Fantasy Hockey Playoffs – Goalie Advice
Deciding on your roster for the Fantasy playoffs is already a difficult chore, but several goaltending situations around the NHL aren’t making life any easier for owners. Andrei Vasilevskiy has admitted that in his first full season as the team’s starter, he’s tired. At this point, he has played in 59 games, nine more than last season. He was arguably the league’s best goaltender through the first 4.5 months of the season and the leading candidate for the Vezina trophy, but his play has slipped noticeably of late. He has given up at least three goals in his last six outings and in eight of his last nine. You still have no choice but to start him, but keep in mind that he has been struggling and that the Bolts are trying to give him at least one game off a week.
Fantasy owners did get some good news when Frederik Andersen returned from an upper-body injury Tuesday. He had only missed two games so there really was no reason not to start him versus Tampa Bay, but perhaps his conditioning was a little off as he let up four goals in the last 24 minutes of play.
Carey Price was taken off injured reserve Monday and will start versus the Penguins on Wednesday. Don’t get fooled by the name here. Price has been pretty awful even when healthy this season, and that isn’t likely to change during these last few weeks. The Canadiens have nothing to play for and even if they did, they don’t have the talent to put up much of a fight. Remember, they are without their best forward, Max Pacioretty (knee) and best defender, Shea Weber (foot). This team just doesn’t have much ammunition to fight with.
The Washington Capitals have had some problems with Braden Holtby as well. Holtby has been struggling over the past month, so the Capitals decided to rest him and have Phillip Grubauer take over the starting job. He has started five straight games and six of the last seven. The only game Holtby played was Friday versus the Islanders and although he wasn’t spectacular, he was good enough to secure a victory. Grubauer, however, was still given the start Sunday versus Philadelphia, but he bombed. That gave Fantasy owners some pause in weekly leagues as it was a guessing game as to which goaltender would start versus Dallas this week. The smart money was on Holtby, as he did win his last game and the Caps may have just been looking for an excuse to get him back as the starting netminder. That paid off for Fantasy owners as he defeated the Stars and now could get a pair of easier starts to close out the week versus Detroit and Montreal.
One word of caution I like to preach is to be wary of starting a goaltender in his first game back after missing multiple weeks. Fantasy owners were in a conundrum about what to do with Matt Murray. He was scheduled to return Tuesday versus the Islanders. Do you start him and risk a poor performance or play it safe and see him play a game first? The Isles have been freefalling for over a month, so you have to figure at the very least you would get a win out of Murray. Well, the Pens came out flat and Murray did look rusty. He was saved from a truly poor performance by a goalie’s best friend, the post, but still gave up three goals in the loss. The good news is that he came out healthy and should be a safe start from here on out.
The Flyers are once again lost in net. Petr Mrazek played extremely well when first acquired by Philly, but his play has slipped quite a bit of late. His .895 save percentage in his last 12 games leaves quite a bit to be desired and could cost the Flyers a playoff spot. This team can’t wait for Brian Elliott (lower body) to return. Elliott has returned to practice but asking him to play full-time immediately upon his return will be asking quite a lot. Fantasy owners should proceed with extreme caution here.
Both Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid are healthy, but the Devils are still having issues in net. Schneider has been close to awful since returning from a groin injury and may have lost the starting job to Kinkaid. The Devils’ chances at making the playoffs seem to be dwindling by the day and they can’t afford to wait for Schneider to find his game. He was pulled from the game Tuesday after allowing four goals on 14 shots. He is still a top-notch goaltender, but his game is not where the Devils or Fantasy owners need it to be.
Ben Bishop reinjured his knee Sunday and although the Stars haven’t given a timetable for his return, early reports are that he won’t even be re-evaluated for another two weeks. Maybe this is true, maybe not, but at the very least you’re not starting him anytime soon. If you need the roster space, you should feel free to move on. I hope you can do better than Kari Lehtonen as his less than stellar play is the reason Dallas signed Bishop to a long-term contract in the first place.
Marc-Andre Fleury left the game early Tuesday after taking a puck to the mask. The Golden Knights aren’t saying what the injury is, but logic tells us that Fleury may have suffered yet another concussion. As we all know MAF has a history of concussions and it isn’t pretty. If this is yet another one, he could be out multiple weeks if not the remainder of the regular season. If you’re a Fleury owner or just need a goalie, Malcolm Subban is pretty close to a must claim.
Braden Holtby Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass