And the beat keeps running, running and running, running… It’s now Week Four in the Cage Match Tournament, the final week for first round matchups. This past week was a wild one as we saw a near shutout and our first upset of the tournament both coming out of the Sawchuk Bracket. Let’s hear the tail of the tape.


#1 Ryan Miller over #8 Sergei Bobrovsky – 61 votes to 1 vote.

One of the golden rules of sporting events is that you never ever, under any circumstances, say the word “shutout” when someone is on the verge of achieving a shutout, just like you never ever, under any circumstances, say the words “no hitter” or “perfect game” when someone is on the verge of pitching one. You just don’t do it. Forum member Blayze was apparently oblivious to this rule when he got to typing about how Miller was on the verge of a shutout. It may have been an honest mistake but I blame Blayze ahead of the guy who actually spoiled the party by casting the shutout buster. For shame!

#2 Jaroslav Halak over #7 Jose Theodore – 57 votes to 4 votes.

Ouch. It wasn’t even close between the battle of former Habs netminders. This result was reminiscent of the 2010 Playoffs when Halak and the Habs stole the Caps lunch money and booted Theodore out of the net and out of DC for good except this time Halak was supposed to win.

#3 Jimmy Howard over #6 Brian Elliott – 48 votes to 13 votes.

Records, shmecords Brian Elliott. The voters don’t care what you accomplished last season. They don’t care about the single season record for save percentage, or the Jennings Award you split with Halak, or the league’s lowest goals against average and certainly not the fact that you pitched shutouts in nearly a quarter of all the games you played in. And really why should they? It’s not like any of those stats count in the scoring format for this tournament. Oh wait they do? I’m confused too, Brian.

As best I can tell, three things worked against Elliott here. First and foremost is the Halak factor. People are concerned that Halak is going to steal too many starts from Elliott in spite of the fact that Halak was still experiencing discomfort in his ankle this summer and has frankly never been a workhorse goalie. Halak’s career high for starts is 57, which came in what was arguably his worst season as a starter. Halak works best in a tandem and as long as Elliott performs he will get starts because Hitchcock is all about wins. He wasn’t in St. Louis when either guy was brought in so he has no allegiances. He will simply play the hot hand as he did last season. Now that does mean that Elliott won’t be a workhorse but on the flip side it also means there’s a chance you avoid seeing any of the stinkers that workhorse goalies tend to put up.

The second thing working against Elliott is in conjunction to the Halak stealing starts factor and that is that Howard is in fact a workhorse or at the very least an uncontested starter. That’s all well and good except that Howard isn’t an uncontested starter. The Red Wings brought in Jonas Gustavsson this summer and he is a good bet to push Howard for starts since it remains to be seen if Howard is legitimately a quality starter or just a decent goalie behind what was once a great defense.

The third factor against Elliott is the regression factor. This one I really get. Elliott is highly unlikely to break records again. He is highly unlikely to post shutouts in nearly 25% of his starts again. Still, St. Louis is a sickeningly deep team that is going to be dominant once again defensively. Hitchcock has proven that he can work wonders for mediocre goalies and there’s always a chance that Elliott did in fact get better prior to his arrival in St. Louis. He certainly showed flashes of being a good goalie in Ottawa so it’s not unreasonable to think that he will still provide fantastic fantasy numbers, even if he only starts say 30 games.

What really irks me about the fear that people have about Elliott regressing is the fact that there don’t seem to be the same doubts being projected towards Howard. I’ve already voiced my opinion on what I think of Howard but to summarize, I think he’s a great candidate to regress too. Remember, his 2010-11 season was a complete flop for fantasy owners.

So really, do you want a guy who will start somewhere between 50 and 60 games but whose starts are about as likely to be bad as they are to be good? That sounds a lot like spinning the wheel of random excellence, which as we talked about last week, isn’t necessarily a good thing. Elliott, meanwhile, won’t start a ton of games but we know those starts will be productive. The most important factor here is at what point are you drafting these guys? If you need your first goalie and these are the best of the bunch remaining then I’m sorry but you are pooched either way. At the point where you should be considering either of these guys you should have your first starter picked out. This means having a second guy who you can spot start reliably is an asset and that’s where Elliott makes a lot of sense.

Ultimately, voters may have simply been considering the scenario where there back is against the wall and they need to have their goalie make a start to even sniff a chance at winning their week. In these scenarios Elliott won’t help you out but really, if you are clinging to an end of the week goalie start to bail you out then you probably have other roster issues to sort out.

Maybe I’m just in too deep with my anti-Howard stance, but I’m against the masses on this one.

#5 Craig Anderson over #4 Antti Niemi – 38 votes to 29 votes.

Ladies and gentlemen, your first upset of the Cage Match Goalie Tournament and what a (barely) upset it was!

There are so many ways to at this one that it could make your head spin. The consensus opinion is that these are two mediocre goalies that could make some real noise in the fantasy world with the right team in front of them. What’s confusing is it is really difficult to make heads or tails of either of these teams.

The Ottawa Senators were predicted by just about everyone to be a lottery team last season and predicted by many to finish dead last. Instead they made the playoffs, equipped with a new coach, a feisty young roster and one of the best prospect pools in the league. They are on the rise. But what if they fall off a bit? Ottawa was unusually healthy last season seemingly maximizing every inch of their roster. Sure, it’s nice to assume that a young team is simply going to get better and better each year but that just doesn’t always happen. Remember when the St. Louis Blues were a scrappy young team that made the playoffs unsuspectedly in 2009? Well they missed the playoffs each of the following two seasons before rising to prominence again last season. These things can take time. I’m all for Ottawa continuing to grow and being a playoff team this year, but who exactly are they leaping past? Right now I can’t say anyone. So Ottawa can at best finish about where they did last season and that means Anderson is an unlikely candidate to improve his numbers.

San Jose is going the complete opposite direction. A lot of people have them pegged to fall off this season after eight straight disappointing playoff appearances. Last season was really a down year for the Sharks as they finished just seventh in the West and have seemingly depleted their prospect coffers to keep adding veteran pieces to an aging core than may simply not have the killer instinct to win it all. Still, most fantasy pools don’t count the playoffs and San Jose should still be a strong regular season performer. It’s hard to argue the team won’t be better defensively after improving their blue line for the second straight season. Certainly the Sharks are lacking the depth up front they once had but this is still a playoff team. Ultimately, I think people may be out-thinking themselves with regard to the Sharks. For years the conventional wisdom has been; this is their year, this is when they take the next step. Now that we’ve grown so used to the Sharks disappointing us in the playoffs, the fact that they now did it in the regular season should thus spell the end of their run. What if it was simply a bad year from which they will bounce back?

Consider me on board with Niemi. Ottawa isn’t better than San Jose and Anderson certainly isn’t better than Niemi. If you look at the numbers, Niemi has actually quietly been a very strong fantasy goaltender in his time with San Jose. He may not be a world beater but he gets the job done for both the Sharks and fantasy teams. Right or wrong, just like the Sharks, Niemi chokes so Anderson moves on.




This week we have the opening round matchups in the Dryden Bracket and they look like some doozies.

#1 Mike Smith vs. #8 Michal Neuvirth

The Phoenix Coyotes went to the Conference Final, the Arizona Cardinals are 4-0 and Mike Smith is a #1 seed in the Cage Match Tournament – proof positive that the Mayans were correct.

#2 Cam Ward vs. #7 James Reimer

Wasn’t Cam Ward last season’s trendy sleeper elite goalie? Does anyone want to take that gamble again? Yeah, your right, I do.

#3 Roberto Luongo vs. #6 Anders Lindback

Is it just me or does the Anders Lindback to Tampa Bay trade seem a lot like the Matt Flynn to Seattle move in football? The good news for Lindback is that for NHL teams the thought of promoting goaltenders to their starting lineup right out of the draft is even more dubious than it is for quarterbacks in the NFL. Lindback is probably safe to be considered Tampa’s starter but is he good? I mean, are we sure?

In other news Luongo is still a Canuck, which helps no one.

#4 Niklas Backstrom vs. #5 Semyon Varlamov

Just this past week a forum member posted a question debating this exact matchup. Just another reason why the Cage Match Tournament is the bomb!

Remember that this tournament is based on your opinion for one-year leagues only which count the following stats:

Wins, Goals Against Average, Save Percentage, Shutouts

Now hit the boards to cast your votes and make your voices heard!

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Comments (2)add comment

tripel said:

... would be pretty funny if the final was Schneider vs Luongo.

unlikely, but funny
October 03, 2012
Votes: +0

ebatchel said:

... Rask, Price, Fleury, Schneider, Miller, Halak, Neuvirth, Varlamov, Luongo and Ward
October 03, 2012
Votes: +0
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