It’s fitting that one of Sunday’s biggest stories revolved around rumblings that the U.S. Olympic team has settled on the threesome of Jimmy Howard, Ryan Miller and Jonathan Quick because many of this weekend’s most interesting fantasy notes are goalie-related. It’s also interesting that this trio of selections basically ignores the fantasy developments from the 2013-14 season.
(Nashville Predators GM David Poile is the guy calling the shots for the American team, so with some added context, it’s not surprising that he isn’t making the most “current” choices. After all, if you were the guy who handed Pekka Rinne an increasingly questionable $7 million a year, you’d probably want to stay in the past, too ...)
Granted, it will be more than a month until the red, white and blue take on the rest of the world’s hockey powers for a chance at the hockey gold medal, but I’d be a little concerned about Howard’s up-and-down play (and injury issues) along with Quick’s injury issues (plus his up-and-down play).
I mean, really, when a guy who fantasy owners are actually sort of thrilled is 10-17-1 is the only no-brainer of your trio of Olympic goalies, things aren’t going too well. (Unless you’re a happy-to-be-there nation, of course.)
Of course, if you base things on bigger picture considerations and name recognition, Poile’s trio is almost the only trio that makes sense, although some may replace Howard with Tim Thomas.
Personally, I’d move red-hot goalie Ben Bishop in there for either Howard or Quick, depending on whatever inside information is available regarding the health of those two goalies. Success over the long haul is ideal, but why not get a little “flavor of the month” in the mix in case it’s possible to ride a hot streak? You don’t want to knee-jerk your way out of the medal round, but you don’t want to get stuck in too-safe decisions, either. Leaving Sidney Crosby off the 2006 squad looks worse when you go without a medal, right?
Anyway, this critical reaction of reasonable choices really highlights the regular upheaval present in the goalie category. Let’s get to the latest round of bit right after this …
ELLIOTT EDGES IN?
The Hockey Dose hasn’t been shy about trumpeting goalies who might not have the longest shelf lives. A great example is Antti Raanta, a Chicago Blackhawks backup/former third goalie who almost seems like he’s racking up wins on a deadline like he’s in one of those bizarre money booths.
That easy-to-get, tough-to-keep focus probably explains why I haven’t spilled a whole lot of digital ink regarding Brian Elliott’s exploits, but now seems like the perfect time to discuss the improving St. Louis Blues goalie. (Before I get too deep into his situation, the quick answer is that yes, he’s worth adding and that you should do it now with him only owned in 53 percent of Yahoo leagues.)
During this past weekend, Elliott grabbed wins on back-to-back nights. Jaroslav Halak was pulled against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday and gave way to Elliott, who was along for the ride in a come-from-behind shootout win. A day later, Elliott backstopped the Blues to a 3-2 OT win against the Dallas Stars.
SIGNS OF CHANGE
That’s a promising weekend for those who’ve decided to invest in Elliott, but it’s not the only sign that things have been turning.
He's generally been on the upswing since only receiving two starts in October. The real span to note is in this month, though; since another abbreviated Halak start on Dec. 7, Halak has won twice in five games while Elliott has five wins in six games.
Honestly, you might say that it’s almost unfair to compare Elliott with many other goalies, as he's now 9-1-2 on the season. The individual edge is there, too, as Elliott has a nice .919 save percentage while Halak has a shaky .907 mark.
AN UNUSUAL SITUATION
Considering day-to-day operations alone, this is an interesting scenario. If you expand it to the Blues’ longer term options, this becomes even more fascinating for fantasy owners, though.
Both Halak and Elliott are pending unrestricted free agents. That provides the Blues with unusual motivation to a) play each goalie at least a little bit and b) conversely, ride the hot hand when it makes sense.
St. Louis may very well believe in both or none of these netminders. Either way, by driving up both goalies’ value, they stand to gain the most.
It makes for an interesting set of circumstances for Elliott. If he plays well, he could carry the torch for a contending team in the Blues. He could also boost his trade value enough to land himself shipped in a more stable starting situation, though possibly with another team. Similar things could be happen to Halak, for that matter.
The higher-end scenario would likely entail Elliott grabbing a firm hold of the Blues job, but that wouldn’t be easy for him to accomplish. Really though, I’d venture a guess that you’re likely to get solid returns for what little you’ve given up to grab him (whether if you did so in a draft or through the waiver wire).
Really, he could be a great value even if he only shifted this into a platoon situation.
OTHER GOALIE NOTES
-- Josh Harding returned to action on Sunday. It wasn’t pretty, to say the least, but he’s back in action …
-- Don’t look now, but Jeff Zatkoff has won seven games in a row after losing his first two as Tomas Vokoun’s stand-in with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury’s stranglehold on the starting job means he’s not really a long-term guy, but Zatkoff has potential to remain a strong spot starter. He should at least be on your radar for that specific purpose.
-- Eddie Lack's sensational streak continued with a shutout on Sunday (it was against the Calgary Flames ... but still). He's won five in a row (not counting two non-decisions) and has allowed two goals or less in every appearance except for his first of 2013-14 (he won that one despite giving up four tallies). Overall, Lack is 7-2-0 with a .933 save percentage and 1.74 GAA. Roberto Luongo's the guy in Vancouver, but at this rate, Lack might have a shot at being a poor man's Cory Schneider.
-- Just a refresher: it sounds like Corey Crawford might be back pretty soon (possibly late this week), so Raanta's days seem numbered. Honestly, I wouldn't blame you at all if you waited through a Crawford start or two to make sure that a re-injury doesn't just open that door right back up. It's tough to give up a surprise starter on a contender, after all.
-- Jonas Gustavsson seemingly continues to move between injured and outstanding. He experienced both this weekend, as it appears his groin issues have flared up again.
-- Jonas Hiller is on an eight-game winning streak while the Anaheim Ducks' overall run of 10 games ended via Frederik Andersen's loss on Sunday. Hiller could beat out Elliott as the go-to free agent goalie to grab at the trade deadline (I'd definitely want Hiller instead if I were a GM).
-- Speaking of goalies possibly on the move, it sounds like Michal Neuvirth is requesting a trade from Washington, which is far from a shock since Philipp Grubauer and Braden Holtby seem to be forcing him out. Maybe Neuvirth won't underestimate the next guy he's trying to usurp?