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Nico Daws, Devils (Last 5: 3-2-0, .905 Sv%, 2.82 GAA)
Pressed into action because both Jonathan Bernier and Mackenzie Blackwood suffered serious injuries — and Jon Gillies proved that he can’t really play at the NHL level — the 21-year-old third-round pick has been better than expected. His raw numbers from him are n’t great, but buoyed by a very good Devils top-six, Daws is at least giving New Jersey a chance to win every night. He’s started five consecutive games and with wins against the Blues and Avs, look for that trend to continue as the Devils play host to the struggling Jets and Ducks in the coming days. Daws is definitely worth considering for a spot start in those matchups.
Vitek Vanecek, Capitals (Since returning from injury: 3-0-0, .941 Sv%, 2.00 GAA)
Vanecek wasn’t great against the Flames, allowing four goals on 35 shots, but the important thing is he managed to get his third consecutive win. The Caps have not been very good in 2022, but the tide seems to have changed with Vanecek, who has temporarily supplanted Ilya Samsonov for the starting job. With the second half of a back-to-back Wednesday against the Oilers and then another on March 17-18 against the Jackets and Canes, Samsonov will get a chance to take back the No. 1 gig, but his overall performance from him this season has been disappointing. His leash from him will not be long as the Caps fight for playoff position, and if the Caps’ offense can continue to provide good goal support — it’s scored 14 goals in three games — Vanecek should be a valuable fantasy goalie.
Robin Lehner, Golden Knights (Since returning from injury: 2-2-0, .929 Sv%, 2.04 GAA)
We’ve been waiting for Lehner to put it together and his recent play has been quite encouraging. His only poor start from him so far in March was a 5-2 loss to the Bruins when he allowed four goals on 35 shots, but otherwise, he’s been very good, allowing just four goals in the other three games. The problem has been the Knights’ play in front of him; they’re missing key players and their jumbled lineup has trouble providing consistent goal support, not to mention a woeful power play that ranks 24th in the league. Start Lehner with confidence, but know that the wins will be difficult to come by as Vegas loses its hold on the Pacific and faces a tough battle for a playoff spot.
Anton Forsberg, Senators (12-10-2, .921 Sv%, 2.69 GAA)
It’s a minor miracle Forsberg has a winning record on a team that’s bound for the lottery, and with Matt Murray injured yet again, Forsberg is the de facto No. 1. The Sens limited the Blues to just 23 shots, the second-lowest total Forsberg has faced this season, but usually, Forsberg is a good source of saves behind the Sens’ woeful defense , having made at least 40 saves in three consecutive games before Tuesday’s win. I’m not sure how long the Sens can keep their momentum going, but getting both Colin White and Josh Norris back from injury gives their lineup a huge boost. Forsberg’s worth a roster spot in most standard leagues to collect some saves even though the Sens still aren’t very good.
Mikko Koskinen, Oilers (19-9-3, .904 Sv%, 3.05 GAA)
Deep sigh — Koskinen begrudgingly makes the list even though he’s possibly the least reliable No. 1 in the league, a job that he’s inherited multiple times this season either because mike smith is playing poorly or injured. Occasionally, Koskinen has a strong performance, but they tend to show up randomly, and if it weren’t for the Oilers’ offensive potential, there’s no chance he would even come close to 20 wins. Koskinen’s an option for desperate fantasy managers, but just be wary that he’s never held the starting job for long, and it’s a good bet that Stuart Skinner will factor into the equation at some point.
Honorable Mention: Karel Vejmelka, Coyotes; Jeremy Swayman, Bruins; Jacob Markstrom, Flames; Antti Raanta, Hurricanes; Pavel Francouz, Avalanche; Jake Oettinger and Braden Holtby, Stars; Sergei Bobrovsky, Panthers; Cal Petersen, Kings; Juuse Saros, Predators; Ilya Sorokin, Islanders; Igor Shesterkin, Rangers; Carter Hart, Flyers
Alex Nedeljkovic, Red Wings (Since Feb. 1: 2-5-0, .863 Sv%, 4.63 GAA)
The only reason Nedeljkovic keeps getting playing time is that Thomas Greiss has somehow been worse. The Wings 9-2 loss to the Coyotes on Tuesday was ugly, but even uglier yet was Nedeljkovic getting pulled and then being forced to come back in to get lit up even more. The defense isn’t doing any favors, but it showcases that even though the Wings have a lot of exciting young talent, they’re still not a very good team. Dropping Nedeljkovic would be too drastic because, surely, this is the lowest point of his season, but he’s obviously not worth starting at the moment.
John Gibson and Anthony Stolarz, Ducks (Since Jan. 1 combined: 9-13-2, .894 Sv%, 3.52 GAA)
What was one of the Ducks’ biggest strengths at the beginning of the season has really become a liability. Gibson, in particular, has been uncharacteristically poor, allowing five goals on just 13 shots Tuesday against Chicago before getting pulled. It’s the seventh time in eight games he’s allowed at least four goals, and after looking like a sure-fire playoff team in the first few months, the Ducks have really faltered and are in danger of missing the playoffs. Gibson needs to be stapled to the bench until he can turn it around, and with four consecutive road games coming up, it might take a while.
Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek, Maple Leafs (Since March 1 combined: 2-2-0, .855 Sv%, 4.55 GAA)
Campbell’s poor play has now extended to three months after going 12-4-1 in October and November, and it’s starting to be more than just a blip. Mrazek’s play has been concerning too because he hasn’t been able to stop the bleeding even though the Leafs signed him as insurance. On a capped-out team, the Leafs just don’t have many options, and it doesn’t look like any extra help is coming after they acquired Carter Huttonwho has remained in the AHL.
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Very good goal support is the only reason fantasy managers should start Campbell or Mrazek, but otherwise, those wins have come at the cost of a good save percentage and goals-against average. The only hope is that Campbell and Mrazek figure out a way to turn it around, but the outlook just isn’t good in a tough conference, and fantasy managers may want to seek goaltending help if they don’t want to be too reliant on this tandem.
Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso, Blues (since March 1 combined: 0-3-1, .889 Sv%, 3.05 GAA)
When Binnington wasn’t playing well, at least Husso was reliable. Now, neither has been very good, and it was a pretty embarrassing effort overall in Tuesday’s loss against the lowly Sens. They’ve lost four in a row and it looks like they will go with a rotation until one emerges as a starter again. It’s a very inopportune time with playoff races heating up, and the pressure will be that much greater. If forced to make a pick, Husso still seems like the better goalie and the analytics definitely favor him, but a reminder that even though Binnington looks like he was going to take a backseat for good this season, he’s somehow forced his way back into the picture.
This is a fantasy manager’s worst nightmare, though the upside is the Blues have a deep roster and should turn it around before long.
Dishonorable Mention: Marc-Andre Fleury, Blackhawks; Darcy Kuemper, Avalanche; Elvis Merzlikins, Blue Jackets; Jonathan Quick, Kings; Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen, Wild; Samuel Montembeault and Andrew Hammond, Canadians; Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger, Kraken; Andrei Vasilevsky, Lightning; Connor Hellebuyck, Jets