Top 20 Western Conference Fantasy Goalies - Part 4
As the lockout continues to roll on, more and more players are now finding other places to play. Whether it's Europe or the AHL, slowly but surely everyone seems to be getting the itch to hit the ice again. Wayne Gretzky seems very optimistic about the process and thinks everything will be settled by the new year, but I for one am not so sure.
It seems like neither side is willing to give an inch, and that’s bad news for hockey fans. I can just picture Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman behind the wheel of Monster Trucks smashing into one another that ultimately just leads to a seemingly never ending stalemate.
The lockout certainly will affect teams in all sorts of different ways. For instance, a team like the Detroit Red Wings could be most negatively affected by this work stoppage. An aging team of veterans like the Wings can't really afford to lose a year of action because time is slowing running out on their core. Meanwhile it would be a shame to see other veterans like Martin Brodeur, Jaromir Jagr, and Ray Whitney potentially be forced to retire because of the whole situation. Not exactly the best way to leave the game.
On the other hand, you could make an argument that the lockout could actually help a few teams. The Edmonton Oilers young group of talented players could get some much needed development and experience at the AHL level. Or if the lockout shortens the season it may give a fringe playoff team a better shot at the postseason. Let's take one at random, how about.... oh I don't know...... say the Toronto Maple Leafs. If we're down to a 50 game schedule, the Leafs chances of making the playoffs goes up greatly.
One thing that will definitely benefit is the World Junior Hockey Championship. It could once again be like the 2005 tournament where Canada boasted its own version of the Dream Team. With the likes of Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, and Shea Weber, that squad probably could have beaten some NHL teams at the time.
Now let’s close out our list with the top five Western Conference Goalies.
5) Jaroslav Halak - St. Louis Blues
Halak finished fifth in the West last year with a .926 save percentage and fourth in GAA with a mark of 1.97. Halak has really been a model of consistency over his career, and playing in Ken Hitchcock's goalie friendly defensive system is all the more reason to have confidence that his strong play will continue.
The Blues have a well balanced team and should finish near the top of the Conference once again this season. Some may look at the fact that strong backup Brian Elliott is around to take some starts away from Halak. However, you could also view it as an opportunity for both goalies to push each to get better. Competition typically brings out the best of everyone.
4) Cory Schneider - Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks made a major statement in the offseason by signing Schneider to a contract and trying to move Roberto Luongo. Actually, the statement probably came in last year's playoffs when Lounge was benched in favor of Schneider.
Schneider finished second in the West in 2011-12 in save percentage and third in GAA. The only thing to be cautious about is that he only played in 33 games. As the backup to Luongo, Schneider typically faced some weaker opposition. However, with his skill set and the talent that the Canucks can boast, there is no reason to believe Schneider can't put up similar numbers in 2012-13.
3) Pekka Rinne - Nashville Predators
Rinne has been an absolute workhorse for the Predators and you could argue that he means more to the team than even Shea Weber. He played in 73 games last year which was tied for the lead in the West, and led the Conference in wins with 43. No one else even hit the 40 win mark.
Rinne also led the West in shots faced in 2011-12, as well as saves. If you are in a league that counts saves as a category, then the Predators goalie goes up even more in value. Pretty good sign with those kinds of statistics that you can count on Rinne to do the bulk of work and reach the minimum goalie starts for your team almost on his own.
2) Mike Smith - Phoenix Coyotes
Playing in Dave Tippett's system can really help any goalie, and Smith is no different. He really came out of nowhere to have an incredible season. Smith ranked near the top of the Conference in GAA and save percentage, and finished second in both shots faced and saves to Rinne.
The key for Smith is that the Coyotes do a great job of limiting quality scoring chances. For instance, he faced 570 shots from 30-45 ft away last year, which ranked third most in the entire NHL. Take nothing away from Smith, but facing many of your shots from an area where the odds of making the save are in your favor, should help you keep the puck out of the net. The Coyotes defensive system should make Smith owners very happy.
1) Jonathan Quick - Los Angeles Kings
Coming off that incredible Cup run, it's hard not to look at Quick as the best in the West. He was nearly unbeatable in the playoffs and his ten shutouts in the regular season ranked first in the NHL.
Quick did all this with terrible scoring support from the Kings. Los Angeles finished 29th in goals for and goals per game in 2011-12. If not for Quick and those shutouts, there is a strong possibility that the Kings wouldn't have even made the playoffs, let alone capture the Stanley Cup. You would have to think Los Angeles, after winning hockey's ultimate prize, will be able to generate a little more run support for him in 2012-13. And if so, Quick could be scary good this year.
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