NHL Fantasy Focus: The Goalie Tandem Conundrum

Matt SitkoffCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2010

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Antero Niittymaki #30 of the San Jose Sharks stretches during a break against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on September 22, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Goalie tandem issue runs every fantasy team.  Do I try to own both goalies?  If I own one what do I trade to get the other or get back in a trade to an owner who has the other tandem?  In this week’s Pucking Awesome Fantasy Focus we will break down the strategy an owner should have with some of the hot goalie tandems out there right now.

San Jose Sharks

Antero Niittymaki: 4 GP (3 GS): 2-0-1, 1.80 GAA, .932 save percentage

Antti Niemi: 4 GS: 1-3-0, 4.49 GAA, .854 save percentage

The Blackhawks Stanley Cup hero is struggling out of the gate with his new team, as the goalie the team originally signed to be their No. 1 has taken the reins.  Surprisingly enough you search the waiver wire and it is Niemi who is owned in more leagues than Niittymaki, 80 percent to 40 percent.

My take on this tandem is that Niittymaki is usually good in spurts of action; he has never been able to prove that he is the No. 1 guy.  That being said, this is a great spot for him to outperform his countryman and become the best fantasy option on this team.  Niitty in the last three years has a GAA of 2.84 and a save percentage of .909, those numbers do not happen unless you are talented.

Let’s not forget Niemi on the other hand only played in 39 games last season and rode a very good team to a Stanley Cup and was hoping do duplicate that in San Jose.  In conclusion, the Niemi owners should be banging down the door to acquire Niittymaki by trade or waiver wire pick up.  While, the Niittymaki owners should be knocking softly to the Niemi owners to see if they could acquire him only for injury insurance. 

Washington Capitals

Michal Neuvirth: 8 GP (7 GS): 5-2-0, 2.53 GAA, .919 save percentage

Semyon Varlamov: 2 GP (1 GS): 0-1-0, 2.91 GAA, .896 save percentage

This tandem is one of the hardest to pin down as it features two upstart goalies that we do not have a big track record to go on, only that Varlamov is hurt every two weeks or so.  Like the Sharks, the Capitals have high hopes of a team that won the President’s Trophy last season, thus making any player that stands between the pipes an instant fantasy start.  This is evident when Neuvirth, who has started seven out of the first eight games, ownership went from almost 40 percent to 90 percent from the start of the year. 

Now the news is that the Capitals playoff goalie the last two seasons will not travel with the team this weekend due to a groin injury, the same injury that caused the Russian to spend the first couple of weeks on IR. 

This is a perfect case that you should try your best to own both goalies.  The organization has made it apparent that they want Varlamov to be the franchise goalie and when healthy expect that to be the case, but the key word is “when.”  The constant trips to IR because of a groin injury have to be worrisome for a goalie.  With that in mind, Varlamov owners should make every effort to acquire Neuvirth and vice-versa.  Neuvirth has backstopped Hershey to back-to-back Calder Cups and has looked decent to start the season.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Marc-Andre Fleury: 4 GS: 1-3-0, 3.25 GAA, .859 save percentage

Brent Johnson: 5 GS: 4-0-1, 1.39 GAA, .951 save percentage

Talk about taking advantage of an opportunity, as the career backup Brent Johnson has busted onto the fantasy scene by starting the season on a tear.  The goalie that has not started more than 30 games since his early years in St. Louis all of a sudden has started five of the last seven games.

The biggest question has to be will this trend continue?  I believe it will not as this is just the case of the Penguins struggling offensively out of the gate and picking up their play as the season has progressed early.  Though, Marc-Andre Fleury owners cannot be happy with how the former first overall pick has responded to such a bad playoff last spring.

Hopefully MAF owners jumped on the BJ bandwagon and picked him up when they started to notice the trend of him getting the starting nod.  If not, do not worry as soon enough the flower will have his starting job back and we will watch Johnson’s ownership fall from its peak of 60 percent right now.