I've written about what is the goaltender end of times that is approaching the fantasy hockey realm in a dynasty column before. In fact, it was January 2019 when I highlighted the number of goaltenders approaching the age 35 cliff in the next couple of seasons.
I don't know if someone decided to speed up the process, but the current fantasy landscape for goaltenders is one of confusion, transition and surprises.
Thirty days isn't a season, but it's a decent enough sample size. During the past 30 days, here are your top 10 goaltenders on the ESPN Player Rater:
1. Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets
3. Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders
4. Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues
5. Pavel Francouz, Colorado Avalanche
6. Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals
7. Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks
8. Alexandar Georgiev, New York Rangers
9. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
10. Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers
I don't even know where to start pointing out what a crazy list this is... How about the fact that five were/are backups. Or that only five of these goaltenders simply registered on ADP charts at the start of the season, with only one of them inside the top 100 (Vasilevskiy). Setting aside the names completely, how about just considering that seven of these goaltenders were near the bottom of the ESPN Player Rater ranks after October.
Goaltending has not been friendly to fantasy this season. So you might not be surprised to learn that goals are trending up again league-wide. So far this season, there have been 3.06 goals per team per game. That's higher than last season's 3.01 and almost as high as the 2005-06 mark of 3.08, which is the highest mark in the 2000s. In fact, those three seasons are the only time the number has climbed higher than 3.00 since 1995-96.
My instinct is to suggest sticking to your guns, and waiting for the expected names to rise back up the ranks. But this upside down world of goaltending does, anecdotally, feel more extreme than in previous seasons when we've had rough patches. I think what might be different about it is that the list of the top 10 goaltenders over the past 30 days is young. Very young. The oldest among them is Varlamov, who is also the only one over 30. Six of the goaltenders are 25 or younger.
So I guess my strategy is to split the difference. Don't go dropping Pekka Rinne or Marc-Andre Fleury, but don't necessarily keep starting them over Francouz or Georgiev. Use the youngsters for now, and keep the veterans handy for when the tide hopefully turns back in their favor.
Not everyone is doing this, as evidenced by some of the availability numbers for the goaltenders that have been hot lately. Jarry, Varlamov and Markstrom are available in about a quarter of leagues; Allen, Georgiev and Samsonov in about three-quarters of them; and Francouz in about 60 percent.
Forwards on the move
Taylor Hall, W, Arizona Coyotes (down nine spots to No. 45): Congratulations to Hall, who is likely playoff bound. Of course, it's not good news for his fantasy outlook, as the Coyotes aren't a run-and-gun offense and won't become one with this addition. They rank 23rd in the league in goals per game and are fourth in goals against per game - it's pretty clear what the strategy is here. Phil Kessel's offensive nosedive is the canary in the coal mine here, and it's current status doesn't bode well for Hall. Hall has four points in six games with the Coyotes, which feels about right ... which makes him not among the fantasy elite.
Defensemen on the move
Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche (up 29 spots to No. 55): Immediately back to serving as the Avs power-play quarterback, Makar returned from his first injury absence in the NHL after being sidelined for 20 days. The fact that this team returned the rookie to his big minutes and important stature with no hesitation is just one more sign that this 21-year-old is a stud on the blue line for fantasy. Despite his absence, Makar is still on pace for 69 points this season.
Alexander Edler, D, Vancouver Canucks (up 55 spots to No. 132): While he doesn't get used on the power play, Edler is still full of fantasy stats thanks to the Canucks offense. He's been back from injury for three games and is back up to his usual 23-plus minutes of action. While he isn't going to have quite the impact a Makar would have, Edler is still giving out D3 numbers and is available in a good chunk of leagues (35 percent or so).
Goaltenders on the move
David Rittich, G, Calgary Flames (up 20 spots to No. 57): Hats off to Rittich who is one of the few goaltenders who has been steadily OK this season. That may not sound like high praise, but consistent goaltending has not been easy to come by this season. With a little luck tomorrow, Rittich could finish with six wins in each of the first three months of the season - an exclusive club that would feature only Frederik Andersen, Jordan Binnington and Rittich. With all the mercurial goaltending statistics going around, "OK and steady" is a good combination.
Joonas Korpisalo, G, Columbus Blue Jackets (up 10 spots to No. 158): If it weren't for what looked like a very concerning lower-body injury on Sunday night, Korpisalo would have risen even higher here. He left in the shootout and was hobbled heading back to the dressing room, but we don't know more than that yet. Here's hoping it is nothing, because Korpisalo has taken the reigns of this Blue Jackets team and done as much for their turnaround as anyone. After a very poor showing in October, Korpisalo hasn't allowed more than three goals in a game since Nov. 21. The team has earned points in his last 10 starts. He is available in about 30 percent of leagues.