Fantasy Goalies: Who to sit, who to start?

Jonathan Bernier made 38 saves including a big one as time expired to preserve a 1-0 shutout while Steven Stamkos took apart the Blue Jackets and teammate Ben Bishop kept Columbus off the board with a 37 save shutout of his own.

What if you’re in the middle of a head-to-head playoff battle or are trying to catch up in roto categories and you realize you have too many goaltenders?

Because starting goalies are so valuable, some of the lowest-ranked goalies in fantasy hockey are names that are on many teams. Jonas Hiller, Mike Condon, Ondrej Pavelec, Craig Anderson and Ryan Miller are probably making your team worse each week rather than better. The real-life teams in front of these goalies haven’t exactly helped out, either.

Not all lower-ranked goalies play for bad teams such Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi or Jimmy Howard. It might not be a bad idea to drop one of them if you believe that your team would be better in the short term and you can sacrifice not receiving a potential win.

What you decide to do all depends on your situation. By now you should have a good read on how risky a goalie is for your team and how much a goalie can help you from week to week.

Start

Cam Talbot, EDM (vs. NSH, vs. STL, vs. VAN, vs. COL)
Talbot would have been considered a lower-ranked goalie until recently. He's been one of the top fantasy goalies over the past few weeks with a 1.66 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage since Feb. 25 (See the Frozen Pool Goalie Calculator for more of these stats). The Oilers play four games this week with no back-to-backs, so Talbot could provide the bonus of multiple wins on top of his strong ratios. He should be played over any of the goalies listed above.

John Gibson, ANA (vs. NJ, vs. NYR, vs. BOS, @WPG)
We never know which way Bruce Boudreau’s goalie pendulum will swing but it seems to be swinging in Gibson’s favour over Frederik Andersen right now. Gibson has started two of the Ducks’ last three games, while Andersen struggled in Anaheim's most recent game, allowing four goals on 18 shots. The Ducks have four games, including three at home, this week which could turn out well for either goalie. We’d give the slight edge to Gibson this week, but again, that could change quickly.

Jacob Markstrom, VAN (vs. WPG, vs. COL, @EDM, vs. STL)
Markstrom is expected to start 50 per cent of the Canucks’ games the rest of the way, according to head coach Willie Desjardins. Vancouver has four games this week, including three at home. So if Desjardins sticks to that plan and doesn’t continue to overplay Miller, Markstrom should start twice. That might not be a huge number, but it could be enough if you need one more goalie to get you through the week. Markstrom’s numbers compared to Miller’s provide a solid argument as to why Markstrom could be the starter next season.

Sit

Tuukka Rask, BOS (@SJ, @ANA, @LA)
In most leagues, you can use Rask as you normally would use him. However, if you’re trying to decide between him and another established starter, you may want to consider your other option. The Bruins head out on the road against the three California teams, all of which are likely headed to the playoffs. Two of the three (San Jose and Anaheim) are top-10 offences over the past 30 days, which could make life difficult for Rask.

Cam Ward, CAR (@WSH, @PIT, @MIN)
With Ward and the Hurricanes, it’s not just about the schedule. Three road games won’t be easy, particularly when two are against the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Ward hasn’t been great recently with a save percentage below .900 in seven of his last 10 starts. Over that one-month span, his goals-against average has been a dreadful 2.79. On the bright side, Ward still starts most of the time for the Hurricanes. But don’t let that affect your thinking if you're in a playoff battle.

Mike Smith, ARI (vs. SJ, vs. TB, @SJ)
Smith posted an impressive 44-save shutout against Edmonton in his return from a core muscle injury. Don’t get drawn in, however, as the Coyotes will face some tougher opponents than the Oilers this week. Anyone who has owned Smith over the past couple seasons can tell you about how disastrous some of his starts have been. Smith’s return also reduces the value of Louis Domingue, if you’ve been relying on him for starts the past couple months.

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