The Goalie Report: Risers & Fallers

The Goalie Report: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our The Goalie Report series.

The league average save percentage this season heading into Sunday's games stood at .898, a small slip from last season's .899 while continuing a trend that started in 2013-14.

With more talent and better execution - especially on the power play - good goalies have become even harder to find. The 2013-14 average save percentage was .911 with an average PP efficiency of 17.89 percent. Power plays now routinely operate well above that rate and, in fact, a 17.89 mark would currently rank in the bottom-half of the league.

Perhaps now, more than ever, picking the right goalies off the waiver wire has been far more difficult but also a more frequent exercise. Gone are the days when drafting a No. 1 goalie would net you 60 games of quality starts as that job is often shared because so few are able to do it.

Who would've thought that over a month into the season the league's best goalies would include Semyon Varlamov, Charlie Lindgren and Cam Talbot?

Trending Up

Charlie Lindgren, Capitals (4-1-0, .940 Sv%, 2.01 GAA)

Following Lindgren's 35-save shutout against the Golden Knights, he was rewarded with his second straight start and promptly stopped 33 shots against the Blue Jackets for his fourth straight win. He's been excellent since the season opener and was a surprise appearing against Columbus considering how much the Caps have relied on veteran Darcy Kuemper.

Lindgren earned it, and going forward he's going to demand a bigger portion of the role if this continues. He produced a subpar campaign last season, but he's known as one of the better backups around. For managers looking for some short-term value, Lindgren is worth picking up and holding onto, at least until the hot streak ends.

Carter Hart, Flyers (6-3-0, .919 Sv%, 2.40 GAA)

Meanwhile, the remaining Flyers goalies – Samuel Ersson and Cal Petersen – are a combined 4-4-1 with a .872 Sv% and 3.29 GAA. Philly is competitive because John Tortorella squeezes every drop out of his teams until they inevitably tire out in February and March, yet they're sneaky-good when Hart is playing like this. He's one of the few netminders who's guaranteed to earn 50-plus starts, and that's saying a lot in a league where legitimate starters are hard to come by. Hart may not be an elite fantasy goalie because he doesn't put up spectacular save percentages or GAAs, but he can provide a lot of quantity and that puts him on the lower end of the Top-10.

Anthony Stolarz, Panthers (3-1-0, .917 Sv%, 2.28 GAA)

It's not hard to outperform Sergei Bobrovsky, but the Panthers should be thinking about giving Stolarz more work. He was decent with the Ducks when they were one of the poorer defensive teams, and he's now  on a much better team with Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad back in the lineup. He's started two of the last three games for the Panthers, a small sign he's demanding more of the timeshare. Spencer Knight is not a threat to take his job this season if Stolarz keeps playing like this.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Sabres (4-3-1, .911 Sv%, 2.80 GAA)

Luukkonen's the only Sabres goalie with a winning record and a save percentage above .900. Even with Eric Comrie returning, he's started four of the last six contests and sits atop the depth chart going forward. Buffalo's goalie of the future is still Devon Levi, though he's failed to take control of the crease and opened the door for Luukkonen to take back the starting job. The Sabres are unlikely to provide a lot of goal support with Tage Thompson injured and the defense remains porous. But if there's any of their netminders to be rostered, Luukkonen currently represents the best option.

John Gibson, Ducks (4-6-0, .926 Sv%, 2.27 GAA)

Never mind the losing record – Gibson is back to All-Star form. Maybe it took some pushing from Lukas Dostal to get his career back on track, but he's posting his best numbers in six (!) seasons. The Ducks are much stouter defensively and play like they actually care, Gibson included. For far too long, he had been wasting his immense talent on a team that had no interest in helping on the back end, and his play unsurprisingly suffered. With the numbers he's recently provided, Gibson is once again worth rostering in all formats.  

Trending Down

Karel Vejmelka, Coyotes (2-6-2, .901 Sv%, 3.18 GAA)

Vejmelka has recorded seven straight defeats and allowed 19 goals from his last five appearances. And if this continues, Connor Ingram (6-1-0, .918 Sv%, 2.75 GAA) is going to take over the starting spot as he's won five straight. This is certainly surprising since Vejmelka had been so reliable the previous two seasons when the Coyotes were significantly worse, though his play is trending in the opposite direction. We shall see if his struggles remain short-term, but it's worth noting he's typically better earlier in the year rather than later when fatigue sets in and the losses pile up.

Pyotr Kochetkov, Hurricanes (1-4-0, .876 Sv%, 3.11 GAA)

Kochetkov gave up three goals on 24 shots during his most recent start in a loss to the Flyers, and this wasn't the goaltending the Canes had anticipated when they called him up. He had become something of a folk hero the past season-and-a-half, and has played more like the 1B/backup rather than supplanting Antti Raanta for the No. 1 job. We shall see how Carolina handles this goaltending situation, but for Kochetkov this is a 50-50 timeshare at best and there are no upcoming back-to-backs for them to split the starts. He's worth a speculative add just in case he turns it around or if the club stubbornly continues to alternate the two; just be mindful of the matchups.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Chen
Jason won the 2021 FSWA Hockey Writer of the Year award, and was also a finalist on 2019. He joined RotoWire in 2013. Jason has also written for Yahoo Sports, CBS Sports, The Hockey News, The Hockey Hall of Fame's Legends Magazine, and Centre Ice Magazine.
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