NHL Backups Stealing the Show

With most trade deadlines in the rear view mirror, fantasy hockey leagues, depending on the size, are either in playoff mode or about to start the “second season.” This means rosters are pretty much set and GMs are hoping they did enough to contend…Or so they thought.

Lately, it would appear that a few starting goalies have lost their jobs and been supplanted by an excellent run from a few backups. Most of them started out as injury replacements, and some still are, but a select few have managed to retain the job as starter even after the incumbent returned from injury. Let’s take a look at some NHL backups stealing the show and taking on the role of starter the past few weeks.

Andrew Hammond

What can we say about Hammond, a.k.a. “The Hamburgler.” He’s not only stealing hamburgers, he’s stealing the starting job in Ottawa from Craig Anderson who recently returned from a hand injury. Hammond improved his record to 10-0-1 on the season and is one start away from possibly tying a 77 year-old NHL record for allowing two or less goals in his first twelve career starts. He is also the first goaltender in NHL history to earn a point in his first 11 career starts, which is just as remarkable. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s managed to play Ottawa right back into the Eastern Conference Wildcard playoff race. His AHL numbers were less than stellar, as his best season came in 2013-14 in Binghamton: 25 wins, a 2.81 GAA, and a .910 save %. So, to say this run has been a surprise would be a major understatement. Man I love the underdog!

Cam Talbot

Since taking over the starting role for the injured Henrik Lundqvist in early February, there was a lot of pressure on the 27-year old Talbot. The Rangers were three points behind arch rival New York Islanders for the division lead and had a tough road ahead of them with arguably one of the league’s best goalies going down with a vascular injury. Talbot took the heat and ran with it, putting up a 12-2-3 record since then and has helped vault the Rangers into the top spot in the Eastern Conference. He’s not only putting up serious numbers(17-6-4, 2.19 GAA, .926 save %), he’s been doing it against some of the league’s best teams. Once Lundqvist comes back, Alain Vigneault will have a tough choice to make. I’d hate to be in his shoes.

John Gibson

After starting the past three games, and winning two of them, one has to wonder what Bruce Boudreau has up his sleeve in regards to his goalie situation. Less than a week ago, Gibson threw up a bit of a stinker against Calgary, giving up six goals and taking the loss. Two nights later, Boudreau threw him right back in there for the Ducks next game against the hot Minnesota Wild and Gibson stole the show, making 33 saves and only giving up one goal. Sunday night, Boudreau gives Gibson his third start in a row, and another big win versus Nashville. As a fantasy owner, a coach like Bruce Boudreau can really frustrate fantasy GMs with his erratic choices. I am not sure if he’s just giving Frederik Andersen some extra time to rest before the playoffs, or if Andersen is really 100% after coming back from his injury. Either way, if you are a John Gibson owner, enjoy the ride. Let’s not forget, Gibson rode the pony last year in the playoffs for the Ducks as well, so there’s a good chance that could happen again this year. On the other hand, it could end as early as Anaheim’s next game on Wednesday.

Eddie Lack

When Ryan Miller got injured the last week in February, there were grave concerns about Vancouver and whether Eddie Lack was capable of being “the guy” that would vault them to the playoffs. Well, Lack has taken those concerns and pushed them aside, starting every game since that day with the exception of one. He has had a couple setbacks in there but all in all, he’s done a great job getting five wins in eight starts and has kept Vancouver in a playoff position….For now at least. Miller and his strained knee are still weeks away and Lack is solidifying his position, showing more confidence with each start.

So if your team is heading into the playoffs and you are fortunate enough to own one of these guys, I suggest you consider starting them if you haven’t been already. They have all played exceptionally well as of late and appear to be stealing the show with their respective NHL teams. They should be stealing the show with your respective fantasy teams as well. Sit back and enjoy the unexpected but sparkling fantasy numbers from these masked men.

These are the times you look like a fantasy genius for holding on to these backups, or for picking them up at the right time.

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