All roads lead to Washington

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Anna Dua
·7 min read
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Week of February 1-7

In the Crease is back for the 2020-2021 season. This column will provide you with everything you need to know about goaltending and who to start and sit in the upcoming week. I’ll give you some great options, good options, and goalies to avoid every week. This week three of the goalies that have cracked the great and good lists are products of the Washington Capitals. It is interesting to see different goaltenders who have gone through the same development pipeline all succeed in their respective divisions. Philipp Grubauer has cemented himself as one of the best goalies in the league this season, Braden Holtby is having a good start in his new Vancouver home, and Vitek Vanecek is performing beyond anyone’s expectations in his first year in the league. Needless to say, this showcases how phenomenal the development of netminders is in the Washington Capitals organization and is just something interesting to keep an eye on.

Great Options

Vitek Vanecek - Washington Capitals: Vanecek is definitely one of the biggest goaltender surprises of this season and he has continued to shock this past week. The rookie goalie has yet to lose a single game in regulation thus far and picked up two back-to-back wins against the New York Islanders last week. This undoubtedly gave him a confidence boost, as the Islanders have been one of the more skilled opponents the young goalie has faced thus far. Vanecek’s season record is currently 4-0-2, with a season save percentage of .915 and a GAA of 2.75. The Capitals play against three different teams this upcoming week, including the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and Philadelphia Flyers. This will be Vanecek’s first time playing any of these opponents so this week could be a great indicator of whether this season’s start was just beginner’s luck or whether he has the serious ability to fight for Washington’s starting spot.

Philipp Grubauer - Colorado Avalanche: Grubauer picked up a shutout this past week, which adds to the great start he has been having this season. His record currently sits at 5-2-0 and he leads the league in wins. He has a season save percentage of .928 and a GAA of 1.86. Grubauer is consistently a phenomenal fantasy option because he posts great individual performances and also has the help of a very well-rounded team that consistently ensures the number in his win column increases. This week the Colorado Avalanche have two games against the Minnesota Wild and two games versus the St. Louis Blues, two opponents that give Grubauer plenty of opportunity to put up great numbers.

Anton Khudobin - Dallas Stars: Khudobin is cruising at the start of his season, posting wins in all three of his starts. He boasts a season save percentage of .958 and a GAA of 0.99. He has the highest save percentage in the league, along with the lowest GAA. Khudobin’s performance last season indicated that the Dallas Stars would still be in good hands even in the continued absence of Ben Bishop, and the start of this year is proving that statement correct. The upcoming week Dallas has two games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and one against the Chicago Blackhawks. All three of these matchups favor the Stars, so by the end of this upcoming week Khudobin has the opportunity to further solidify his spot at the top of the goaltender rankings.

John Gibson - Anaheim Ducks: Gibson has to be one of the biggest fantasy steals of this season so far. He has only one game this season where he posted a save percentage below .900. Thus far, his season save percentage sits at .942 and his season GAA is 1.87. Gibson is second in the NHL this year with 212 saves. To cap off his amazing stats, he also has posted two shutouts in his seven games played. The only con to Gibson’s game thus far is that the rest of his team is not rising up to match his performance level. His season record currently sits at 3-2-2 because the Anaheim Ducks are unable to create the offensive pressure needed to come out of matchups with a win. Regardless, Gibson gives his team a fighting chance in every game and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain this performance level as the season continues.

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Good Options

Marc-Andre Fleury - Vegas Golden Knights: The Vegas Golden Knights are playing an even rotation in their goalie position to kick off this 2020-21 season campaign, but as of now Fleury is winning the battle. Fleury has posted three wins in all three of his starts and has the third-best save percentage out of any goalie who has started at least three games with .951. His GAA this season is also great so far, sitting at a flat 1.00. Prior to the season, Fleury indicated that his counterpart Robin Lehner was the team’s go-to, but he is certainly not relinquishing the starting spot. His fantasy value is diminished by the fact that he is only playing half of the games so far, but if his stellar performance continues it will be difficult for the Golden Knights to overlook him.

Braden Holtby - Vancouver Canucks: On Thursday night Braden Holtby posted his best performance of the year so far against the Ottawa Senators, as he stopped 36-of-37 shots and came out of the game with a win. So far this season Holtby has a record of 3-2-0 with a save percentage of .906. His GAA is a bit high at 3.17 on the year, but at the same time Holtby has competed against some pretty good offenses so far this season. This upcoming week, however, will not be any easier. The Canucks kick off the week with back-to-back games against the Montreal Canadiens before facing the dynamic Toronto Maple Leafs twice. This week will showcase if Holtby can truly be the go-to in Vancouver heading forward.

Joonas Korpisalo - Columbus Blue Jackets: Korpisalo wowed last season during the playoffs when he posted a record-breaking performance in the 5OT game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. That game showcased the potential the goalie has, and thus far, this season he has been doing pretty good. He does not have a single game where his save percentage has fallen below .900. He only has one regulation loss on the year and currently has a GAA of 2.17. Korpisalo will face his toughest week so far, as the Columbus Blue Jackets play the Dallas Stars twice and the numbers he puts up against the high-power offense of the Stars could be just what he needs to secure the starting spot.

Bad Options

Matt Murray - Ottawa Senators: Murray is having a tough time, to say the least, on his new team. His record currently sits at 1-4-1 and he has a season save percentage of .859, along with a GAA of 4.39. In his six games played, he has only cracked the .900 save percentage mark once. He also has the worst GAA of any goalie with three or more starts, along with the lowest save percentage in the league. The Senators play the Edmonton Oilers once and the Montreal Canadiens twice this upcoming week, and when Murray gets the start, these are tough matchups to improve his numbers. He is definitely a goalie that should be avoided.

Robin Lehner - Vegas Golden Knights: So far this year Lehner has a record of 2-1-1 with a save percentage of .885 and a GAA of 2.95. He is not having the performance he needs to have, especially when considering that he is still fighting for the starting spot in Vegas. His counterpart, Marc-Andre Fleury, has been posting far better number in this early season stretch and if Lehner’s game does not improve quickly it will be difficult for Vegas to justify giving him half of their starts. The only reason Fleury fell to the good and not great column this week is because he is seeing half the ice time, and this factor also pushes Lehner to the bad column this week. Lehner will likely play in one game this upcoming week against the Los Angeles Kings, a matchup where he really needs to take advantage and put up a season-redeeming performance.