In The Crease: Ray Emery is back
With another full week of games in the books, two newsworthy situations have emerged for two very different goaltenders on a pair of teams that are linked in some interesting ways: the Anaheim Ducks' signing of Ray Emery to a one-year, two-way deal and the injury to New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. While the Devils -- once famously referred to as a "Mickey Mouse organization" by Wayne Gretzky -- have been one of the NHL's hottest teams as of late (and Brodeur is a big reason why), the Ducks -- literally a "Mickey Mouse organization" at one time, as they were once owned by Disney -- are fighting for one of the last playoff spots in the West, and Emery may play a key role in helping them wrap up that spot down the stretch.
Emery was a shooting star during his time with the Ottawa Senators, leading them to the Stanley Cup finals following the 2006-07 season but bristling other members of the franchise and fans in Canada's capital with his questionable work ethic and off-ice issues. After a one-season stint in the KHL, Emery returned to the NHL in 2009-10, posting impressive numbers through Nov. 14 of that season, a date on which he said he felt something pop during a contest against the Buffalo Sabres. As noted in this space at the time, Emery's save percentage was .924 in his first 14 starts of the season and .786 in the seven post-pop games. Later, it was revealed that he was suffering from avascular necrosis in his hip, and he had surgery to help repair the damage.
With a long rehabilitation process behind him, the next chapter of Emery's hockey life will begin with the AHL's Syracuse Crunch, as long as he clears waivers by Tuesday afternoon. Speculating a bit here, but Emery's signing could mean the Ducks are thinking they want to give Jonas Hiller a bit more rest down the stretch of the season with the playoffs in sight. Only Carey Price, Miikka Kiprusoff and Cam Ward have started more games for their teams this season than Hiller, and given his importance to their success it will be vital that he's healthy for the postseason. Curtis McElhinney has been sharp in his past two appearances, but Emery's ceiling is obviously much higher.
Until we see what Emery can do on a surgically reconditioned hip, there's obviously no sense in adding him to a fantasy roster. But given what he did last season, he will be valuable, even in a limited role, if he's back in shape, even moreso than some goalies that are the unquestioned starters for their respective teams. In other words, pay attention to what's going on in Syracuse and be prepared to make a move should Emery be recalled to Orange County. Flipping the calendar back to this past summer, who would've thought then that Emery might be playing in an NHL game this season before Evgeni Nabokov? Strangely enough, this is the world we live in (cue Genesis).
But at some point during the first period of his most recent win, Brodeur suffered what was initially called a "bruise" of his knee but was upgraded to a "tweak." On Monday, Brodeur underwent an MRI on the joint and has been categorized as day-to-day with the injury. For now, we know that he won't be starting Tuesday night's game against the Carolina Hurricanes, according to The Star-Ledger, and with back-to-back games Thursday and Friday of this week the Devils plan on recalling a netminder from their AHL affiliate in Albany, N.Y., to back up Johan Hedberg.
At this point, Brodeur's fantasy owners might be frustrated, but there's no reason for panic. From this vantage point, it doesn't seem as though the injury is a serious one because he was able to finish the first period of Sunday's game. Weekly lineup folks are in a bind because they may have missed the chance to fill his spot with someone who will be playing this week, but Brodeur might be back before the next scoring period begins. After the Thursday-Friday duo, the Devils are off until next Wednesday, and that may be enough time for Brodeur to recover. For daily lineup fantasy owners, this is even less of an issue.
However, if a replacement for Brodeur is needed -- and you don't feel good about the near-universally available Hedberg as that fill-in -- youngsters James Reimer and Kevin Poulin are available in over 90 percent of ESPN leagues. Both have been hit-and-miss as of late, but the hits have been outstanding. Reimer had a 27-save shutout of the Hurricanes on Feb. 3, and Poulin posted a 25-save, one goal-against win over the Atlanta Thrashers two nights prior. You shouldn't need me to tell you not to go dropping Brodeur for either of the two, but if you need a little short-term boost, one of those goalies could be worth the risk.
Top 40 Goalies Note: 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. Roberto Luongo, Van (2)
2. Tim Thomas, Bos (1)
3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (4)
4. Jonathan Quick, LA (5)
5. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (3)
6. Carey Price, Mon (6)
7. Ryan Miller, Buf (8)
8. Jonas Hiller, Ana (7)
9. Pekka Rinne, Nsh (9)
10. Tomas Vokoun, Fla (12)
11. Martin Brodeur, NJ (10)
12. Ilya Bryzgalov, Pho (13)
13. Ondrej Pavelec, Atl (11)
14. Dwayne Roloson, TB (20)
15. Jimmy Howard, Det (14)
16. Niklas Backstrom, Min (17)
17. Jaroslav Halak, StL (15)
18. Sergei Bobrovsky, Phi (19)
19. Kari Lehtonen, Dal (16)
20. Cam Ward, Car (21)
21. Corey Crawford, Chi (18)
22. Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy (27)
23. Semyon Varlamov, Was (23)
24. Antti Niemi, SJ (22)
25. Michal Neuvirth, Was (25)
26. Brian Boucher, Phi (24)
27. Tuukka Rask, Bos (26)
28. Craig Anderson, Col (28)
29. Scott Clemmensen, Fla (29)
30. James Reimer, Tor (35)
31. Jonathan Bernier, LA (30)
32. Cory Schneider, Van (31)
33. Brian Elliott, Ott (33)
34. Kevin Poulin, NYI (39)
35. Mathieu Garon, Cls (34)
36. Steve Mason, Cls (36)
37. Antero Niittymaki, SJ (32)
38. Devan Dubnyk, Edm (NR)
39. Anders Lindback, Nsh (37)
40. Brent Johnson, Pit (38)
Rising and falling
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (down two spots): Musical chairs at the top of the rankings this week, as no one in the top 5 retained his spot from one week ago. The top two gents on the list are separated by a razor-thin margin in my mind, so don't be surprised if they continue to jockey atop the board. As for Lundqvist, it's not so much his play that dismays me, but two other factors: Rangers coach John Tortorella's little vacation for the 28-year-old and the Rangers' recent lack of firepower. After being pulled from a home loss to the Devils on Thursday (during which two of the goals were deflections off teammates), Tortorella went with understudy Martin Biron for the next two games. Biron played well enough -- four goals on 63 shots works out to a .937 save percentage -- that Tortorella may give him some more work down the stretch. It won't be a timeshare, per se, but as we know, any reduction in Lundqvist's workload is a likewise reduction in his fantasy value. Going back to the Rangers' offense (or lack thereof), it is middle of the pack on the season, but the numbers have taken a nose dive in January (they were ranked 28 in the league with 1.93 goals per game) and thus far in February (25, with 1.75 goals per game). Lundqvist is a goalie that can perform well under that kind of pressure, so there's no concern on the ratios. However, wins account for one-third of a goalie's value in ESPN standard settings, and he's not giving his owners any help in that category.
Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes (up one spot): While the future of the Coyotes in the desert remains muddled, Bryzgalov has posted two straight shutouts, numbers four and five on the season. That partially makes up for his two previous starts, in which he allowed five and four goals, respectively. It's that kind of statistical roller coaster that makes owning Bryzgalov either exhilarating or soul-crushing, depending on the evening, and it's the reason why he's on the outside looking in at the top 10 again this week. For the rotisserie players in the audience, he's somewhere in the teens in the rankings in all three of the ESPN standard categories. In other words, he is a useful player. But for head-to-head players, he's likely swung matchups one way or another on several occasions already this season. Given that this is unlikely to change, he might be a candidate to trade if you like a little more consistency week-by-week. Speaking of inconsistency, much of what was just written also applies to the man just trailing Bryzgalov in the rankings, Ondrej Pavelec, who allowed 16 goals in the four games following a 36-save shutout of the Washington Capitals on Jan. 26.
Dwayne Roloson, Tampa Bay Lightning (up six spots): I was optimistic on Roloson's chances at fantasy glory if he could be moved to a contending team but I've been a little surprised at just how well things have gone since the trade. In that time, Roloson has gone 8-4-0, with a 2.21 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. As further evidence that playing for a winning team can energize a professional athlete, read what Roloson told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun recently. "No discredit to the Islanders' organization, I had a great time there," Roloson said. "It's a great organization, and I keep in contact with a couple of guys there. But I came down here to a team in a playoff spot and that rejuvenates you. It makes you excited again about hockey." If Roloson had been putting up his Tampa numbers all season, he'd be in the seventh spot in the league for goals-against average and fifth in save percentage. That he's won 75 percent of his starts doesn't hurt, either. Somehow, he's sitting on the waiver wire in 17 percent of ESPN leagues; for the rest, it's going to take too much to pry him off his wily owner at this point.
Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames (up five spots): He's doing it again. Just weeks ago, Kiprusoff was left for dead by some in the fantasy hockey world for what seems like the 75th time, and his numbers on the season are not anything that's going to win an owner a rotisserie league title. But over the past seven starts, Kipper has gone 6-0-1, allowing 13 goals in total while sporting a .936 save percentage. Meanwhile, the Flames have snuck into the Western Conference's final playoff spot. Previously thought to be possible sellers at the trade deadline, it looks like this team may stay together, and the stability should be good for Kiprusoff's value down the stretch. He won't put up a .936 from here on out, nor will he win six of every seven starts, but he's certainly worth starting until the magic wears off.
Corey Crawford (93.4 percent) and Marty Turco (36.5 percent), Chicago Blackhawks:: The 2010-11 season hasn't gone as well as Turco had hoped, though his regression hasn't been altogether surprising. Recently, however, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville has elected to have Turco backstop the troops, giving him three starts in the team's past seven games. Though the team has won two of the three, Turco hasn't exactly been a wall in net, allowing 11 goals and registering a .875 save percentage. Crawford, who had essentially ended any debate on who was No. 1 previously, lost three of his four starts in that seven-game span, though he allowed one less goal in total and his save percentage was significantly higher (.916). In spite of the obvious difference on the stats sheet, Quenneville may keep the timeshare going down the stretch to try to gather some momentum and get back into the playoff picture (the Hawks sit 11th in the conference after a loss Monday). In spite of this bump in playing time, Turco is not a viable fantasy option, as he hasn't delivered in the ratio categories at all this season.
Sergei Bobrovsky (95.8 percent) and Brian Boucher (32.5 percent), Philadelphia Flyers: A recent quote by Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to the Philadelphia Daily News will do nothing to quell the uneasiness on the part of Bobrovsky and Boucher's fantasy owners. "I don't really make those decisions too far in advance," Laviolette said of his decision to keep his goalie timeshare going until closer to the playoffs. "We trust both of them, and they've had great years. We'll just keep moving along and keep both of them active." That last sentence is like nails across a chalkboard to a seasoned fantasy hockey owner. Bobrovsky appears to have a slight edge, but Boucher will continue to get starts. In other words, not much of an update this week; both men are still worth owning and starting when they get the nod from Laviolette.
Semyon Varlamov (97.2 percent), Michal Neuvirth (49.3 percent) and Braden Holtby (4.7 percent), Washington Capitals: With Holtby back in the AHL, it's probably safe to drop him if you're amongst the owners who have him stashed on the bench. He would only be valuable if both of the Caps' other netminders were to be suffering through injuries simultaneously again. As for those other two, it appeared prior to the All-Star break that Varlamov was putting some distance between Neuvirth and himself. But on Super Bowl Sunday, the latter provided the first loss of the day for the city of Pittsburgh, stymying the Penguins en route to a 22-save shutout. Varlamov's numbers are still significantly better on the season, but Neuvirth has delivered when tapped as of late. Expect the rotation to continue until we get down to the final weeks.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst and Rumor Central contributor for ESPN.com
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