McKenna Match of the Day: March 17 – Darcy Kuemper vs. Joel Hofer

Former NHL goaltender Mike McKenna gives his Daily face-to-face Start of the goalkeeper match of the day for Friday. March 17, 2023:

Why I love this game:

Despite selling at the NHL trade deadline, Kuemper and the Capitals are still in contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Every game is magnified for Washington. Saint-Louis is in a very different position. The Blues will not make the Stanley Cup playoffs. But with No. 1 keeper Jordan Binnington currently suspended, the timing was perfect for Joel Hofer to get his first start of the 2022-23 season.

To monitor :

Hofer is likely destined to be in St. Louis next season. Armed with a one-way, two-year NHL contract that kicks in next season, he’s had a monster year in the AHL. Hofer has a .920 save percentage and a 22-14-4 record with the Springfield Thunderbirds. He made the 2023 AHL All-Star Game and will likely be considered for post-season awards.

Puck handling is a strength for Hofer. He scored one goal last year while in the AHL, and he’s already had four assists this season. At 6-foot-5, height isn’t an issue. And at 22, Hofer is still learning. But getting a taste of the NHL again before the end of the 2022-23 season will be a great taste for his future in St. Louis.

A 4-3-1 record in Kuemper’s last eight appearances just hasn’t been enough to get Washington over the hump. It wasn’t terrible. But Kuemper also didn’t steal games like he did at the start of the 2022-23 season. In his last 12 appearances, the Capitals goaltender has allowed three or more goals nine times. Again, not bad, but with a beaten team ahead of him, Kuemper carries a heavy burden.

What fantasy owners should do:

Hofer would be a great prospect play, but if you can nab him as a free agent for a game, maybe he can surprise. St. Louis will be happy to play in front of the rookie goaltender. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Kuemper has been frustrating. He has posted five shutouts – but none since Jan. 19. Kuemper has only won 20 of 47 games. I would consider placing it against St. Louis: the Blues are inclined to follow encounter-type games.

Conclusion for Darcy Kuemper:

Adequate goaltenders alone won’t be enough to get the Caps back in the hunt for the Stanley Cup playoffs. He must be almost faultless for the rest of the season.

Conclusion for Joel Hofer:

He’s done everything it takes to prove he’s ready for the NHL.

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