How Are Western Conference Goalies Faring?
The Wild West
How are Western Conference Goalies Faring?
By Kevin Wickersham
We\'re a little over a month into the campaign so let\'s take a look at how the West\'s goalies have performed thus far. Much is prone to change, but from a fantasy perspective (obviously dependent on your league\'s settings) consider this a loose ranking of early returns that could flip wildly in the upcoming week or two.
Corey Crawford – Chicago
Crawford\'s numbers took a big hit after a stinker (six goals in two periods) against New Jersey Sunday night. His peripheral stats (2.21 GAA, .932 SV% - both still tops in the league) look great but his 7-7-0 record isn\'t quite as attractive. Perhaps Chicago\'s defensive support (34:09-foot average shot – next to last in the league, and 33.8 shots against per game - tied for fourth-worst) is a contributing factor, but as a club they\'ve still yielded the ninth-least goals per game at 2.72. Combined with scoring 2.94 per game this can work, but a larger margin would help them surpass their mediocre 8-8-2 record. Kudos to Crawford for excelling in such circumstances.
Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles
The Kings are still stingy. They\'re tied for second in the league with 2.44 goals-against per-game but have allowed the ninth-most shots per game at 33.1. Quick is excelling though (top-five in wins, GAA, and SV% with a 9-3-1, 2.29, .932 line and two shutouts) after missing much of last season. With the West\'s second-best record and recharged scoring led by the potent Kopitar-Brown-Iaffalo line, if LA can sustain anywhere near their 11-3-2 record Quick will continue to rack up the wins and peripheral stat excellence.
Pekka Rinne – Nashville
Even after yielding four goals to Pittsburgh Saturday night Rinne still is near the top of the goalie leaderboard in most categories. Now at 8-2-2 with a .929 save percentage (fourth in the league) and 2.23 goals-against (second to Crawford) the recently-turned 35-year-old doesn\'t appear to be slowing down or giving any ground to backup Juuse Saros who\'s sputtered to a 1-3-0, 3.93, .855 start. The Nashville defense has done its part as Rinne isn\'t comparatively facing tons of shots with 31.3 per 60 minutes, although they have been taken from relatively short range (35.39 feet out on average). We\'ll see if he can keep up this pace over the long haul, but currently Rinne\'s one of the league\'s best in net.
Martin Jones – San Jose
Jones\' 7-4-0, 2.24 (ranked 4th), .922 (ranked 10th) marks are all solid but could be supplemented with a few more offense-enhanced wins as San Jose\'s 2.73 average goals per game stands at 22nd in the league. Thanks to their league-best 2.31 goals-against, and second best 28.9 average shots per game allowed they\'ve jumped out to a 9-6-0 start after a rough first two weeks. Jones has got in a great deal of work in the last two campaigns, first with a trip to the Cup Finals then a first-round ouster last year topping consecutive 65-game regular seasons, but with backup Aaron Dell starting another year impressively (2-2-0, 1.94, .934) more rest is possible. That would likely help Jones\' peripherals but slightly impact his win and save totals.
Connor Hellebuyck – Winnipeg
Last year wasn\'t great (2.89 and .907 despite a 26-19-4 record), but so far 2017-18 has been for Winnipeg\'s 24-year-old netminder. Facing a camp battle from free-agent Philly import Steve Mason for the starting spot, Hellebuyck\'s stormed out to an 8-1-2 record and impressive .926 save percentage ranked sixth-best among regular NHL starters. Perhaps it\'s at least partially a testament to the Jet defense, holding Hellebuyck\'s opponents to a 39.23-foot average shot – third-farthest among regular starters. His 2.44 goals-against ranks ninth in the league to boot.
Mike Smith – Calgary
The move north has been great 15 games in for Smith whose .924 save percentage, while ranking an impressive 8th amid other regular NHL starters, has been accomplished while facing 497 shots, second-most in the league to Toronto\'s Frederick Andersen. That\'s an average of 33.4 per 60 minutes - a workload he\'s used to after toiling in Arizona over the last seven campaigns, but for the most part he\'s getting different results. His nine win total has him among league leaders. That, along with a stable net presence lacking in southern Alberta for year, offsets a non-spectacular 2.55 goals-against. Digging a bit deeper, Smith\'s numbers are all the more impressive considering he\'s facing a relatively short average shot distance of 35.02 feet – ranked 22 out of 29 goalies having played at least 10 games. And his 9-6-0 record is pretty good too.
Jake Allen – St. Louis
Allen\'s benefited from playing with the winningest team in the West as the Blues have charged out to a 13-4-1 mark. Their number one goalie has collected nine victories amid okay but not stellar 2.59 goals-against and .914 save percentage marks. Thanks to St. Louis\' 3.11 goals per game that\'s been good enough. Sporting a career .915 mark the save percentage is about normal, but at this early stage Allen\'s goals-against is slightly worse than his 2.39 career average. Carter Hutton at number two has highly impressed with a 4-0-0, 1.71. .943 line and should be a reliable source of rest without threatening Allen\'s starting role. The Blues\' defense has been a allowing the seventh fewest shots per game at 30.6 (30.3 per 60 minutes with Allen in goal).
Fleury/Subban/Dansk/Lagace – Vegas
There are many variables at play here, beginning with Marc-Andre Fleury\'s return date and including the longevity of the Knights\' successful inaugural run. While his return is uncertain, their assumed number one goalie began skating this week and speculation has him coming back before long. You never know with concussions though. His performance through four games was solid (3-1-0, 2.48, .925). Malcom Subban\'s following three-game totals (2-0-0, 2.06, .936) similarly impressed, which begat Oscar Dansk\'s superb 3-0-0, 1.78, .946. Both look at least a few weeks away, but Maxime Lagace has avoided complete disaster in the interim. As Vegas\' all-time leader in games in goal, Lagace\'s seven contests have yielded an ugly 2-4-0, 3.58, .876 skewed by nine goals allowed in his first 85 NHL minutes at the beginning of the franchise\'s first East Coast swing. Through it all, Vegas is tied for the conference\'s third-best point total with 21 and 10-5-1 record. Their defense has been a constant with 2.81 goals-against per game and 31.8 shots-against per game averages in the upper half of NHL clubs. Couple that with the NHL\'s fourth-best scoring at 3.56 per game and you have success. Here\'s betting Fleury ultimately regains the top spot on a promising but eventually slowing VGK squad and provides solid value in the middle of the poolie pack.
Ben Bishop – Dallas
With Keri Lehtonen backing him up, Bishop is locked into a starting role that should net 60-65 starts. The early returns from their prized free agent acquisition have been good (7-4-0, 2.48, .915) and will improve if Dallas gets it in gear. They have the promise of a better than 9-7-0 squad if their Benn – Seguin – Radulov-based offense can get untracked. Currently tied for 13th with 2.94 goals per-game they have the potential for much more, but a top-heavy club somewhat surprisingly led by blueliner John Klingberg\'s 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) hasn\'t seen much depth help. The Stars\' defense is improved though. No doubt that has much to do with Bishop, but their eighth-best 2.69 goals per-game average is a vast improvement over last year\'s second-worst 3.17 mark fronting the Lehtonen/Antti Niemi tandem. They\'ve also pushed back the average shot distance their top goalies have faced – from Lehtonen\'s 32.94 feet (the league\'s third-closest) in 59 starts in 2016-17, to Bishop\'s current ninth-farthest at 37.18 feet. Expect Bishop\'s production and value to keep moving upward.
Devan Dubnyk – Minnesota
Like the rest of the Wild, Dubnyk has slogged through an injury-marred first month-plus as his 6-6-1, 2.55, .920 numbers seem much more human than those he put up in last year\'s outstanding start. Opponent shots are still taken far from the net as he faces a league-best 40.12 foot average distance, and after his second consecutive shutout Saturday night to get the club to .500 (7-7-2) things seem pointed in the right direction. While their scoring hasn\'t quite clicked yet at 2.88 goals per game, far below last year\'s NHL second-best 3.21 average, the productive returns of Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund from injury have spurred more wins. Eventual appearances from Charlie Coyle (fibula fracture) and Zach Parise (back surgery) should help Dubnyk\'s numbers further spike.
Jacob Markstrom - Vancouver
Markstrom\'s been a key piece in the Canucks\' surprising start with a 5-6-2 record, .913 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against. Not monster numbers, but better than most expected in his first year as the clear number one. He\'s getting support from the Vancouver defense who\'s allowing just 28.99 shots per game, at an average distance of 37.91 feet (sixth best in the league) with Markstrom in net. Backed up by impressive work from Anders Nilsson (3-1-0, 1.88, .943, and two shutouts) he likely won\'t be overloaded with work, but may risk the top spot should things slip.
John Gibson – Anaheim
The Ducks\' top netminder has been plagued by injuries, both his and the team\'s, in this early going. The injury report is ridiculous: Vatanen, Getzlaf, Ritchie, Kase, Getzlaf again, Eaves, Fowler, Getzlaf again, Kase again, Gibson, Bieksa, Miller, Miller again, Lindholm, Boll, Kesler, and Gibson again. These are just the ones I can recall. Anaheim has managed a 7-7-3 record and is within two points of seven other clubs in the West, but their usual shut down defense isn\'t fully operable having allowed 2.88 goals per game, tied for 16th in the league, and the third most shots per game (most in the West) at 34.5. That hasn\'t helped Gibson. We\'re accustomed to some impressive numbers amid frequent injuries (25-16-9, 2.22, .924 in 2016-17) that have yet to surface. While the .917 save percentage isn\'t bad and 5-6-1 record isn\'t awful, the 2.90 goals against is. I bet things will turn around, but with the injury risk to Gibson and the other Ducks I\'m not sure I\'d bet the mortgage on it.
Cam Talbot – Edmonton
The Oilers\' workhorse is having a rough go of it in the first month-plus of 2017-18. He\'s again among NHL leaders with 15 starts, but his 6-8-1 record, 2.90 goals-against and .912 save percentage are surprisingly off. It\'s not as surprising though when your club, considered Cup favorites in many circles, has fewer points than all but Arizona in the West. They do seem gaining momentum (three wins and an overtime loss in their last six contests) which should give Talbot\'s fantasy value a boost if it sustains. Defensively they still seem affected by Andrej Sekera\'s absence allowing 32.1 shots per game, up from 29.5 last year. They are helping Talbot enjoy the seventh-best average shot distance though at 37.44 feet, much better than the 33.52 foot mark he contended with last year, ranking 28 out of 32 goalies playing 40 games or more. So Edmonton\'s defense is a mixed bag. But their scoring is way down – from 2.96 goals per-game to 2.31 – worst in the NHL. If that gets corrected expect a more successful Oilers squad including Talbot.
Semyon Varlamov - Colorado
The Avalanche burst out of the gate with a better-than-expected 8-6-1 record but they are still giving up tons of goals. You can blame the defense or the goalies, or both for allowing 51 of them (placing them in the league\'s bottom 10) but one result has been an ugly 3.18, .908 line for Varlamov. Since they\'ve also scored 51 goals, there\'s a silver lining as he\'s registered a 6-3-1 record, but facing the league\'s third-shortest average shot distance at 34.38 feet one has to wonder if wins will continue to flow as frequently. Varlamov\'s also stood up to a sizable average of 34.5 shots per 60 minutes.
Antti Raanta – Arizona
While the Coyotes have been looking slightly better of late, their 2-14-3 record is dreadful. After returning from injury Raanta has been respectable in net with a 2.20 goals-against and 1-2-1 record in his last four. That includes a shootout loss to the West\'s best St. Louis Blues. While Arizona allows a not-completely awful 32.7 shots per game (20th in the league) it will be tough to right the ship as long as blueliners Niklas Hjalmarsson and, for a longer period of time Jacob Chychrun are out. The end result should be an ugly win-loss record for Raanta with a middling goals-against average and save percentage. I\'d expect his overall 1-4-2, 2.90, .913 to creep upward a bit, but Raanta is still not one your better poolie options for the time being.
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