Special to Yahoo Sports
Jeremy Swayman, Bruins (4-0-0, .930 Sv%, 1.75 GAA in November)
It was very telling when the Bruins started Swayman in both back-to-back games, and their gamble paid off with two wins and a plus-6 goal differential. They have another back-to-back Nov. 20-21, and it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if Bruce Cassidy went with Swayman both times again, assuming he has a good start against the Flyers.
This sends a strong message to Linus Ullmark (.857 Sv%, 4.64 GAA in November), who has struggled but also seems to have started against much stronger teams, including the Oilers, Leafs and Panthers twice, while Swayman has only had one really tough opponent in the Hurricanes. Ullmark is still rostered in more leagues than Swayman on Yahoo, though it should be the other way around even though the percentages likely will fluctuate all season.
Dustin Tokarski, Sabres (past 3 starts: 2-1-0, .928 Sv%, 2.68 GAA)
Their win against the Pens was impressive, though when the Pens started to really press in the third period, it was easy to remember why the Sabres have been so bad. Tokarski really kept them in the game, and the Sabres will always have a chance if their goaltending is good with their improved offense. Like Scott Wedgewood in Arizona or any hot/good goalie on a bad team, pick your spots and dump them quickly because it’s better to miss a few good starts that could be made up elsewhere rather than trying to recover after your goaltending implodes.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Blackhawks (3-2-0, 920 Sv%, 2.59 GAA in November)
Thanks to Fleury and Kevin Lankinen, the Hawks have managed to win three straight in three ways: In regulation, overtime and shootout. The bad news is none of their three opponents are particularly good at the moment, and the wins were so narrow they could’ve been losses as well. For now, Fleury is back into a situation where fantasy managers can rely on him, and look for favorable matchups against the Kraken and Canucks.
Jake Oettinger, Stars (27-save win in first start)
Rick Bowness couldn’t throw Oettinger into the net quickly enough. The promising ‘tender started immediately after getting called up when Braden Holtby was injured even though Anton Khudobin had won his last start and the Stars were not playing back-to-back. This is a fantasy manager’s worst nightmare, where a potential timeshare is completely busted by an up-and-coming goalie who starts the rest of the way.
That is unlikely to be the case because Holtby’s injury is not considered long-term, and the idea was for Oettinger to get more playing time in the minors. Regardless, Oettinger’s strong season debut means he could be in line for more starts. The logical play would be to stash Holtby in an injured slot and then roster both Khudobin and Oettinger. Otherwise, Oettinger alone is a sneaky stash in the interim until the Stars’ goaltending situation becomes clearer.
Stuart Skinner, Oilers (0-2-0, .913 Sv%, 2.66 GAA)
Skinner was tagged with two losses but actually outperformed Mikko Koskinen, who has struggled recently (past 3: .883 Sv%, 4.15 GAA) and was largely responsible for their loss to the Jets on Tuesday. Skinner should get another chance to show his wares Thursday when the Oilers meet the Jets again — this time at home — and a strong performance may force Dave Tippett to consider giving Skinner more starts and keeping Koskinen on the bench.
Remember, the Oilers tried to shore up their goaltending this summer, which means they didn’t have a lot of confidence in Koskinen to begin with. The team has a very, very favorable schedule with games against Chicago, Dallas, Arizona, Pittsburgh and Seattle, all of which are struggling.
Mackenzie Blackwood, Devils (2-0-1, .937 Sv%, 2.37 GAA)
It’s as if Blackwood is better when he faces more shots. Through four games he’s already faced 142 (or 35.5 per game), including a 42-save shutout against the Islanders. He was placed in concussion protocol after taking a Kaapo Kakko shot to the head, forcing him to leave Sunday’s game against the Rangers, but a postponed game against the Sens gives him a little more time to rest, and surely he’ll draw one of the two games in Florida on Thursday and Saturday.
Blackwood is rostered in only 63 percent of Yahoo leagues. It should be higher considering his upside and how much improvement the Devils have seen in the last two seasons. He’ll be a serviceable mid-tier fantasy goalie with a dud here and there, but he’s also occasionally exceptional, and that’s worth at least a roster stash.
Carter Hart, Flyers (5-3-2, .935 Sv%, 2.19 GAA)
Quietly, Hart’s putting together a fantastic season. He’s now won consecutive games with only two goals allowed on 74 shots. The Flyers have alternated wins and losses but their problem is they can’t score; even with Hart playing brilliantly, they have failed to score more than two goals since Nov. 2 against the Coyotes. We’re getting close to the point where Hart is a must-start in every matchup, and the return of Kevin Hayes should boost their defensive profile.
Honorable Mention: John Gibson, Ducks; Scott Wedgewood, Coyotes; Jacob Markstrom and Daniel Vladar, Flames; Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta, Hurricanes; Darcy Kuemper, Avalanche; Jonathan Quick, Kings; Juuse Saros, Predators; Igor Shesterkin, Rangers; James Reimer, Sharks; Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning; Jack Campbell, Maple Leafs; Vitek Vanecek, Capitals; Connor Hellebuyck, Jets
Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau, Canadiens (combined: 0-4-0, .894 Sv%, 3.62 GAA)
Even if Montembeault and Primeau possess the talent to be starting goalies one day, it’s definitely not being realized today. The two youngsters have been pressed into action much sooner than anticipated, and on a team lacking scoring punch and suffering from injuries to numerous key players, they’re not getting much help. Save yourself the trouble and don’t bother, but if you had to pick one, it should probably be Primeau.
Jordan Binnington, Blues (1-3-2, .897 Sv%, 3.13 GAA in November)
Winning five games with a .926 Sv% in October and then losing five games with a .897 Sv% in November is the reason why nobody trusts Binnington. Temper tantrums aside, Binnington flirts with being a top-10 fantasy goalie when he’s playing well but becomes downright disastrous in the most unexpected situations, like allowing four goals to the Coyotes and then losing to them in his second matchup. With Binnington, you live with both the good and the bad, and just hope that by the end of the season the good outweighs the bad.
It could be tough with the Sharks and Knights coming to town and road trips to Dallas, Detroit and Chicago before facing Tampa Bay twice in a home-and-home series. Fantasy managers should start Binnington if allowing a high number of goals doesn’t wipe out any points gained from earning a win. Otherwise, it’s probably smarter to wait until he gets hot again.
Dishonorable Mention: Karel Vejmelka, Coyotes; Elvis Merzlikins, Blue Jackets; Mikko Koskinen, Oilers; Cam Talbot, Wild; Tristan Jarry, Penguins; Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger, Kraken; Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak, Canucks