Fantasy Hockey Picks – Eastern Conference Goalies
A few days ago I put up my thoughts on the Western Conference goalies for any fantasy hockey teams, here are my thoughts on the keepers in the Eastern Conference. Enjoy!
Chris Mason signed in Atlanta during the off-season, and shouldn’t have too much competition in Ondrej Pavelec. Mason should be able to perform as well as any goalie has in Atlanta, with the new players that have been picked up by the thrashers. With the Blackhawks salary-cap purging Atlanta was able to acquire some gritty, skilled players, and although they lost the franchise player in Ilya Kovalchuk, they might end up surprising a lot of people. Chris Mason will get the majority of starts, and wins in this potential break-out season, but will probably not be a hot pick in drafts, and although you shouldn’t go out of your way to pick him up, if you can get him late on in a draft, he might be worth around 30 wins.
Tuukka Rask made his presence known around the league in the 2009/10 campaign, grabbing the highest save percentage and the lowest goals against average, he will be a tough competitor for the starting position in Boston this season.
Tim Thomas is the only competition Rask will have, but I expect Rask will have a similar season to the one he had last year, but with more starts, more wins and potentially lesser save percentage and higher GAA, depending on how well he handles the extra pressure. Unless Rask has a long cold streak, Tim Thomas will likely end up being the back up goalie on the team, so pick Rask up if you can, because he will get a bunch of wins.
Ryan Miller had a fantastic season last year, and was a major part in the Sabres’ good record. He had the second best save percentage and goals against average but played in sixty-nine games. This year will see similar numbers for Miller, with a potential for an increase. He will be a hot pick and will go early, so if you want him, you’ll have to use an early round pick.
Cam Ward saw an uncharacteristically poor season last year, due partly to the surprisingly bad season the Hurricanes had as a whole, and an injury that took him off the ice for a chunk of the season. Expect him to have a bounce back season, with numbers closer to those of the seasons before the 09/10 season. Due to the low numbers last season he will likely be overlooked when picking goalies for this year, so you may be able to pick him up later in the draft but still have him produce a good amount of points.
Tomas Vokoun is one of the most commonly overlooked goalies in the league, and although he puts out a less-than-amazing number of wins, he has huge save percentage and shutout numbers.
With the changes the Florida Panthers have done in the off-season they might be able to pick up a few more wins, and without having to worry about Ballard taking his head off Vokoun will have less things to worry about… making him a fairly late round pick who could do quite well.
Halak is gone and now Carey Price is the undisputed starter, this could make or break him. Carey Price has shown the skill set required to put up good numbers and to be a number one goaltender but he has been slipping lately.
His lackluster performance last season is not something to expect again, but neither is a tremendous season, although they recently named a captain in Brian Gionta and will probably start developing I wouldn’t expect to see too many changes in the season’s outcome for them, Price however will get more wins than last season, but probably not as many as some of the other goalies around the league, don’t try to pick him up early or anything, but if you need a goalie in the later rounds and he is still free, pick him up because he will have more wins, and he will not be too desired due to last season’s numbers.
New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur is always one of the first goalies to be picked in a fantasy draft, and this year shouldn’t be an exception. Although his playoff performances have been less than spectacular, he has consistently put up good numbers in the regular season, and with the addition of Kovalchuk the Devils will likely finish around the same spot they did last season.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Devils have been talking about reducing the workload for Marty and letting Johan Hedberg, a proven goaltender pick up the remaining starts. Brodeur will still get a ton of wins and a handful of shutouts however and picking him up will be good for any fantasy team.
New York Islanders
The goaltending situation in the NYI lineup is a relatively serious issue that they are trying to deal with. They desperately want their Million (and millions, for many years to come) Dollar Man Rick DiPietro to work out for them, but he is far too brittle for the workload they expect from him, so he and Dwayne Roloson will be splitting the paltry amount of wins their team will be accumulating, and with the loss of Mark Streit, and Kyle Okposo to injuries already, their bleak outlook just got a little bleaker. Sorry to any Isles fans but I would avoid these goalies in any fantasy drafts.
New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist will start a lot of games and get a lot of wins, if all goes well for the Rangers.
He put up solid numbers and despite not making the playoffs last season he still had 35 wins, and a .921 save percentage. He will be a hot pick for drafts and will likely go early, so if you’re interested in a decent amount of wins and a couple of shutouts then pick him up when you can.
Pascal Leclaire and Billy Elliot will be working for the starting position. Elliot will likely get more of the starts in this season, but Leclaire will be a strong backup and could take up to thirty games himself. Picking Elliot up late in the draft might work out because he will get around thirty wins and a few shutouts to go along with it. Don’t go crazy for either of these goalies though because either one playing bad for more than a few games could give the other one a chance to take the position.
The flyers are already encountering the same issues that caused their desperate end-of-season finish, goaltending injuries. Michael Leighton is expected to be out until the end of October, and his position as the starting goaltender was already a loose title, this could lead to all sorts of issues with picking a goalie for them.
Brian Boucher is a good backup and if he is hot while Leighton is out he could easily take over the number one seat, but when Leighton returns he will be given another chance to prove his worth. Getting Leighton might be a good pick despite his injury because few people will want him so you can get him late and if he heals up quickly he will likely maintain the starter role and pick up quite a few wins.
Marc-André Fleury will get around seventy starts this season and with the Penguins’ golden age going on they are still contenders this year, they will get tons of wins and Fleury will pick up a majority of those.
Although he had relatively average numbers last year in all categories except wins, he is capable of increasing his save percentage, GAA, and shutouts in this season, pick him up if you can, but you will likely have to do so early.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Dan Ellis and Mike Smith will battle constantly for the starting role in Tampa Bay, with the outcome being somewhere from 50/50 – 60/40, depending on how well, or how poorly, either one of them is playing at the time. This is a recipe for disaster when the team they play for isn’t going to be looking at a huge amount of wins either way. Although the Lightning have potential to become a good team, this will not be the season, and taking either of these goalies will end up in a pick that doesn’t produce a ton of points.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get a majority of the starts this year in Toronto, with Jonas Gustavsson backing him up. Most of the wins will go to Giguere and he may be able to put up a good save percentage, maybe even a few shutouts. But his number of wins and his GAA will be unimpressive for the most part, Toronto is trying to get back in the race for Lord Stanley’s Cup, but this is not the year that it is going to happen. Giguere might be worth it if save percentage is a major portion of your goalies value, but other than that I wouldn’t use the pick on him.
Everyone would like to get a piece of the Washington Capitals’ large amount of wins, but it’s hard to say who the goalie getting those wins will be. Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth will fight it out for spot number one and with a repeat of Varlamov’s injury last season he might just let the Hershey Bears’ hero take the spotlight.
An issue with going for a Washington goalie is not that they will get wins, but that they might not have great stats in the other areas of their game, because the Capitals aren’t a “shut down defensive” team so much as they are a “score more goals then we let in” team, (even their best defenseman is essentially a forward who can skate backwards really well) this bodes poorly for anyone who stands between the pipes at their end. Unless one of the keepers can stand on their heads and face tons of shots from the opposition expect that they will not have the greatest of stats outside of wins, but if that’s all that counts then picking up one, or even both of these goalies might not be the worst idea.