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Fantasy Hockey need-to-know: Goalie analysis and more key notes

·6-min read
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By Jason Chen, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Here's a look around the league at the latest trends after another week of hockey. Some food for thought, some leftover stats, and, of course, some fantasy advice. Let's dig in.

All fancy stats courtesy Natural Stat Trick.

Goaltending Voodoo

Since last Saturday, five goalies have gone 3-0-0 but only one has managed to keep his GAA below 1.00: Matt Murray. We know the pesky Senators love playing spoiler, and it's usually their young but talented forwards outperforming expectations, but since returning from injury, Murray has looked rejuvenated and more like the guy who backstopped the Penguins to a Cup title and convinced the Sens to commit a $6 million cap hit to him. His three wins include two shutouts against the Canadiens and Canucks.

Not only is Murray passing the eye test, but the analytics back him up, too, with a 3.66 5v5 GSAA, which is only bested by Thomas Greiss, who managed to win a 7-3 blowout even though the Red Wings were outshot 46-23.

Now, the bad news: Murray lasted just 24:13 in Saturday's game against the Canucks with an apparent lower-body injury and did not return. The severity of the injury is not known, but Murray skated off the ice on his own after colliding with Jake Virtanen. Hopefully, the injury isn't severe because the Sens have a favorable schedule coming up: two more games against the Canucks, two against the struggling Habs, and one against a Flames team that has trouble scoring. If Murray (25 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues) returns, make sure he's on your watch list — he's a sneaky add as we approach the final two weeks of the fantasy hockey season.

For fantasy managers who have made it this far: Congrats on making the playoffs, but the battle is far from over. Everyone knows goaltending is voodoo, but it's also an inescapable part of the fantasy hockey experience when your No. 1 goalie collapses at the worst possible time. Case in point, if Andrei Vasilevskiy helped carry you into the playoffs, you're team is probably in shambles with his 1-2-0/.903/3.01 performance over the last week. The same with Connor Hellebuyck (0-2-0/.866/4.20), or managers who have Philipp Grubauer on their rosters and picked up Devan Dubnyk (1-1-0/.893/3.05), who is only staying alive because the Avalanche offense just buries everyone.

Here's a name to consider if you need goaltending help: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (3 percent rostered). Pressed into action after injuries to Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton, the former second-round pick made 36 saves against the Bruins to pick his first career win in his first career start. Don't let that .900 Sv% fool you; Luukkonen was very good for most of the game, and given the Sabres have little to play for and little reason to rush back either of their two regular goalies, look for him to get a few more starts. The schedule is going to be difficult — two more games each against the Rangers and the playoff-bound Bruins, Islanders, and Penguins — but since trading Taylor Hall on April 12, the Sabres are 3-3-1 with 2.86 GF/GP (17th, tied with the Maple Leafs) and 17th in P% (.500), a huge improvement from where they've been most of the season. If there's really a dearth of options on the waiver wire, the improving Sabres and Luukkonen might be worth a stab.

The news that Carey Price has returned to Montreal to get further treatment for his concussion means Jake Allen (39 percent rostered) probably will be the starter for the remaining games. He's faltered a little with a .900 Sv% in March and April after posting a .929 Sv% in January and February. With only two back-to-back sets before the fantasy hockey season ends May 8, the Habs might have no choice but to start Allen in at least six of their eight games; that's at least three — maybe four — starts the final two weeks, and it's valuable in fantasy leagues that count total saves. The wild card was supposed to be Cayden Primeau, but his season debut Saturday didn't go very well, as he allowed four goals on 33 shots and has the league's worst 5v5 GSAA/60 at -2.76.

Braden Holtby (42 percent rostered) is the other veteran goalie to keep an eye on. After starting the season as the more popular Canucks goalie to roster, he quickly fell behind Thatcher Demko (64 percent), but after consecutive wins against the Leafs and another win on Saturday, Holtby finds himself the 1A option again with Demko still recovering from COVID. The Canucks have two back-to-backs between now and May 8, which means Demko will definitely see more action, but the playoff chase is on and Holtby clearly has the hot hand.

Capital "L" Loss

When Alex Ovechkin misses a game due to injury, it's noteworthy because it rarely ever happens. He's listed as day-to-day but coach Peter Laviolette made a point to say that he's "unsure" when his captain will return. If managers who have Ovechkin on their roster are looking for an insurance policy, note that Anthony Mantha (66 percent) and Daniel Sprong (0 percent) are the most obvious plays.

Never mind that the Caps paid a lot to get Mantha — he is still the rare, hulking goal scorer who can beat you with size and skill and he will certainly be counted on to pick up the slack. Sprong is the more interesting case; the Dutch-born winger came into the league with a reputation for goal scoring but fizzled out with both the Pens and the Ducks. While statistically, he's not having the best season of his career with just seven goals in 34 games, he's getting the best opportunity of his career playing on a line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson, and he responded Saturday with two goals. The data size is small with only 11:10 of 5v5 TOI through 18 games, but the numbers are pretty good so far: 56.52 CF% and 69.75 CF/60, mostly in line with an Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Wilson combo, which has a 57.14 CF% and 64.12 CF/60.

Kings of the Week

One final note if you're looking for that extra edge for Week 15, which runs April 26 to May 2: pick up a few Kings, who play the Ducks four times. By points percentage, the Kings have the second-easiest opponent in the Ducks (.365), but they still hold the edge over the Flyers, who face the Devils (.362) but only play them three times. After losing the first two matchups of the season, the Kings dominated the Ducks by a combined 9-2 score in their next two meetings, which means it's a good time to pick up Cal Petersen (23 percent rostered) or even Jonathan Quick (15 percent) for a spot start, and maybe Adrian Kempe (21 percent) or Andreas Athanasiou (2 percent), who lead the Kings with five points apiece against the Ducks this season, for a little bump on offense.