In The Crease: "Razor" sharp
Although they represent just two of the 17 active slots on a fantasy hockey roster, goaltenders are responsible for 30 percent of the categories in ESPN standard format. For those of you who drafted two workhorses in the early rounds, this column will be a great tool to properly assign a value to your commodities in case you want to bring some more talent to your forward or defensemen corps; for those who didn't draft sure things, every Thursday I'll have some diamonds in the rough for you to grab off the waiver wire or try to swindle away from the competition.
As part of this 'tender trending bonanza, each edition of In the Crease will have a list of my Top 40-ranked netminders. While I do take up-to-the minute seasonal stats into account, this list is a depiction of what I believe to be the value of these backstops from here on out.
Bear in mind that my list uses the ESPN standard format categories -- wins, save percentage and goals-against average -- so if your league uses some additional stats, these rankings might be a little different than what you're using.
Enough with the preamble; let's get down to business.
Rising and falling
Top 40 Goalies Note: Tim Kavanagh's top 40 goalies are ranked for their expected performance from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheseses.
1. Tim Thomas, Bos (1)
2. Niklas Backstrom, Min (2)
3. Tomas Vokoun, Fla (5)
4. Martin Brodeur, NJ (3)
5. Carey Price, Mon (12)
6. Cam Ward, Car (8)
7. Roberto Luongo, Van (6)
8. Ray Emery, Phi (20)
9. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (14)
10. Craig Anderson, Col (17)
11. Cristobal Huet, Chi (7)
12. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (13)
13. Nikolai Khabibulin, Edm (10)
14. Jonas Hiller, Ana (9)
15. Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy (49)
16. Steve Mason, Cls (11)
17. Pekka Rinne, Nsh (4)
18. Dan Ellis, Nsh (53)
19. Semyon Varlamov, Was (16)
20. Jose Theodore, Was (35)
21. Chris Mason, StL (15)
22. Pascal Leclaire, Ott (19)
23. Dwayne Roloson, NYI (21)
24. Evgeni Nabokov, SJ (18)
25. Marty Turco, Dal (23)
26. Jonas Gustavsson, Tor (22)
27. Ryan Miller, Buf (24)
28. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ana (45)
29. Ilya Bryzgalov, Pho (38)
30. Ty Conklin, StL (25)
31. Mike Smith, TB (52)
32. Tuukka Rask, Bos (27)
33. Brian Elliott, Ott (28)
34. Thomas Greiss, SJ (57)
35. Rick DiPietro, NYI (31)
36. Kari Lehtonen, Atl (32)
37. Mathieu Garon, Cls (34)
38. Vesa Toskala, Tor (36)
39. Brian Boucher, Phi (33)
40. Chris Osgood, Det (51)
Ray Emery, Flyers (up 12 spots): It looks like the one-season Russian gulag sharpened Razor. This is a small sample size we're working with, but Emery has won all three of his starts with pretty solid ratio numbers -- 2.29 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. Emery will continue getting the starts over Brian Boucher, and with a great team of skaters in front of him, many wins lie ahead as well.
Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames (unranked, now at 15): Kipper's stats got worse in each of the past four seasons, and he wasn't in our Top 40 in the preseason rankings. But through the first three games of the season, it's so far so good for the 32 year-old. While I'm not totally sold on what he's going to give you in terms of GAA and SVP from here on out, there are going to be lots of wins. Moreover, there isn't a great alternative on the bench, so Kipper will once again start the majority of the games, with an occasional day off for recuperation purposes only.
Carey Price, Canadiens (up 7 spots): Goaltending for the Montreal Canadiens is arguably the most high-pressure job in all of sports, a fact not lost on the 22-year-old Price. The weight of the world was on Price as he struggled a bit down the stretch last season -- and his performance in the four-game sweep by the Boston Bruins was certainly forgettable -- but he had two solid games to start 2009-10. It would appear that the Canadiens will be giving up a lot of shots based on the first three games, which will help Price's save percentage stats as long as he can avoid an outing like Wednesday's seven-goal debacle against the Vancouver Canucks. In truth, some of the blame for the septet of goals has to go to the sloppy play in front of Price as the Habs adjust to life without Andrei Markov. Look for Carey to bounce back from the shelling.
Cristobal Huet, Blackhawks (down 4 spots): After a shootout loss for Huet to open the season, No. 2 netminder Antti Niemi came on and had a 23-save shutout in the second game for the Hawks. I don't think Huet's on the hot seat, or even the lukewarm seat, and wins won't be a big issue with all the talent in Chi-Town, but I don't see Huet putting up the gaudy ratio stats worthy of a legit No. 1 fantasy goalie either.
Craig Anderson, Avalanche (up 7 spots): After a season in which he finished third in the league in save percentage, Anderson was dumped by the Florida Panthers and scooped up by the Avs. Based on the first two games, it looks like he'll be facing a barrage of shots again this season, which will only help his save percentage. Wins might be a little hard to come by for Colorado, but Anderson will help out with the other two categories all season.
Every week in this section, I'll take a look at the teams that are using the goaltender-by-committee approach around the NHL, including the percentage of ESPN fantasy leagues in which each player is owned, and forecast how I see the competition going in the weeks ahead.
Pekka Rinne (100 percent) and Dan Ellis (7.4 percent), Predators: After taking over the reins last season, Rinne wound up among the league leaders in the important goalie stats. It looked like he was ready for fantasy superstardom heading into this season, but after a strong preseason by Ellis, the goalie situation in Nashville is far from resolved. Rinne has a higher upside, but Ellis might be the one getting the starts for now if he keeps playing well. Grab him while you still can.
Jose Theodore (42.8 percent) and Semyon Varlamov (94.6 percent), Capitals: With one of the league's most viciously powerful offenses playing front of them, the Capitals' goalies stand to win a lot of games this season. The Washington Post has gotten word from Caps coach Bruce Boudreau that Varlamov and Theodore will both see "ample playing time" during the opening half of the season, with the hopes that one will emerge as the legit No. 1. I see Varlamov winning this competition eventually, but as the timeshare continues, the value for each man is diminished.
Vesa Toskala (6.1 percent) and Jonas Gustavsson (77.8 percent), Maple Leafs: Well, judging by those ownership percentages, we have a clear favorite to take over as the No. 1 man in Toronto. Gustavsson -- affectionately referred to as "the Monster" -- put up ridiculous stats last season in the Elitserien (Swedish Elite League), and he'll probably end the season as the unquestioned No. 1. Of course, there is an X factor for the Leafs. Rumor Central has reports that the Maple Leafs are looking to acquire Jean-Sebastien Giguere from the Anaheim Ducks. If this actually goes through, Toskala will likely be the odd man out. Remember, Jiggy's poor performance last season can probably be linked in part to the off-ice issues he faced, so a return to his elite form wouldn't be a shocker. Giguere is currently locked in a timeshare of his own with Jonas Hiller, with each man allowing four goals in one start so far.
Chris Osgood (49.2 percent) and Jimmy Howard (3.0 percent), Red Wings: Yeesh. It's been just one game for each of these guys, but it's been brutal, with nine goals relented to the St. Louis Blues in the opening week. Osgood had a nice run through the playoffs again last season, but his performance in the 2008-09 regular season was horrific. As for Howard, I'm not sure he has what it takes to even be a serviceable starter at this level. Unless you have one of the top guys in the ratio categories, you can't afford to start either of these guys in spite of the wins you'll undoubtedly accrue. But there may be hope on the horizon. Mark Spector of Sportsnet.ca writes that if and when Rick DiPietro gets healthy, New York Islanders GM Garth Snow might offer up Dwayne Roloson or Martin Biron to the Wings. Either of those two would be an upgrade over the current logjam, so keep your eyes on the transaction wire and pounce accordingly if a trade goes through.
A little help?
Each week in this section, I'll clue you in on which goalies are facing the most power plays with a team that struggles on the kill. While facing a ton of man disadvantages doesn't guarantee giving up a lot of goals per se, it certainly doesn't help the cause.
Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes are the early season-leaders in penalties, with 21 through three games. Ward has given up seven goals in his opening three starts, and five of these have come on the opposition's power play. With that in mind, Ward's 2.74 GAA actually looks quite promising, as long as the team can tighten up on the kill or stop all the malfeasance in general.
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks have struggled this season on the penalty kill, relenting six goals on their opponents' 16 opportunities, and Luongo has been in goal for five of those. In this week's win against Montreal, the PK unit tightened up, allowing just one goal on four chances during a 7-1 win. Last season, the Canucks finished with an 81.4 percent success rate at killing penalties, and Luongo's numbers are linked closely to that stat.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com