As we approach the season’s halfway point, we’re going to take a slight departure from the regular Goalie Report format and instead take a closer look at a few goaltenders in particular. Not the ones in the middle of the pack, but the ones who have surprised us, in good and bad ways. And we’ll ask the question of their second half chances: Pay or Stay Away? Yes, because it rhymes.

The 1%

The Elite, the best of the best. Top gun. Except, SURPRISE, these Top Guns have come closer to Goose’s fate than Maverick’s.

Carey Price (Canadiens) – So you think NHL goalies are over-rated, just a product of a good or bad defensive system? To help convince you otherwise, I’d present to you the NHL’s reigning MVP and Vezina winning goaltender, who remains out with a leg injury but has put up elite numbers when he has played. Meanwhile, the Habs are still above .500, but take away Price’s 10-2 pre-injury record and they’re in trouble; it would be an understatement to say they have had a rough go of it without him, including dropping 7 of the last 10 games. So what do we know about the timetable for Price’s return? The team has been saying mid-January for a while now, but just a week ago, Head Coach Michel Therrien was quoted as saying that he was “not ready to get back on the ice just yet” and it has recently been reported that now he won’t return until after the All-Star break at the end of the month. What’s a fantasy owner to do? It’s important to remember that this is a recurring injury, one that he tried to come back from in November, but quickly found he wasn’t ready. And not insignificantly, an injury that may be traced back as far as the 2014 Olympics. The second thing to consider: it’s a knee injury. Do goalies need the full use of their knee? I’m gonna skip the suspense here and tell you: Yes. Yes, they do need their knees to flop around the ice and back up again quickly. And finally: what is his likely return? If all goes as currently planned, we’re talking February. Presuming your fantasy playoffs start in late March, that’s a solid two months you’d be getting out of him if you’re in contention. Bottom line here will come down to your situation. Carey Price has gone from being a blue chip player to a high risk/high reward player, albeit very high reward. The Canadiens desperately need him back, but thus far have not managed his injury well, allowing him on the ice back in November, before he had healed. I would only go after him as a desperation move, if my team was on the outside looking in at the playoffs right now, with nothing to lose. He could put you over the top, so that’s tempting, but given even his recent history – coming back for two games before re-injuring himself – Price and the Canadiens are not exactly giving us reasons to be confident. Price is a risk you don’t need.

VERDICT: Stay Away!

Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers) – Lundqvist has had a Jekkyl and Hyde season, starting hot out of the gates as expected, before crashing down to Earth – er, ice – hard. He’s been alternating wins lately, and just came off of a dominant start against the Bruins, who have been scoring in bunches this year. His recent play is just boggling. There has been no talk of an injury, though conceivably he could be hiding one. But in the absence of proof to the contrary, you have to believe in his track record and hope this slump won’t last. Not including the recent victory, his past 17 game stretch (dating back to Nov 25th, when he let in five goals against the Canadiens) is atrocious. In that time, Lundqvist is 6-8-2, with an .884 save percentage. That’s run-for-the-hills numbers, folks. Or what I call, time to point that out to his owners and add him on your team just before he rebounds.

VERDICT: Pay!

Pekka Rinne (Predators) – Rinne is a perennial all-star and Vezina candidate, but what has happened to him this year is quite perplexing. He is 16-13-6, with a 2.48 GAA and .906 save percentage, which is not horrible, but also not what you paid for when you drafted him early. The problem has been inconsistency. He will string a few decent games together, but has yet to have a stretch in which he is truly dominant. As with Lundqvist, his pedigree shows that he’s better than this; unlike The King (who, can we all agree already, should be called The Ranger instead?), Rinne has been consistently inconsistent from the start and is showing no signs of changing that pattern. What you have here, folks, is a starting goalie. The only guarantee here is that Rinne won’t lose the starting gig. But his on again-off again play has been simply maddening for his owners. Ugh.

VERDICT: Stay Away!

The Hindsight Gang

You just knew these guys were going to be great this year… right?

Roberto Luongo (Panthers) – Luongo has carried this young team on his back at times, leading them to their current perch atop the Atlantic division. The pessimist would say that he’s playing above his head and should regress slightly, coming down from his current .930 save percentage to his career average of .920. The pessimist would also point out that he’s got a lot of mileage on the engine and could tire down the stretch. The optimist, which I happen to be, would point out that goalies tend to age more gracefully than position players, and that he’s playing for a young team on the rise, so why shouldn’t he keep this up? He’s just off of a nine game winning streak (but lost to his former team, the Canucks, last night) and should keep on rolling. His value has never been higher, but I wouldn’t sell. Even if he were to regress a bit, he’d still be a bargain with a .910 to .920 save percentage over the rest of the year.

VERDICT: Pay!

Cory Schneider (Devils) – Should we really be surprised that the two former Canucks goalies, Luongo and Schneider, are having career years, one year removed from that strange situation? If you missed it, then briefly: The Canucks had a nice problem on their hands, with two excellent goalies. Everyone thought they’d trade Luongo and his large contract, while keeping the young’n, Schneider, as the Future of the franchise. But instead, they fooled everyone and dealt them both! How’s that looking now, Vancouver? But I digress. Schneider and the Devils are an interesting match. On one hand, they’ve been playing great defensive hockey and Schneider has stood on his head. On the other, they are scoring like the ’74-’75 Capitals. Schneider has quietly gone 18-13-5 with a sparkling 2.09 GAA. He typically isn’t heavily tested in the shots department, and if your league happens to counts Saves, then that’s his only weak spot. There is no reason he shouldn’t keep this up, though his wins are hard to predict and very well could come down a little in the second half due to lack of offense on this team. Whether to buy/sell likely depends on your situation. If he’s on your team, you probably lucked into him as your second goalie. If you’ve got two studs as a result, first pat yourself on the back, and second, I’d consider selling him while the price is high. Either way, you want him on your team.

VERDICT: Pay!

Upstarts ‘R’ Us

You really wished you’d picked these guys up when they showed up unannounced, don’t you? The jury is still out – still worth an add, or sell ‘em while they’re hot?

Connor Hellebuyck (Jets) – Hellebuyck is this year’s upstart poster boy. He’s been on fire since he got called up and replaced injured starter Ondrej Pavelec. If you ignored my lousy advice and picked him after the first couple of starts, you’re probably sitting pretty in the goaltending dept. right about now. If you’re in a keeper league, this one is a no-brainer. In a redraft league, his value is less certain. He will likely lose some starts to Pavelec upon his return, even if he continues to play well, which should be the main concern. I like him, I really do. But I’m just not convinced that he relegates Pavelec to a backup role. The most likely situation is a committee. And: Poof! Half his value, gone.

VERDICT: Stay Away!

John Gibson (Ducks) – Bad offense or not (but, um, yes in this case), Gibson should continue to excel. One season ago, the Ducks management had high hopes for him, but he just couldn’t sieze the brass ring. Or any ring, for that matter. I don’t know why the brass one is so important in the first place. Maybe someday I’ll Google it. For now, back to Gibson, who if you’re paying attention, should be on your team now. In a small sample size, he’s got an unreal 1.84 GAA and .926 save percentage. He’s the starter going forward. In a keeper league especially, he’s a great second half goalie to target.

VERDICT: Pay!

Louis Domingue (Coyotes) – Is Domingue another Hellebuyck in our midst? It sure looks like it. He is 6-0-2 since taking over for the injured Mike Smith. I could conceivably see him starting for the rest of the year, but his peripheral stats seem unsustainable. He’s a great spec add, especially if he’s still available on the wire, but take a wait and see approach. Enjoy him if you’ve got him, but don’t overpay to get him.

VERDICT: Pay (but not too much!)

Take a Chance on Me

Don’t look now, but these once promising goaltenders are once again promising!

Cam Talbot (Oilers) – Don’t look now but Talbot is finally fulfilling the promise he had at the beginning of the season. Worth an add if he’s on your waiver wire to see if he continues to improve.

Jonathan Bernier / James Reimer (Leafs) – Don’t look now, but we may have our goaltending controversy back in full form in Toronto. Bernier has been lights out lately – except, oops! – he was also the goalie in the recent 7-0 blowout to the Sharks. Meanwhile Reimer had staked his claim to the starter role before going down to injury. Now that he’s back, expect the Leafs to ride the hot hand, whichever goalie that may be.

Robin Lehner (Sabres) – Don’t look now, but Lehner is close to returning to the Sabres. If you recall, he went down with an ankle injury in the first game of the season. The starter role will be all his, if he plays well. This is purely a spec grab for now, but chances are he’s been forgotten, so why not be the one to pick him up!

We’ll be back after the All-Star break with the full Goalie Report as usual. Please post any questions or comments below.  As always, thanks for reading and good luck!

  1. Spencer says:
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    I’ve had Lehner on IR all season. I also roster Rask, Mason, and Hellebuyck.
    I’m in a 14-team H2H Keeper league (only keep 5). GS, W, GAA, SV%, SHO

    I don’t really want to roster 4 goalies. Any thoughts? I’m considering leaving Lehner on IR for a few games to see what happens.

    • Matt

      Matt says:
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      @Spencer: With the three you have, you should be able to afford a wait-and-see approach with Lehner. Honestly, he’s a complete wild card at this point. Both Linus Ullmark and Chad Johnson have played well lately, and now to complicate things further, the Sabres are giving Ullmark the start tonight instead of sending him down as was expected. In his last game, Ullmark outdueled Hellebuyck, stopping 42-of-44 shots for the win. If he repeats that kind of performance tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team hold onto all three goalies until Lehner proves that he’s worthy of the starter role. I wouldn’t drop him, but definitely wait and see before making the decision.

      • Spencer says:
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        @Matt: Thanks Matt, seems like a wait and see approach is the way to go. Love the blog! It’s a great resource.

        • Aubrey Plaza's Pillow says:
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          @Spencer: ullmark sent down.

  2. Hello Matt. Thanks for another great article! I started the season with Marc-Andre Fleury, Bob & Fredrick Andersen. Now I am running with Fluery, Gibson & Hellboy, with Bob on IR. Bobrovsky is taking shots, in addition to skating. I have been pondering if Gibson or Hellebuyck would get the shortest straw once he returns, but based on this article, and assuming the status of my goalies remains the same, it appears Hellebuyck would be my choice based on the return of Pavelec?

    • Matt

      Matt says:
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      @madden_curser: I honestly think you can flip a coin between Gibson and Hellebuyck in this case. There are pros and cons either way. As for Gibson, on one hand he is more likely to hold on to the job, but on the other, the Ducks just can’t seem to get their *ahem* ducks in a row and score goals on the other guys. Hellebuyck is playing for the better team, but things get tricky once Pavelec returns. But here’s the thing: Hellebuyck just keeps on proving me wrong. Seriously, it’s as though he’s reading my posts and coming back with an ‘I told you so’ every time. As long as he keeps playing the way he has been, the Jets would be idiots to give away his starts.

      Are you allowed to keep Bobrovsky on IR even once he comes back? You’d be in good shape with your current three, and then — and I know, I keep preaching patience here — if/when either of the rookies falters or becomes a part of a committee, you can drop them and instantly add Bob.

      • @Matt: Ha ha. I like how you think Matt, but I will be frozen from making any moves if there is an illegible guy on IR. 5 moves per week. I usually reserve one slot for streaming. These things usually work themselves out tho, but I will procrastinate activating Bob as long as I can stall, I’m thinking maybe he won’t return until after the all star break anyway. Thanks, you da man!

      • @Matt: So Bob was activated from IR yesterday and could be back between the pipes as soon as today. Gibson has not played for a week and Fredrik Anderesen has 2 wins in a row. Andersen is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and could be dealt. Gibson could play Sunday, the last day of my matchup. Hellebuyck had his 2nd shutout and is now 11-6-1 this season with a 2.00 GAA and a .931 save percentage. He is in Calder Trophy consideration. He is the Jets number 1 goalie as Ondrej Pavelec is going to have a tough time regaining the net once he returns to action. Marc-Andre Fleury is my other goalie. I can stall on activating Bob, but I cannot make any moves until he comes off IR (5/week limit). 3 goalie max. Who draws the shortest straw between Gibson, Hellebuyck & Bob? I’m leaning Gibson right now but will need to make a decision by Tuesday. What do you think Matt?

        • Matt

          Matt says:
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          @madden_curser: It’s quite the conundrum. First, can you deal any of them to help your team elsewhere? I’d be shopping the hell out of all four of them right now, probably even at a discount. First on my list would be Bobrovsky, because I think someone would bite on him.

          But if that’s not an option, then here’s my two cents. With all else equal (which it clearly is), you go with your gut. My gut tells me that as long as he’s healthy and plays well, Pavelec is going to get 40-50% of the starts when he returns, regardless of how well Hellboy is playing. My gut also says that Anaheim brass is going to play musical chairs with their two guys, a lot like they did last year. Personally, I think Gibson’s numbers will be better at the end of the season, even if he plays in fewer games. The Ducks are a team on the upswing, while the Jets seem really lost right now. The Jets divisional matchups are downright scary – Chicago, Dallas, and St.Louis top the list — while Anaheim gets to play Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Arizona. So Gibson has the better situation, in my opinion, despite Andersen’s presence.

          After saying all that, sometimes I feel like I’m the lone Hellebuyck dissenter in a sea of so-called experts. Don’t get me wrong, he’s doing great. But if you put a gun to my head, he’d draw the short straw. Oh, there I go mixing metaphors again….

          • @Matt: Thanks for that in-depth breakdown Matt. I appreciate your help on a tough decision! Ya, I can’t make a trade with an ineligible player in an IR slot (Bob) and 3 goalie max., so have to drop Fleury, Hellebuyck, Gibson or Bob. I suppose I should have pursued a trade harder before I got into this log jam. I think I will play Hellboy Monday and drop him to activate Bob Tuesday, if he gets the start, unless something changes before then. Thanks again!

          • @Matt: I don’t expect another response to this, but it sure seems like the crease belongs to Hellebuyck at this point. If Pavs gets that amount of starts when he gets back then they might as well send Helle down and he splits with Hutch once again. This is absolutely the wrong move, and the wrong message to send to your bonafide #1 goalie (Hellboy). The Peg would be stupid to do this. I’m still straddling the wall on this. I’ll wait to see what Gibson does tonight, if he draws the start after Andersen won 2 in a row. Boudreau might stay with Frederik. Hellboy plays again tomorrow. Then I’ll have make an educated guess. Thanks!

            • Matt

              Matt says:
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              @madden_curser: Last season, I rode the Gibson/Andersen carousel and it drove me nuts. For peace of mind and sanity alone, I agree with keeping Hellebuyck over Gibson.

            • Matt

              Matt says:
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              @madden_curser: Also agreed, I can’t see the Jets sending him down. I think they’ll send Hutch down, since his funk has become season-long. But business (i.e.: contracts) have a way of intruding into hockey sense. Pavelec makes $4M/year; Helle $925K, and Hutch $575k. Last year, Hutch was playing great but lost out to Pavelec (who, to his credit, earned his keep), and that decision was purely a numbers game. There’s no guarantee that Pavelec will play well, but he’ll get his chance when he comes back.

  3. Viz

    Viz says:
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    Great stuff as usual Matt. We only disagree on a couple guys; I would pay for Hellboy before I stayed away (I don’t believe in Pavelec and the Jets seem to be going nowhere) and I would completely stay away from Domingue although I could be wrong on Arizona. There’s always the chance Domingue is this year’s Hammond.

    • Matt

      Matt says:
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      @Viz: Yeah, it’s a tough call on Hellboy. The main reason I’ve been gun shy on him is that the Jets have shown again and again how invested they are in Pavelec, and so I expect there will be some sort of committee once he returns.

  4. Aubrey Plaza's Pillow says:
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    only surprising part about schneids is the wins, everybody knew he’s a top 10ish ratios goalie. has been.

    • Matt

      Matt says:
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      @Aubrey Plaza’s Pillow: Absolutely, and that’s sort of my point. At the beginning of the season, he was being drafted between 50th and 80th overall, no higher than the 11th goalie of the board. I read one pre-season expert article that had him ranked 21st among goalies. Which is ridiculous. In our Razzball rankings, Viz summed it up very well, saying, “Schneider is rarely mentioned when talking about elite goaltenders in the NHL but he absolutely deserves to be”. If anybody would have predicted more wins coming out of New Jersey this year, he would arguably have been just behind Price, Lundqvist, and Holtby at the beginning of the year.

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