In The Crease: Luongo injury fallout
Weekly news, notes and rankings on fantasy hockey goalies
On Wednesday, the name of one of the NHL's most expensive goalies was added to the Vancouver Canucks' extensive list of injured players. While Roberto Luongo is not expected to miss as much time as Daniel Sedin -- who will be out up to six weeks -- the expectation is that he certainly will be out for the next week, a week that includes games against the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and New York Rangers. Luongo proved Tuesday that he could play with the injury, as he did finish the game against the Detroit Red Wings; on the other hand, he also proved that he can't play well with the injury, as he allowed four goals in the third period following a collision with Todd Bertuzzi.
If the hairline fracture to Luongo's ribs is as minor as is being suggested in media reports, his fantasy owners need not do anything rash in the short term. Primary backup Andrew Raycroft has been nearly perfect in two mop-up appearances, but there's a reason he's been on four teams in the past five seasons; in other words, sometimes even though a guy is technically a starter in real life, he's not a great starter in our world.
The man to keep your eyes on is Cory Schneider. Schneider was the Canucks' first-round draft pick in 2004 (No. 26 overall), was honored with the AHL's Goaltender of the Year Award last season for his work with the Manitoba Moose and had a cup of coffee with the Canucks the last time Luongo was on the shelf. There's been some speculation that Schneider might be in line for a start or two while Luongo is out, the thinking being that with Luongo signed through 2021-22, Schneider's best chances to be a starter are with another team. Moreover, the Canucks sure could use some more bodies to fill out their lineup, given their above-mentioned laundry list of injured skaters. The depth of your league will determine whether you should pick up Schneider now; in most leagues, it's a situation that bears monitoring without any action, but a pickup is warranted in deeper leagues in which you need to stay a step ahead.
Top 40 GoaliesNote: Tim Kavanagh's top 40 goalies are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include wins, goals-against average and save percentage. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.
1. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (1)
2. Martin Brodeur, NJ (3)
3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (4)
4. Ryan Miller, Buf (9)
5. Roberto Luongo, Van (2)
6. Craig Anderson, Col (8)
7. Tim Thomas, Bos (6)
8. Niklas Backstrom, Min (5)
9. Tomas Vokoun, Fla (12)
10. Jose Theodore, Was (16)
11. Ilya Bryzgalov, Pho (13)
12. Pascal Leclaire, Ott (15)
13. Jonas Hiller, Ana (7)
14. Evgeni Nabokov, SJ (17)
15. Nikolai Khabibulin, Edm (10)
16. Cam Ward, Car (11)
17. Marty Turco, Dal (32)
18. Cristobal Huet, Chi (21)
19. Carey Price, Mon (14)
20. Steve Mason, Cls (18)
21. Jaroslav Halak, Mon (35)
22. Dan Ellis, Nsh (22)
23. Ondrej Pavelec, Atl (25)
24. Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy (19)
25. Jonathan Quick, LA (33)
26. Semyon Varlamov, Was (20)
27. Chris Mason, StL (26)
28. Pekka Rinne, Nsh (23)
29. Ray Emery, Phi (24)
30. Ty Conklin, StL (27)
31. Dwayne Roloson, NYI (28)
32. Antti Niemi, Chi (29)
33. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ana (30)
34. Tuukka Rask, Bos (31)
35. Cory Schneider, Van (NR)
36. Jonas Gustavsson, Tor (34)
37. Mike Smith, TB (36)
38. Brian Elliott, Ott (37)
39. Thomas Greiss, SJ (38)
40. Chris Osgood, Det (40)
Rising and falling
Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (no change): Lundqvist stays up top, but I am a little concerned over Marian Gaborik's knee injury this week that forced him out of the lineup. Although P.A. Parenteau did score a goal in his place Wednesday, Gaborik has been the Rangers' most important piece on offense (just ask Vinny Prospal). If Gaborik's injury persists for a significant amount of time, the Rangers' offense will suffer, and Lundqvist's forecast for wins will be tempered accordingly.
Marty Turco, Stars (up 15 spots): Turco started off the season with three shootout losses but recently has hung up three straight wins, relinquishing just six goals total through those games. On the season, Turco's GAA is a stellar 2.19, down considerably from last season. As long as the Stars keep the offense going (currently ranked No. 7 in goals per game), Turco is a fine option as a No. 2 goaltender in fantasy.
Ondrej Pavelec, Thrashers (up three spots): Tumultuous week for Pavelec, so let's review: On Thursday night, he coughed up three goals in 88 seconds to the Washington Capitals. On Friday, Kari Lehtonen experienced a setback in his recovery and had to put an end to his skating program. On Saturday, Johan Hedberg got the start in place of Pavelec but was pulled after 30 minutes, and Pavelec was perfect thereafter with 12 saves on 12 shots. During that game, Thrashers offensive powerhouse Ilya Kovalchuk broke his foot while blocking a shot. So while the Lehtonen injury and the strong outing in relief of Hedberg will ensure that Pavelec gets the starts going forward, Kovalchuk's absence means the Thrashers' offense might not give him a chance to win that often. Hey, two out of three categories ain't bad.
Cam Ward, Hurricanes (down five spots): Needless to say, this is not the same Carolina Hurricanes team that made it to the Eastern Conference finals last season. Eric Staal's fantasy owners will confirm this for you. While Ward's ratios aren't as bad as those of some other starters around the league, the Canes' 2.27 goals-scored-per-game average requires their backstop to be nearly perfect every game. As the team continues to slide, so will Ward's value for our purposes.
Jose Theodore (27.8 percent), Semyon Varlamov (89.0 percent), Capitals: The disparity between the two Caps goalies' ownership percentages is staggering, as is the disparity between their fantasy values. Thing is, it's a reverse correlation. Let's be crystal clear on this: Varlamov had a nice run in the playoffs last season, and he's currently undefeated in four starts. But he's allowed four goals in three of those starts and was bailed out by the Caps' scoring prowess. Theodore's save percentage is currently 38 points higher (.922), his goals-against average is currently 78 points lower (2.47) and he appears to be coach Bruce Boudreau's choice at the moment. The move is pretty obvious here.
Jaroslav Halak (16.5 percent) and Carey Price (93.3 percent), Canadiens: Wednesday night -- although not his career best, relenting four goals in two periods -- marked the fifth consecutive start for Halak in net for the Habs, and it seems like the team is seeing whether he has what it takes to stick as a legit NHL starter. Why would the team be doing that? The trade rumors are beginning to swirl from various sources that Price is on the block. If Halak holds up, the Canadiens could grab some much-needed blue-line help and promote Curtis Sanford from Hamilton. Whether a trade goes through or not, Price is simply unstartable at this point, even when Habs coach Jacques Martin goes back to him. If Price is on your roster, you might be able to swing a decent trade based on Price's name and potential; then again, waiting out this current funk is the smarter move. He's got the skills to compete at an elite level; maybe he just needs a change of scenery to remember that.
Dan Ellis (9.8 percent) and Pekka Rinne (89.4 percent), Predators: Strange game Wednesday night for the Preds against the Wild. Nashville coach Barry Trotz gave Ellis the start, and his charge was perfect through the first period. Then, all hell broke loose in the first two minutes and 18 seconds of the second period, as the Wild poured in three long shots for goals, forcing Trotz to switch to Rinne. The Finn was then perfect for the next 37 minutes and change, earning the win on 12 saves. On the season, Ellis' ratios are much better, but both have been up and down lately. While Trotz continues to play mad scientist with his lines in an attempt to generate some offense, the Preds' goalies won't have value in the wins category. But Ellis certainly is worth picking up for help in the other two categories if you've got a frequent winner with bad ratios like Miikka Kiprusoff.
Jonas Gustavsson (63.3 percent), Vesa Toskala (1.9 percent) and Joey MacDonald (0.3 percent), Maple Leafs: "The Monster" picked up his first NHL win Monday night against the Ducks, but ohhhh was it ugly. Three goals on 28 shots yielded a save percentage of .893, and that's not going to help anyone's fantasy team in spite of the win. Wednesday night was a bit better, with 32 saves on 36 shots, but it's clear there'll be growing pains for Gustavsson, especially with this team. There's some thought that Toskala might reclaim the starting job upon his return from injury, but you don't want to mess around with that. If you must have a Leafs goalie, The Monster is the only one who is worth it.
Are you for real?
Jonathan Quick, Kings: The 23-year-old from Connecticut has been the beneficiary of L.A.'s hot offense, currently fifth in the league with 3.47 goals per game. He has started 12 of the team's 13 games and has eight wins to show for it. On the other hand, his ratios are mediocre: a .904 save percentage (No. 22 in the league) and a 2.74 goals-against average (No. 19). So how "for real" is Quick? Well, since his fantasy value seems to be entirely linked to the continued success of the Kings' offense, it depends on what one thinks of Anze Kopitar and his comrades. But Quick will continue to get almost all of the starts, especially considering the organization has made the decision to keep Jonathan Bernier with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs for the time being, in spite of his 1.34 GAA and .963 SVP. Verdict: For real; keep starting him, but balance him out with a "ratios" guy .
Cristobal Huet's recent streak: Huet started the season by allowing 17 goals on 92 shots; that's a save percentage of .815, which is in Vesa Toskala's neighborhood, and there was great concern in Chi-town about the Stanley Cup hopes, given his awful play. But then in the past two games, Huet has allowed just one goal on 47 shots (a .978 SVP). So what's the issue here? Those two games were against the Wild and the Predators, two of the league's most impotent offenses. Maybe Huet's confidence will be boosted by the strong outings, but I ain't sold yet. Verdict: Not for real; make sure to start him Thursday night against the Preds, but be careful against teams that score more than 1.7 goals per game.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.
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