’ve now lost seven straight games after falling 5-4 in OT to the New York Islanders. Philly came into the third period with a 4-2 lead that they squandered, aside from getting a “loser point.” There’s at least some frustration with head coach Dave Hakstol:

    Still, in this weird standings format, not all losing streaks are equal.

    Bad: They dropped two straight games to the Islanders. Good-ish: At least both games went to overtime.

    Bad: Yeah, teams that want to take the next step can’t afford many slumps like seven games without a win. Good-ish: They grabbed four points during this skid. They’re at least scrapping for points when they can, in general; while they only have two wins in their last 10 games, yet they’ve managed at least a standings point in all but three (2-3-5, ugh).

    Bad: The Flyers are tied for last in the Metropolitan Division, and they’re really last since they’ve generated 22 points in 23 games while the Hurricanes have that many in 20 games played. Good-ish: While they have disadvantages that would force them to make a real run to do damage, you can’t rule out the Flyers in the wild card races.

    Ultimately, this team remains … perplexing.

    They have one foot in the current, with good stuff like the dominant Claude GirouxSean CouturierJakub Voracek line in mind, even if some of that makes moves like the Brayden Schenn trade sting a little extra. On the other hand, they’re trying to bring along a group of wet-behind-the-ears defensemen, and there’s a fear that that group will take long enough to hit its stride than some of those forwards will start to hit the wall of regression.

    Ultimately, it might be crucial for GM Ron Hextall to figure out what to emphasize in the near future, particularly the trade deadline.

    At the moment, the Flyers are essentially aiming for the best of both worlds: developing that young talent while hoping to be competitive. That’s a great have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too scenario, but sometimes teams really lower their ceilings by being too trigger-shy to commit one way or the other.

    You’d think with a seven-game losing streak, that Philly would be downright-bad. Instead, they seem more stuck in the middle, and such a situation presents its own set of problems, or at least some head-scratching questions.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Jets basically have two top lines, and that’s scary

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    At times, this season feels like The Year of the Mega-Lines.

    Even so, the modern NHL is cruel to offense, and many of us are waiting for the other shoe to drop, as much as we want the fun to continue. What if Steven StamkosNikita Kucherov is driven down by injuries? Can Brayden Schenn remain a point-per-game player with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz into the spring?

    A lot has been going right for the Winnipeg Jets lately, as they improved to 14-5-3 after beating the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Friday. It was their sixth win in seven games; they’ve gone 11-2-3 since beginning 2017-18 with a sputtering 3-3-0 mark.

    Still, there are some of those red flags that make you wonder if the party might stop soon. They ranked second in the NHL in even-strength PDO (via Natural Stat Trick) coming into today’s action, one of the go-to signs that a Cinderella story may end. Their possession numbers have left much to be desired. Connor Hellebuyck might be playing over his head.

    All or at least most of those considerations are worth some concern.

    Even so, Friday managed to shine a spotlight on a scary notion: the Jets might possess the equivalent of two “top lines,” or at least an electric top duo and a young, rising one that isn’t far behind.

    Around the start of the season, the Jets raised some eyebrows – mine, anyway – by handing Nikolaj Ehlers a seven-year extension that carries a $6 million cap hit. It’s not like the 21-year-old lacked signs of brilliance; instead, it was just a little startling to see them be so proactive with a big contract and term rather than seeing if his 25-goal, 64-point breakthrough from 2016-17 was “for real.”

    It’s incredibly early, but Ehlers is making it look like a wise decision, if not an outright steal. There are even moments when you might catch yourself wondering, “Is he just about as good as Patrik Laine?”

    Perhaps the Ducks thought that way today, as Ehlers dropped two goals and an assist on them.

    Snickers turn to nods of begrudging approval when you hear talk about “shot quality” with a team that might just have an excess of high-end shooters. After all, you can only cheat to cut off shooters so much if it means giving Ehlers too much time and space:

    Laine played somewhere between coy and possum when discussing how hockey was “hard” for him during a relative scoring slump, as he’s climbing to right where the Jets would want him to be. Since November began, the 19-year-old has only failed to score a point in a single game and averages a point-per-night. (Overall, he has 17 points in 22 contests.)

    This outburst gives Ehlers 10 goals and 17 points, and perhaps the Jets’ risky investment in Bryan Little may look better if he can merely set the table for these two. Perhaps it’s fair to say that the Ehlers – Laine benefit from the occasional wake-up call, though.

    And, again, the scary part is that Ehlers – Laine isn’t even the first pairing you’d underline on the whiteboard.

    Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler both sit at 25 points even after being blanked on Friday, and it seems like they might have found their third amigo in Kyle Connor, another young forward coming up the ranks in Winnipeg.

    It has to be disheartening for opponents to consider that they might shut down Scheifele – Wheeler and still get blitzed out of the building by Laine and Ehlers, yet that’s the predicament you face, particularly since the Jets boast the sort of defensemen who might force you to “stay honest” in the likes of Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba.

    Does this all mean that Winnipeg can just pencil in its first playoff games, nay, series wins already? No, they have questions, all the way up to if Paul Maurice can make it all work.

    That said, days like these make you wonder if the talent will do all the work for him.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.