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Shots on Goal: Not how we drew it up

by | Rotowire.com
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These are bitter times for those managers that drafted goalies Tuukka Rask, Marc-Andre Fleury, Semyon Varlamov, and Antti Niemi with the assumption that they'd be getting 50-plus starts from any of them. That's not likely to happen at this juncture of the season but other realities must also be understood.

First of all, these situations are all fluid in that they could change within the next two weeks. The caveat is that one should never expect the goalie landscape to suddenly change in their favor just because they want it to. In other words, don't expect Michal Neuvirth to get hurt just because you own Varlamov. Second, each team's situation is unique and we'll delve deeper into that as we address each team that has either "goalie drama" and/or an injury to one of their top-six defensemen.

Before we go there we thought we'd provide an example of the bitterness that exists among some owners of Rask, Fleury, Niemi, or Varlamov. In an industry "experts" league that I'm in I received an offer of Olli Jokinen for Antero Niittymaki. The manager who sent me the offer is a Niemi owner and he was trying to complete the Sharks' set. Aside from it being a low-ball offer the other odd thing was what he'd written in the comments section -- something to the effect that he wasn't going to overpay for a mediocre goalie. Then he proceeded to say that Niittymaki was garbage! That, my friends, is bitterness. I politely declined the offer though I was perhaps less polite with my own comment that I wasn't going to take a washed-up center (the most plentiful of fantasy positions) for a starting goalie on a top-10 team. Moreover, I also mentioned that Niitty is not garbage but was in fact the 2006 Olympics MVP who played on poor teams in Tampa Bay, though I readily admitted that he was a young and inconsistent goalie at the beginning of his career when he played for Philadelphia.

The realities may bite for some but here they are: if you don't own Neuvirth, Tim Thomas, Brent Johnson or Niitymaki you will have to give up something of quality to acquire them in a trade. If you drafted Rask, Fleury, Varlamov or Niemi thinking that you were getting 50-plus starts from them, it is not happening.

Here's another reality if you're in a standard league with nine statistical categories. Four of those categories are for goaltenders only. That means that 44.44 percent of your team stats will come from your group of goalies. You may think that your 70-point/70-PIMs winger is worth gold but he is one of many forwards playing nightly on your team. You can only play two goalies a night in standard leagues and you only have a total of 162 starts in goal for the season. Check and see how many games combined your forwards have. This is the reality. If you're long on goalies from quality teams who are seeing regular duty you deserve fair value for them. If the suitors for your Neuvirth, Thomas, Johnson, or Niitymaki won't pay up, then hang onto the goalie for a while longer. If nobody will pay up then eventually you can offer him to the teams in your league with the least threatening goaltending tandems. Or you could be like this writer in that experts' league and just play keep away and spot start them for the foreseeable future.

Anaheim: While the addition of Tony Lydman and Andreas Lilja has helped Jonas Hiller owners, the temporary loss of rookie Cam Fowler has caused the team to play Danny Syvret. Syvret is in the lineup because Brendan Mikkelson was lost to Calgary on waivers and veteran defenseman Andy Sutton is out until late November. Syvret started off poorly, going minus-1 in each of his first two games but then scored against Detroit. Syvret is a former third-round pick who has been unable to match his junior hockey success in the NHL. During the 2004-05 season he was named the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Defenseman of the Year, was a CHL First All-Star Team and made the CHL Memorial Cup All-Star Team. Syvret was also a member of Team Canada's gold medal-winning World Junior Championship squad and his London squad won the Memorial Cup. Though he's put up 130 points in 273 games in the AHL, the 25-year-old has yet to establish himself as an NHL regular.

Atlanta: Ondrej Pavelec is off IR and should see a start this week. So far Mason is 3-4-1 with a 3.54 GAA and .902 SV percentage, so the opportunity is there for Pavelec to get a bigger share of the goalie pie should he succeed in his first action back in the lineup. Meanwhile, defenseman Zach Bogosian is also expected to return to the lineup, though I don't expect to see him on the first power-play unit anytime soon as Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom are thriving on the first unit as the point men.

Boston: Rask lost the home-opener to the Rangers, though he did not play badly and was a victim of two bouncing-puck goals. This looks like a timeshare for the foreseeable future and we'd be a little surprised if Thomas didn't get the start Thursday against Toronto. The bad news for owners of either goalie is the broken bone in top-four defenseman Johnny Boychuk's arm. Boychuk, who was the victim of slash last Saturday vs. the Rangers, had been averaging over 22 minutes a game before Saturday. His injury will result in more minutes for Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg, with the latter also seeing a spike in power-play time. The new addition is Adam McQuaid, a big kid (6-5, 209) who's not afraid to mix it up. The 24-year-old has 280 PIMs in 178 career games in the AHL after racking up 340 PIMs in 246 games in junior for Sudbury of the OHL.

Chicago: Marty Turco's splits so far favor home usage (he's 3-1 with a 2.18 GAA and .935 SV percentage) over road work (he's 1-1-1 with a 3.27 GAA and .901 SV percentage). The great news for Turco owners is that top-four defender Brian Campbell is expected to make his season debut on the weekend. Campbell averaged 23:13 of ice time last season and should see the same, if not slightly more, this season. Corey Crawford is 1-2 with a 3.03 GAA and .910 SV percentage so Turco owners need not stress about the youngster, who should get about 24 more starts this season.

Colorado: Craig Anderson is out indefinitely after he injured his knee during warmups prior to Tuesday's game against Vancouver. Anderson flew back to Denver Wednesday to see a doctor and the early word is that he won't need surgery. Peter Budaj may be worth picking up. Just expect Budaj to see a lot of rubber as Anderson has faced an average of 34 shots per game this season. Budaj only played 15 games last season whereas the season prior to that he went 20-29-5 with a 2.86 GAA and .889 SV percentage.

Detroit: Top pairing defenseman Brian Rafalski (knee scope Oct. 12) has missed five games so far and Jimmy Howard has started four of them. In two of those games he allowed four goals. Overall he's got a 2.75 GAA in the four starts since Rafalski went under the knife. Rafalski is expected back in early-to-mid November. Meanwhile fellow defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has been out of the lineup since Oct. 8 with back spasms but could be back by the weekend. What this all means is that Jimmy Howard's overall numbers may take a dip in the short term though the wins should remain plentiful. What it also means is that sitting your top forwards or defensemen at Detroit is no longer an automatic.

N.Y. Islanders: Dwayne Roloson is 2-1 with a miniscule 1.65 GAA and .942 SV percentage while Rick DiPietro has gone 2-1-2 with a 3.32 GAA and .880 SV percentage. We remain reluctant to own either goalie, though Roloson admittedly could be serviceable for spot starts as a No. 3 or No. 4 fantasy goalie.

N.Y. Rangers: The Rangers have shown character and team spirit as they've rallied themselves after a slow start and despite missing a third of their offense from last season in Marian Gaborik, Vaclav Prospal, and Chris Drury. Gabby is expected to start skating next week and could be back in 10-14 days whereas Drury won't be back until December and Prospal perhaps not until January. Henrik Lundqvist owners have to be happy with the way the team has responded to the adversity. They have "circled the wagons" so to speak in tightening up their defensive zone coverage and everyone is buying in. They are playing physical hockey and the back end is holding up well. Back-to-back wins against Boston and New Jersey have shown that they can win games against quality opposition even with their reduced firepower.

Ottawa: Pascal Leclaire is out for at least another week and Brian Elliott should face Florida Thursday and possibly Boston on Saturday, though the 19-year-old rookie Robin Lehner could start vs. the Bruins. Alexei Kovalev was able to score finally (2 goals/1 assist) the other night vs. Phoenix and that could bode well for the Sens, as a Kovalev hot streak could be a difference maker to a club struggling to score goals and missing their top center in Jason Spezza (groin). Spezza has missed the last three games. Top-four defenseman Filip Kuba (broken leg) has begun skating. The Sens have the nucleus of a playoff team and the return of both Spezza and Kuba could spur a winning streak.

Philadelphia: Sergei Bobrovsky has played 297 minutes this season to Brian Boucher's 237. Bobrovsky and Boucher have the identical .900 SV percentage but Boucher owns the better GAA (2.26 to 2.82). While this is a very small sample size (5 starts for Bobrovsky, 4 starts for Boucher), the fact remains that Bobrovsky needs to be outplaying Boucher by the end of November, or he'll be the one being sent down to the AHL when playoff hero Michael Leighton (back surgery) returns to the lineup.

Pittsburgh: Speaking of small sample sizes, Brent Johnson has five starts thus far to Marc-Andre Fleury's four starts. While others think that MAF is overrated and that Johnson is the new sheriff in Pittsburgh we're not quite ready to make that pronouncement. There's just something about winning a Stanley Cup that makes one give a guy under 30 the benefit of the doubt. Yes Johnson has an insane 1.39 GAA and .950 SV percentage but we need to see a larger sample size before we get too excited about Johnson. In other news, top-four defenseman Zbynek Michalek (shoulder) remains out, possibly until mid-November.

San Jose: Antero Niittymaki has vastly overplayed Antti Niemi thus far -- Niittymaki has a 1.81 GAA while Niemi has a 4.50 GAA. While we're only a tenth of the way into the new season the difference in their play has been so severe that even the most ardent Niemi supporters have to realize that he'll need to dig his way out and it could take a while.

Tampa Bay: The anticipated time-share between holdover Mike Smith and newcomer Dan Ellis has not transpired as expected, for Ellis is playing his way out of a time-share into full sit on bench and watch mode. While Smith is 4-0 with a 3.12 GAA, Ellis is 1-3 with a 3.67 GAA. Even Smith can't be relied upon as anything more than a mediocre No. 2 goalie as the .880 SV percentage combined with the 3.12 GAA will drag down most teams' goalie stats.

Vancouver: Roberto Luongo may seem overrated to some but he does have an Olympic gold medal and pretty good regular seasons' stats when played over a full season. Luongo stopped 36 of 39 shots in Tuesday's 4-3 overtime win over Colorado and was in fine form. Injuries on defense remain a concern as Keith Ballard (concussion) is out indefinitely whereas Dan Hamhuis (foot) could return Nov. 1 vs. New Jersey.

Washington: The young yet oft-injured Semyon Varlamov is hurt again, though he is expected to be game ready by next week. With the Caps looking at three games in four nights Michal Neuvirth will be busy. There is also a chance that recently called up goalie Braden Holtby plays on Thursday or Saturday. One thing both teammates and coaches have raved about Neuvirth is his calmness. He is not rattled and players know that he can come up with the big save when defensive breakdowns occur. While injuries are beginning to plague the blueline, both Mike Green (hip) and hotshot rookie John Carslon (leg) are expected to play Wednesday at Carolina.

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Player News
Kris Letang
Pens' Letang At 100 Percent In Advance Of Camp
Kris Letang, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Kris Letang, who suffered a stroke nearly eight months ago, has been working out without any complications this summer and should be a full participant for the start of training camp, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: In addition to the stroke, Kris Letang was limited to 37 games last season due to a knee injury and an elbow infection. Though he's the ultimate health risk after missing 99 games over the last three seasons, but few blueliners possess as much skill offensively as Letang, who still accumulated 11 goals and 11 assists in limited action in 2013-14. Letang compiled 50 points in his last full season in 2010-11, and that peak could be in reach again if he can avoid any long-term health complications.

Derrick Pouliot
Pens' Pouliot Not Expected To Be Ready For Camp
Derrick Pouliot, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Tuesday that Derrick Pouliot (shoulder) likely won't be ready for training camp, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Johnston said that Derrick Pouliot, one of the team's top prospects, would likely be able to take part in some skating at the start of camp, but he'll be held out of contact drills until further notice. The former No. 8 overall draft pick accumulated 17 goals and 53 assists over 58 games last season with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.

Olli Maatta
Pens' Maatta To Receive Update Later In Week
Olli Maatta, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Olli Maatta could be cleared for physical contact Wednesday or Thursday, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Olli Maatta was ruled out for four-to-six months after undergoing shoulder surgery in May, but there seems to be legitimate optimism that he might beat that timetable and be ready to go for the start of training camp. Even if that materializes, expect the Penguins to limit Maatta's involvement in the early going, with the hope of preparing him for a full slate of minutes for the regular-season opener. The 20-year-old flashed a ton of potential as a rookie last season, accruing nine goals and 20 assists over 78 games.

Anthony Mantha
Wings' Mantha Suffers Injury At Prospects Tourney
Anthony Mantha, RW, DET
9/16/2014
News: Anthony Mantha suffered an undisclosed injury during the NHL's tournament for prospects and will not be available for the Red Wings' finale against the Hurricanes, MLive.com's Brendan Savage reports.
Analysis: Red Wings GM Ken Holland didn't offer any specifics on the nature of the injury other than saying Anthony Mantha was "banged up," but it appears he'll still be ready to return to the ice when training camp commences Friday. The 20-year-old was having an outstanding tournament with five points in three games and should be given a chance to win a spot on the Red Wings' 23-man roster in camp, though it's more likely he opens 2014-15 at the AHL level.

Ryane Clowe
Clowe Looks Ready For Devils Camp
Ryane Clowe, LW, NJ
9/16/2014
News: Ryane Clower (concussion) underwent tests for post-concussion syndrome on Tuesday and should be ready for training camp.
Analysis: Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said the exams were "very positive" and expects that "everything is on track for him to be at camp." Ryane Clowe sustained several concussions last season while scattering, rather unevenly, 26 points over 43 games and expects to be in the lineup on Opening Day. Clowe will see some top-six minutes while in the lineup, but his inconsistency and propensity for injury do not make him the safest pick.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Succumbs To Ankle Injury
Josh Harding, G, MIN
9/16/2014
News: Josh Harding has been sidelined by an ankle injury, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Josh Harding was set to enter training camp at full health after missing the second half of last season due to a change in his medication for multiple sclerosis, but it appears the snake-bitten goalie has been dealt another setback. The team won't have an update on Harding's expected timetable until he visits with the team's orthopedic surgeon Wednesday, but it's generally believed that he will miss the beginning of training camp, if not longer. Harding was in the midst of a sensational season prior to succumbing to another complication from MS last December, and was thought to be a frontrunner to claim the No. 1 goalie job in camp. If he ends up missing the start of the regular season, either Darcy Kuemper or Niklas Backstrom would be called upon to assume starting duties.

Eric Gelinas
Gelinas Signs Before Devils Camp
Eric Gelinas, D, NJ
9/16/2014
News: Eric Gelinas signed a one-year, one-way contract worth $900,000 on Monday and will report to training camp.
Analysis: Getting Eric Gelinas, a restricted free agent, back under contract avoids a holdout by the 23-year old blue liner who snagged 29 points in a scattered 60-game campaign as a rookie one year earlier. The majority of Gelinas's points came before the All-Star break but he also saw himself shuttled between the NHL bench and Albany (AHL) in addition to having his ice time cut severely in some games. He played several games as a 13th forward and some as a seventh defensemen, seeing only power-play time. While Gelinas is under contract, he is, by no means, guaranteed a regular role on the team despite his considerable offensive upside. The team's coaching staff regularly made it known they want Gelinas to improve defensively before giving him a larger role on the team. Monitor his ice time in preseaon games but it's too early to go all-in on Gelinas considering the Devils, despite having an opening, had a tendency to play with his ice time, appearing noncommittal as to whether he would have a regular role on the team last season. Tread carefully.

Daniel Alfredsson
Daniel Alfredsson: Seeing Back Specialists
Daniel Alfredsson, RW, DET
9/16/2014
News: Daniel Alfredsson is visiting with back specialists and is not going to training camp with the Red Wings, Helene St. James of The Detroit Free Press reports.
Analysis: With Daniel Alfredsson's back ailing, it's looking more and more likely last year may have been his final season. Alfie has said he won't come back unless he's 100 percent, and although he wants to return to Detroit, it remains to be seen whether his body will let him.

Kevin Westgarth
Westgarth To Try Out With Oilers
Kevin Westgarth, RW, CGY
9/16/2014
News: Kevin Westgarth signed a professional tryout with the Oilers and will join the team for training camp, NHL.com's Aaron Vickers reports.
Analysis: Kevin Westgarth is nothing more than a checking-line pugilist, giving him value primarily in leagues that count penalty minutes. He'll first have to impress the Oilers in training camp before he gets the opportunity to reprise his enforcer role.

Danny DeKeyser
Red Wings' DeKeyser Signs Two-Year Deal
Danny DeKeyser, D, DET
9/16/2014
News: Danny DeKeyser singed a two-year, $4.38 million deal with the Red Wings on Tuesday, TSN's Aaron Ward reports.
Analysis: As expected, the Red Wings finally worked out a deal to bring the 24-year-old back to Detroit following a lengthy standoff. Danny DeKeyser appeared in 65 games for the Wings last season, registering four goals and 19 assists for 23 total points. He also posted a plus-10 rating and 30 penalty minutes.

 
 
 
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