Hey guys! I'm back now for the upcoming season and will be providing you content on almost a daily basis from now on. This will be the first post in a long series of articles over the next two months previewing each NHL team from a fantasy perspective. At this point, I haven't decided the order I'm going to do; it'll either be going from worst to first or division by division. Regardless, I'll be starting up with the Toronto Maple Laughs Leafs today. Let's get right to it!
Let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? You somehow made the fantasy playoffs, even though your goaltending is suspect. For this playoff edition of the Goalie Report, I’m going to do away with the regular format and go right ahead and list who’s worth an add, who to avoid, and a few desperation plays – if that’s how you roll. These guys might be available in 12-team leagues, but anything deeper and who are we kidding? You’re likely stuck with what you’ve got, and if you’re lucky, one or more of the desperation plays will work out for you.
The story of the weekend around the league was the goaltending performances. There were quite a few duds and a bunch of outstanding starts, including 3 shutouts Friday, 4 shutouts Saturday and one more on Sunday. The best of the bunch was a 38 save shutout by Fredrik Andersen in the 4-0 win against the Bruins on Friday. It's rare for the Ducks to be outshot but they buried their chances and were continually bailed out by Andersen. We all know that Andersen is very good at this point so the most telling thing was that in their next game, John Gibson received the start despite Andersen coming off a shutout. Bruce Boudreau is giving both of his goalies plenty of action and seemingly has a set schedule so you have to pay attention every day and start whoever gets the nod. Here's what else I saw around the league this weekend, starting with Friday's games:
At this point, it's no surprise when Jamie Benn has a big night. You almost expect it against Carolina even though he was pointless in the previous three games. Well, it happened on Tuesday with Benn scoring his league leading 19th goal on his only shot of the game with three assists. He's now on a 120 point pace for the year with 39 points in 28 games; I don't know if it's crazier that he's on that pace or that he's not leading the league in points (more on that later). Bottom line is that last year's Art Ross winner is proving that it was no fluke. Here's what else I saw on a busy Tuesday night:
For the last few years, Connor Hellebuyck has been one of the best goaltending prospects in hockey. The former fifth round pick blossomed after being drafted and starred for the United States team in the World Junior Championships last year with a record of 7-1 and a GAA of 1.37 and .948 sv%. While that's clearly unsustainable, he posted a .921 sv% last year in the AHL on an IceCaps team that played wide open. With the injury to Ondrej Pavelec, Hellebuyck was called up to Winnipeg and promptly won two games giving up one goal in each. Yesterday, he stopped 32 of 33 shots in the Jets beatdown of Toronto. I don't have much to base this off of but I have a feeling Hellebuyck takes this opportunity and runs with it. I'm picking him up everywhere I can on the chance that he does; if he doesn't, he'll at least be a great fill-in in the meantime. Here's what else I saw on a short Wednesday slate:
Garret Sparks made Toronto Maple Leafs history on Monday night, becoming the first goalie in franchise history to get a shutout in his NHL debut. The 22 year old former 7th round pick got the nod with James Reimer injured and Jonathan Bernier struggling and he made Mike Babcock look like a genius stopping all 24 shots he faced. Sparks won't be up on the Leafs long unless Reimer's injury becomes a long term issue but he could be a solid streamer Wednesday at the Jets if Babcock goes back to him. We've seen rookie goalies get hot out of nowhere before, most notably Andrew Hammond last year. Here's what else I saw in the four games on Monday night:
Goalies can be notoriously difficult to rank and project for accurately. I give each starter projections but I might not bother trying to predict what kind of numbers a backup is going to offer unless I have reason to believe that they're going to play enough to be worth owning. Most of the time, backups aren't, but there have been some gems in the understudy group in recent years. Cam Talbot's stellar work behind Henrik Lundqvist last year helped ease the pain of the wounds Jimmy Howard's 2014 campaign left me. Damnit, Howie! At any rate, Chad Johnson filling in for Tuukka Rask showed similar value. For the most part, though, backups are backups and largely worthless without a starter getting injured. Then we have the always wonderful goalie committees. Is there anything worse than goalie by committee? Yes, yes there is, but for the purposes of this post, no, no there is not. The Hurricanes look to provide a buttload of frustration for anyone willing to draft their way into that sad state of affairs again in 2015 with Anton Khudobin set for a bit of a regression and Cam Ward being, well, Cam Ward. On the flip side the duos of Brian Elliot and Jake Allen in St. Louis and Frederik Andersen and stud rookie John Gibson where if either guy is asked to go 60 starts their season would end up bleh, but limit them to around 40 starts a piece and they stay healthy and rested, the numbers stay sexy, and you stay happy with a cheap no. 2 tender. Anyhooze, lets get to the meat o' the matter, Razzball's 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Goalie Rankings: