Special to Yahoo Sports
It never goes the way you expect it.
It’s just a one-week sample size, but look at the save percentage leaders entering Wednesday’s games:
Thomas Greiss – .969
Spencer Knight – .968
Jeremy Swayman – .964
John Gibson – .961
Karel Vejmelka – . 956
And the goals-against losers (we’ll exclude Carter Hutton’s 8.75 GAA because it’s off-the-charts-in-another-galaxy kind of bad, though no one is exactly surprised):
Marc-Andre Fleury – 5.63
Connor Hellebuyck – 4.66
Robin Lehner – 4.21
Philipp Grubauer – 4.01
Darcy Kuemper – 3.79
I hope you didn’t pick them early.
Jeremy Swayman, Bruins (1-0-0, .964 Sv%, 1.00 GAA)
Swayman will earn his second consecutive start Wednesday against the Flyers after he saved 27 shots in a 3-1 season-opening win on the road. The Bruins invested big in Linus Ullmark, who made the naughty list last week after losing the starting job after the preseason, and he will start Friday against Sabres, but Swayman has made a strong first move in the battle for the crease.
Not only will Ullmark have to win against a surprisingly good Sabres team, but he will also have to outplay Swayman to earn another start. Swayman is still only rostered in just 65 percent of Yahoo leagues while Ullmark remains at 75 percent. It may still end up being Ullmark’s net after all, but it’s worthwhile to roster both goalies for the time being.
Braden Holtby, Stars (1-1-0, .947 Sv%, 1.75 GAA)
Holtby has now put in three consecutive strong performances to start the season, and it wasn’t easy, either; 25 saves before leaving due to dehydration in a season-opening win on the road, 37 saves in a tough loss against the Bruins, and then finally his first win in a shootout against the Penguins. Holtby has now started three of the Stars’ four games and seems to have won the starting job on a good defensive team, yet remains rostered in only 38 percent of Yahoo leagues.
The Stars will play three of their next four games at home, concluding a surprisingly good four-game road trip during which they conceded only five 5-on-5 goals. The Stars were a good team at home last season even though they won just 13 games, improving both goals against and goals scored by nearly a half-goal per game. Start Holtby with confidence until proven otherwise — he’s available in more than 60 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Thomas Greiss, Red Wings (2-0-0, .969 Sv%, 1.00 GAA)
Maybe Greiss is more used to the barrage of shots having already spent one season behind Detroit’s shoddy defense. Alex Nedeljkovic made 41 saves in his first start but allowed seven goals, while Greiss has now saved 62 and allowed just two. This is normally not a big deal, but the Wings have suddenly turned from lottery-bound to being able to make the Atlantic Division just a tad more interesting.
Greiss could be the starting goalie on a team that might get close to 40 wins, and he likely will get the start Thursday against Calgary and then get one more start during a weekend back-to-back in Montreal and Chicago. It’ll give us a chance to see more of Greiss and also give Nedeljkovic one more chance to fight for his share of the playing time. In fantasy leagues where goalies are scarce, Greiss should still be available and worth a wait-and-see stash with a much-improved Red Wings team. There will be bad nights, but the Wings also have enough talent to compete now, going toe-to-toe with the Lightning then winning two straight with only one goal allowed per game.
Last season, the Wings couldn’t limit their opponents to one goal for consecutive games until the third month.
Adin Hill, Sharks (2-0-0, .932 Sv%, 1.50 GAA)
Both Hill and James Reimer were very good during preseason, but no one really quite saw this kind of goal support coming, with the Sharks outscoring opponents 9-3 thanks to some young talent. Hill will earn another start after his first shutout of the season, which means Reimer likely will start Friday in a tough matchup against the Leafs and Auston Matthews. Beating the Jets in the season opener definitely made a statement, and destroying the Habs in Montreal was the mic drop. The Sharks look like a much more cohesive group and could really surprise in a chaotic Pacific Division. Hill’s rostered in just 27 percent of leagues and that number should stay relatively low until we see how the Sharks handle themselves on their road trip, but keep an eye on him.
Vitek Vanecek, Capitals (1-0-1, .938 Sv%, 1.44 GAA)
And they thought the only goalie controversy was in New York.
Ilya Samsonov won his season debut against the Avs, 6-3, but there’s no doubt that Vanecek should return to the net for the next game. Vanecek won the job out of camp and has been brilliant to start the season, and the Caps are playing very well even without Nicklas Backstrom. Vanecek is rostered in 66 percent of Yahoo leagues and should play a big role for the Cup-contending Caps. Everyone gets sucked into Samsonov’s massive potential, but Vanecek is a little older and, statistically speaking, was actually the better goalie last season, anyway.
Honorable Mention: Frederik Andersen, Hurricanes; Cam Talbot, Wild; Jack Campbell, Maple Leafs; Tristan Jarry, Penguins; Igor Shesterkin, Rangers; Anton Forsberg and Filip Gustavsson, Senators; Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski, Sabres; Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo, Blue Jackets; Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight, Panthers.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Blackhawks (0-3-0, .840 Sv%, 5.63 GAA)
The Blackhawks were booed off their home ice Tuesday night. That’s how bad it’s been. Despite getting Fleury essentially for free, he has provided negative value. It was unlikely Fleury would replicate last year’s performance anyway, but no one envisioned it going this poorly. Kevin Lankinen has fared a little better, but the early signs for the Blackhawks have not been good. Fleury entered the season as a potential top-10 fantasy goalie but might end up just forming an average tandem with Lankinen.
Philipp Grubauer, Kraken (1-2-1, .867 Sv%, 4.01 GAA)
We were told the Kraken would have a deep and talented defense but, nope, it’s a skilled and fast team that doesn’t mind trading scoring chances. That leaves Grubauer exposed quite often, and it’s definitely not the same caliber of defense he had in Colorado. Grubauer continues to have a firm hold on the starting job, but the Kraken might be a very average team, and that definitely dampens Grubauer’s fantasy value. Perhaps some rest will do some good; the Kraken have their home opener Saturday against the struggling Canucks following three days’ rest from their grueling five-game road trip (1-3-1) to start the season.
Jake Allen, Canadiens (0-3-0, .885 Sv%, 3.05 GAA)
How quickly things change — it was supposed to be an easy start against the lottery-bound Sharks and Sabres, but it’s been a disaster for Allen and the Habs, failing to capitalize on a soft part of the schedule early in the season after losing nearly all of their key players. They don’t seem to trust backup Samuel Montembeault very much, which means it’s all on Allen. They can’t defend or score, and after losing a one-goal game to the Leafs, have lost by a combined 13-2 since. Keep Allen on the bench and be prepared to sit him for most of the season — because the Habs might not turn it around.
Dishonorable Mention: Darcy Kuemper, Avalanche; Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning