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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    PHT Morning Skate: McAvoy needs to step up; 2018 mock draft

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    • Keelan Moxley (the young girl that Brett Connolly had a hard time getting a puck to last week) finally got to meet the Capitals forward. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

    • Overtimes between the Capitals and Blue Jackets have made this series exciting, but it’s starting to take a toll on players and fans, too. (The Hockey Writers)

    • Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy needs to find a way to be more involved in this first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. (WEEI)

    • There’s a few reasons why the Winnipeg Jets managed to dispose of the Minnesota Wild in five games. Their play on home ice and Connor Hellebuyck are right at the top of the list. (NHL.com)

    • Now that Tomas Hertl is completely healthy, the Sharks are expecting him to take his game up another notch. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

    • Even though the second round is on the verge of beginning, the Vegas Golden Knights are as healthy as they’ve ever been. (SinBin.Vegas)

    Andrei Vasilevskiy is a man of few words, but he made quite the statement in Tampa’s first-round series against the New Jersey Devils. (Tampa Bay Times)

    • NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke discussed the challenges and next steps his group has to undertake in order to get a team running by 2020-21. (MyNorthWest.com)

    • Finding a general manager might not be so easy for the Carolina Hurricanes, but Rod Bring’Amour is definitely willing to serve as a head coach. (Raleigh News & Observer)

    • The St. Louis Blues invited their season ticket holders to paint the ice, so one fan took the opportunity to mock a controversial offside decision. (The Sports Daily)

    • Blackhawks forward Anthony Duclair reached out to a youth hockey player in Nova Scotia that was the victim of a racial slur. (Chicago Sun-Times)

    • The Sporting News came up with a first-round mock draft for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. There’s no surprise at no. 1, as Rasmus Dahlin is the pick, but things get interesting after that. (Sporting News)

    • Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper has added the Golden Knights’ logo to the end of his bats. (Sports Logos)

    • Ellen DeGeneres paid tribute to the victims of the tragedy in Humboldt at an event in Calgary last week. (CBC)

    • Boston University head coach David Quinn will serve as the bench boss for Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championship next December. (College Hockey News)

    • One year after leaving the NHL, Andrei Markov took home the KHL’s Gagarin Cup with AK Bars Kazan. (Associated Press)

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    The Buzzer: Penguins, Predators advance; West second round set

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    2017 Stanley Cup Finalists move on

    Penguins 8, Flyers 5 (Penguins win series 4-2)

    Despite Evgeni Malkin missing Game 6 and Sean Couturier playing through a torn MCL, these two teams still provided plenty of fireworks including big goal totals, some controversial/nasty moments, and ultimately the end of the series. Jake Guentzel ended up scoring four consecutive goals to erase the Flyers’ lead and then give the Penguins enough of a cushion to close things out.

    After beating their in-state rivals, the Penguins await another familiar foe, whether that ends up being the Blue Jackets or the Capitals. The Penguins have to breathe a sigh of relief that they avoided a Game 7, as that was far from a foregone conclusion for much of Sunday (despite the odd final score).

    See for yourself:

    Predators 5, Avalanche 0 (Predators win series 4-2)

    While there was plenty of drama before the Penguins advanced, the Predators turned Game 6 into a formality pretty early on. Former Penguins forward Nick Bonino scored a goal and two assists, Austin Watson continued his strong postseason, and some usual suspects (Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson) put the game out of reach. Pekka Rinne only needed to make 22 saves to earn a shutout.

    Read more about Nashville’s Game 6 win here.

    West second round is set:

    Nashville Predators [Central first seed] vs. Winnipeg Jets [Central second]

    Vegas Golden Knights [Pacific first seed] vs. San Jose Sharks [Pacific third]

    PHT will provide schedule and TV information when it becomes available.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Three Stars

    1. Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins – At one point, the Flyers were up 4-2 during the second period. Patric Hornqvist made it 4-3, then Guentzel went on a dizzying tear where he scored four unanswered goals. Guentzel also grabbed an assist on that Hornqvist goal, so the 23-year-old generated four goals and one assist to help Pittsburgh advance (and thus avoid a Game 7 against Philly). He was a +5 in Game 6, too.

    Guentzel’s clutch credentials continue to climb; he now has 19 goals and 34 points in just 31 career playoff games. Wow.

    2. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers – You could make a very strong argument that Couturier deserves the first star, but the tie goes to the runner/guy whose team won. If the regular season didn’t serve as a convincing coronation for Couturier to go from a very good player to a bonafide star, then this postseason should remove any doubt.

    Generating a hat trick and two assists with your team’s season on the line is already a ridiculous accomplishment. To do so with a torn-up knee is jaw-dropping. And, hey, Couturier drew penalties, and probably should have drawn another one on what ended up being Guentzel’s game-winner:

    3. Nick Bonino, Nashville Predators – Sidney Crosby deserves an honorable mention, as both Crosby and Bonino generated one-goal, two-assist games in helping their teams advance to the second round.

    Bonino collected assists on the first two goals for Nashville, then he found the net for his first goal of the night/second tally of the series. This marks the first three-point game of Bonino’s postseason career, which is really something considering how much success he enjoyed with Crosby, Guentzel, and the Penguins during his two Cup runs with Pittsburgh.

    Factoids

    Guentzel’s night was special in many ways. Here’s one historical angle:

    The Predators aren’t the only team going for their first Stanley Cup. But you already knew the Golden Knights haven’t won one yet, of course:

    Monday’s games

    Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
    Washington Capitals at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7:30 p.m. ET (CNBC)

    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.

    Predators hammer Hammond, close out Avalanche

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    Andrew Hammond hamburgled a Game 5 win for the Colorado Avalanche, but the Nashville Predators ended Colorado’s Cinderella season in rancid way by a score of 5-0 on Sunday.

    The Presidents’ Trophy winners flexed their muscles in Game 6, and it must be a huge relief to avoid a Game 7. That’s especially true since the scary-good Winnipeg Jets await them in the second round as a rested bunch.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Early on in Game 6, a toss-up of a goalie interference call didn’t go Nashville’s way. That ended up being a mere footnote, however, as Mattias Ekholm made it 1-0 about 16 seconds later. Ekholm’s goal ended up standing as the game-winner, though the Predators eliminated any doubt about the outcome pretty quickly on Sunday.

    After channeling the magic of his “Hamburglar” run with Ottawa in 2014-15 thanks to a 44-save performance in Game 5, Hammond suffered in Game 6. The journeyman goalie might lose some sleep over some of the Predators’ goals, including a deflating 3-0 tally by Filip Forsberg.

    Credit the Avalanche for making the Predators sweat overall, even if Nashville made things look pretty easy in Game 6.

    It would have been prettier for Nashville to dispatch Colorado casually via a sweep or a quick five-game series, but the Predators may get some value from being tested. They also won games in different ways:

    • Nashville advanced despite a disappointing showing from its second line, with Kyle Turris (just one assist in six games) and Kevin Fiala (one goal, one assist in series) being especially quiet. That’s mostly a bad thing, but it also shows that the team can withstand a cold spell from some notable players.
    • The Predators enjoyed some strong work from supporting cast members including Austin Watson and Colton Sissons. Both players generated at least a point-per-game against the Avs, with Watson contributing four goals (including a key tally in Game 6). Nick Bonino was also fantastic in support for Nashville, generating his first three-point playoff game with a goal and two assists. Depth is a calling card for the Predators, and that came through in the first round, although the specific supporting cast standouts might surprise some.
    • Pekka Rinne experienced ups and downs, yet he seems to be heating up lately.

    While the Avalanche’s season ended with a whimper in Game 6, they gave the Predators a tougher fight than many expected. There’s a lot of room to improve, but this scrappy bunch has something to build on during the summer.

    That said, the Predators showed their higher gear during the last two games in particular, and Hammond could only steal one game for the Avs.

    This was a solid squabble to warm Nashville up for the postseason, but the Predators will need to play at a very high level if they want to cool the Jets. After holding off the underdog Avs, the Preds must steel themselves for a heavyweight bout against Winnipeg.

    It should be fun … at least for those of us who get to watch. For those on the ice, the second round is expected to feel more like the main event.

    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.

    Flyers’ once-deadly power play wilted against Penguins

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    No doubt about it, Flyers fans have a beef about the goal that really set the stage for the Penguins to put Game 6 – and the series – out of reach on Sunday.

    Perhaps Sean Couturier would have received an embellishment infraction during the exchange, but either way, it sure seemed like Kris Letang took another penalty on Couturier just moments after leaving the penalty box for a different infraction. No call was made, and just moments later, Jake Guentzel scored to push the score to 6-4.

    Things got weird after that as the Penguins eliminated the Flyers via an 8-5 score in Game 6, but plenty of Philly fans probably wonder “What if?” on that goal. Flyers players seem to agree that Letang deserved a penalty.

    You can debate that call and different breaking points until you’re blue in the face, but the real “What if?” question might revolve around special teams. To be specific, the Flyers’ power play really let them down in that just-expired series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    The Flyers were held without a power-play goal in five of the six games during this series. The lone exception was Game 2, when the Flyers went 2-for-3 in a 5-1 win.

    Philly went 2-for-21 overall during the series, generating a pitiful power-play percentage of 9.5. Only the Kings and Golden Knights were less productive with the man advantage, and that was during a skin-tight four-game sweep where goals were incredibly hard to come by (that series featured 10 goals total, three fewer than the Flyers and Penguins scored in Game 6 alone).

    It’s especially remarkable that the Flyers also went 0-for-13 on the power play at home during this series. With their season on the line, that unit only managed two power-play shots on goal in three opportunities in Game 6, looking especially indecisive despite also receiving a 4-on-3 opportunity.

    Now, heading into this series, the Penguins were expected to hold an advantage on special teams because of what could be a historically potent PP unit of their own. Still, it’s troubling that the Flyers rarely exploited what was a far from spectacular Penguins penalty kill. Pittsburgh’s PK unit was in the bottom third of the NHL percentage-wise since February, setting the stage for two strong power plays to trade blows. That didn’t happen as much as expected, with the Flyers’ failures ending up being fatal.

    A question of personnel?

    If you want to point to one factor, ponder Wayne Simmonds‘ lack of involvement.

    The fantastic front-of-the-net presence implied that he might be undergoing surgery soon, which probably explains both his limited usage and limited production. Simmonds failed to score a single goal during this series, finishing with two assists in six games.

    (Strangely, that matches his production from his last playoff appearance in 2015-16: zero goals, two assists in six games.)

    Blame it on struggles or a lack of health, but either way, the Flyers were turning to different players when a man up.

    It’s no surprise to see big PP TOI numbers for Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, and Shayne Gostisbehere. The notable swap is Nolan Patrick, who joins those Flyers in the four minutes per game range, while Simmonds was only logging about two minutes per night.

    Patrick has come a long way as his rookie season goes along, yet Simmonds is one of the NHL’s true wizards in the dirty areas right in front of the net. Simmonds has generated at least 11 power-play goals for five straight seasons with the Flyers for a reason.

    Would things have been different if Simmonds was truly healthy? It’s a fair question, but you also wonder if the Flyers didn’t make enough adjustments to get their once-potent power play back on track.

    ***

    In looking back at this series, the Flyers will certainly want to solidify their goalie situation, a seemingly eternal conundrum for this franchise.

    Sometimes it comes down to getting the right players and goalies in place, something that GM Ron Hextall must wrestle with during the summer. Still, there are also questions about putting the right players in the right situations, and in many cases that comes down to coaching.

    Ultimately, a lukewarm power play hurt the Flyers’ chances of trading haymakers with the prolific Penguins. Maybe it’s a mere matter of small sample sizes, yet Philly’s failings in that area should at least prompt some soul-searching over the summer.

    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.