There’s no more specialized position in the sport of hockey than the goalie, and because of this fact, it’s the hardest position to replace when your fantasy stalwart gets hurt or struggles between the pipes. Who is banged up, who is not playing up to expectations and who is doing better than fantasy managers may have thought possible?
We’ll take a look around the league for this goalie round-up as well as making some waiver wire recommendations regarding some players who are largely available in ESPN.com leagues.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning (rostered in 99.8 percent of ESPN leagues): This loss stings. As first reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger, Vasilevskiy is expected to miss an extended period of time with a fractured foot. More details on the injury should be forthcoming soon from the Lightning camp. Louis Domingue (0.2 percent) is first up as the “go-to” guy in goal, at least until the club potentially decides to make alternative arrangements. Outside of those fantasy managers blessed with an excess of IR/bench slots, you should probably wait before jumping on Domingue until the scene settles somewhat. The minor-league regular has been inconsistent in limited play with both the Coyotes and Lightning since 2014-15. Besides, there’s still hope that Vasilevskiy’s injury really isn’t as bad as all that.
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals (99.0 percent): As of early Thursday afternoon, Holtby is officially labelled as “day-to-day” with an upper-body injury. In other words, after being injured during Wednesday’s practice, he isn’t expected out for weeks then. That’s good news. In the meanwhile, Pheonix Copley (0.6 percent) is a solid play in all daily formats. After giving up six goals in his first game of the season (and third NHL appearance ever) Washington’s backup has been solid-to-great, winning three of his past four starts. Keep that in mind when the Capitals visit Colorado on Friday before enjoying an off-weekend ahead of Monday’s tilt in Montreal.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (85.4 percent): According to coach Willie Desjardins, the Kings’ top netminder (knee surgery) could be back on skates within the week. Following that, a December return isn’t out of the question. Now, whether the Kings figure out how to score before then is another matter. They currently rank dead last, averaging 2.00 goals per game. The recent shuffle behind the bench and the trade with Pittsburgh for Carl Hagelin might provide a boost. President Luc Robitaille recently insisted his club is better than they’ve showed this year — and he’s right. In respect to the “light at the end of the tunnel,” if you’ve had Quick stashed on your IR so far, definitely leave him there. Don’t bother with third-stringer Peter Budaj before then.
Popular, but underperforming
Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins (82.4 percent): The good news for Murray’s fantasy managers is the Penguins insist on continuing to play their perceived No. 1 with some regularity, hoping he manages to battle through his current confidence issues. How much longer can they continue to do so? Pittsburgh backup Casey DeSmith (5.1 percent) is 3-1-2, including two shutouts, while rocking a 1.89 GAA and .942 save percentage. Murray, on the other hand, hasn’t won since Oct. 25, allowing 15 goals in his four games played played (two of them partial). Bench Murray until there are real signs of a turnaround, and consider DeSmith in all forms of daily play when the opposition appears favorable.
Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars (80.6 percent): While Bishop hasn’t been “his best self” of late, this slump feels resoundingly temporary. However, those more proactive fantasy managers might still explore the option of investing in Anton Khudobin (2.0 percent) until the Stars’ top banana shrugs off his current struggles. Bishop has allowed 11 goals in three appearances this November. By comparison, Dallas’ backup is 2-1-1 with a .939 save percentage. After Friday’s contest with the Bruins, the Stars will face the Islanders and Rangers, respectively, on Sunday and Monday. At a minimum, Khudobin looks to be a solid play in DFS competition when he’s tabbed to start.
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (78.3 percent): Like Murray, Price’s recent habit of hemorrhaging goals — 22 goals allowed over his last five games — is believed to stem from “mental angst” as opposed to any physical issue. Unlike Pittsburgh’s No. 1, Montreal’s 31-year-old veteran has already, on several occasions, waded through these dark waters before emerging the other side with confidence. He’s had a week off to sort it out, so don’t be surprised by a resilient return to net either Thursday in Calgary, or Saturday in Vancouver. The ugly loss in Edmonton, with backup Antti Niemi in net, nearly assures as much. Also promising is the pending return of Shea Weber (knee surgery). Having one of the league’s better defenseman out front, healthy and hungry to contribute, certainly won’t hurt matters in Montreal.
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (77.1 percent): If not for the superior play of Jaroslav Halak (49.4 percent), there might be less attention on Rask’s underwhelming campaign to date. As it stands, ahead of Wednesday’s 6-3 drubbing in Colorado, Halak has been the better asset — both fantasy-wise and in reality. But now, after taking time away to attend to a personal matter, Rask is back in the Bruins’ fold, available to start either Friday in Dallas, or Saturday in Arizona. Such a break, however difficult, can often serve as valuable reset. Keep a close eye on how both netminders manage over the weekend, assuming a split of the back-to-back contests. If Halak shines and Rask again flounders, fantasy managers should take a long look at making a move.
Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks (70.9 percent): Wednesday’s 28-save shutout win over St. Louis will help a lot in terms of snapping ugly losing streaks by both Crawford individually, and the Blackhawks as a team. Facing the league’s most anemic offense in form of the visiting Kings on Friday should serve as an additional boost. From then on, maybe this underachieving Chicago club finally manages to turn things around. If so, Crawford is in for a pleasant fantasy upswing himself. His fantasy managers should hang tight for now.
Pick them up
Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers (33.8 percent): The lack of faith in Florida’s No. 1 goaltender is utterly boggling. Since returning from his opening game knee injury, Luongo is a pristine 4-0-0, having allowed no more than two goals in any game, while rocking a .951 save percentage . The 39-year-old is almost singlehandedly wrestling his club back from the early brink. Is Luongo’s age and the corresponding fragility the turnoff here? Of course he’s going to get hurt again. There’s no question of that eventuality. Still, why not take advantage of the veteran’s superior play in the meantime? He appeared in only 35 games last season, but was pretty super throughout most of those starts. There’s serious fantasy value to be found here.
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings (9.5 percent): Don’t look now, but Detroit’s No. 1 netminder is on a tear with five-straight wins and a .932 save percentage. Mind you, only one win came against a team ranked in the league’s upper-half of scoring (Columbus Blue Jackets). Still, fantasy managers might take advantage of Howard’s hot streak for the very foreseeable future. He’s got the Senators on Thursday, followed by a Saturday tilt with the Devils. Beyond that, however, Detroit is too weak of a squad to ask for sustained success from anyone between the pipes.
Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders (7.9 percent): To date, working in tandem with Robin Lehner, Greiss has been the better Islanders goalie. With only two regulation losses this fall, the 32-year-old has gone 3-0-1, with a .944 save percentage and a shutout, in November. His superior play, combined with Lehner’s battle with back spasms, could eventually sway coach Barry Trotz away from divvying up the workload in the Islanders’ net.
Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers (1.6 percent): Right now, Koskinen is winning games for the Oilers and No. 1 Cam Talbot is not. At a minimum, the 30-year-old KHL import presents himself as a solid DFS play when the matchup makes sense. For instance, on Saturday versus the Calgary Flames, Koskinen would make a lot of sense for fantasy.