At one point earlier this season the Carolina crease was an absolutely disaster. Cam Ward was waffling from mediocre play to time on the injured list and Anton Khudobin (1 GA, 31 SV, W) was just plain out with a bum ankle. Fast forward a few months and now the 'Canes have another problem, they've got too much talent and not enough TOI to go around. Some folks just can't catch a break, eh? Ward decided to help clarify the situation and suffered an undisclosed LBI that will keep him out indefinitely, making Khudobin the defacto starter for now. Using the term “defacto” might be a bit insulting at this point with Khudobin winning all three games he has started since he returned from his own injury, which just so happened to be on the same day Ward went down again. Is it a coincidence? Perhaps serendipity? Or maybe the universe just has an awesome sense of humor. At 5’10” Khudobin is on the smaller side, but he more than makes up for that, ahem, shortcoming, with his athleticism, good positioning, steady technique and a boat load o’ Russian brand confidence. No, not Red Army Vodka, the real stuff, and why not? Even on pretty lackluster teams in the AHL (Houston Aeros) he was able to post respectable to good numbers considering the circumstances. He’s continued that success at the NHL level, but in very limited work, first stuck behind Nik Backstrom and Josh Harding in Minnesota, then Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask in Boston. Now he has his chance and he’s making good on it with a season line of 5-0-0/1.99/.940 so far. Couple that with the fact that it has become fairly clear that the ‘Canes don’t think Justin Peters is ready to take the reigns for any appreciable amount of time, and this situation becomes less muddled pretty quickly. When Ward comes back, I figure its Peters who ends up back in the AHL despite his solid season line of 7-9-4/2.38/.922/1 in 20 games, though of late he has faltered coughing up 11 goals in his last three starts, all losses. That only helps solidify Khudobin's hold on the no. 1 spot for now, so go ahead and add him anywhere he's available. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey yesterday:
Jimmy Howard is on pace to start 75 games for the Red Wings and win just 21 one of them. I don’t think anyone thought Howard would revert back to his 2010-11 form so completely, but the similarities between that abysmal season and this year’s campaign are startling. This isn't about Howard, though, as he's been so bad it has opened the door for a once lauded, since (somewhat) forgotten name to reappear on your fantasy radar! Jonas Gustavsson. As recently as 2009 the Monster was touted as the best goalie in the world outside the NHL. Think about that, the best goalie in the world! So what happened? When he arrived in Toronto expectations were high and he responded by posting a decent rookie campaign with 16 Wins, 2.87 GAA, .902 SV% in 42 GP (39 starts), but the wheels quickly came off and after two consecutive disappointing years he was shipped off to the Wings. Was this a case of not living up to the hype? I don't think so. Rumors have it that the Leafs’ coaching staff tried to eff with his mechanics because they felt his style was too unorthodox for long term success at the NHL level. If true, that could very well be the source of his less than stellar play and likely some injuries as well. This season it appears that the Wings' coaching staff aren't repeating the mistakes of others and the Monster is gobbling up pucks left and right. Last season is a throw away due to the lockout, but this year he looks a hell of a lot better than Howard, doesn’t he? The sample size is still small but he looks absolutely fantastic in limited work so far. If Howard continues to struggle and Gustavsson continues to play well it won’t be long before the Wings start giving the Monster more starts. Does he have a chance to take over the starting job outright? No, I don't think so. Howard has a huge contract and the Wings simply can't afford to relegate him to a backup. Despite that, he’s absolutely worth adding in deep leagues and well worth keeping a close eye on in standard formats. Here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy hockey: