2012 NHL Playoffs: Crease Conflicts

Don't look behind you Jaro

A few goalie controversies exist heading into the playoffs and ending up on the right side of fence could be huge for those of us in playoff pools. Here are a few things to keep your eye on:

St. Louis - Well this one was kinda anti-climactic as Brian Elliott picked up a UBI and gave The Cock little choice but to name Jaroslav Halak as his game #1 starter. Assuming Elliott is just day-to-day and can recover with some rest over the next few days, I'd expect these guys to be operating on a win-and-you're-in policy unless Halak rings off a few stellar victories to start the series. So unless your strategy is Blues-or-bust then it's probably wise to avoid both of these guys in your playoff pool. In fantasy leagues where you can draft two goalies, grabbing both is the smart play whereas speculating on either one as your #2 option could provide a large payoff.

Florida - Their series with the Devils doesn't start till Friday so still a few more days before we know which way Panthers Coach Kevin Dineen will go. He has a bit of a dilemma here as his #1 guy, Jose Theodore, doesn't have a win in his last seven appearances (six of those came against non-playoff teams) whereas Scott Clemmensen only gave up a total of five goals over his last four games (3-0-1). The right choice is probably Clemmensen here but my total guess is that he shows confidence in Theodore and gives him the start. Either way, this is a situation that you likely want to avoid as I don't like the Cats chances of sticking around long.

Washington - Neither Michal Neuvirth (leg) or Tomas Vokoun (groin) are healthy enough to return and so the Caps hopes lie with rookie Braden Holtby for now. Holtby played well down the stretch (4-1-1 in his last six games) but doesn't have any NHL playoff experience and only nine AHL playoff games on his resume. Stranger things have happened but gambling on Holtby to slay the Bruins or the other two to return shortly and take over the net seem like bad bets.

Vancouver - No real controversy as Roberto Luongo is the #1 and will likely handle things well (unless he faces the Hawks) but you have to think he has a short leash given that the Canucks have such a solid alternative in Cory Schneider (top three in the league in gaa (1.97) & sv% (.937)). I'd feel pretty comfortable picking Luongo as my main guy in net and Schneider makes a great speculative pick as a #2.

Chicago - This is a longshot as Corey Crawford has been good lately (8-1-2, 1.86 & .921 over his last 11) but it wouldn't shock me if Ray Emery found his way into the net for a start or two at some point. Crawford has just seven games of NHL playoff experience and his AHL post-season record (9-15) doesn't inspire a ton of confidence. Emery has the Stanley Cup run in 2007 to bolster his case but a thing or two has changed for him over the past five years.

Three other backups that I think could be worth a late round flyer pick in deeper leagues are Tuukka Rask (currently out with a groin injury but should be back in the next week or so), Sergei Bobrovsky (he's been pretty horrid over the 2nd half of the season but some of us may not fully trust Bryzgalov) and Johan Hedberg (6-0-1 over his last seven game with superior numbers to Brodeur this year).

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