Goaltenders Beset by Injuries
Goaltending is taking a beating around the NHL. There are several major and quite a few minor injuries to those that call the crease their home. Most teams will just use their backup net minder when in trouble. Trading for a goaltender can be difficult as teams generally value their current backup goaltender more than the possible team acquiring him. So trading for a decent goalie can be very difficult in season. Today we are going to take a quick look at each team in the NHL and what’s going on in net.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist is still one of the best goaltenders in the league but he is in a big time slump of late. However, maybe it’s not him, but the team around him. Backup Antti Raanta also got off to a hot start but has slumped of late. Coincidence? Possibly, or maybe that defense needs to play a little better in front of the goalies and stop relying on them to stop every last little puck.
[caption id="attachment_49101" align="alignright" width="375"] Tuukka Rask is one of the main reasons the Bruins are in contention for the Atlantic Division title. Photo Credit: Cody Smith Foto[/caption]
Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price is still out with a leg injury and his return is still not expected until mid-January. Mike Condon is once again the starter but make no mistake, the Habs miss Price. Condon played well during the first injury to Price but showed some cracks in the foundation at the end, something that could happen once again.
Anaheim Ducks: John Gibson took over the starting role for the Ducks when Frederik Andersen was out due to the worst flu in history. He doesn’t look to be giving that job back anytime soon. The Ducks have plenty of problems, but goalie is not one of them.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues came into the season saying that Jake Allen and Brian Elliott would pretty much be in a 50/50 split until one played better than the other. Well, Elliott got hurt, which allowed Allen to play in a string of games and prove to coach Ken Hitchcock that he deserved the starting job. One thing to remember, though. The Blues always do well during the regular season; it’s the playoffs that have been their bugaboo, and Hitchcock’s job depends on what the team does in the playoffs. So if at some point he believes Elliott and his veteran presence is the key to success in the playoffs, he may end up going back to him.
Tampa Bay Lightning: No worries with Ben Bishop here.
Nashville Predators: No worries with Pekka Rinne either. As a fan of the game, it was good to see Rinne come back to being an elite goaltender after his hip surgery.
Chicago Blackhawks: There is little doubt that Corey Crawford is the main man in Chicago; he has been for a few years now. But there is also little doubt that he is one of the hottest goaltenders in the game today. He now has three shutouts in his last four games and has only allowed four goals in his last six games.
Washington Capitals: Braden Holtby might be your leading contender for the Vezina Trophy at this point in time. He has done more than enough to convince me that he is the real deal, and he could easily lead the Caps to the Stanley Cup finals.
New York Islanders: Jaroslav Halak is the starter for the Islanders and it’s hard to see that changing, but yes, Thomas Greiss has out-played him. It’s not that Halak is playing poorly, he’s not, but he’s had some bombs mixed in with solid play. Greiss has been more consistent but he’s never been a starter before and nobody knows if he’d be able to handle the starting job if it was handed to him. Greiss will still get plenty of work, as Halak seems to perform better with normal rest.
Vancouver Canucks: Ryan Miller has been the definition of inconsistent this season. He got off to a hot start but has struggled since. His current GAA is 2.70 with a save percentage of .909, which is not good. The Canucks made it known during the offseason that they would trade Miller, but no one was biting. That’s not likely to change this season, not with his current contract anyway.
Detroit Red Wings: The Wings have been true to their word all season. They have alternated between Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek pretty evenly. But what happens when the playoffs come closer? Will they be forced to choose one or the other? When was the last time a team succeeded in the playoffs without a true number one goaltender? Will they go with the high priced Howard or the younger, maybe even slightly better Mrazek?
Minnesota Wild: Do you think the Oilers or Coyotes would like to have Devan Dubnyk back? Since his move to Minnesota, he has become one of the Top 5 goaltenders in the league.
Ottawa Senators: It’s starting to become news now when Craig Anderson doesn’t start a game.
Winnipeg Jets: Ondrej Pavelec is still out for about another month with a sprained knee, not that his loss is a huge one to Fantasy owners. The problem for Fantasy owners was that backup Michael Hutchinson, who had the starting job for a bit last season but then lost it, hasn’t played all that well either. Rookie Connor Hellebuyck has played well, though (2.14 GAA, .925 save percentage), but will they have the guts to give him the starting job even when Pavelec returns?
Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the main reasons why Pittsburgh is not further out of a playoff spot. Unfortunately, Fleury is out with a concussion but the team is hopeful that he can return as soon as next week. Jeff Zatkoff is the starter for now, but with the coaching change and the way this team is playing, I wouldn’t be rushing to get him into my lineup.
Calgary Flames: The Flames have sort of been a mess all season in and out of net, but things have turned around somewhat in the past couple of weeks. Does that mean you should trust Karri Ramo or Jonas Hiller? I wouldn’t. Not unless you’re somewhat desperate for a goaltender.
Boston Bruins: I’m surprised this team is in playoff contention at this point, more or less battling for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Go Tuukka Rask, go.
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick is still one of the best goaltenders in the game.
Dallas Stars: The Stars seem to be playing the hot hand at goalie. Sometimes it’s Antti Niemi, sometimes it’s Kari Lehtonen. This of course is not good for Fantasy owners, but even if they did choose to go with a full-time net minder, would it really matter? The Stars play a run and gun style of offense, that’s good for goals for, but they will play quite a few high scoring games.
Florida Panthers: If the Panthers just had more talent they would truly be a dangerous team as Roberto Luongo is back and playing very well.
Colorado Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov is still the starter here but he’s had an up and down season between injuries and poor performance. Lately though, he seems to be turning things around (along with the rest of the team), and if he is available on the waiver wire, you might want to give serious consideration to going out and grabbing him.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Sergei Bobrovsky might be the biggest disappointment between the pipes so far this season. Not only has he and the rest of the team underperformed, but now he is out for another couple of weeks with a groin injury. There’s not really much you can do, though, as his trade value is too low to deal him, we all need to hope he can turn his season around.
San Jose Sharks: Martin Jones is proving the Sharks were correct in obtaining him. Sure there have been some bumps in the road and he’s not a G1, but he has upside and we have to remember that this is his first season as a full-time starter, there is room to grow here.
Philadelphia Flyers: Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth have both played well at times this season but it’s just hard to trust either one, or even the team in general for any length of time. The Flyers have talent but it’s all tilted towards the offense. Defense is their obvious weakness, and when you’re weak on defense, bad things tend to happen to your goalies.
New Jersey Devils: Do you think the Canucks would like to have a redo of the Cory Schneider trade?
Carolina Hurricanes: Cam Ward’s time as both a starting goaltender for Carolina and Fantasy owners can’t come to an end soon enough. The problem is Eddie Lack doesn’t seem to be the answer either. Stay far away.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs are another team that is struggling to find a franchise goaltender. The Leafs thought they had one when they acquired Jonathan Bernier via trade a couple of seasons ago but he lost the starting job to James Reimer. Now of course Reimer is out (could return next week), but should get the starting job back upon his return. This is a team in transition however, even if Reimer is a possible goaltender of the future, it’s unlikely that he could lead your Fantasy team to any kind of success.
Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers acquired Cam Talbot from the Rangers at the NHL Draft to be their starting goalie. The problem is that Talbot found out quickly that the Oilers’ defense of 2015 is nowhere near the Rangers’ defense of last season. He lost the starting job to Anders Nillsson, who looked the part and played great but has cooled off of late. This begs the question, has Nilsson really become a better goalie since leaving the Islanders and going to the KHL or was he the definition of a hot goalie who was playing well. I have a feeling it’s the latter and that Oilers defense is not getting any better anytime soon.
Arizona Coyotes: Starting goaltender Mike Smith is out for the next 2-3 months after undergoing surgery for a core muscle injury, and until he returns this will be a situation that I would stay away from. I am surprised, however, that the Coyotes, or any other team for that matter, didn’t put in a claim for the Duck’s Anton Khudobin when he was put on waivers earlier this season. Maybe they are seeing something I’m not.
Buffalo Sabres: Like the Oilers, the Sabres acquired what they were hoping would be their franchise goalie at the 2015 NHL Draft, and like the Oilers, it’s not working out right now. Unlike the Oilers, however, it’s because of injury. Robin Lehner suffered a high ankle sprain earlier this season and although he is skating with the team, he is still unlikely to return for another week or two. He’s a gamble as a Fantasy starter anyway, though.
You can feel free to follow me on Twitter, @georgekurtz
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