By Jason Chen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning (last 3 games: 3-0-0, .954 Sv%, 1.33 GAA)
Now that's more like it.
Vasilevskiy allowed only four goals in his last three games after allowing 16 goals in his previous five games. The Lightning are gaining momentum and if they want to be considered contenders again for a potential three-peat, Vasilevskiy needs to be lights-out good to make up for a defense that hardly has a third pair. He has not returned to being the best goalie in fantasy hockey, but he certainly is trending in the right direction and the patience should continue to pay off.
Jacob Markstrom, Flames (past 5 games: 4-0-1, .973 Sv%, 0.80 GAA)
Behind every good coach is a good goalie. Darryl Sutter had Miikka Kiprusoff then and he has Markstrom now, who has been nearly flawless except for Tuesday's overtime loss against the Preds. The Flames have an excellent first line and rank seventh in goals per game, and that's something Markstrom never really had in Vancouver. He's been one of the best value picks across fantasy hockey this season. Look for Sutter to use him as his workhorse.
Juuse Saros, Predators (past 3 games: 3-0-0, .952 Sv%, 1.61 GAA)
Saros made 38 saves to steal a win in Calgary and he's Nashville's only hope of making the playoffs. He was a popular name in top-10 fantasy goalie lists, and to live up to his reputation the Preds need to come through this upcoming stretch without losing any ground in the standings; they're on a season-long six-game road trip with a one-game stopover at home before playing another three games on the road. They will lean on Saros a lot, especially if there's little trust in rookie backup Connor Ingram, who has looked good but has also only played in one game this season.
Philipp Grubauer, Kraken (past 3 games: 2-1-0, .944 Sv%, 1.35 GAA)
The analogy for the Kraken when they signed Grubauer was for him to be the backbone of their defense, much like what Marc-Andre Fleury was for the expansion Knights, but of course, being invertebrates, that plan hasn't really worked. Grubauer went 1-3-1/.869/3.80 in his first five starts but has since settled down. Unfortunately, the Kraken are still losing games.
Unlike William Karlsson in Vegas during its inaugural season, no one on the Kraken has stepped up and significantly exceeded expectations; Grubauer will hold value in most fantasy leagues due to his workload and streaky play, and note the Kraken have a favorable schedule with five of their next seven games at home.
Igor Shesterkin, Rangers (5-1-2, .943 Sv%, 1.85 GAA)
I'm not sure if Alexandar Georgiev will even make enough appearances this season to even call it a cameo. Shesterkin was named the backup in the season opener but has since returned to the starter's crease — and ranks fourth in TOI (486:39) and first in saves (249) — and has lost only once in regulation. Shesterkin was a high-risk, high-upside fantasy goalie at the start of the season and has certainly lived up to expectations, though the Rangers' 6-2-2 record is a little misleading because five of their opponents currently have points percentages below .500. Shesterkin is nonetheless tracking to be a top-5 goalie this season.
Mikko Koskinen, Oilers (5-1-0, .933 Sv%, 2.21 GAA)
Mike Smith is day-to-day and should return any day now, but props to Koskinen for an incredible run holding down the fort and helping the Oilers surge to first place in the Pacific. It's such a far cry from last year's .899 Sv% and 3.17 GAA that it will force the Oilers to think about giving him more playing time even with the return of Smith, who has managed to stay healthy for much of his career but will turn 40 next March. That makes Koskinen still worthy of a stash in deeper leagues, just in case anything happens.
Carter Hart (3-2-1, .928 Sv%, 2.33 GAA) and Martin Jones, Flyers (2-0-0, .941 Sv%, 2.01 GAA)
Flyers goalies have combined for a .931 save percentage, which is as miraculous and bizarre as aerosol cheese. This is, after all, the first time the Flyers' save percentage has been above the league average since the 2015-16 season when Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth combined for .920 Sv%. According to naturalstattrick.com, Hart ranks fourth in 5v5 GSAA, trailing only Frederik Andersen, Markstrom and Shesterkin. The Flyers' possession numbers are also poor, which means Hart and Jones likely will face a lot more shots than most goalies.
If Hart and Jones can keep this up, the Flyers can be a pretty dangerous team with their offense and re-worked defense. Whether by coincidence or planning, the Flyers have rotated Hart and Jones on a 2:1 ratio all season. But if Jones keeps up his strong play, the Flyers might be flirting with a goalie controversy, and being a 1B goalie on a playoff team certainly holds some fantasy value.
Honorable Mention: Jordan Binnington, Blues; Karel Vejmelka, Coyotes; Connor Hellebuyck, Jets; Marc-Andre Fleury, Blackhawks; James Reimer, Sharks; Jake Allen, Canadiens; Darcy Kuemper, Avalanche
Robin Lehner, Golden Knights (3-5-0, .906 Sv%, 3.13 GAA)
The Knights' struggles shouldn't be pinned on Lehner alone, but this isn't the type of goaltending that produces Cup winners. Lehner should be elevating his play with so many key players injured, but instead, he's been a huge liability with the fourth-highest GSAA at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com. The shine is coming off the Knights and Lehner has been one of the biggest disappointments so far.
For once, it doesn't feel like the Knights are one of the top two teams in the West.
Braden Holtby (past 3: 0-2-1, .881 Sv%, 3.34 GAA) and Anton Khudobin, Stars (1-1-1, .889 Sv%, 2.68 GAA)
If you can't score goals, it's nearly impossible to win unless you have outstanding goaltending. The Stars are 31st in goals per game despite having a team that looks good on paper, and their big bet on veteran goalies is starting to look very poor despite initial good results. Holtby (58 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues) and Khudobin (20 percent) likely will continue to split starts until one starts outplaying the other. The Stars are still a good team so Holtby and Khudobin are still worth rostering, but they're also going to be pretty streaky.
Matt Murray, Senators (0-2-0, .897 Sv%, 2.78 GAA)
We'll chalk it up to injuries, but Murray still has plenty to prove as the Sens' starter. He's rightly one of the least popular starting goalies in fantasy, rostered in only 16 percent of Yahoo leagues. He's hurt too often, and even when healthy, he's not always a reliable option and a far, far cry from his days with the Penguins.
However, note that third-string Filip Gustavsson is making a strong impression and, so far, has been the best goalie with a 2-1-1 record, .916 Sv%, and 2.96 GAA. Their goal scoring may be inconsistent, but the Sens have plenty of talent and they're a team that could surprise — just like they did last season when most expected them to finish last — and when their goalies inevitably go on a hot run, Gustavsson might be a name to remember.
Dishonorable Mention: Kevin Lankinen, Blackhawks; Vitek Vanecek, Capitals; Adin Hill, Sharks