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Thursday, December 3, 2009
In The Crease: Bruins time-share

By Tim Kavanagh
Special to ESPN.com

The gravy train for Boston Bruins keeper of the future Tuukka Rask, and the folks who were smart enough to have him rostered the past two weeks, has slowed almost to a halt now that Tim Thomas has returned from injury and started the past two games for the team. With Thomas sidelined with what was rumored to be a hand injury recently, Rask got the nod to start six straight games, and during those contests, the Finn went 4-1-1 with a .938 save percentage and 11 total goals against. So what is Rask's value going forward, now that the No. 1 guy is back?

While I don't know the exact plan for Rask's future development -- you'd have to set up a hidden tap inside the Bruins' front office to get that info -- I can offer the following quote that B's GM Peter Chiarelli offered to ESPN.com regarding Rask's recent streak: "It's on merit, and he deserves the games." Chiarelli also seems opposed to the idea that he's going to deal either Rask or Thomas, so one is led to believe that Rask will continue to see more starts than on just the occasions when the Bruins have games on back-to-back days, even now that Thomas is back reasonably healthy.

As you'll recall, the Bruins had a time-share last season with Thomas and Manny Fernandez, with the latter being limited by injuries and starting just 27 games by season's end. I think Rask will finish with more than that based on what Chiarelli has said, probably somewhere in the 35-start range. With 15 starts in the books, that means he's got 20 left on the season. You'll have to keep your eyes on the newswire to know when exactly those starts will be, but with one of the league's most stout defenses in front of him, Rask should have an opportunity to win a good portion of those (let's say 14, conservatively). More importantly, if he can maintain his solid ratios (currently 2.02 GAA and .929 SVP), he is the type of player that can swing a weekly head-to-head matchup if he gets one or two starts.

For those of you in keeper leagues, Rask's long-term future is even brighter. I expect him to mount a strong challenge for the No. 1 job next training camp, and with Thomas turning 36 in April, the Bruins may lean more heavily on the youngster down the stretch.

Top 40 Goalies

Note: Tim Kavanagh's top 40 goalies are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN Standard Leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include wins, goals-against average and save percentage. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Ryan Miller, Buf (1)
2. Martin Brodeur, NJ (2)
3. Evgeni Nabokov, SJ (3)
4. Craig Anderson, Col (4)
5. Ilya Bryzgalov, Pho (6)
6. Roberto Luongo, Van (9)
7. Pekka Rinne, Nsh (11)
8. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (7)
9. Ray Emery, Phi (8)
10. Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy (17)
11. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (5)
12. Tim Thomas, Bos (10)
13. Semyon Varlamov, Was (18)
14. Tomas Vokoun, Fla (12)
15. Cristobal Huet, Chi (13)
16. Niklas Backstrom, Min (14)
17. Marty Turco, Dal (15)
18. Jonas Hiller, Ana (16)
19. Chris Mason, StL (19)
20. Pascal Leclaire, Ott (20)
21. Steve Mason, Cls (22)
22. Jose Theodore, Was (23)
23. Jonathan Quick, LA (24)
24. Tuukka Rask, Bos (35)
25. Nikolai Khabibulin, Edm (25)
26. Antero Niittymaki, TB (21)
27. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ana (36)
28. Carey Price, Mon (26)
29. Ondrej Pavelec, Atl (27)
30. Jimmy Howard, Det (40)
31. Cam Ward, Car (28)
32. Chris Osgood, Det (30)
33. Mathieu Garon, Cls (31)
34. Dwayne Roloson, NYI (32)
35. Ty Conklin, StL (33)
36. Antti Niemi, Chi (34)
37. Jaroslav Halak, Mon (29)
38. Dan Ellis, Nsh (37)
39. Johan Hedberg, Atl (38)
40. Jonas Gustavsson, Tor (39)

Rising and falling

Pekka Rinne, Predators (up four spots): While Vince Young has sparked a remarkable turnaround for the Tennessee Titans, the city's ice hockey team has gotten an equal spark from its Finnish netminder. Going back to Nov. 12, the Preds have won eight of 11 games, and Rinne has been in goal for seven of those W's. The nine goals against in two games this week is a little disconcerting (OK, a lot disconcerting), but Rinne showed in the prior games that he has the skills to be a true No. 1 'tender in fantasy. I don't think he breaks into that echelon at the very top this season, but he should finish in the six to 10 range.

Miikka Kiprusoff (up seven spots): I may have given Kipper a little bit of whiplash with his sudden climb in the rankings last time, because that night (Nov. 19) he allowed six goals in just two periods of work. But since then, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more valuable fantasy hockey player. He's allowed five goals total in five starts with two shutouts in his past two. Even if your league doesn't count shutouts as a goalie stat, he's gone nearly 130 minutes since Keith Yandle solved him, 67 straight shots that he's kept out of the net. Kipper should find himself in the top 10 for the rest of the season because even when he's not perfect in net, the league's sixth-best offense can bail him out.

Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (down seven spots): Lundqvist is probably happy to see the calendar flip to December, as he struggled to find consistency in 10 November starts. While he managed to pull out four wins, one of those was quite ugly, with four goals allowed. "I feel frustration not coming up with the big saves in the end," Lundqvist recently told the New York Daily News. "I think a lot of guys feel frustration not scoring, but in the end the only thing that matters is if we win or not." Not to us in the fantasy world, Henrik. But with Steve Valiquette placed on waivers, the Blueshirts are going to continue to ride King Henrik pretty exclusively. My recommendation is to try and peel him off his frustrated owner, since these un-Kingly numbers are sure to turn back around.

Time-shares

Jose Theodore (23.7 percent) and Semyon Varlamov (93.7 percent), Capitals: Theodore was given a break to deal with some personal issues, but made his return to live game action in Monday's game, a win against the Carolina Hurricanes. Now, two goals relented to the Hurricanes is like five given up against a legitimate foe, but it was Theodore's first appearance since Nov. 14. Having said all that, the situation in Washington is very close to dropping out of this section; after all, Varlamov is well ahead in the ratios, and has a 10-1-2 record, notching five of those wins in November. The only bumps in the road I can see in December are two straight Friday-Saturday back-to-backs on Dec. 11-12 and 18-19.

Jimmy Howard (8.8 percent) and Chris Osgood(53.6 percent), Red Wings: Over the course of the past two weeks, the Red Wings have played seven games, with Howard starting four of them, and of those four for Howard, two have been quality starts. In the last column, I noted that there is a bit of a ceiling with Howard, given the fact Osgood will continue to get some of the starts; on the other hand, if he can keep his ratios near their current levels, he'll be more valuable than some of the goalies that have more of a stranglehold on the starting job. More importantly, it's beginning to look like Osgood is losing ground in this battle anyway. Howard is a definite pickup, especially for anyone who still has Osgood on their roster.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere (16.4 percent) and Jonas Hiller (93.9 percent), Ducks: For those of you interested in the quick version of this, here's a summary: pick up Jiggy now. In the two weeks since my last column, Giguere backstopped three wins for the Ducks and one OT loss, relenting just seven goals over the course of four games. Meanwhile, Hiller -- owned in a significantly higher portion of ESPN leagues, as you can see above -- has continued to slide, giving up 10 goals and losing two out of his three starts. Hiller's postseason in 2008-09 didn't come out of nowhere -- he posted a 2.39 GAA and .919 SVP in 38 regular-season starts -- but he's off from those numbers in 17 starts in 2009-10. Maybe he got extra motivation last season from working his way into the No. 1 role; whatever the case may be, Giguere is a great pickup right now, and can be had for free by 83.6 percent of you reading this.

Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com