What to expect from Marc-Andre Fleury
Before we dive into this week's column, here are quick updates on two players I mentioned prominently last week:
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils: Brodeur's injury has been diagnosed as a sprained MCL, according to ESPN New York's Mike Mazzeo, and the veteran goaltender reportedly will miss one more week of action. Mazzeo adds that Brodeur missed six games in 2005-06 -- his two bookend starts were Oct. 26 and Nov. 11 -- for a similar injury, which gives us at least a hint on when he'll return (possibly on Feb. 22 against the Dallas Stars). In the meantime, Johan Hedberg has been doing his best Brodeur impersonation, going 3-0 with four goals against and a .953 save percentage. If he's still available in your league, now would be a good time to pick him up. Actually, a week ago would've been a good time to pick him up, but you get the idea.
Ray Emery, Anaheim Ducks: Emery, who is plying his trade in the AHL, suited up for his first practice with the Syracuse Crunch on Monday, and NHL.com correspondent Lindsay Kramer reports that the team's new addition could start his first game this weekend. Should things go well, a promotion to the Ducks is possible within the next couple of weeks. As I noted last week, Jonas Hiller isn't in danger of losing his starting job -- in fact, he has jumped a bit in the rankings this week -- but Emery could see some action down the stretch as the team gives its No. 1 man some rest. Hiller's recent trip to the IR was considered fatigue-related, which is not surprising given that he has played in more games than all but three NHL goalies this season. Emery can remain on your waiver wire for now, and he might not even be a must-add if and when he's called up. But be sure to check back, as I'll update his progress in the weeks to come.
Two weeks ago, I included Fleury on the list of goalies who had started off the 2011 calendar year in strong fashion. Like some of the others I mentioned, Fleury's career splits show him to be consistent in the second half with how he had produced in the first half. If he'd played well in the first half, he kept that train rolling. Likewise, if his numbers had been disappointing (as was the case last season), he proved unable to get them back on track. Thus far in 2010-11, Fleury has been among the elite at the position, both from a real-life and fantasy standpoint. He's tied for fourth in the league in wins (26), he's eighth in goals-against average (2.30) and he's tied with Carey Price and Cam Ward in the lucky No. 13 spot in save percentage (.920). Combine those three numbers, and he's fifth among goalies on the ESPN Player Rater. Heading into the All-Star break, he and the Pens were firing on all cylinders despite of the absence of both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
So what has changed since then? Well, Malkin made his comeback, but he tore both his ACL and MCL in his return and won't be back this season. Crosby's short-term future is not as bleak, but it's still far from clear. He hasn't played since Jan. 5 -- some have argued the Penguins shouldn't even have played him then, given his symptoms -- and although there continues to be progress, it has been slow. When asked about his prospects for getting back in the lineup this season, Crosby told the Penguins' website, "I expect to be playing. I hope I'm back, and I hope I play this year." But, he added, "That's the thing with [concussions]; you don't know."
Although Fleury won the game in which Malkin was injured, stopping 27 of 29 Sabres shots in the process, he has just one win in the four starts since. That run includes four goals allowed to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have scored just 2.64 goals per game this season, and five to the New York Rangers, who have scored only nine goals in their five other games this month. Clearly, the changes the Penguins have made to adjust for the loss of Malkin and Crosby have affected Fleury's performance.
But there's no need to panic. In the other two starts of the four, Fleury looked fine, saving 21 of 23 shots against the Washington Capitals in a loss on Feb. 6 and stopping all but one shot against the Los Angeles Kings in a win on Feb. 10. I still think he's an elite option for the duration of the season in that he has the talent to win games by himself. The problem is that given the health landscape in the Steel City, he now needs to win games by himself.
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. Roberto Luongo, Van (1)
2. Tim Thomas, Bos (2)
3. Jonathan Quick, LA (4)
4. Carey Price, Mon (6)
5. Jonas Hiller, Ana (8)
6. Pekka Rinne, Nsh (9)
7. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (5)
8. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (3)
9. Tomas Vokoun, Fla (10)
10. Ilya Bryzgalov, Pho (12)
11. Niklas Backstrom, Min (16)
12. Ryan Miller, Buf (7)
13. Martin Brodeur, NJ (11)
14. Jimmy Howard, Det (15)
15. Dwayne Roloson, TB (14)
16. Cam Ward, Car (20)
17. Ondrej Pavelec, Atl (13)
18. Sergei Bobrovsky, Phi (18)
19. Kari Lehtonen, Dal (19)
20. Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy (22)
21. Jaroslav Halak, StL (17)
22. Corey Crawford, Chi (21)
23. Semyon Varlamov, Was (23)
24. Antti Niemi, SJ (24)
25. Brian Boucher, Phi (26)
26. Michal Neuvirth, Was (25)
27. Scott Clemmensen, Fla (29)
28. James Reimer, Tor (30)
29. Craig Anderson, Col (28)
30. Al Montoya, NYI (NR)
31. Tuukka Rask, Bos (27)
32. Steve Mason, Cls (36)
33. Jonathan Bernier, LA (31)
34. Cory Schneider, Van (32)
35. Brian Elliott, Ott (33)
36. Mathieu Garon, Cls (35)
37. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Tor (NR)
38. Antero Niittymaki, SJ (37)
39. Brent Johnson, Pit (40)
40. Devan Dubnyk, Edm (38)
Rising and falling
Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres (down five spots): Sunday marked consecutive start No. 31 for Miller, and, well, it looked like consecutive start No. 31. Playing against a suddenly spunky New York Islanders team, Miller allowed a septet of goals on 26 shots. There are a lot of factors that go into Miller's impressive streak, but two that are important: He has shown that he's reasonably durable, and Sabres coach Lindy Ruff doesn't appear to have much faith in backup Patrick Lalime, having not started him since Nov. 20. Miller was defensive after Sunday's brutal defeat, according to reports from the Buffalo News, but part of it might have to do with the expectations being placed on him. Just considering his season from a fantasy perspective, he was drafted in the first round in most leagues, and in many cases he was the first goalie off the board. Although he has 24 wins (ninth in the league), he's No. 30 in goals-against average (2.78) and No. 25 in save percentage (.909), putting him in the No. 26 spot among goalies when taking into account ESPN.com standard categories. It's relatively certain that the Sabres will continue to start Miller just about every game -- though Jhonas Enroth is expected to start Tuesday night -- but what's uncertain is whether he still can be considered an elite option in fantasy.
Ondrej Pavelec, Atlanta Thrashers (down four spots): For the season, Pavelec is 10th in the league in save percentage, but he has been trending in the wrong direction for quite some time. In fact, in his past eight starts, he has a save percentage better than .900 on only two occasions (a shutout of the Capitals and a win over the Rangers in which he allowed two goals). His percentage in those other six starts: .865. Pavelec showed too much talent in the first part of the season to drop him outright in all but the shallowest of leagues. That said, he needs to be on your bench until he gets back in good form.
Corey Crawford (93.4 percent) and Marty Turco (36.5 percent), Chicago Blackhawks:: Each of the Blackhawks' netminding options picked up a shootout loss this past weekend, though they came in quite different fashion. On Friday, Turco was given the nod in a ballyhooed return to Dallas, and after the Hawks charged to a 3-0 lead in the first, Turco allowed the home team to tie the game in the third, then allowed his former teammates to score in each round of the shootout. On Saturday, Crawford backstopped a comeback effort against the Phoenix Coyotes, then saved two of three shootout attempts, but his teammates couldn't beat Ilya Bryzgalov.
Comparing the two on the season, the difference is pretty severe: Crawford has 17 wins, a 2.13 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage, Turco has 11 wins, a 3.08 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage. In the past 10 starts for each, Crawford has gone 5-3-1, allowing 17 goals total with a .938 save percentage; Turco has gone 3-5-1, relenting 33 goals with an .879 save percentage. For now, even if he's not getting all the starts, Crawford is without a doubt the better play, and the relevant ESPN ownership percentages support this idea. One intriguing facet to keep in mind: ESPN NHL Insider E.J. Hradek wondered aloud in his column on Monday whether the Blackhawks would address their shortcomings in goal before the trade deadline. That certainly would throw a monkey wrench into all of this.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (16.1 percent) and James Reimer (12.1 percent), Toronto Maple Leafs: With just a couple of weeks before the trade deadline, we'll know Giguere's fate soon, and this obviously will have a massive effect on Reimer's stock for the duration as well. This week, Leafs coach Ron Wilson plans on trotting out the rook against the division-leading Boston Bruins on Tuesday, while Giguere draws the Sabres on Wednesday. Although the Sabres are on the outside looking in on the playoffs right now, their scoring pace hasn't been much behind that of the Bruins, so it's not as if Giguere is getting the easy matchup. In fact, the Sabres have scored 11 goals in their three contests against the Leafs this season, compared to just six by the Bruins. (The Sabres put five past Reimer earlier this month, so there's a matchup situation, too.) While the starting split continues, I have Reimer as the more valuable of the two.
Sergei Bobrovsky (96.4 percent) and Brian Boucher (35.5 percent), Philadelphia Flyers: In recent weeks, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has mentioned that he plans on starting each of his goalies in bunches, and he stuck with that idea this past week, giving Boucher two straight starts before going back to Bobrovsky for Sunday's matchup against the Kings. In spite of having nine days between starts, Bob was nearly perfect in the 24-save, one-goal-against loss. Boucher is slightly hotter of late -- he allowed only one goal in each of his past two starts -- but this platoon looks like it's going to the bitter end. Bobrovsky is obviously unavailable, but you might be able to find Boucher on your waiver wire, given that low ownership percentage. Then again, if you've been reading this column with any regularity, you probably picked him up quite some time ago.
Semyon Varlamov (95.8 percent), Michal Neuvirth (63.1 percent), Washington Capitals: Neuvirth teased us with two very solid starts -- a 22-save shutout of the Pittsburgh Penguins followed by a 34-of-36-save loss to the San Jose Sharks -- following his return from injury after the All-Star break. I say "teased" because he followed that up with an ugly game against the Coyotes, stopping just 15 of 18 shots in the loss. But Varlamov hasn't been able to slam the door on this competition. Although he hasn't played terribly -- he has allowed 15 goals in the six starts with a .920 save percentage -- he has just one win to show for it. Also, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau noted in January that the time-share would continue until the final few weeks of the regular season, so expect to see plenty of both. Varlamov has slight edges across the board, but Neuvirth is the one who could be available on your waiver wire; as with Boucher, he's worth an add.
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