Teams have hit the five-game mark of the season, so this is a perfect chance to make a good, educated decision on whether or not a goaltender’s value has gone up or down from your pre-season expectations. The season has started with a noticeable scoring blitz, more so in the West, as many goalies still have some inflated numbers and pretty dismal records. As a result, more backups are getting early chances to show their stuff, which has in turn shown me a really interesting and effective trend regarding their development.
For all of the struggling goalies out there, the more important factor for fantasy owners is what will happen next with their value? Well, expect most of them to improve, but those that don’t adjust their game quickly will suffer the consequences statistically and invariably hinder their potential for the season. Three starting goalies in particular I feel will likely see their stock value fall over the next two weeks, and here’s why:
MARTY TURCO: 1-3-1 record with a 4.68 GAA and .814 Save Percentage
Last season Marty Turco was a big promoter of a new product called Bazi. It’s one of those super-fruit energy drinks that enhance clarity naturally thanks to a combination of eight different rare fruits, including the Jujube. He must not be taking it anymore, because he is just not focused at all. He seems distracted by something and I can tell this by his mental mistakes and depth in the net. His eyes are not tracking the puck for long enough, so many shots are getting through and tons of rebounds are popping out all over the place.
A major indication of whether or not he will struggle in a game is through a couple of early stickhandling situations. If he’s not nearly as crisp as usual, expect a less-than-perfect game. How does he control shots from the wings? If he pops some rebounds out right into the slot early, then timing is an issue. This could be a situation where, without Mike Smith pushing him for starts, Turco’s not competing very hard in practice.
JEAN-SEBASTIAN GIGUERE: 1-4-0 record with 3.02 GAA and .899 Save Percentage
No offensive support equals a bad win-loss record, but his shutout over the Sharks proves his stock is capable of rising more than the other struggling starters. But the team in front of him isn’t very proficient right now, as horrible outputs by their top forwards have put a ton of pressure on the defense. This has resulted in a lot more scoring chances around Jiggy’s crease and on PK’s, leading to tougher opportunities against.
I think Giguere’s days as a “blocking” goalie must come to an end after this season. The game is too fast and there are way too many great plays already this season where he’s forced to move laterally and across his crease in an instant. Giguere is struggling to make the second save because shots are coming faster at the net and at his feet in the hopes of more rebounds and that is difficult for him to manage right now.
MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF: 1-3-1 with a 4.36 GAA and .851 Save Percentage
Numerous defensive breakdowns and a lot of traffic in front of his net is the main reason why Kiprusoff is struggling statistically. Mentally, there is a major lack of focus, as there has not been a visible jump to his game or his emotions at all.
Remember that there is a conscious level of intensity to a goalie’s game and a subconscious level. It looks like Miikka has become such a calm goalie that, subconsciously, he has forgotten to turn on the lights and strengthen his play to start the season. I can’t remember the last time Kipper allowed three goals in less than four minutes, but it happened against Edmonton in 3:56 to be exact.
There is a new trend in young backup goaltenders that has developed over the last three seasons. I see a number of them mimicking different technical aspects of their starting counterpart’s game. What I mean is, when you watch the backup on a team play, do you notice anything similar about the starter?
I see a lot of things in Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers that I see in Mathieu Garon. Not only do both goalies catch with the right hand, they both use a pretty narrowed stance to enhance their lateral mobility, making them extremely strong where it counts most right now, down low and in tight. They both are lanky (Deslauriers is 6-foot-4 and only 189 pounds) and incredibly flexible. Both do a great job of swallowing pucks and controlling rebounds as well, so Deslaurier’s stock will continue to soar the longer he’s behind Garon.
Steve Valiquette’s stance looks somewhat similar to Henrik Lundqvist’s stance as well, mainly because they both have very stiff leg pads with ridiculously long thigh rises. Lundy’s TPS Response’s are fully customized to have stiff, long thigh rises so his extra-wide stance is more effective. Valiquette’s Itechs have that same stiffness and the long thigh rises as well. But a 1-0 victory in the shootout over Toronto proves that it works.
Another example was Mike Smith when he backed up Turco in Dallas. Where do you think he got that little tucked-in glove hand from? That is classic Turco and still is to this day. Like Felix Potvin, Turco pulls his glove in to help keep his elbow in and tight to his body, as does Smith. It works, so why not use it?
Younger goalies are smart to do this because they know there’s a reason why starting goalies were able to go from draft pick to team leader. Starters are able to make adjustments to their game that ultimately gave them an edge and with such a fine line between the starters and backups, the smallest change can put you on top. Don’t be surprised if backups that shadow their starter ultimately end up as a starter themselves.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
Nicklas Backstrom is the best goalie in the league right now because he has employed a narrower stance, which has greatly improved his lateral movement. He impressed me big time after a flawless 1-0 shootout win over Tampa Bay in which many of his 31 saves actually came off the sticks of Tampa’s top line players.
Michael Leighton has had a very good start to the season and Pekka Rinne’s first start didn’t go very well, nor did Freddy Norenna’s. And neither Peter Budaj nor Andrew Raycroft seems likely to put together an impressive 60 minutes of hockey anytime soon, so Raycroft holds the momentum right now since he is 2-0 on the season and has Colorado’s only wins on the season.
I’m starting to eat my words regarding Jason LaBarbera. He is a totally different goaltender. Keep an eye on tonight’s game against Colorado to see if he can continue to impress. He has really grabbed on to the starting role and embraced it and the proof is in his off-season conditioning. Still a ton of goals beating him low, but he’s quicker and more positionally sound, so his stats are improving and the stock is going up.