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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Manning the Crease: Fantasy Edition by @PITmounD

Manning the Crease: Fantasy Edition by @PITmounD

MAF is a golden god ... that is all.
If you perform a Yahoo search for the top fantasy goalies of the 2013-14 season thus far, the results may just surprise you. Perennial studs like Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, and Pekka Rinne (infection) are conspicuously missing from the top-10, and Lundqvist is the only one of the aforementioned goalies inside the top-15 at the position. So, what’s gone wrong? Is there a way to explain the torture that fantasy owners are enduring right now? Well, simply put, I don’t know. The goaltending position is the most fickle, volatile, and fluctuating position from year-to-year in fantasy hockey, and this year is no different. Since all you Quick and Rinne owners could likely use a shot in the arm, let’s take a look at some of the current studs at the goaltending position to help through the ‘lean’ times. As always, goalies are ranked by the standard Yahoo categories (Wins, GAA, SV%, SHO):

1) Josh Harding (#1 ranked goalie in standard Yahoo; 2nd overall rank) – Perhaps the biggest surprise in the young NHL season, Josh Harding has seemingly vaulted himself over Niklas Backstrom for the #1 job in Minnesota, posting 8 Wins, a ridiculous 1.16 GAA and .949 SV%, as well as two shutouts in 13 starts. Not many experts really expected anything out of Harding this season, given that he’s never appeared in more than 34 games in a season during his 7+ year career, and because he suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. While the returns have been huge, I have to caution Harding’s owners that the bottom could fall out at any moment, leaving owners scratching their heads (and looking for a stud goaltender to replace the production). My general advice on this one: try to lock up the Minnesota tandem of Harding/Backstrom, hedge your bets as it were, and hope that both goaltenders will be able to stay healthy and make lasting contributions to the 2013-14 version of your fantasy team.

2) Jean-Sebastian Giguere (#2 ranked goalie; 12th overall rank) – Penguins fans will remember Giguere’s fantastic display in breaking the club’s win-streak earlier this season on his way to a 34-save shutout on October 21st; however, despite posting incredible numbers (5 wins, 1.00 GAA and .970 SV% with 2 shutouts in 5 appearances), Giguere has still been serving backup duties for the domestically-challenged Semyon Varlamov in Colorado. The upside, however, is massive with Giguere. Given his outstanding play so far, and Varlamov’s potential legal troubles looming on the horizon, Giguere looks poised to carry your fantasy team if he ever truly gets a chance to shine as the Avs’ #1 guy. Keep him on your radar, and hope justice is served against Varlamov.

3) Ben Bishop (#4 ranked goalie; 37th overall rank) – One of my super deep sleepers coming into this season, Ben Bishop has truly asserted himself as a #1 goalie in the NHL. Turning a borderline-awful team into a contender is no easy task, and Bishop is the more responsible than any other member of the Lightning for Tampa’s fairy tale emergence as a contender in the East. Having posted truly amazing numbers (10 wins, 2.14 GAA and .928 SV% with 2 shutouts in 12 appearances), Bishop is perhaps the most impressive goalie on this list because he has shouldered the majority of the load for the Lightning, whereas guys like Harding and Giguere have been serving backup duties, or have a serious downside looming (MS). It finally looks like Anders Lindback is something of an afterthought in South Florida, so if you’re looking for help in the crease, it may just be high time to consult the Bishop.

4) Robin Lehner (#22 ranked goalie; 120th overall rank) – Well, folks … here is the big-time sleeper of the list, given that Craig Anderson is currently on the shelf with a neck injury and Lehner has exonerated himself quite well. Don’t be fooled by the modest win-totals (just two in 7 appearances so far), Lehner has been plastered with rubber in nearly every start he’s made this year – and performed masterfully in the process. Lehner has posted a 2.16 GAA and .947 SV% while facing almost 35 SOG / game, a hefty workload for anyone. Since Lehner has played so well in Anderson’s absence, the Sens management could decide that the future is now, and that it’s time to let Lehner take over the #1 gig in Canada’s capitol. Anderson has had significant injury struggles over the past few seasons, and now that Lehner appears poised to take over a big-time role with the club, anything is possible. For now, though, Lehner is merely a speculative grab – someone to keep on the radar. But if there are complications with Anderson’s neck injury, and Lehner continues to steal the spotlight, things could change very quickly.

5) Marc-Andre Fleury (just because he’s awesome) (#7 ranked goalie; 45th overall rank) – MAF … that is all. Dude has been a genius, a gentleman, and a scholar in the absence of Vokouna Matata, and he deserves mention here for no other reason than the fact that almost everyone in the ‘Burgh wanted this guy run out of town last year – oh, how things change. But that’s the point, folks: goaltending is such a volatile position, such a “what have you done for me lately?” type of role that we need to take all these valuations and rankings with a grain of salt. Don’t get too down on your team’s #1 guy, for a massive win streak and lights-out play could be right around the corner. Similarly, don’t get too caught up in the early season ranks for guys like Harding and Giguere. It’s a long season, with injuries, slumps, and all sorts of unpredictable outcomes that give fantasy owners headaches on a weekly basis. The lesson is simply this: take note of a player’s role, opportunity, and past performance when evaluating their talent and future performance. Things could change for the better, or become much worse. But maybe, just maybe … this could be the year of the Flower.

As always, thanks for checking out the fantasy articles. I sincerely hope they help vault you guys to the top of your respective leagues, establishing dynasties and achieving glory along the way. I'll see you back here in a couple weeks for the next installment of @PensInitiative Fantasy Hockey. Good luck setting lineups, and don't forget: take your lumps with a grain of salt. They taste much better that way.

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