Halfway through the 2017-18 season, here's a speculative look at the fantasy-relevant goalies around the league, including individual statistics as of Jan. 4, and this week's rest-of-season ranking (G#).
Considering the Ducks rank 29th in shots on net while sitting second in most allowed, no wonder Gibson is only 13-12-4 on the season. But that .922 save percentage isn't too shabby. And Gibson's other stats will improve once the club -- ravaged by injuries to start this campaign -- heals further. Center Ryan Kesler's return has already improved matters. Getting winger Corey Perry back (soon, apparently) will also help. As for Miller, Anaheim's veteran back-up is often worth a play in Daily Fantasy, depending on strength of matchup. The 37-year-old has two shutouts in five starts dating back to early December.
The Coyotes have all of nine wins halfway through 2017-18. The club's goal differential stands at minus-52. In that light, Raanta's middling numbers -- outside of his five victories -- merit a fair amount of respect. That doesn't mean Arizona's No. 1 has much use in the majority of fantasy leagues -- unless this young squad unleashes an impressive surge in the season's final months. It has happened before.
Remember when a light misting of quiet panic settled, in response to Rask's fitful start to this campaign? Since the beginning of December, however, the 30-year-old is 10-1-1 with a .956 save percentage. He has allowed all of 14 goals in 12 games. While Rask is sure to go through another performance dip between now and April, and no small credit to the club's defense in support, the Bruins' No. 1 is clearly tuned-in altogether. That being said, fantasy managers loaded with quality goaltending might -- might consider dealing Rask for spectacular return up front while his trade value hovers high.
Scoring a league-worst 2.21 goals per game, just imagine how much poorer the Sabres would be if their temperamental No. 1 wasn't doing a decent job. Fact is, Lehner has given it a good fight since the start of December, riding a .929 save percentage -- only winning four of 11 contests, mind you, but there's only so much the 26-year-old can do on his own. So unless save percentage features ultraprominently in your deeper fantasy leagues, there are better goalie options available.
A serviceable No. 2 fantasy netminder in all but the shallowest of leagues, Smith could be a bit wary of his 25-year-old understudy. Appearing in five games since Nov. 25, Rittich has yet to allow more than two goals in any contest. Smith's fantasy managers need not worry for now, but one extended slide could mean a shakeup in the Flames' netminding hierarchy.
Are the "Darling Days" already over this season in Carolina? Probably not, but right now the playoff-seeking Hurricanes' net belongs to Ward. Aside from Tuesday's offense-riddled overtime defeat to the ever-dangerous Capitals, Ward has been super, allowing only five total goals in four-straight wins. And the 33-year-old veteran is available in almost 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
With the injured Crawford out "indefinitely" and Forsberg coming off a five-goals-allowed performance against the Canucks on Dec. 28, three-game NHL veteran Jeff Glass is the starting netminder for the Chicago Blackhawks. A pro in the AHL and KHL since 2005-06 (including an early stint in the ECHL), the 32-year-old is 2-1-0 through those three aforementioned contests. All fantasy managers in need of immediate goaltending aid should give Glass a good, long look.
Hampered by a muscular injury, Varlamov has been listed as day-to-day for the Avalanche. That vaults Bernier into the starter's crease versus Columbus on Thursday, and beyond. Wildly up and down since the season's start, the club's No. 2 has been good his past two appearances, including Tuesday's unanticipated relief effort against the Jets. Bernier is an attractive DFS darkhorse option only, for now, when the matchup suits.
The Blue Jackets' No. 1 might be the early favorite for the Vezina once more if it wasn't for that meddling Vasilevskiy. Never mind December's inconsistencies, Bobrovsky is off to a fantastic 2018 with Tuesday's 2-1 victory over the Stars. And unlike Tampa's netminding star, Columbus' veteran has already proven he can handle the grind of a 60-plus game campaign -- just last year, when he won the Vezina for the second time. With one exception -- he has struggled these past two years against the Bruins, for example -- Bobrovsky should be active as a fantasy starter every game.
Bishop is on the upswing with a .943 save percentage through his past six contests, including two shutouts, while Lehtonen hasn't started a game since Dec. 15. It has been a nice change of pace for the Stars' No. 1 after a fairly erratic November. Fantasy managers shouldn't hesitate in activating Bishop, game in and game out, for the foreseeable future.
Allowing eight total goals in five consecutive starts, Howard has been outstanding for his club of late. Unfortunately, the ever-maturing gaggle of young Red Wings up front, led by 21-year-old Dylan Larkin, is still developing as a persistent offensive threat. Still, Howard has fantasy use as long as he's wielding the hot blocker. The 33-year-old veteran remains available in 55 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
In this week's rest-of-season fantasy hockey rankings, Sean Allen offers why Talbot -- a potential buy-low candidate -- could be in for an upswing through the second half of 2017-18:
"... Over the previous two seasons, as he ascended to the Oilers starting goaltender throne, Talbot posted an .884 save percentage on the penalty kill. That's pretty close to the leaguewide average and ranked 16th among 60 goaltenders who started at least 25 games during those seasons. However, Talbot has allowed 23 power-play goals on 98 shots for a penalty-kill save percentage of .810 so far this season. He's an ideal candidate for a positive regression. All things considered, his .905 save percentage this season is pretty good considering how much damage he has taken on the penalty kill. If his penalty-kill save percentage was at the magical .875 mark, his overall save percentage would be .914. Interestingly, defenseman Andrej Sekera, who was second on the team in short-handed ice time last season, just returned to action in late December. It could be a good time to get Talbot for the stretch run ..."
As discussed in this week's Waiver Watch, the Panthers' patience with Reimer is paying off handsomely now. After struggling well into mid-December in relief of Luongo, Reimer has since strung together five straight wins, including two shutouts, before Tuesday's loss to the Wild. And Luongo isn't due back anytime in the foreseeable future. As long as Reimer's recent neck issue is as minor as he claims, Florida's temporary top dog could quickly rise through the fantasy ranks. The 29-year-old remains widely available in ESPN.com leagues.
Playing with a top-notch team defense and the league's No. 1 penalty kill certainly doesn't hurt. When healthy, Quick has been one of the league's most consistent goaltenders for years running. Having offensive force Jeff Carter back in the lineup -- at some point, presumably -- will only bolster the club's opportunities to win. There appears no downside to riding Quick hard from now until the season's conclusion. As for the Kings' backup, Kuemper serves as one of the better Daily Fantasy options when enlisted to give the No. 1 a rest.
Stumbling through most of the first half, and eight points out of a wild-card slot, the Canadiens may still hit rock-bottom yet. It's not like trading forward Max Pacioretty for prospects/draft picks is expected to improve the club immediately. So we're only halfway through what may feel like the longest regular season of Price's pro reign. On stride for his worst goals-against average since entering the league, one of the world's best netminders has lost four straight. For the first time in a long while, fantasy managers are advised to pick their spots in starting the elite goalie. Despite the issues out front, Price still has it in him to steal a few, here and there.
Dubnyk has looked no worse for wear following his two-week-plus absence with a lower-body injury, allowing a total of three goals over two games for two wins, against the Predators and Panthers respectively. Accustomed to appearing in 65-plus games for the Wild the past two seasons, the club's No. 1 won't rest much between now and spring. Another factor working in Dubnyk's favor is that the talented skaters out front are all back to health -- including winger Zach Parise. They make up a dangerous bunch.
As long as the current trend continues, Saros can be expected to earn every third start for the Predators, moving forward. Not only has that pattern persisted since mid-December, but the 22-year-old has been better -- two shutouts in three starts, plus a blanking of the Hurricanes through 53 minutes as a substitute on Dec. 21 -- than Rinne over that period. This is exactly what Nashville management had hoped for: consistency in relief while the club's No. 1 remains fresh for a hoped-for long playoff run. Only Rinne's fantasy managers might take issue with his decrease in workload. Otherwise, also look to Saros for spot starts and DFS investment.
Through 30 games in 2017-18, Schneider is only three wins short of last season's 60-game total of 20 victories. It helps that the currently playoff-bound Devils are averaging 3.08 goals-per-game in contrast to last campaign's 2.20. The 31-year-old is comfortably on pace to bust through the 30-win plateau for the first time in his career. Frankly, it's surprising to see him available in nearly a quarter of ESPN.com leagues.
Halak has allowed 13 goals in his past three games, including one partial contest versus the Avalanche on New Year's Eve. Excluding three introductory showings with the Sharks in 2007-08, Greiss is rocking his worst -- and it isn't even close -- goals-against average and save percentage in his NHL career. Unsurprisingly, there are calls to promote an untested Christopher Gibson from the AHL squad, if the Isles are to have any decent chance at chasing a playoff spot. However it shakes out, fantasy managers should steer clear of this mess in the meanwhile.
If little else, Hank is proving there's still plenty left in the tank. Following a less-than-impressive October, Lundqvist went about righting the ship with a Rangers club that has allowed the fourth-most shots in the NHL. However, the 35-year-old vet remains on pace to start nearly 70 games this season. Won't happen. So anticipate a little more action from Pavelec -- who most recently tossed a 30-save shutout of the Capitals -- as the campaign wears on.
"It's Andy's net," according to Ottawa coach Guy Boucher. Unfortunately, that isn't much of a selling point for Anderson as top banana for this season's battered and near-broken Senators. Weighty talk of "selling" Mike Hoffman, Zack Smith and/or others before the deadline doesn't bode for any great turnaround either. Barring a startling resurgence by the club as a whole, Anderson's fantasy managers should start looking forward to next year.
One key lesson learned through December: Dave Hakstol is more than willing to play Elliott into the ground, which the 32-year-old doesn't seem to mind at all. So while Neuvirth -- recovered after his latest lower-body injury -- should see a bit more action following Elliot's abbreviated and utterly terrible performance against the Penguins on Tuesday, the Flyers' head coach will quickly return to his streaky No. 1 once he warms back up, which he will.
Badgered by different injuries, Murray wasn't at his best through a limited seven games in December (3-4, .889 SV%). If the Penguins' No. 1 doesn't bounce back in the early stages of 2018, Jarry will see additional action. On the flip side, Pittsburgh's backup was altogether solid in his three most recent appearances leading up to Tuesday's minor injury suffered against the Flyers.
Like Murray in Pittsburgh, Jones is also coming off an altogether lousy December (3-4-2, .886 SV%). Meanwhile, the Sharks' backup, Dell, has won six of his last seven (.946 SV%). So while Jones isn't in any immediate danger of losing his gig as San Jose's No. 1, the situation merits monitoring. The Sharks intend to make the postseason, and ultimately won't be that fussed about who gets them there.
The Blues are well in the habit of making the most of their goaltending tandem team, when needed. Right now, it's Hutton's turn with the hotter hand, but before too long, Allen is likely to take over once more. To suggest Hutton -- or even Allen, despite seeing the lion's share of action through October and November -- will run with the starter's job contradicts St. Louis' approach in recent memory. Fantasy managers invested in either/both must adjust accordingly, week by week, or even game by game.
Drafted 19th overall in 2012, Vasilevskiy was almost immediately touted as Tampa's goalie of the future. Fast forward a few years and the 23-year-old has easily met expectations as the club's "best player all year." That's quite a title, considering the Lightning have two players in the NHL's top three in scoring. Leading the league in save percentage and goals-against average (15-plus games), plus wins, Vasilevskiy's only potential fantasy red flag is endurance -- mental and physical. Since turning pro, the young netminder has never played more than 50 games a campaign. He's on pace to start 65 this season.
Backstopping this offensively-gifted and less-defensively-responsible (but improving) young squad is quite a task -- one that Andersen is managing more than adequately. Only three teams in the league have scored more goals than the Leafs. Only two teams have allowed more shots on their own net. As for minutes, only Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky has logged more (five minutes) than Toronto's No. 1. All that considered, Andersen is one experienced stay-at-home defenseman, perhaps acquired at the trade deadline, away from vaulting into ESPN.com's fantasy top-10.
On the NHL scale, the Canucks aren't a good team. They'll improve some once forwards Bo Horvat (late January?) and Sven Baertschi (sooner) return from their respective injuries, but until then, if even then, there's little to gain by relying on Markstrom as an everyday fantasy performer. The 27-year-old has lost six of his past eight starts.
Marc-Andre Fleury (G20) 1.77 GAA, .943 SV%
Malcolm Subban (G27) 2.25 GAA, .922 SV%
The only fantasy beef is that they're both playing well enough to share starts with some sense of regularity. Still, Fleury has the edge over the Knights' rookie netminder by way of experience -- as long as the former Penguin remains healthy. As for DFS play, invest in whoever is starting whenever the club is hosting. Vegas' ridiculous home record is 17-2-1.
Braden Holtby (G4) 2.68 GAA, .917 SV%
Philipp Grubauer 2.70 GAA, .909 SV%
For perspective, Holtby's save percentage is nearly identical to that of Buffalo's Robin Lehner through a comparable number of starts. The difference between their respective goals-against averages isn't that vast either (0.07). Those 23 wins with Washington -- contrasted with Lehner's nine in the Sabres' net -- sure make a difference, don't they? For that, Holtby can at least partly thank Alex Ovechkin's team- and league-leading 26 goals and counting.
So much for Mason, signed in the offseason, taking over the net in Winnipeg. It has been the Hellebuyck show since nearly the word go. No small thanks to the Jets' offense, which sits fourth in the league in goals-per-game (3.29), the reigning "NHL first star of the week" is showing zero signs of slowing down, posting only two regulation losses in 12 starts through December. However, fantasy managers skeptical about whether the 24-year-old can sustain this rate of success might consider dealing the netminder for a hefty return. As with Boston's Tuukka Rask, Hellebuyck might never be worth more on the fantasy trade market than he is right now.