Crease Conflicts

Crease_conflicts_logo_medium Goaltending is the most important position in hockey and the same goes for fantasy hockey (depending on your league's format) but it's also one of the easiest to exploit cause things can change so quickly... so you really have to stay on top of it and that's what we strive to help you with here.

Below we take an in-depth look at all the goalie situations around the league to find out which ones provide the best opportunities for fantasy hockey GMs. We rank all the crease conflicts from the biggest current fight (top) to the no contests (bottom). We won't update these every day but we will when a situation or our recommendation changes.

WAR (all out fight to the death)

ST. LOUIS (last update: Jan 12th)

  • #1 Brian Elliott - so much potential here, but he really failed last season when he was handed the starting job for the Sens. He was somehow even worse for the Avs after the trade for Craig Anderson. Smart signing by the Blues as he'll come in and be Halak's crutch.
  • #2 Jaroslav Halak - started the most games of his career (57) and played very well for a shaky Blues team. His .910 sv% scares us a bit, but he should be a good bet to have another good season.
  • SCOUT SAYS It doesn't seem like you can go wrong owning either one of these netminders this season. Halak is on a 3-game winning streak including a shutout on 1/10

NYI (last update: Jan 12th)

  • #1 Evgeni Nabokov - you know the saga. Was claimed by the isles and refused to show up and play. This year he changed his mind and is claiming to be proud to sport the blue and orange.
  • #2 Al Montoya - surprised everyone last year when he stepped in and played well for a goaltender starved team.
  • #3 Rick DiPietro - 15 years, $60 million for the glass man. What a mistake.
  • #4 Kevin Poulin - the kid stepped in last year for a stretch and played very well on a bad team. He may be the starter in a season or two.
  • SCOUT SAYS Montoya and Dipietro are hurt, so the net belonged to Nabokov by default. Despite his 6-10-0 record, his .910 save% and 2.60 gaa are admirable. Poulin may be given a couple of starts in upcoming games based on the fact that he had a ridiculous four consecutive shutouts in the AHL. I wouldn't want to own either of these guys, though.

COLUMBUS (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Curtis Sanford - Journeyman goaltender hasn't played in the NHL since 2008-2009 for the Canucks. He's likely a stopgap until Dekanich arrives.
  • #2 Steve Mason - still just 23, he's trying to regain the magic from 2008-2009. Can he bounce back from two straight seasons with a .901 sv% and a gaa over 3?
  • #3 Mark Dekanich - the rookie isn't as young as you might think at 25 years old, but he really thrived in the AHL last season going 23-12-5 while posting a .931 sv% and 2.02 gaa. He is a good bet to dethrone Mason.
  • SCOUT SAYS The team just doesn't win, so if you're looking for wins, you best look elsewhere. Sanford has provided some decent peripherals with .911 sv% and 2.57 gaa. He's also been given 3 of the last 4 starts so he still looks to be the starter. Especially when you consider that Sanford had to mop up after Mason in his only start after giving up 4 goals in the first period.

TAMPA BAY (last update: Jan 12th)

  • #1 Mathieu Garon - he's been a #1 goalie before but is better served as a solid #2.
  • #2 Dwayne Roloson - he's 42 and shows no signs of slowing down as he's played at least 40 games in each of his last nine seasons.
  • SCOUT SAYS You have to go back almost 2 months (to November 17) to find a game where Roloson has allowed less than 3 goals. Garon has started 6 of the last 8 games but he's hit a rough patch in 2012. He was pulled in Toronto. Roloson started the next game and lost, giving up 3 to the Sens. Then Garon got the next game and lost, giving up 3 to the Habs. Roloson got the next game and lost in the shootout, giving up 4 to the Canucks. So you see the pattern. Neither goalie is good nor reliable. What we learn from this is we should make sure we're dressing our skaters when they play TB. That, and maybe Stevie Y is going to be goalie shopping very soon.
BATTLE (this is a fight but not quite at WAR level yet)

WASHINGTON (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Tomas Vokoun - signed as a UFA for 1 year at $1.5 million to be the starter and presumably attempt to win a cup. He's been a great goalie on a lot of not-so-great teams. We'll see how he does on a win-now team.
  • #2 Michal Neuvirth - Had a great regular season last year and won't give up the starting job without a fight. If he ever regains starter status, he vaults to a top tier goalie.
  • SCOUT SAYS Neither one of these goalies can get it going. Vokoun is on a three game losing streak. Neuvirth is 1-2-0 in his last 4 games while allowing 15 goals in that span. Vokoun has received 7 of the last 11 starts which means he's still the starter. New coach Dale Hunter is under pressure to win right now, so it shouldn't matter which goalie gets him there. He has no allegiances. This is a good thing for Neuvirth owners.

TORONTO (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 James Reimer - undisputed #1 this year for the leafs coming off a fantastic rookie season sporting a .921 sv%. Expectations for him are high in Toronto. How will he respond?
  • #2 Jonas Gustavsson - there were once high hopes for the former SEL goaltender. Now the Monster takes a backseat to Optimus Reim. He should start around 20 games while posting underwhelming numbers.
  • #3 Ben Scrivens - 25 year old Rookie out of Cornell will spend most of the season starting games for the Toronto Marlies.
  • SCOUT SAYS With Reimer returning from injury, I'm downgrading this to battle. Reimer got the start his 1st game off the IR and took a loss, allowing 4 goals on 30 shots in a loss to the Bruins. It sounds like the Monster will get the start tonight, but it's safe to assume that Optimus-Reim will get the lion's share once he proves that he's 100% healthy.
    NEW JERSEY (last update: Dec 5th)
  • #1 Martin Brodeur - we all see the writing on the wall. This is the beginning of the end for Brodeur. The question is, how much more does he have in him?
  • #2 Johan Hedberg - shouldered the load last season while Brodeur was hurt and did a fine job. Brodeur's age means moose may get a lot more starts this season.
  • SCOUT SAYS More and more it's looking like Brodeur needs to retire. He let in 3 goals on 4 shots in his last start. He's 5-7-0 on the year with a .879 sv% and a 3.31 gaa. Still, the Devils stay true to him giving him 11 starts to Hedberg's 5 in the months of November and December. Despite the fact that Hedberg is obviously the better goalie, Brodeur's seniority seems to be overruling.
VANCOUVER (last update: Dec 5th)
  • #1 Roberto Luongo - was probably unfairly nominated for a Vezina last year (see Price and Lundqvist) but he's been one of the most steady goalies in the game over the last decade. It doesn't hurt that he plays for one of the best teams in the league. There may be a fatigue factor as he's played a lot of hockey in 2010 and 2011.
  • #2 Cory Schneider - was 16-4-2 last season with a .929 sv% and 2.23 gaa! Fantasy owners will draft him and hope that Luongo blows up or that the Canucks trade him. Will be a star somewhere but he'll be 26 before season's end. Is time running out?
  • SCOUT SAYS Schneider was rolling with Luongo hurt, winning 5 straight and posting 2 shutouts. Then Schneider gave up 3 in the 1st period to the Preds and was chased. Luongo got the next start and won, turning away 21 of 22 Flames shots. The pendulum appears to be swinging back towards Luongo now.

MINNESOTA (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Niklas Backstrom - he bounced back from a career low .903 sv% in 2009-2010 with a .916 sv% last season. He used to be one of the elite options and he will still play a lot of games. The question is how effective can he be on this mediocre team.
  • #2 Josh Harding - career backup sat out all of 2010-2011 with a torn ACL and MCL. That's the kind of injury that ruins careers. Still, he can't be worse than Jose Theodore.
  • SCOUT SAYS Both of these goalies have been great this season. Harding's numbers (7-1-2, .934 sv%, 2.05 gaa) have been slightly better than Backstrom's (10-5-2, .929 sv%, 2.15 gaa). However, Backstrom had was receiving more starts, getting 7 of the last 12 games. He had to be relieved by Harding in his last start due to injury. He's supposedly only DTD, but Harding will get a chance to prove himself as the better option yet again.

MINOR SKIRMISH (small conflict where one side appears to be overmatched)

BUFFALO (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Ryan Miller - had a bit of a Vezina hangover last season. He's still a great goalie option but he should not be viewed as an elite option. Note that Miller is one goalie whose numbers typically tail off as the season goes along.
  • #2 Jhonas Enroth - took over for an injured Ryan Miller last season and posted a 9-2-0 record, helping ensure the Sabres made the playoffs. He'll be the backup this season and will be lucky to see 20 games as the Sabres always lean heavily on Miller.
  • SCOUT SAYS Miller picked a good time to return from his concussion. Enroth had been a dreadful 1-4-1 in his last six starts so it seems that it won't be too difficult for Miller to step right back into starter status. As a result, this will get a downgrade to "Minor Skirmish" and I have a feeling it will be in "Peace Time" rather quickly. He won his first game back, allowing just two goals to the Preds. So far, so good.

BOSTON (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Tim Thomas - won the Vezina last year and, oh yeah, took home the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe. He'll be 38 before the end of the season. Can he hold off Tuukka?
  • #2 Tuukka Rask - easily one of the top 3 backups in the league. Was thought to be the starter last season but Thomas put a nix on that. One of the biggest questions going into 2011-2012 is how many games will he start?
  • SCOUT SAYS Despite Rask being unbeaten in regulation since October (4-0-1 in that span), Thomas has received 9 of the last 14 starts and done pretty well. Actually, he's done about as well as you could do, going a perfect 9-0-0 with three shutouts. So, yeah, it's true, the Bruins haven't lost a game in regulation since October and their goalies are reaping the benefits. Rask is a great spot starter and Thomas is elite.

DALLAS (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Kari Lehtonen - finally realized his potential last season just when a lot of fantasy players had given up on him. Can he do it again? Many remain leery as his .914 sv% isn't quite elite.
  • #2 Andrew Raycroft - wont the ROY back in 03-04. He's been nothing but a bad goalie since then and he's not getting any younger. Lucky to be a backup at this point.
  • SCOUT SAYS With the Lehtonen injury, this situation gets an upgrade. Lehtonen was having a fabulous season, so the injury news, while not surprising, is really disappointing. Raycroft will start most of the games while Lehtonen is on the shelf, but you have to be pretty desperate to be starting him. He's let up 4 goals or more in 4 of his 7 starts this season.

PHILADELPHIA (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Ilya Bryzgalov - signed a hefty 7year / $51 million contract in the off-season to be that missing piece in Philly. Expectations will be even higher since the club had to trade Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to make cap room to sign him.
  • #2 Sergei Bobrovsky - the Russian rookie came out of nowhere last year but he couldn't get it done in the playoffs. The signing of Bryz really makes him difficult to own in fantasy land.
  • SCOUT SAYS With shockingly similar peripherals (Bryz with .900 sv% & 2.83 gaa and Bob with .905 sv% & 2.82 gaa) neither Russian goalie has seized the moment. Bryz has gone 6-1-1 in his last 8 starts including wins while starting both games of a back to back. It's his job, even if he's been underwhelming.
OFFENSIVE (starter firmly established but backup is attempting to unseat them)

    FLORIDA (last update: Dec 5th)
  • #1 Jose Theodore - three-or-more has been a bad goalie since the lockout, but the Panthers have handed him the #1 job. We'll see how long it takes him to lose it.
  • #2 Scott Clemmensen - interesting option this year as many expect Theodore to falter. Unfortunately, he's out with a right knee injury.
  • #3 Jacob Markstrom - probably the goalie of the future for the Panthers, he may not get much of a look this season.
  • SCOUT SAYS Theodore is 4-1-1 in his last six and his overall peripherals: .924 sv% and 2.28 gaa are a lot better than anyone sane could have predicted for him. Clemmenson has only played two games this year.

SAN JOSE (last update: Dec5th)

  • #1 Antti Niemi - slow start last season turned around pretty quick as he started 60 games and had one of the best seasons of any goaltender.
  • #2 Antero Niittymaki - he's a tweener, not quite good enough to be a solid #1 but better than your typical #2... but that's all the Sharks really need.
  • #3 Thomas Greiss - played in the SEL last season and had some pretty ugly numbers (.901 sv% and 2.92 gaa). He's 3rd in line for playing time in San Jose.
  • SCOUT SAYS Nittymaki is still on IR but he should be back this month. In the meantime, Niemi has started 11 of 14 games and went 6-2-0 with a shutout in his last eight. His .921 sv% and 2.38 gaa suggest that even when Nittymaki returns, he won't be relinquishing the nets.

EDMONTON (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Nikolai Khabibulin - he's been a below average goalie for a long time and he'll turn 39 in January. Still has 2 more years at $3.75 million each which means he may start more than Oiler fans would like him to.
  • #2 Devan Dubnyk - it's hard to get a handle on his upside as he's played on some pretty awful teams in the WHL, AHL & NHL over the past few years. Did play admirable on a horrible Oiler team last season.
  • SCOUT SAYS The playing time has been a bit more even of late as Khabibulin has only started 4 of the last 7 games going 1-2-1. His once magical peripherals have come back down to earth. The.932 sv% and 2.00 gaa are still excellent but his .902 sv% and 3.12 gaa over his last 9 games are pedestrian. Dubnyk hasn't been a lot better at 2-1-0 with a .909 sv% and 3.00 gaa in his last 3 games. The hope for Dubnyk owners is that he somehow establishes himself at some point.

COLORADO (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Semyon Varlamov - the Avs paid a hefty price of a 1st rounder and a 2nd rounder for Varly. He'll try to make them look smart as the starter this season. The talent is there but can he stay healthy?
  • #2 Jean-Sebastien Giguere - Giggy had his day in the sun but now he's nothing more than a backup. He'll do fine in Colorado to give the kid a rest every few games.
  • SCOUT SAYS Varlamov was awful for a stretch there and Giguere actually started three straight games. Since that hiccup, Varlamov has started the next six going 4-2-0 while allowing 2 goals or less in each. It looks like Varlamov is starting to regain his confidence and certainly has a good handle on the starting job.
LA (last update: Dec 5th)
  • #1 Jonathan Quick - had a good season statistically but faded down the stretch. He started all 6 games in the 1st round where LA lost to SJ in 6. Can he build on those numbers and continue to ignore a fellow Jonathan breathing down his neck?
  • #2 Jonathan Bernier - many predicted that Bernier would steal the starting job last season but it wasn't until the March and April that he really started to come on. He'll attempt to unseat Quick again this season and will be a popular late round pick on the speculation that he can be successful.
  • SCOUT SAYS Bernier started two games in October, two games in November, and one game in December. Given that fact and the fact that Quick is 11-6-4 with a .936 sv%, 1.97 gaa, and 4 shutouts, that's all you need to know about the LA goalie situation. Quick has quickly become the man.
    COLD WAR (not much action but underlying tension that could escalate rapidly)

OTTAWA (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Craig Anderson - played great last season after the trade to Ottawa. He'll be the undisputed #1 and may play up to 70 games.
  • #2 Alex Auld - this is his eigth NHL team since the lockout and since being a #1 in Vancouver in 2005/06, he hasn't really threatened to take over a #1 job since.
  • #3 Robin Lehner - the 20 year old Swedish kid is the future goaltender for the Senators. They're content to let him develop in the AHL now.
  • SCOUT SAYS At 5-2-1 in his last eight starts, Anderson has stopped a lot of pucks. He's also allowed a lot of goals (22 in that span) so he's not exactly dominating. Still, Anderson has started a whopping 13 of the last 14 games for the Sens, so it's safe to assume that Anderson is the go-to guy.
    ANAHEIM (last update: Dec 5th)
  • #1 Jonas Hiller - was looking like a Vezina hopeful when his bouts with vertigo started. With all the uncertainty surrounding head injuries Hiller is one of the most difficult goalies to rank heading into the season. If he's healthy we like him to have a big year as he sports a career .921 sv%.
  • #2 Dan Ellis - never been a big workhorse goalie but has proven that he can get hot for stretches. Played well for the Ducks down the stretch after the trade.
  • #2 Jeff Deslauriers - The Time Machine played all of 2010-2011 in the AHL after starting 48 games for the Oilers in 2009-2010. He posted bad numbers in the AHL and even worse in the NHL. He'll be the 3rd option in Anaheim.
  • SCOUT SAYS Ellis is out with a groin injury so Deslauriers is up. Not that it matters with Hiller starting 23 of 26 games on the season. The bad news is that he's only won 1 of the last 9 games. Ugly stuff from Hiller as he's also sporting a .899 sv% and a 3.18 gaa. He's obviously going to be given every chance to turn it around, so he may be a good buy low candidate as his owners have to be growing annoyed with him. The fact that he starts so often makes him very useful, though.
    WINNIPEG (last update: Dec 5th)
  • #1 Ondrej Pavelec - only 23 and has shown that he has great upside with solid numbers in both the QMJHL & AHL but has struggled in the NHL up until last year. Well, half of last year.
  • #2 Chris Mason - his career .913 sv% is very solid but he's typically played on team's that were more sound defensively than this one. He'll be typecast as a backup forever.
  • SCOUT SAYS Pavelec is another goalie who is getting a large amount of starts (also 23 of 26) but sports bad numbers with .902 sv% and 3.08 gaa. At least he's 5-2-1 in his last 8 games. If you're into quantity over quality, he's your man.
    CHICAGO (last update: Dec 5th)
  • #1 Corey Crawford - the rookie burst onto the scene last year and played so well that he stole the job right from under Marty Turco. He enters this season as the team's #1 with a team that is sure to get him plenty of wins.
  • #2 Ray Emery - Emery played well for the Ducks last season going 7-2-0. He'll serve as the backup in Chicago but shouldn't be a blip on the fantasy radar.
  • SCOUT SAYS Crawford's record of 12-7-2 and the fact that he's started 21 of 27 starts means he's the man even if he's posted underwhelming numbers (.899 sv% and 2.91 gaa). Even with Emery at 4-1-1, his numbers are even worth. Crawford owners do not have much to worry about.
PEACE TIME (starter is absolutely safe at the present time)

NASHVILLE (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Pekka Rinne - Vezina nominee last season as he put up wonderful stats. He manages to get wins on a team that lacks scoring. Unquestionably, one of the top goalie options for 2011-2012
  • #2 Anders Lindback - surprised last season with how well he played in the limited action he saw. He went 11-5-2 with a .915 sv% and 2.60 gaa. At 23, he could be great trade bait for the Preds.
  • SCOUT SAYS Rinne has actually been in a bit of a tailspin, winless in his last 6 games. He's better than that and will undoubtedly get back on course. He continues to start a ton, even through his struggles, getting in the nets 23 of 26 starts.

PHOENIX (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Mike Smith - steps into the Coyotes starting net with big shoes to fill. His .899 and .900 sv% the last two seasons make him a shaky option at best. Stepping into a more defensive system will help his peripherals, but how many games can he win?
  • #2 Jason LaBarbera - a great AHL goalie but tends to disappoint when pressed into NHL duty.
  • SCOUT SAYS Smith has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the NHL with a 12-6-3 record, 2 shutouts, .932 sv% and a 2.24 gaa. Say what you want about his prior seasons and Tippett's system. The only thing that matters is results, and Smith is getting them. He's also started 21 of 25 games on the season.
    PITTSBURGH (last update: Dec 5th)
  • #1 Marc-Andre Fleury - one of the top goalie options in the league despite a mediocre .909 sv% for his career. Played awful to open last season but regained form 36 wins, 2.32 and .918 sv%. Will look to build on those numbers this season.
  • #2 Brent Johnson - he's been a solid veteran backup having posted at least a .908 sv% in the last four seasons. Probably won't see 20 starts like he did last season.
  • SCOUT SAYS MAF is still getting it done, though it hasn't been as pretty recently as he's allowed 3 or more goals in 7 of his last 9 starts. Still, his numbers overall are sparkling (14-4-2, .923 sv%, 2.11 gaa) and there's currently no shot he relinquishes any significant time to Brent Johnson.
    MONTREAL (last update: Dec 5th)
  • #1 Carey Price - had the long awaited coming out party last year to the tune of 38 wins, .928 and 2.35. Can he do it again?
  • #2 Peter Budaj - has been a #1 in Colorado before but despite being only 28, his role now is a veteran back-up who won't see the net more than once every five games. Price played 72 games last year so Budaj won't be anything more than a spot start
  • SCOUT SAYS after a shaky start for Price, he's 9-4-3 in his last 16 starts and has only sat out four games on the entire season. He's a great G1 option.

NYR (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Henrik Lundqvist - based on his history, durability and situation, he's one of the top 3 fantasy goalies heading into pretty much every season. This season is no different.
  • #2 Martin Biron - he's a little better than your typical back-up and has been a #1 in a few situations in the past.
  • SCOUT SAYS It's looking like a Vezina season early on for the King. He's 9-1-0 in his last ten starts. He's also started 18 of 23 games. Might be the top goalie in fantasy currently and looking forward.

DETROIT (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Jimmy Howard - started 63 games and won 37 of them last season. His .908 sv% and 2.79 gaa scare us a bit, but he's a good bet to have a bounce back year and win a bunch of games again.
  • #2 Ty Conklin - Usually one of the steadiest backups in the league, he really floundered last season playing in St Louis. He returns to Detroit to try to regain some of that 08-09 magic.
  • SCOUT SAYS Howard has been the top goalie in the league. He's 15-5-1, 3 shutouts, .931 sv%, and 1.83 gaa. He started 17 (!!) straight games until Conklin got the start yesterday (and lost). Howard's on a great team, he's playing great, and he's playing a ton. It looks like a bounce-back season in a huge way for Howard.
    CAROLINA (last update: Dec 5th)
  • #1 Cam Ward - he's a solid #1 who's had some playoff success and will rack up the wins but don't overrate him as his NHL numbers have never been anything better than average.
  • #2 Brian Boucher - has had spurts of success in the past and will serve as a solid backup in Carolina. The Canes should feel comfortable enough with him in net to give Ward a bit more rest this season.
  • SCOUT SAYS It's been ugly in Carolina. Ward is 0-4-1 in his last five starts and 8-12-3 overall. His .902 sv% and 3.14 gaa make the picture even uglier. The saving grace here is that Ward has started 23 of 28 games on the season. It doesn't look like the coaching change to Kirk Muller will change things, either.

CALGARY (last update: Dec 5th)

  • #1 Miikka Kiprusoff - he's at six straight seasons of 71+ starts. He may not be an elite option anymore (see his .906 sv% from last season) but he'll certainly get you wins and saves based solely on the amount of games he plays.
  • #2 Henrik Karlsson - made move to NA with plenty of experience in Sweden but just one season as a starter in the SEL. Started only 11 games last season and did just OK. At 28, he's no spring chicken.
  • SCOUT SAYS Starting 21 of 26 games, and posting good numbers (.919 sv%, 2.36 gaa), Kipper looks like a strong play this year.

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