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By Jason Chen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
John Gibson and Anthony Stolarz, Ducks (last 4 combined: 4-0-0, .956 Sv%, 0.99 GAA)
Thanks to fantastic goaltending, the Ducks are third in the Pacific Division when many thought they would be bottom feeders. We should, however, keep in mind that they had lost six consecutive games before their current five-game winning streak, during which only two opponents, the Devils and Blues, are over .500.
Their next stretch will be a little more challenging, but it also features the Kraken, Canucks, Predators, Avalanche and Sens, teams who have all underperformed expectations to varying degrees. Because the Ducks allow the seventh-most shots per game, Gibson and Stolarz can still rack up the saves when they inevitably cool off.
Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov, Islanders (last 3 combined: 2-1-0, .949 Sv%, 1.68 GAA)
Sorokin's been excellent with a 5-0-2 record and three shutouts after allowing 10 goals in his first two games. On any other team, he'd be the undisputed No. 1 goalie. But Varlamov also looked very good in his season debut despite the loss, making 34 saves and making the Isles consider going back to alternating starts as they did for most of last season. That potentially hurts Sorokin's fantasy value, who is now being forced into a timeshare despite his strong performance. We know Barry Trotz is stubborn and doesn't really cater to any one player, so the safe bet is that the Isles are moving back to their usual rotation.
Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen, Kings (last 4 combined: 4-0-0, .945 Sv%, 1.69 GAA)
The Kings have knocked off six consecutive wins, even if a little luck was needed since only three came in regulation. Their 5-1 win in Toronto was impressive, and an overtime win in Montreal showed a lot of resilience and consistency, something that was definitely missing last season. With Quick (.924 Sv%/2.26 GAA) outplaying Petersen (.907 Sv%/2.82 GAA), he's starting to get more starts, getting the nod in seven of their last 10 games.
There's a tough stretch coming up with Winnipeg, Washington, Carolina and Toronto again, but perhaps Quick is worth a speculative add (21 percent rostered on Yahoo) just in case the Kings keep this up. Los Angeles ranks 14th in CorsiFor% at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com, indicating its possession numbers are slightly above average and further justifies it as a playoff hopeful.
Robin Lehner, Golden Knights (past 4: 3-1-0, .934 Sv%, 2.25 GAA)
Perhaps I was a little too harsh too soon last week calling Lehner a liability. His play has improved markedly, though perhaps the best thing to happen to his fantasy value was Laurent Brossoit allowing four goals in a loss to Detroit. Brossoit looked good in his season debut in an overtime win against Dallas, and since Lehner's record was 2-4-0 at the time, it looked like an opportunity to give Brossoit a bigger role while Lehner worked out the kinks.
We're now totally back in the mindset that Lehner will be a workhorse and should finish the season as a top-5 fantasy goalie.
Elvis Merzlikins, Blue Jackets (5-1-0, .940 Sv%, 1.98 GAA)
There shouldn't be any more competition: Merzlikins has been the better goalie and should be the starter. He's a big reason why the Jackets are in the playoff race, and unlike past seasons, the Jackets are also providing goal support, ranking 12th with 3.10 goals per game. It could be argued the Jackets have benefited from a fairly easy schedule early on, but sweeping a home-and-home series against the Avs should give fantasy managers a slight boost of confidence in starting Merzlikins against any opponent. He's earned the benefit of the doubt now and is also available in 25 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Alex Nedeljkovic, Red Wings (past 3: 2-1-0, .933 Sv%, 2.32 GAA)
The Wings' goaltending is going to make any fantasy manager tear his hair out. How else do you describe a team that managed to beat the Oilers and hold Connor McDavid to a measly one goal yet also lose to the Habs twice by a combined 9-1 score?
It's been an even split with seven starts each for Nedeljkovic and Thomas Greiss, and Jeff Blashill has been very consistent in maintaining his rotation. Nedeljkovic should have more upside than Greiss, but both goalies' fantasy values are trending up because the Wings are much better than expected and rank 20th in goals per game after finishing second to last and last in the two previous seasons, respectively. If you're short on goaltending or have unused bench spots, consider taking Nedeljkovic, if not both Detroit netminders.
Honorable Mention: Scott Wedgewood, Coyotes; Jeremy Swayman, Bruins; Juuse Saros, Predators; Mackenzie Blackwood, Devils; Carter Hart and Martin Jones, Flyers; Tristan Jarry, Penguins; Joel Hofer, Blues; Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning; Jack Campbell, Maple Leafs
Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, Rangers (past 4 combined: 1-1-2, .885 Sv%, 4.39 GAA)
Oh, how quickly things change. Last week, we were ready to anoint Shesterkin as one of this season's top fantasy goalies, but a troublesome week has him and Georgiev back on the naughty list. The Rangers have lost four of their last seven games, including two losses against the Flames in which Shesterkin allowed 11 goals and a loss to the Oilers in which Georgiev allowed six goals.
The Rangers rank 32nd in CF% and 31st in xGF% at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com, which means that when Shesterkin and Georgiev aren't at the top of their game, the Rangers' poor possession numbers may lead to big blowout losses. Indeed, four of the Rangers' six losses this season saw them allow at least five goals. Start Shesterkin and Georgiev at your own peril knowing that there will be very high highs and very low lows.
Cam Talbot, Wild (past 2 starts: 2-0-0, .881 Sv%, 3.89 GAA)
Without goal support and some luck, Talbot and the Wild could easily have had finished 0-0-2 after defeating Pittsburgh and Ottawa in extra time. Talbot's a fantasy-friendly goalie because he's on a team that's playing very well with top-5 possession numbers, according to naturalstattrick.com, and although Kaapo Kahkonen won his last start against the Isles, he has only gotten to play this season in back-to-backs.
Talbot's heavy workload playing on a playoff contender really helps bump up his fantasy value in what is otherwise merely an above-average goalie. He's a double-edged sword; look for the wins to keep coming in, but the peripheral numbers might not be very good.
Philipp Grubauer, Kraken (4-5-1, .886 Sv%, 2.97 GAA)
I pumped the gas a bit too hard after Grubauer played well for *checks notes* one whole week. The Kraken were supposed to be built from the net out, but their goaltending has been by far their weakest point this season. Case in point: The Kraken have the third-best 5v5 xGA/60 and the ninth-best xGF%, yet they're seventh-last in GA/GP and last in the league with a .871 Sv%, per hockey-reference.com. That's worse than even the Coyotes, who currently have a 25-year-old Czech rookie nobody had heard of before the season and a backup who was claimed off waivers.
The theory that Grubauer was a product of an exceptional Avs team and an average goalie otherwise is starting to hold more water, and until he starts playing better, fantasy managers are better off just leaving him on the bench.
Dishonorable Mention: Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski, Sabres; Braden Holtby and Anton Khudobin, Stars; Spencer Knight, Panthers; Linus Ullmark, Bruins; Jake Allen, Canadiens; Matt Murray and Filip Gustavsson, Senators; Adin Hill, Sharks; Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov, Capitals