GoaliePost Mailbag #01

Oct 16th 2009, 3:30pm EDT

Every Wednesday afternoon The Goalie Guild proudly presents the GoaliePost Mailbag feature, which gives fantasy goalie fans everywhere a chance to have their very own fantasy-related questions answered in an in-depth manner you won't find anywhere else.

Like a skilled surgeon, we take our sweet time analyzing and dissecting your unique fantasy questions and then diligently provide you with 100% total care and treatment in order to make your fantasy skills more powerful than ever before. This was one of our most popular features in the second half of last season, so we're excited to have it back for our first full season!

"I know it's very early, but who do you think will be the next Steve Mason or Pekka Rinne will be this year? My league is very goalie heavy and here are some notables on the waiver wire: Roloson, Auld, Ellis, Halak, Niittymaki, Elliot, Budaj, Danis, Harding, Legace, Garon, Ersberg, Rask, Curry, Crawford, Deslauriers. Which starter do you think is gonna go down this year?" - Joachim

While it's pretty much impossible to guess at which goalies might go down with an injury, I can give you some insight on which goalies are best suited to play strong if the starter does go down. Although I should point out that some goalies are more PRONE to injuries than others, so I guess you could weigh that into the equation. In that regard, I'd say the likes of Pascal Leclaire, Kari Lehtonen (bahaaha), Nikolai Khabibulin and Chris Osgood might have a higher propensity to be injured than others. But anyone and everyone can fall victim to a series of unfortunate events.

As far as the next great waiver wire goalie acquisition, I would definitely go with any of the following: AULD, RASK, ELLIOTT, ELLIS, DESLAURIERS and GARON. Auld has already put some more pressure on Marty Turco by playing well against Calgary in their 5-2 win last week. I think he's underrated in the sense that he's a well-rounded goalie with great size and good footwork. He has played with Marc Crawford before in Vancouver, so I think if Turco continues to struggle at making the timely or clutch save, Auld could easily be regarded as a potential #1 goalie after the Olympics for the Stars. I don't think Turco will struggle long enough for that to happen, but Auld is already guaranteed to start at least 25 games, maybe closer to 30.

Jeff Deslauriers and Mathieu Garon are both interesting picks right now as well. Although they are only going to be limited to maybe 20 games at the most, there are no guarantees with the starters in either city. One is really old and one is really young, so the chances inconsistency takes over their season is stronger than with other starting goalies.

You can also expect Brian Elliott to play more than 30 games this year, regardless of whether or not Leclaire gets hurt or plays well. I've deciphered over the last year that the Senators really like Elliott's game, especially after his great second half last season, so they want him to play plenty of games behind Leclaire. They also don't want to take any chances by over-working Pascal either, as he's pretty injury-prone and only played right around 15 games last season. Ironically, Leclaire's injury problems opened the door for Steve Mason to quickly become last year's "great waiver selection" in the first place.

I also like Dan Ellis and drafted him in two out of three head-to-head teams I manage. I've covered the Ellis/Rinne topic extensively as well, so click here if you'd like to read a little more about both Ellis and Rinne. Overall, there's a lot of great potential out there this year, but tracking these goalies every single minute counts, so you just have to keep a close eye on things. It's always interesting to see the coaching decisions made by teams and how it impacts their progression!

"My league (8 members) went heavy after goalies early in our draft, I sat back and picked up my trio later in the draft and ended up with Vokoun, Emery and Varlamov. With regards to Varlamov, I think I'm going to dump him for one of the FA's out there in our league. Here's who we have sitting on the FA market right now: Anderson – COL, Quick – LAK, Niemi – CHI, Niittymaki – TB, Ellis – NAS, Hiller – ANA, Khabibulin – EDM, Pavelec – ATL, Smith – TB, Biron – NYI." – Ted

First off, smart move to upgrade either Varlamov or Vokoun. Varlamov is a tougher read of the two, but like most inexperienced goalies, he will probably struggle this season to play at the same level he did in the playoffs. It happens to a lot of "second-year" goalies ... they come out of the gate in their rookie year with a lot of energy and confidence, but when it comes time to show focus or consistency over the course of an entire season, it just doesn't happen often. Varlamov rode a wave of intense focus and energy when it mattered most – in time for the playoffs – until he was exposed by the Penguins. Now that the situation is drastically different to start this season, you are starting to see some aspects of his game that still need a lot of work.

Tomas Vokoun was really working hard all summer long on having a "strong start" this season, and that obviously hasn't happened. I have not been impressed with his work ethic to be honest - he doesn't seem as focused as usual. I would consider it just the typical type of rust you see with a veteran goalie at the beginning of the year, but the more I analyze his style right now, the more I think it's getting a little out-dated.

I'm blown away at the number of good goalies available in your league! In this order, here's who I would replace Varlamov with: Hiller, Anderson, Ellis and then Quick. I would think long and hard about Anderson. He's been the most consistent goalie this season besides Ryan Miller and Ilya Bryzgalov, has already started six straight games and has the highest save percentage over the last two years at .928 overall.

Another aspect of Anderson's success this season is that he's simply going to play a ton of games this year and is not threatened whatsoever by Peter Budaj. Plus a lot of people talk about Dave Tippett's impact on the Coyotes and Bryzgalov, but NOBODY is talking about Joe Sacco's impact on the Avs and Anderson when it comes to a defensive point of view. I follow the Avs very closely and can tell you that they are more responsible and more physical than before thanks to Kyle Quincey's strong play. I'd personally go with Anderson without thinking twice, but as long as you're going with any of the four goalies I listed, you'll probably be better off with them than Varlamov right now.

"Since Bryzgalov seems to be the big goaltending story for the year so far, I was wondering if you could share some insight - obviously he's a talented guy, but how much does Tippett's coaching the team help him out? Will the combination of his talent + Tippett mean he can sustain his numbers? From a strictly fantasy hockey standpoint, does this mean Bryz is a reasonable bet to maintain a 0.920ish SV% for the rest of the season while pulling in 25-30 wins?" - HockeyPoolGeek

I think Tippett has easily had a strong influence on the team and the current numbers Bryzgalov has posted. But at the same time, I think Bryzgalov also has a lot of confidence right now and was able to get into a rhythm very quickly. The first game this season against LA was a really wide open game. He faced 33 shots in a 6-3 win and I think when the Coyotes took that opening night win from the Kings, they were set up perfectly to surprise the Penguins, which is exactly what they did. After Bryzgalov got some help from a good defensive effort and stopped all 24 shots he faced (most of which were straightforward), the momentum continued to build.

The 0-2 loss to Columbus was one of the most defensive games I've seen all year. It was Tippett vs. Hitchcock and sure enough Bryzgalov only stopped 17 of 18 shots. Then the Coyotes hit the road again two days later in San Jose. I think this team has confidence on the road because they're surprising teams right now, so he had all the confidence and momentum in the world and snuck away with the shootout & shutout win on 26 saves.

Right now Bryzgalov has displayed a great combination of skill, confidence and technique and with a system that helps make his life a lot easier, the Coyotes have surprised their opposition in the same way maybe Craig Anderson and the Avs have surprised teams. They are a better defensive club with a lot of youthful energy and an underrated defenseman that is physical and good in front of their net. I'm talking about Kyle Quincey and Jim Vandermeer for their respective teams.

Of course you have to expect one thing from Bryzgalov ... he is streaky. Last season here's how his W/L record went in October and November: Won 2, Lost 3, W-L-W-L, Won 3 then Lost 6. HE has always been very technically solid and is certainly CAPABLE of being much more consistent than he was last year, but a lot of it is his confidence. This season, he's going to have a lot more CONFIDENCE because his team has better defensive systems in place. Therefore I don't think it's out of the question to expect close to 30 wins and a save percentage around .915 and maybe five-six shutouts.

Also with Jason LaBarbera looking like he's in the best shape of his career, Bryzgalov will be better rested. They over-worked Bryzgalov last season. He played FOUR back-to-backs just in the month of October and November!! He played THREE back-to-backs in December!!! He played THREE MORE in January and February and then TWO MORE in March!! To me, that's totally outrageous and I have no idea why they didn't manage his minutes a lot better. By the time February rolled around, it was obvious that Bryzgalov was wearing down not only physically, but mentally.

If LaBarbera plays some more games than Tellqvist/Montoya/Tordjman played last season, it will be a much better season statistically for Bryzgalov, although he will start less games than last year...which was 65.Here is some great proof of how important it would be to manage Bryzgalov's minutes.

2007-08 55 (26-22-0) 2.42 .921 3
2008-09 65 (26-31-0) 2.98 .906 3

There you go. Bryzgalov is a perfect fit for 55-60 games. If you own him in a fantasy league, keep him on the bench for those back-to-back games or if he's lost a few in a row. That's what will keep his numbers close to what you saw in 2007-08 and therefore more effective for your fantasy team.