Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was so widely disregarded during fantasy drafts this season that owners actually took the slim chance that 39-year-old Tim Thomas would cancel his sabbatical over drafting the former Philadelphia Flyer.
In fact, fantasy owners took Thomas an average of three rounds ahead of Bobrovsky in Yahoo! leagues.
A few months later, Bobrovsky is the No. 1 goalie in fantasy hockey, and Thomas never left his couch.
Let's see how Bobrovsky did it, and who he finished ahead of in The Sports Network's 2012-13 end-of-season top-10 fantasy goalie rankings.
1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets - In January and February, Bobrovsky was deserving of his low draft status, as he went 3-6-3 with a 2.90 goals- against average (GAA) and .899 save percentage (SV%). But then he flipped the switch from "mediocre" to "immortal." In March and April, Bobrovsky went 18-5-3 with a 1.60 GAA, a .946 SV% and four shutouts. Bobrovsky started 24 of the team's final 25 games and nearly carried Columbus into the playoffs. The Blue Jackets finished with 55 points, same as No. 8 Minnesota, but they won fewer games than the Wild. Bobrovsky's overall numbers -- 21-11-6, 2.00 GAA, .932 SV%, four shutouts -- are Vezina-worthy.
2. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins - Two U's, two K's, No. 2 in our rankings. Rask moved into Tim Thomas' starting spot and won 19 games (19-10-5) with a 2.00 GAA, a .929 SV% and five shutouts (tied for the NHL lead). Rask was close to Bobrovsky, but he made 100 fewer saves and played 115 fewer minutes than the Blue Jackets netminder.
3. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks - Backup Thomas Greiss played so little this season that he can likely return his equipment to Dick's and still get a full refund. Niemi was the Sharks' workhorse, tying for the NHL lead with 43 starts and playing an NHL-high 2,581 minutes. He was extremely good in those minutes too, putting up 24 wins, a 2.16 GAA and a .924 SV% with four shutouts.
4. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings - Howard's season was similar to Bobrovsky's in that he was inconsistent in January and February. Howard allowed four goals in four of six starts in early February and had a 3.08 GAA after giving up two in just 11 minutes on Feb. 19, but he took off soon thereafter. Over his final 27 starts, Howard went 15-7-5 with a 1.64 GAA, a .939 SV% and five shutouts. The Red Wings goalie had five wins, three shutouts and a 0.99 GAA in his final seven starts to get Detroit into the playoffs for the 22nd straight season.
5. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers - Not surprisingly, last season's Vezina Trophy winner went No. 1 among goalies in Yahoo! drafts at an ADP of 6.7. After a slow start, he mostly lived up to expectations, winning 24 games with a 2.05 GAA and a .926 SV%. The one area Lundqvist lagged behind this season's top four fantasy netminders was shutouts, as he had just two.
6. Cory Schneider, Vancouver Canucks - The Canucks decision to not trade Roberto Luongo looked like it was going to haunt Schneider owners, who selected the goalie at an ADP of 32, sixth among goaltenders, after a strong 2011-12 regular season as a backup. That looked especially true when Schneider and Luongo were deadlocked at 14 starts apiece going into Vancouver's game on March 19. But Schneider got on a roll, started 14 of Vancouver's 16 games from March 19 to April 25 and went 11-4-1 with a 1.64 GAA, a .938 SV% and four shutouts in that span. He finished 17-9-4 with a 2.11 GAA, .927 SV% and five shutouts.
7. (tie) Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, Chicago Blackhawks - This tandem was not meant to be separated this season. They both finished with a 1.94 GAA and three shutouts, while Crawford edged his backup by two wins and four percentage points in save percentage. Fantasy owners who owned both netminders got a 36-6-5 record, a 1.94 GAA, a .924 SV% and six shutouts. If these two could have merged into one person, CoRay Emford would have blown away the field and been the No. 1 fantasy netminder.
9. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators - With an NHL-leading 1.69 GAA and .941 SV%, Anderson was in the right place at the right time often this season, but being in the wrong place at the wrong time cost him nearly two months. On Feb. 21 against the Rangers, Anderson was defending the crease when Rangers forward Chris Kreider lost his footing while he was being pushed by a Senators defenseman. Kreider went sliding into Anderson's legs, upended the goalie and caused an ankle sprain. Anderson wouldn't start again until April 7. His stats are phenomenal, but they came in just 24 starts.
10. James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs - Reimer's owners probable will remember that he alternated dominant efforts and meltdowns over his final six starts, allowing 13 goals combined on April 18, 24 and 27 and just one total combined on April 15, 20 and 25. He finished with strong numbers, going 19-8-5 with a 2.46 GAA, a .924 SV% and four shutouts, but we could have used more consistency from him.
Biggest bargain: Bobrovsky - He was drafted 41st among netminders. Enough said.
Biggest bust: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (1.4 ADP) - Quick wasn't terrible, but fantasy owners paid for much more than that. After going 35-21-13 with a 1.95 GAA, a .929 SV% and 10 shutouts and winning a Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2011-12, Quick went 18-13-4 with a 2.45 GAA, a .902 SV% and one shutout this season. He was outplayed by backup Jonathan Bernier, who won nine games with a 1.87 GAA, a .922 SV% and one shutout. Bernier actually finished the season ranked 118th overall in default Yahoo! leagues, compared to Quick's No. 205 ranking.