New York Islanders
The Islanders are playing much better lately, and Al Montoya has been one of the reasons why. He has three wins in two starts since being acquired from the Coyotes two weeks ago. He has won both of the starts- a 3-0 shutout over the Kings and a 5-1 win over the Panthers – stopping 55 of 56 shots. Montoya also picked up a win in relief after a wacky 7-6 win over the Sabres last week. He’s now 3-0-0 with a .954 save percentage and a 1.34 goals against average. Nathan Lawson is the other option, but he hasn’t shown that he is up to the task. He has one win in six games and allowed five goals in 22 minutes in a 6-3 loss to the Bruins last week. Lawson, who returned from a knee injury, has played pretty poorly and Montoya is shining now and taking advantage of his chance two years in between his last NHL start.
New Jersey Devils
I chose not to write about the Devils last week because I figured Johan Hedberg would start the Wednesday game against the ‘Canes and Martin Brodeur would be back Friday in time for the Rangers, since he never misses a game against the Hudson River rivals. Instead, Brodeur needed more time to heal, so Hedberg got to start that game, and has started the teams’ lat six games. He’s only gone 6-0-0 while allowing a combined seven goals, and even posted a shutout in there, too. Hedberg has been so hot that coach Jacques Lemaire will turn back to him for Tuesday’s game against Dallas. Brodeur was ready to play this past weekend, but the Devils went with the hot hand. Brodeur has said he understands if the team rides Hedberg until he loses, so he may have to wait a bit before he returns. This is exactly the reason New Jersey signed Hedberg in the offseason and why he chose to play here. The Devils wanted an experienced guy to back up Brodeur, and Hedberg has been paying huge dividends this past month. I own him in both of my fantasy leagues and picked him up while ago, so he might not be available in most leagues. Even if he is, he’s not going to be starting every game with Brodeur healthy, so Hedberg might not be worth picking up right now.
I was really surprised last week when I found out that the Sens traded Brian Elliott to the Avalanche for Craig Anderson. I understand that both of these teams were in trouble, but Anderson had an excellent first season with Colorado last year, and he was not the only reason for their failures this season. In any event, Anderson showed the Avs what they will be missing Saturday as he made 47 saves in a 1-0 shootout win over the Maple Leafs. He will start most of the Senators’ remaining games, with Robin Lehner starting when Anderson needs a breather. Pascal Leclaire (yes he is still on the team) has been out since December and has begun a conditioning assignment in the AHL, but I expect him to miss the rest of the season with the Senators out of the playoff picture. With the trading deadline a week away, I wouldn’t make any moves yet if you need a goalie, in case there are some moves made this week. But Anderson might not be a bad pickup for those in need of goalie help, as the Sens have 16 games in March, so he will be sure to get lots of work.
Now let’s look at the trade from the Avs’ point of view. Elliott did not start for the Avs a day after being traded to them, as Peter Budaj got the nod, losing 4-0 to the Sharks in San Jose. He has lost six starts in a row, allowing more than three goals a game, and his numbers just aren’t there (3.20 GAA, .894 SV%). Budaj has been on this team for six seasons now, and there is a reason he isn’t the starter: he just can’t win and stay consistent. If you break down his stats, he has had only one good season with the team (2006-07, 31-16-6, 2.68 GAA). This bodes well for Elliott, who will be given his chance to take the starting role from this team that is in turmoil right now, losers of ten in a row. Elliott’s numbers (3.19 GAA, .894 SV%) are virtually identical to Budaj’s, and he has won only once in his past 15 decisions. Perhaps a fresh start will be good for Elliott, but even if he does become the starter the rest of the way, I’d still steer clear of him.
St. Louis Blues
Jaroslav Halak injured his right hand and was placed on injured reserve last week. When I heard this news I immediately picked up Ty Conklin in one of my leagues because I needed another goalie. I looked like a genius after he stopping all 25 shots in shutting out the Sabres on Friday. But then came Saturday. Conklin played 16 minutes and allowed three goals on five shots (for the record, I did not start him on Saturday). 6’7” Ben Bishop took over, stopping all 20 shots he faced and picked up the win with a 9-3 victory over the Ducks. But Monday against the Blackhawks when Bishop got the start again, he allowed four goals on 18 shots and was pulled after 32 minutes. Conklin stopped seven of seven shots he faced in relief. So for those keeping score at home, each of these guys have been pulled in their last start. That makes for some interesting decisions as the season winds down. But more time is needed before figuring out which of these guys might be worth picking up.