The story over the past week has to be the success of backup goaltenders, specifically Antti Raanta and Scott Darling. We all know that Darling was a must-claim after Corey Crawford went down with appendicitis, but Raanta has been a surprise. It’s not that Raanta isn’t a good goaltender, he’s one of the best backups in the league, but with Henrik Lundqvist entrenched as the starting net minder, how many games would he start?
Well, with Lundqvist working out some kinks in his armor, Raanta has started four straight games and only let up three goals during those starts. That sounds great but Raanta is not going to take over the starting job from Lundqvist. As a matter of fact, since he lost 2-1 to Chicago and Darling on Tuesday, I would expect Lundqvist to start Thursday in Dallas. After that, the netminders will split the back to back games over the weekend before Lundqvist takes back the starting job next week. In other words, for Fantasy owners, the Raanta ride is just about over. That doesn’t mean he no longer has value. If you’re in a daily lineup league, you could always hold onto him and just be diligent about trying to figure out who will start for the Rangers each game. As for Crawford, there still really isn’t any news here, the earliest he would seem to be able to come back from the appendectomy would be next week. So, I would ride Darling while you can.
Did you know that the Columbus Blue Jackets are 18-5-4? I’ll bet you didn’t. They don’t have the most points in the NHL, but that’s only because they have played the fewest games. Sergei Bobrovsky has always had the talent to be a top tier goaltender. It’s staying healthy that has been his biggest problem. His .934 GAA is out of this world and his .934 save percentage is at the top of the league. He’s a must- start right now, something he wasn’t in October when we had our drafts. We all know who the must-have forwards are on Columbus (Brandon Saad/Nick Foligno), but did you know that Cam Atkinson has 11 goals and 28 points this season? What’s even more impressive is that he has already set a career high with 13 points (five goals) on the power play. Atkinson seems to be having a career season. Sam Gagner is also on pace to set a career high in goals.
The Kings announced Wednesday that Jonathan Quick will be out longer than expected, and now won’t return to the team until March at the earliest. They have given no reason for this setback but it really doesn’t matter. The question will be, does this mean they will put on a full court press to find a starting goaltender for the rest of the season? The numbers for Peter Budaj look great, 2.27 GAA and .907 save percentage, but let’s not forget that he was the team’s third string goaltender coming into the season. His play also hasn’t been stellar of late (9 goals in his last three games, 14 goals in his last five). It’s unlikely that he will lead them to a playoff berth. Jeff Zatkoff, who came into the season as the backup but has suffered several injuries, has been very underwhelming in every role for Los Angeles. Don’t be surprised when you hear trade rumors involving Marc-Andre Fleury, Ben Bishop, Jimmy Howard, and Jarsolav Halak mentioned in conjunction with the Kings.
Rick Nash (groin) will return Thursday for the Rangers. He has missed the past four games due to the injury, and his return should be a welcome sight for Fantasy owners. After only scoring 15 goals in 60 games last season, Nash was having a revival in 2016-17 with 11 goals in his first 27 games.
Remember when the Flames acquired Brian Elliott to be their starting goaltender in the offseason? Yeah, neither does he. Chad Johnson has taken over that role. He and the team are smoking hot. Calgary has won eight of its last 10 games. Johnson has won six straight. His GAA of 1.98 and save percentage of .932 are at the top of the league. The Flames were underachieving in the early going this season but they have turned the corner in a big way. Will they keep up this level of play? No, of course not and Johnson won’t either, but this is the definition of a situation during which you ride the hot player.
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