At this point in the fantasy hockey season you are either certain you have enough goaltending or you are certain that you don’t. Perhaps you’re one of those managers who is crossing fingers for Carey Price to return from his injury and save your season or maybe you are one of those managers who has been attaching profanities to Pekka Rinne’s name all year.
No matter what the case is, you can’t expect to win in your fantasy league’s playoffs without some quality goaltending. There are several backup netminders that are exceptionally valuable in fantasy hockey despite not being at the top of the depth chart on their respective teams.
Thomas Griess– New York Islanders
Jaroslav Halak is a good goaltender, but he also keeps the Islanders’ trainer Damien Hess a busy man. Griess has been something special in relief of his Slovakian teammate and has some gaudy numbers to show for it. In standard scoring categories, Griess is just outside of fantasy hockey’s 10 most valuable masked men.
When Halak is on the shelf with an injury, the Islanders don’t rush their starting goalie back to the ice because of how brilliant Griess has been this season. A .930 save percentage, 16 wins, and a 2.19 goals against average speak volumes about just how good the German goaltender has been in Brooklyn. As it turns out, Griess has better head-t0-head stats than the man ahead of him on the depth chart which is part of the reason why he has played himself into a role that is bigger than your run-of-the-mill backup goaltender.
Michal Neuvirth– Philadelphia Flyers
Steve Mason is arguably one of the most underrated and poorly understood goalies in all of hockey. He is also prone to injuries and has missed long stretches of the season, which has given former Capitals prospect Neuvirth plenty of chances to pile up some eye-catching stats.
Neuvirth’s three shutouts for the Flyers have him well inside the top 75 fantasy players in standard scoring categories. The young netminder has been showing that he has the chops to be a starting goaltender throughout the 2015-16 season, which is why he has been stealing starts from Mason here and there as the Flyers start to get their act together.
A save percentage that is just a whisper away from .930, a goals against average of 2.21, and 13 wins make Neuvirth a popular backup goaltender for desperate fantasy managers across all three major providers. Down the stretch, Neuvirth could find himself in net for a significant number of games given Mason’s bad luck with the injury bug and issues with inconsistency.
Al Montoya– Florida Panthers
Montoya, a former first-round pick of the New York Rangers, has been one of the many players exceeded expectations in Sunrise, Florida. Roberto Luongo’s dominance this season has been one of the biggest story lines of the season and when Montoya has stepped between the pipes in relief of Luongo he has been solid.
In over 940 minutes of hockey, Montoya has a sub-2.00 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. Those numbers are downright silly and they are the reason he is a top 100 fantasy player in standard scoring categories. Luongo has been turning back the clock, but Montoya gets his shoulder tapped frequently to spare the aging body of one of the best goaltenders of the post-lockout era.
Montoya is widely available in Yahoo!, CBS, and ESPN leagues despite his gaudy numbers and a tendency to make more appearances than most backups in the league. If you find yourself constantly losing goaltending statistics, it might be time to take a look at what Luongo’s understudy can do for your team as the fantasy playoffs rapidly approach.
In addition to Griess, Neuvirth, and Montoya there are other unconventional goaltenders that have a lot of hidden value in fantasy hockey. Darcy Kuemper, Carter Hutton and Jhonas Enroth have all been proving their value throughout the season by playing outstanding hockey on good or great teams.
The time has come to take some chances if you are on the fringe of making the postseason in your fantasy league or have been dragged down by poor goaltending stats. Thinking outside the box in the coming weeks could be what separates your league’s champion from those who make an exit early in the playoffs.