GoaliePost Mailbag #02

Oct 22nd 2009, 3:48pm EDT

It has been another chaotic week full of goaltending conflicts (I don't believe in the term 'goalie controversy' at all, but that's a story for another time) as overall scoring continues to be pretty high throughout the league. And that means patience is wearing thin for managers that own a number of veteran goaltenders, including Tomas Vokoun, Cristobal Huet, Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas.

Jonas Hiller

Sure enough, we are all learning in one way or another that patience is not a virtue – it's just a straight up pain in the ass. For those that have the luxury of riding another goalie while the others try to snap out of a funk, you'll probably end up reaping the rewards in the second half of the season.

But it's my contention that the first ten games of the regular season always seem to result in more goals scored on average than usual, mainly due to the elevated energy teams possess and the numerous junior players vying for roster spots (see Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene as examples). Therefore I expect the average of goals scored per game to slowly drop over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for that and remember to stay patient!

Amongst other goaltending topics I have covered for fantasy managers over the last few weeks, I wrote a solid School of Block column on Monday that has a lot of insight on Josh Harding and Cristobal Huet. It's called The Rhythm Killers and looks at Harding's lack of quality opportunities to get the much-needed starts in order to obtain a good rhythm. As a result, he has become a completely worthless goalie for both one-year and keeper fantasy leagues.

I'm playing in a Yahoo head-to-head league. My goalie categories are W, GAA, SV, SA SV% and SO. My goalies are Steve Mason and Jonas Hiller. I have a very strong player group but do you think that I will be strong enough in the pipes with those two tenders? –Bran Van

Wow, that is a ton of stats categories for goalies, but obviously I love that setup. On the surface, your goaltending sounds very solid. You will get plenty of starts from both goalies, especially Mason. The only thing that worries me is that you don't have a third goalie. I would personally try to acquire a solid backup that has the ability to play consistently in their limited chances. Some of the ones that might be available in your league are Jeff Deslauriers, Thomas Greiss, Brian Elliott, Alex Auld and Scott Clemmensen.

The problem with having only Mason and Hiller is that you can't expect them to post the same numbers as last season. What you saw from Mason was very extraordinary and very rare can that be duplicated in consecutive seasons. Especially now that he is playing the entire season with Columbus, he will be prone to dynamics like exhaustion, inconsistency or bad timing. You have already seen this in a few games for Mason this season, as he is not as focused or as strong as he was down the stretch last year. This doesn't take away anything from his skill level or long-term potential, it's just natural that a goalie will be brought back down to earth after a Calder Trophy rookie season.

Simply put, roll with Hiller and Mason, but don't expect the type of elite runs that they both had in the second half of last season. To compensate for this, I'd draft a third goalie by dropping your worst forward skater and going for one of the quality and consistent backups that are available in your free agent pool. If you want to get some more insight or want to follow up on this, just leave a message in the GoaliePost forums and I will continue to help you out!

I would also suggest reading this School of Block article I wrote over the summer: Hiller vs. Giguere is a dissertation on the different styles the two goalies have and why Hiller will get more starts than Giguere this season.

Anderson is officially on my fantasy team and I'm already big-time pleased. Thank you once again. Vokoun is now really testing my patience. Your thoughts on how he has played thus far are sticking with me, and I'm really tempted to move him off for Hiller. Do you think Jonas will continue to split 50/50 with JS? That's my primary concern at this point and I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts when you have a moment. -Ted

Ted, good move to acquire Anderson. I am really surprised when I see people comment on how he's still available in leagues. There must be a lot of people out there that think Anderson is going to "come back down to earth" or the Avalanche will start struggling again, but I don't see their wheels falling off completely. Everything from their coaching staff to their chemistry has taken a complete 180-degree turn. These guys will fight for a playoff spot with teams like St. Louis, Los Angeles and Phoenix, and ultimately that battle will come down to goaltending.

When it comes to Tomas Vokoun, I think you've seen over the last few games just more of what I've been telling people since the summer. He's losing ground fast, mainly because his butterfly style has not been refined since he moved to Florida. Goalies consistently have to refine and make small adjustments to their game (in many different facets) in order to stay competitive in the NHL. Vokoun was an elite goalie in the 2006-07 season, but he plays the exact same style now in 2009 and it just doesn't work the same.

This season, you're seeing more and more traffic in front of the net, more deflections off to either side of the goalie and more forwards crash the crease in an attempt to make the goalie's life more difficult. And it's working. There is a lot less space for a goalie to work with, which leads me right into the next question in this week's mailbag.

But to answer your question straight up, Hiller will get the bulk of starts in Anaheim. Giguere was also injured a few days ago, which resulted in the recall of Justin Pogge from the ECHL. I am not sure how long Giguere is out, but it bodes well for Hiller owners, as he will now have a few consecutive starts to help him get into a better rhythm as October comes to a close.

What in the heck is up with Roberto Luongo? –Every single fantasy manager in the world

I watched the last two Canucks games and was able to get a pretty good read on why he's not playing so well right now, besides the fact his Octobers have consistently SUCKED. Traffic in front.

Luongo is being forced to play a step deeper in his crease because there is so much traffic in front of him that his comfort level has changed. He always seems to be run over and then seen losing his mask, helmetless, shaking off the collision.

Is he any worse of a goalie from a technical standpoint? Not at all. Is he positionally not as comfortable as last season? Definitely.

I think Luongo will be fine and will start to play higher up in his crease, but he needs to get some help from his defenseman. One of the reasons why a goalie will play deeper in his crease is because of HIS lack of confidence in HIS defensemen. If they can be stronger and more physical in front of him, Luongo will push out further and start taking away more time and space from the snipers that have been making him look bad.

There's a very good article written by our official mental training coach Shaun Smith, who discusses playing at the top of the crease. Reading this after I saw the Canucks lose a game where Luongo struggled, it became very clear that this is the key issue surrounding his problems right now. Playing deeper in the crease will also impact rebound control and timing, but not as much as just simply taking away time and space.