Originally posted on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 2/8/12

The NHL is past its halfway point and headed down the stretch towards the playoffs. This is when goalies are relied upon the most and rise to the top of their game in a push for Lord Stanley’s mug.

Here is a look at a few goalies who had rough starts, which may have sent them down to the waiver wire in shallower leagues or at least earned them a seat on the bench.

These five goalies are an absolute must to be played every day in all fantasy formats for the rest of the season.

1. Jaroslav Halak – St. Louis Blues

15-9-5, 1.97 GAA .922 SV%

With the stat line above you’d hardly think Halak was struggling at any point this season. In Halak’s first six games of the season he allowed 20 goals and had an abysmal save percentage of .846. Backup Brian Elliot appeared that he was going to steal the number one spot from him and was voted into the all-star game for his play in the first half.

Halak turned it around in November but was still splitting time with Elliot playing in seven of the Blues 13 games. Apparently he thrives on competition, as we saw in Montreal competing for starts with Carey Price, and has since silenced his critics about his #1 goalie status.

He has now been arguably the hottest goalie since the new year. In 10 games he has won eight of them including a streak of seven in a row. He’s allowed 13 goals, has a save percentage of .950 and four shutouts in that stretch. He’s had a lot to do with the Blues success this year and is a big part of why they rank 1st in the league in goals allowed per game at 1.94. He should be expected to continue his solid play and be called upon often down the stretch as St. Louis jockeys for position in the Western conference playoff race.

2. Ryan Miller – Buffalo Sabres

Photo Courtesy of Michael Miller

14-15-3, GAA 2.88, SV% .905

Ryan Miller is usually as consistent as they come when looking at NHL goalies. Since his first year as a starter he has never lost more games than he has won and hasn’t finished a season with a GAA or SV% as poor as they are right now.

Expectations for Buffalo were very high this season with additions of Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff and Robin Regehr, all for big contracts.

Miller didn’t fare too poorly out of the gate until a collision with Bruins forward sidelined him for three weeks with a concussion. He wasn’t the same goalie after returning from that injury. He was tentative in net and visibly shaken when faced with traffic in front of him.

However, he’s appeared to have turned the page winning three of his last four starts, allowing only five goals with a save % of .959 and a shutout, albeit in a shootout loss to the Rangers. Miller was rated as the 4th highest fantasy goalie heading into the season, so don’t let his weak start fool you.

Expect Miller to continue playing up to his career standards and regain his all-star form for the remainder of the year and to lead the Sabres on a late run at the playoffs that will more than likely come up just short.

3. Cam Ward – Carolina Hurricanes

20-18-8, GAA 2.76, SV% .913

Cam Ward has been another goalie that’s been super hot in the calendar year of 2012.

After two very poor months in November and December, Ward hasn’t let in more than three goals in his last 13 games. In fact during that stretch he’s only let in more than two goals twice and has two shutouts, including a 47 save effort against the Bruins, the league’s most potent offense.

He has a .949 save percentage and a 1.59 GAA in that stretch as well. The Canes might not have too much to play for sitting dead last in the East, 12 points behind 8th place Ottawa.

Regardless, expect Ward to relish the role of spoiler and continue playing well game in game out. He doesn’t get a tonne of goal support, so it will be on him to try and bring Carolina out of the Eastern Conference basement.

4. Jonas Hiller – Anaheim Ducks

17-19-2, GAA 2.82, SV% .905

Jonas Hiller was a wild card coming into this year after missing the last third of the the 2010-11 season with vertigo. Through the first three months of the season he had a save percentage under .900, and only won five games in 23 starts in November and December.

Hiller is another goalie that turned it around when in 2012.

He officially broke out of his slump in January allowing 16 goals in 11 appearances with a save % of .944, which included a streak of five straight wins. He’s been a little shaky in February giving up six goals in a game against the Stars. Nonetheless Hiller appears to be back to playing up to his potential and will need to be lights out if the Ducks have any chance of making a late playoff run. Expect good things on the horizon from Hiller, the best thing to come out of Switzerland since chocolate.

5. Ilya Bryzgalov – Philadelphia Flyers 

Photo Courtesy of Michael Miller

19-11-6, GAA 2.78, SV% .900

Ilya Bryzgalov was one of the biggest free agents of last year’s pool, which culminated in a nine-year contract for a whopping $51 million dollars. The signing was supposed to fill the team’s biggest hole from over the past few years: goaltending.

Out of the gate Bryzgalov did very little to earn his keep. He won his first three games then lost his next five. He was still winning games but that was largely in part to Philly’s ability to score goals. The Flyers rank second in the league in goals per game.

He has been consistently inconsistent and relinquished some starts to backup and fellow Russian Sergei Bobrovsky. He hasn’t been winning as much recently but it appears that he’s stopped the bleeding when it comes to letting in weak goals. He now has two shutouts this season after last night’s blanking of the Islanders despite losing on a shootout.

Bryzgalov should be a good source of wins as he will carry the load for the Flyers down the stretch as they compete with the Rangers for first in the Atlantic division. For a player that’s had 15 shutouts in the past two seasons, expect at least a couple more before season’s end.

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