A handful of goaltenders are off to rocky starts. This usually causes panic among fantasy owners who find themselves at the bottom of their league. This year the panic is magnified due to the shortened season. After all, a goaltender who starts a 48-game schedule with three rough games is in a lot more trouble than a goalie playing an 82-game slate.
While the likes of Craig Anderson, Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller and Kari Lehtonen are rewarding their fantasy owners with a strong start, check out the numbers of some of the fantasy hockey's best:
Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia 0-3-0, 3.03, 0.902
Jimmy Howard, Detroit 1-2-0, 3.64, 0.892
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh 1-1-0, 3.00, 0.882
Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis, 1-0-0, 1.94, 0.880
Henrik Lundqvist, NY Rangers, 1-2-0, 4.03, 0.877
Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary, 0-2-1, 3.59, 0.876
Braden Holtby, Washington, 0-2-0, 5.04, 0.863
Cory Schneider, Vancouver, 1-1-0, 4.57, 0.860
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles, 0-2-0, 4.10, 0.849
Mike Smith, Phoenix, 0-2-0, 4.62, 0.836
Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton, 1-1-0, 5.65, 0.826
Cam Ward, Carolina, 0-2-0, 6.00, 0.789
The numbers fall into two categories: “blame the team” and “blame the goaltender.” Let's take a closer look.
Blame the team
Ilya Bryzgalov is actually not to blame for his numbers. This surprises me, because if I was told a month ago that the Flyers would start the season 0-3, my finger would have pointed directly at him. But the team hasn't been scoring and the defense has been questionable. This is a good team even with injury problems, so Bryzgalov will turn things around sooner rather than later. However, if the Flyers continue to play this badly, there is the danger that they’ll get better results in front of Michael Leighton. Just a psychological difference, but it could happen and Bryzgalov would lose starts.
The other five goaltenders in this category – Kiprusoff, Smith, Lundqvist, Ward and Quick – will absolutely turn things around. Take it to the bank. Smith is in a can't-miss Dave Tippett system and, provided he recovers from his latest injury, will turn things around. The other three goalies are proven studs. Don't panic, the numbers will fall back in line. In the case of Quick it may take a week or two, as he was off the ice for a long time recovering from back surgery. In the case of Kiprusoff, the W's may not come because Calgary is not expected to win a lot of games, but his other numbers will improve.
Blame the Goaltender
Of more concern to poolies are the remaining goaltenders on the list. Let's take a look…
Howard is seeing what life is like with below-average defensemen in front of him. The Red Wings are a strong team up front, so the wins will come. But the other numbers will probably be a little rough. A healthy Jonas Gustavsson could surprise.
Fleury is coming off a rough post-season in which beach balls were often getting by him. He also now has a healthy Tomas Vokoun behind him. The Pens will keep throwing Fleury out there, but if we reach March and the numbers are drastically in Vokoun's favor, you will see the frequency of starts begin to shift his way.
Halak is safe in a strong defensive system and we knew all along that Brian Elliott would take a lot of his starts anyway. So this is just the result of a rough game and otherwise status quo. Ditto for the Schneider situation and Roberto Luongo.
Holtby and Dubnyk are probably the most concerning. Their hold on the top job is the least solidified of the group because they have competition from Michal Neuvirth and, when healthy, Nikolai Khabibulin. But both of them deserve to be on your bench for at least two more weeks to see how things play out.
We're just three games in, give or take. No decisions should be made on your starting goaltenders until the 10-game mark. These things will correct themselves, you'll just have to suffer through the pains of a cold streak until they do.
I'm in five leagues. In one of those leagues I sit in last place. This is because my goaltenders are Fleury and Ward (plus I have Evgeni Nabokov to back them up). I'm not worried. I still think I can win. The only move I made wasn't out of panic, it was out of good sense – I put Fleury on the bench and activated Nabokov. Just until Fleury gets back on track – a small move. And that's all you should consider doing at this point.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.