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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    Kings win ugly with Budaj, making things even uglier for Predators

    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31:  Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings reacts to the overtime goal of Jeff Carter #77 to beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 at Staples Center on October 31, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    How would you describe the Nashville Predators’ Stanley Cup bandwagon at the moment? A few flat tires? One of those abandoned school buses at a dump?

    An unlikely occurrence – Peter Budaj winning four straight games for the Los Angeles Kings, all in overtime, all seriously in 2016 – puts a spotlight on an unsightly start for Nashville following a 3-2 OT decision.

    In other words, it was another night where the Predators (early or not) didn’t look the part of Stanley Cup contenders.

    Pekka Rinne has often been the scapegoat for Nashville’s losses, and his recent numbers justify some of the criticisms. Thursday doesn’t fall into that pattern, however. Instead, the Predators wasted a strong performance from their $7 million man, who stopped 42 out of 45 shots.

    Budaj? He only needed to make 24 out of 26 stops to keep his unexpected winning streak going.

    For the Kings and Predators, very different patterns continued on Thursday night.

    Los Angeles has people wondering “How long can they win with Budaj?” and “Is there a team that can finally hog the puck against the Kings enough to expose him?” Don’t blame Kings fans who never want this strange sequence to end.

    Nashville devotees, on the other hand, must wonder if they’re stuck in some sort of sick nightmare.

    They’ve been a chic pick to win it all, yet they’re now at 2-4-1 with three away contests remaining on a challenging five-game road trip.

    It’s early, but the headaches just keep multiplying for the Preds.

    Mrazek comes up big as Red Wings win sixth in a row

    DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 21: Petr Mrazek #34 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on in the first period while playing the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena on October 21, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    Are the Detroit Red Wings for real or are they headed toward a humbling regression? We might have to wait until their goalies look human before that question can really be answered.

    For yet another game, Detroit’s netminder was outstanding, with Petr Mrazek helping the Red Wings beat the St. Louis 2-1 via a shootout (and a pretty stressful shootout in that).

    It took eight rounds until Henrik Zetterberg managed Detroit’s second and decisive tally of the “skills competition,” and now Detroit is on a six-game winning streak.

    Mrazek made 31 out of 32 games through overtime and was only beaten by Alex Steen in that shootout, stopping seven of eight attempts. He’s faced more than 30 shots on goal in all six of his appearances in 2016-17.

    It is not as if there has been a big drop-off when Jimmy Howard has taken the net, either. Howard has only given up one goal in his two games, winning both of them.

    Are the Red Wings asking a lot of Mrazek and Howard? Yep. Just take a look a this lopsided possession chart from Natural Stat Trick for another reminder.


    You can see why skeptics murmur about this six-game winning streak being fool’s gold, but the Red Wings keep finding a way to win. Usually, it’s their goalies who have been doing the heavy lifting.

    It wasn’t pretty, but Coyotes beat Flyers to end five-game skid

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 27: Roman Lyubimov #13 and Chris VandeVelde #76 of the Philadelphia Flyers collide during the second period against the Arizona Coyotes at the Wells Fargo Center on October 27, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    PHILADELPHIA (AP) Martin Hanzal and Brad Richardson scored the decisive goals to help the Arizona Coyotes beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 on Thursday night to snap a five-game road losing streak.

    Jamie McGinn, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Ryan White also scored for Arizona. The Coyotes have their only two wins this season against the Flyers.

    The Coyotes salvaged one victory on a season-long, six-game road trip.

    Louis Domingue stopped 28 shots and won his first game of the season. He had been 0-4 with a 5.03 goals against average and had stopped only 85 percent of his shots.

    Nick Cousins, Brayden Schenn, Andrew MacDonald and Wayne Simmonds scored for the Flyers.

    The Coyotes snapped a tie with two straight goals in the third scored in a bit of a bizarre manner.

    Schenn leveled defenseman Michael Stone and Coyotes teammate Jakob Chychrun quickly came to his defense. Chychrun and Schenn brawled against the boards as the crowd erupted – and no one paid attention to the puck.

    Hanzal made it 3-2 and led to a few confusing moments as officials checked to make sure the goal was scored before the fight. Wildly cheering fans fell silent in a second when the goal was announced.

    Chychrun was tossed for instigating the fight.

    Richardson made it 4-2 on a goal that was reviewed because the Flyers thought he ran down goalie Steve Mason. Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov took Richardson down and they went into the net together so the goal counted.

    MacDonald, having a miserable season, made it 4-3 but the Flyers were out of rallies.

    White scored an insurance goal late in third to send fans toward the exits. Simmonds scored with 14.3 seconds left.

    The Flyers again had to rally from an early deficit, a troubling theme for a team with playoff aspirations. The Coyotes led 2-0 in the first, the latest slow start for the Flyers. They have been outscored 8-1 in the first period this season and allowed the first goal for the seventh straight game.

    Coach Dave Hakstol hoped a line change would boost the Flyers offense. He moved 19-year-old rookie center Travis Konecny to the top line with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek after that late-game pairing helped the Flyers come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Buffalo.

    “We needed a spark, that’s why we’re trying something a little bit different,” Hakstol said.

    Konecny, the Flyers’ first-round pick of the 2015 draft, has been solid since he opened eyes in training camp and scored his first career goal against the Sabres. He entered tied for the rookie lead with five assists and said he would keep the same approach even with the line promotion.

    “I’m not going to change anything in my game,” he said. “I’m just going to try and help them and create space for them.”

    The Flyers needed help early.

    Moments after they honored former great Eric Lindros – in his No. 88 sweater – another 88 got them with a goal. McGinn scored his first goal of the season to beat Mason. Ekman-Larsson followed with a slapper from the point for his fifth goal of the season.

    The Coyotes, who last won on opening night against the Flyers on Oct. 15, failed to hold the lead.

    Cousins pounded home a rebound for his first goal of the season and Schenn followed with a power-play score to help the Flyers at least tie the game when down two goals for the fifth time this season.

    Notes: The Flyers played without a suspended player for the first time this season. … The Flyers honored 14 members of the team’s Hall of Fame, along with the family of six other members, including: Bob Clarke, Ron Hextall, Bernie Parent and Dave Schultz. The Flyers have a variety of nostalgic celebrations planned this season for their 50th anniversary. … Coyotes D Luke Schenn, a former Flyer, played against his brother.


    Coyotes: Host Colorado on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Pittsburgh on Saturday.

    Video: In case you wonder if Crosby will still score gritty goals

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on April 2, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Penguins shutout the Islanders 5-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Many hockey fans were sad that Sidney Crosby was absent from the start of the 2016-17 season. The New York Islanders probably would’ve preferred that he sit out a few more games.

    Crosby’s been back and hasn’t really missed a beat, and Thursday provided a reminder that he’s unlikely to change the way he plays.

    To be more specific, he’s a star player willing to score “greasy” or “dirty” goals (depending upon your region). Crosby operated like a power forward while scoring the game-winner against the Islanders on Thursday:

    The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Islanders 4-2, with the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury receiving a lot of the credit.

    Still, it doesn’t hurt to have an all-world player willing to get that physical on your side.