It’s not easy this time of year, finding free-agent goaltenders in fantasy hockey that will play most all the final games of the season.
If finding that elusive target is the key to your success, then these four goalies are a lock to help you down the stretch. Established now as the No. 1 starter in Edmonton is former back-up Mathieu Garon, undrafted in every hockey pool except perhaps in his mother’s league.
Even though the Oilers are playing out the string now, they are winning. Garon has won five of his last six games and is a fantastic find.
So is Colorado’s Jose Theodore. He grabbed the reins when incumbent Peter Budaj went stone cold and won’t be replaced now. Theodore won six straight games before Saturday and is clearly going to shoulder the load for the Avalanche down the stretch.
A season-ending injury to Jason LaBarbera gives Erik Ersberg a chance to prove he’s the goaltender of the future in Los Angeles. His first-ever win was certainly a beauty. His 40 saves in a 2-0 shutout of the Senators were the most by a Kings goalie in a shutout since Gary Edwards had 38 in 1972.
Craig Anderson won’t bump Tomas Vokoun from the Florida Panthers’ long-term goaltending picture, but he certainly earned himself some extra starts down the stretch with a record-breaking performance last week.
Thanks to Anderson, Florida became the first NHL team to post successive 1-0 shutouts on the road. And in stopping 93 pucks in those two wins over the Bruins and Islanders, Anderson’s performance topped Dominik Hasek’s 75 stops over consecutive shutouts in 1997.
The Panthers are fighting for a playoff spot and, with Vokoun struggling, there’s reason to believe the team will ride Anderson’s hot hand while it last.
Waiver Watch – Three young players in Edmonton are offering themselves up as free agent fodder for poolies looking for points down the stretch. Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson will also be names to remember come the next draft.
The troika has 22 points in seven games, with rookie Cogliano contributing six goals to that total and sophomore Nilsson adding seven assists.
In Toronto, the revolving door at left wing on the top line with Mats Sundin appears to be closed. Alexander Steen has acquitted himself nicely with five points in as many games, and has moved into position for a late-season waiver claim.
Rookie Brandon Dubinsky, skating on the Rangers top line with Jaromir Jagr, has been a hot waiver pick the past few weeks. Now look for another freshman on the second line to get his share of attention.
Playing with Scott Gomez and Brendan Shanahan, Nigel Dawes has three goals and seven points in the Rangers’ last six games.
Injury Update – It’s hard for poolies to wait out day-to-day injuries this close to the end of the season. Those with Daniel Alfredsson (back) will have to grin and bear it as the captain makes sure he’s 100 per cent before returning. The same frustration applies to Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara (shoulder) and Avalanche centre Peter Forsberg (groin).
That nasty, nagging groin injury has also put Tomas Holmstrom on the shelf indefinitely. Impatient poolies might replace him with teammate Johan Franzen who has four goals in his last three games.
Joffrey Lupul’s return to the Flyers from an ankle injury shouldn’t slow down the sudden production from teammate Scottie Upshall. Upshall has missed 20 games himself this year with three different injuries but is now healthy and contributing with seven points in six games.
A freak injury for Corey Perry of the Ducks leaves fantasy owners without his services the rest of the season. A tendon in Perry’s right leg was slashed by a skate and required surgery to repair. That it could’ve been worse is no consolation for poolies who will have to dump him this year.
Greg Dennis can be reached at theCanadianpress.pool(at)hotmail.com