Special to Yahoo Sports
Pavel Francouz, Avalanche (Past 4 games: 4-0-0, .908 Sv%, 2.61 GAA)
Francouz came on in relief of Darcy Kuemper on Monday and made 25 saves in a 4-3 shootout win. Kuemper was diagnosed with a concussion after Jordan Greenway hit his head while skating through the crease but is expected to start Thursday at the Kings. Francouz (34 percent rostered) likely will start Wednesday against the struggling Ducks, who have lost seven of their last nine and may not have either John Gibson or Anthony Stolarz. The Avs offense is so good that they can easily overcome Francouz’s shortcomings, and he should be highly sought after should Kuemper miss additional time.
Ville Husso, Blues (Past 3 games: 3-0-0, .947 Sv%, 1.67 GAA)
Since Jan. 5, the Blues have rotated Jordan Binnington and Husso, and there’s been no denying that Husso has been better. The Blues were lucky they lost by just one goal against the Leafs after Binnington allowed three goals in 3:44, and following the loss, Craig Berube wasted no time going back to Husso, who responded with a 5-3 win against the Preds. That’s three consecutive wins with five goals allowed, and while Husso’s ability to be the No. 1 long-term is still in question, the Blues seem to be working a 50/50 timeshare at the moment.
It’ll likely stay that way for the time being, and back-to-backs on Jan. 23-24 and Jan. 29-30 guarantee that neither will gain the upper hand because they will have to split the duties. However, at just 22 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues, Husso is an intriguing add with at least two more starts in the next six games. Binnington’s critics have always been loud and disregarding the Blues’ substantial financial commitment to him, it’s debatable whether he is a top-tier No. 1 in the first place.
Alex Nedeljkovic, Red Wings (12-10-4, .918 Sv%, 2.69 GAA)
There will always be games where the Wings are outmatched because they’re a young team in the early stages of a rebuild. But Nedeljkovic has really turned his lemons into lemonade and ranks 11th in GSAA, according to naturalstattrick.com’s model. In other words, he’s been brilliant despite playing on a team that would be lucky just to make the playoffs. The wins will be hard to come by, but he’s rostered in only 67 percent of Yahoo leagues when he could be a good source of peripheral stats like save percentage or saves. Thomas Greiss entered COVID protocol on Monday, and with Calvin Pickard serving as the backup, look for Nedeljkovic to get the vast majority of the starts, though note back-to-backs are coming Jan. 21-22 and Jan. 28-29.
Matt Murray, Senators (Since minor-league recall: 2-1-0, .895 Sv%, 3.68 GAA)
Murray was not available Tuesday against the Sabres due to illness but since getting called back from the AHL he has a winning record. Normally, that would not be worthy enough to make this list, especially given that two of the games featured ugly numbers, but Murray’s career had gone way south since moving north from Pittsburgh, and his recent stretch does provide a glimmer of hope. He had beaten the Flames (4-1) and Oilers (6-4) on the road, and while both teams have struggled and scoring has been a problem, it was still a very surprising result.
With a tough three-game road trip upcoming, including stops at Pittsburgh and D.C., and then at home against the Canes the following week, it is still NOT advisable to start Murray, but he might be a good streaming option against the Jackets (Jan. 23), Sabres (Jan. 25), Ducks (Jan. 29) and Oilers (Jan. 31) for fantasy managers who don’t mind taking a little more risk.
Kaapo Kahkonen, Wild (Past 4 games: 3-0-1, .933 Sv%, 2.42 GAA)
Cam Talbot missed Monday’s game and Kahkonen has now looked pretty good in four consecutive starts with the only blemish a shootout loss against the Avs. Talbot is the starter and it’ll be his crease the moment he returns, but with the way Kahkonen (42 percent rostered) has played, there’s no need to rush Talbot back. The Wild don’t play until Friday and Saturday against the Blackhawks in a home-and-home series, which means Kahkonen will start at least one more game at a minimum, and against a team that’s not very good. Between Kahkonen and Francouz, Kahkonen is probably the better goalie, but Francouz plays on the better team. The dealbreaker for fantasy managers will come down to what teams they will face.
Honorable Mention: Lukas Dostal, Ducks; Karel Vejmelka and Ivan Prosvetov, Coyotes; Linus Ullmark, Bruins; Marc-Andre Fleury, Blackhawks; Sergei Bobrovsky, Panthers; Cal Petersen, Kings; Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov, Islanders; Igor Shesterkin, Rangers; Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning; Thatcher Demko, Canucks
Tuukka Rask, Bruins (Last start: 5 GA on 12 shots in one period)
Rask looked good in his first start, allowing just two goals on 27 shots, and he’s rostered in 73 percent of Yahoo leagues. That definitely earned him a second start, but Tuesday was a disaster with five goals allowed in the first period — the first time since 2008 for the Bruins — against the Canes. He was later replaced by Linus Ullmark. Granted, it wasn’t all on Rask because the Bruins’ defense was almost non-existent on some of the goals and the Canes might be the best team in the league. The Bruins allowed 16 shot attempts and lost the possession battle with a 40.74 CF% at 5-on-5 in the first period, according to naturalstattrick.com.
We knew something like this was bound to happen. Last week’s column was a warning; there’s a chance that Rask doesn’t have success right away, and that returning to form would be a very difficult task given his injury and the long layoff. Maybe it was too much too soon, or maybe the B’s just weren’t sharp enough and underestimated their opponent. Either way, Rask’s lackluster performance means Ullmark is firmly in the driver’s seat, and the Bruins do not have any back-to-backs scheduled (so far) until March. That negates the need for the Bruins to keep rotating Ullmark and Rask, and instead allows them to roll with Ullmark and maybe ease Rask in a little more slowly.
The Bruins are in playoff contention and therefore cannot really afford to be patient and wait for Rask to find his way if he continues to struggle. Rostering Jeremy Swayman (26 percent rostered) would be an overreaction after just one bad start unless fantasy managers have an NA slot to spare, but it’s an idea worth entertaining in deeper leagues short on quality goalies. He continues to lead the B’s in both Sv% and GAA. That the B’s can recall Swayman without having to place him on waivers was always the added bonus when they signed Rask, who should be closely monitored in his next start, whenever that may be. Ultimately, Ullmark remains the goalie to roster for the Bruins.
Dishonorable Mention: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Sabres; Jonathan Quick, Kings; Juuse Saros, Predators; Jordan Binnington, Blues; Robin Lehner, Golden Knights; all goalies in Canada not named Demko, Markstrom or Campbell.
Source: Yahoo Sports