Ride Jonathan Quick's hot streak
Unless you've been off the grid for the past few days, you've certainly heard that Jonathan Quick is currently riding an almost unbelievable shutout streak; to put it into perspective, since the last edition of this column, the Los Angeles Kings have played three games, with Quick in the crease for each. No goals have been scored against him in that time, though 83 shots have been taken. The last time someone scored on the Connecticut native was midway through the third period on Oct. 15, when Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Matt Carle fired the game-tying drive past him. It's no surprise he was the NHL's First Star of the Week for the period ending on Sunday. He's been a tremendous early-season boost for his owners in roto-style leagues, and may have single-handedly carried the goaltending categories for some owners in head-to-head leagues last week. But where do we go from here? Let's take a deeper look.
The 2009-10 season was Quick's first full one as the primary backstop for the Kings. He started 72 contests, winning 39 of them with a 2.54 goals-against average and .907 save percentage (SV%). He was the textbook definition of a one-category goaltending stud, and surely benefited from the Kings' goal-scoring prowess that season: they were ninth in the league, potting 2.82 goals per game. Quick made a name for himself in fantasy circles because of his durability, and the subsequent counting-stat domination that came from that attribute.
Feeling the pressure of stud prospect Jonathan Bernier on the NHL roster with him, October was Quick's best month last season, as he won seven of his eight starts while putting up a 1.84 GAA and .936 SV%. This included holding the league's most potent offense from last season -- the Vancouver Canucks -- to just two total goals on 50 shots in two outings. For the duration of the season, Quick played in an additional 53 games, going 28-21-3 and putting up a 2.30 GAA and .915 SV%. Clearly, he made improvements in his own play, though playing behind the league's No. 25 offense didn't help in the wins column. In a fantasy sense, he rounded into more of a complete player, able to supplement all those wins with healthy ratios: his 2.24 seasonal GAA was fifth in the league, his .918 SV% was 13th.
Based on this progression, I believe that what we're witnessing is the continued growth of a young goaltender (he'll turn just 26 in January), the result of the continued year-long perfection of his craft. Quick is obviously not going to finish the season with a 0.81 GAA and .972 SV%, and there will likely be some rough patches here and there. Furthermore, Kings coach Terry Murray hinted prior to the season that his plan for the 2011-12 campaign is to go with the hot hand in net, as opposed to declaring one of the Jonathans as his full-fledged starter. Unless and until Bernier is traded, there will always be that possibility of Quick sitting on the bench for a few games at a time.
Though some might see the absurdly hot start and the potential risk and conclude that they should trade Quick at his peak value, my recommendation is to hold on to him except for the most bountiful of ransoms (as in, another top goalie and a valuable skater as well). The Kings organization seems hell-bent on making a big run this season -- witness their preseason trading away of Brayden Schenn, thought by many to be hockey's top prospect -- and general manager Dean Lombardi will not be afraid to pull the trigger on landing another big piece if their goal-scoring does not pick up. Compared to last week's main subject, Kari Lehtonen, Quick has the better (though shorter) track record, and is not carrying an unsustainable penalty kill SV% (Quick's is at .900). The team has also played soundly in the defensive end, the result of adding two-way forward Mike Richards to the mix and coming to terms on an extension with star defenseman Drew Doughty just prior to the season. Enjoy the fruits of your draft-day investment.
Rising and Falling
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. Tomas Vokoun, Was (2)
2. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (3)
3. Roberto Luongo, Van (1)
4. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phi (5)
5. Ryan Miller, Buf (8)
6. Pekka Rinne, Nsh (4)
7. Tim Thomas, Bos (6)
8. Jonas Hiller, Ana (7)
9. Jimmy Howard, Det (10)
10. Jonathan Quick, LA (12)
11. Corey Crawford, Chi (11)
12. Carey Price, Mon (9)
13. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (15)
14. Antti Niemi, SJ (13)
15. Kari Lehtonen, Dal (14)
16. Martin Brodeur, NJ (17)
17. Cam Ward, Car (16)
18. Niklas Backstrom, Min (24)
19. Al Montoya, NYI (18)
20. Semyon Varlamov, Col (21)
21. James Reimer, Tor (20)
22. Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy (19)
23. Craig Anderson, Ott (25)
24. Jaroslav Halak, StL (22)
25. Nikolai Khabibulin, Edm (36)
26. Dwayne Roloson, TB (23)
27. Jose Theodore, Fla (26)
28. Cory Schneider, Van (31)
29. Jacob Markstrom, Fla (NR)
30. Devan Dubnyk, Edm (27)
31. Johan Hedberg, NJ (33)
32. Ondrej Pavelec, Wpg (28)
33. Mike Smith, Pho (29)
34. Tuukka Rask, Bos (30)
35. Ray Emery, Chi (34)
36. Michal Neuvirth, Was (32)
37. Mathieu Garon, TB (NR)
38. Jonathan Bernier, LA (35)
39. Sergei Bobrovsky, Phi (40)
40. Jhonas Enroth, Buf (37)
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks, and Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (down two and three spots, respectively): The Montreal native playing in British Columbia and the British Columbia native playing in Montreal have a lot in common. Both were top-five draft picks (Luongo No. 4 in 1997, Price No. 5 in 2005). Both have the talent to win games single-handedly (and have many times in the past). Both were among the elite in fantasy hockey last season, finishing second and fifth among goalies on the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater by season's end. And as of right now, they're both stinking up the joint. Luongo sits in the No. 47 spot and Price is No. 50 right now on the Player Rater, and they were obviously not drafted with such results in mind.
For Price, his early-season struggles can be linked to the Canadiens' injury woes on the blue line. Andrei Markov has not played since Nov. 13 last season, while Jaroslav Spacek and Chris Campoli had been out since this season's first week, with Spacek making his return Monday night; additionally, Markov is slated to be back within the next few weeks. If the results don't change once the blue line is a bit more intact? Then we might have a problem, ergo the slight downgrade in the rankings. Luongo's situation has been more bewildering, especially considering that backup Cory Schneider has been so effective in his three starts. Nevertheless, given Luongo's track record, a turnaround seems inevitable so there's no reason to do anything rash, but expectations should be lowered a touch.
Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres (up three spots): It's been only six games, so Miller's start (four wins, 1.68 GAA and .946 SV%) should be framed with that perspective, but he's certainly gotten out better than last season (three wins in 10 October starts, with a 2.71 GAA and .903 SV%). He's been quite durable in recent seasons, so barring a freak injury, there should be 60 or so more starts in him for 2011-12. The question, however, is whether the Sabres can continue to play soundly in front of him. I'm cautiously optimistic.
Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild (up six spots): Heading into this season, the Wild's offensive output was supposed to be their strength, with the offseason additions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. Instead, the team is scoring at just a 2.00 goals-per-game clip, and Backstrom's promising start -- a 2.20 GAA and .920 SV% -- has been clouded by the fact that he has just three wins in seven starts to show for his efforts. Seeing as the ratio stats account for two-thirds of a goalie's value in ESPN standard settings, Backstrom can maintain his value as a No. 2 tender for our purposes, as long as one can pile up the wins from another source (or two). And unlike some of the other backstops that have gotten off to unsustainably good starts this season, Backstrom has the skills to maintain those solid ratios close to their current levels: In the three-season span from 2006-07 through 2008-09, he had a GAA of 2.24 and SV% of .923. Perhaps the offseason coaching switch has done the trick, at least from the goaltending perspective.
Dwayne Roloson, Tampa Bay Lightning (down three spots): Well, this little experiment hasn't worked out so well for GM Steve Yzerman just yet. The Lightning traded for Roloson midway through last season, and he provided a more stable hand in net than Dan Ellis or Mike Smith, the duo with which Tampa Bay started the 2010-11 campaign (both of whom have since moved on). Interestingly enough, Roloson was able to rack up 18 wins in his 34 starts down the stretch, but his ratio stats were actually worse than when he was with the New York Islanders. Flash forward to the offseason, and instead of waiting for free agency in an attempt to make a play for Tomas Vokoun, the team re-upped with Roloson on a one-year, $3 million deal (twice the salary of Vokoun).
Roloson is off to a 1-4-1 start, and has brutalized his fantasy owners with a 5.11 GAA and .858 SV%. To make matters worse, backup Mathieu Garon has played superbly, with two wins in four starts, a 1.51 GAA and .948 SV%. The team has indicated that Garon will get the start once again on Tuesday night, and there could be a goaltending controversy brewing in Tampa. For now, keep Roloson planted on your bench and see if Garon is on the waiver wire: he's owned in just 19.5 percent of ESPN leagues as of Tuesday morning.
Devan Dubnyk (20.8 percent ownership in ESPN leagues) and Nikolai Khabibulin (36.5 percent), Edmonton Oilers: Last season, Dubnyk was good for a 2.71 GAA and .916 SV%, which are not elite numbers (especially considering his win total), but of some value in the fantasy realm nonetheless. Meanwhile, the Bulin Wall came crashing down, and the veteran posted close to career worsts in both categories (3.40 and .890, respectively). Expected to take over the starter's mantle this season, Dubnyk has improved his performance in the box scores, but this has come simultaneous to a massive early-season tear by Khabibulin. Through Monday's games, Khabibulin sits atop the league-wide GAA board (a ridiculous 0.71) and is second in SV% (.969). The other shoe will certainly drop at some point, but preseason expectations of Dubnyk should be lowered, and those of Khabibulin raised somewhat. However, it doesn't appear that the team is ready to tab either as the full-on starter just yet, so that means the practice of checking the newswire before every Oilers game will have to continue for now.
Al Montoya (96.3 percent), Evgeni Nabokov (17.6 percent) and Rick DiPietro (0.5 percent), New York Islanders: As DiPietro continues down the uncertain pathway back from a concussion sustained earlier this month, Montoya and Nabokov split the starts on the team's trip through Florida last week. Neither was particularly sharp: Montoya's four goals allowed on 30 shots to the Lightning equaled his total goals allowed in his three previous outings, while Nabokov let three by him to take the loss on Saturday. There is a theory making the rounds that the Isles will continue to showcase Nabokov in order to boost his trade value, and this will deflate Montoya's worth for the short term. The veteran is definitely worth stashing for an occasional spot-start and the promise of a potential starting gig later this season.
Jose Theodore (91.4 percent), Jacob Markstrom (2.0 percent) and Scott Clemmensen (0.6 percent), Florida Panthers: For Markstrom -- considered the future of the position for the Panthers -- the future may be now. Called up initially to be the understudy to Theodore because of an injury to Clemmensen, Markstrom may now be in line for more starts due Theodore being banged-up. (Theo has a "core" injury, which is only slightly less disconcerting than if he were an apple). In Markstrom's two starts (plus one period in relief against the Islanders), he's stopped 85 of 88 shots on net (a .966 SV%), and earned two wins. The Panthers' next game is Thursday, and if Markstrom gets the nod again -- and continues to shine -- he's going to make it very hard for the team to give the reins back to Theodore. Given the high long-term expectations, he is absolutely worth rostering right now.
Jimmy Howard's owners may have gotten a little shock when they noticed the "day-to-day" status next to his name, but worry not: he's been excused by the team to be with his wife following the birth of their first child. He'll likely rejoin the team in time for Friday's matchup with the Sharks in Motown. After a collision with Brian Gionta on Saturday, James Reimer was replaced by Jonas Gustavsson, and "The Monster" was tabbed for Monday's contest as well. Numerous outlets have reported that Reimer suffered whiplash-like injuries thanks to the bump, and has experienced stiffness in his neck as a result. While he's out, Gustavsson isn't really worth your time; despite impressive stats in the Swedish Elite League a few seasons back, he's yet to gain solid footing in the North American game. The Bergen Record reported Monday that Martin Brodeur -- who has been battling a shoulder injury -- accompanied the Devils on their road trip out west. However, the future Hall of Famer commented that it's doubtful he'll see any action during the three-game slate. Though the word is now out on Johan Hedberg (and his 2.24 GAA and .923 SV%), he's still available in more than 30 percent of ESPN leagues, so check your waiver wire. Is there a goaltender controversy in St. Louis? We know how badly starter Jaroslav Halak has been playing (among regular starters, only Steve Mason has been more damaging to fantasy rosters thus far), and backup Brian Elliott has had three very strong starts in his place: he's posted three wins, with a 1.96 GAA and .941 SV% in that trio of contests. (He also came on to play out the third period of a loss to the Kings). This is nothing new for Elliott, as he's been one of the streakiest netminders in the league over the past few seasons; however, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that he's already been named the starter for Wednesday's contest. Don't go out and add Elliott -- unless he found a magical formula to combat his inconsistent play during the offseason, that will remain an issue -- but keep a close eye on this situation.
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