Monday, March 31, 2008

Early Cut to the Lead

Ryan Whitney0Chris Drury2
Vincent Lecavalier0Dan Girardi0

The most unlikely thing had happened... both Evgeni Malkin (Stuart) and Vincent Lecavalier (Stuart) were held off the score sheet in the same night. This event lost Stuart a couple points on his lead as Chris Drury (Clayton) scored the overtime winner and added assist in their 2-1 win. So, now with 6 days left to go in the season, the lead is down to 14 points.

Miroslav SatanPatrik Elias
Tom PotiAlexander Ovechkin
Cristobel HuetEric Staal
Cam WardFrank Kaberle
Ryan SuterMarek Zidlicky
Jochen HechtErik Johnson
Derek RoyJason Blake
Daniel Alfredsson
Alexei Kovalev
Jose Theodore

It doesn't look like Tuesday is going to be much easier for Stuart to hang on. Clayton has a couple extra games going on, while Stuart has his goaltenders face each other in a Southeast battle. It's going to be a big night in the pool and in the playoff race.

Week Twenty-Seven Newsletter

It's a late edition of the newsletter this week, the Sherpa's real job has kept him from writing the bulk of the weekly message out on Monday.

So, we're entering the final week of the regular season and if you've been watching the blog over the last week, you've probably seen how the lead in the Draft has been broken down. Hell, you've also seen how the race for third place is breaking down. That's all well and good, so it'll also be the headline as well this week. Although, I'm sure only the people who are in that bracket of four teams are really interested. But it's all part of the pool, so that's what will be reported on.

Sunday night wasn't very productive for either team in the lead. Stuart came away with a 3-2 point win in the day/evening, which kept his lead in the pool to 16 points. Clayton did take the overall week by six points, but it certainly wasn't quite the week he was looking forward to as his team is really trying to make up those points.

For Week Twenty-Eight, Clayton does have an extra four skater games this week, which isn't likely to make up those points by themselves, but it should possibly help. He'll need some extra help from his goaltending, hoping that the Dallas Stars will rest Marty Turco (Dieter) for Johan Holmqivst (Clayton) for a start or two.

On Monday night, the breakdown of games looks pretty even. Both teams have two players each going tonight, three of whom are going in the first game of the evening. It will be Clayton's Rangers, Chris Drury and Dan Girardi versus Stuart's Penguin, Ryan Whitney. In the 5:30pm game, it will be Vincent Lecavalier (Stuart) and his Lightning taking on the Thrashers.

For third place in the Draft, Chris made up two points in the week on Dale B., to bring the lead down to two points, but Dale has the healthier team and therefore, more games to be played this week. Dale is up 38-30 on man games, but goaltending will also be a question for this week.

Monday night's action only sees one player from this match-up going. Evgeni Malkin (Dale B.) will have another shot at the Rangers in the Big Apple tonight, so Dale could increase his lead by the end of it all.

The poll in the week was all about the Edmonton Oilers and their quest for the playoffs. Their win over Calgary on Saturday night kept their hopes alive with only two games remaining on their schedule. They finished the night tied with Nashville and Vancouver in points, but both of those teams had more games in hand. Vancouver beat Calgary and Nashville lost in overtime in Detroit on Sunday night, which dampened the hopes of the team and their fans. Their destiny isn't in their hands and it doesn't look terribly promising. Nashville has three games against Central Division foes, while the Canucks have all Northwest Division rivals to play, including Edmonton once. The dagger in the heart could come as early as Tuesday night for Edmonton.

This week's poll is a promotion for the Playoff Pool... have you seen the new online selection sheet yet? It's pretty snazzy...

We had a mover in the Draft, in the middle of the pack. Wes took advantage of a slow week of his nearest rivals, pouring on 31 points to move up to 7th place. It's the small victories that stay somewhat sweet in the mouths of those looking to continue enjoying the pool. It was a risk-taking kind of season for Wes, which would have paid off substantially if his gambles came through, unfortunately, Peter Forsberg didn't arrive on the scene until a few weeks ago, because he's turned out a good effort since coming back to the Avalanche... in the games he has played.

Wes' best players in the week were: Peter Forsberg (7 points), Paul Statsny (5), Henrik Zetterberg (5) and Evgeni Nabokov (4). Forsberg has had 9 points in the 7 games he's played for Wes, that sort of pace for 70+ games would have been clutch to get him in the money race.

On the Sheet, there was plenty of movement up and down. The team that moved up the most in the Standings was Trevor B., as he moved up three spots to 12th spot after a 61-point week. This will likely be the highest position that Trevor will hit in the pool, because he sits 31 points out of 11th spot in the standings. Trevor's best players in the week were Joe Thornton (8), Daniel Alfredsson (6), Henrik Zetterberg (5), Milan Hejduk (5), Alexei Kovalev (4) and four others with three points.

Losing that position to Wes in the Draft was our Basement Dweller, John P.. He had a 17-point week thanks to an abundance of late-season injuries. Marc Savard, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Michal Rozsival, Mats Sundin and David Legwand all missed (or continue to miss) games in the week. He did have most of those players return to their respective line-ups, so the two point difference for 7th place isn't out of the question to make up, but it is looking mighty difficult at the moment.

Dropping three spots in the Sheet pool was Jonny, a huge blow to his hopes of a big finish. He only managed 41 points in the week, amidst the strong part of the standings. He now sits 14 points out of 12th, the highest available position to his team. Jonny suffered through the week with nine active zeros on his roster sheet. It was more than enough to drop him into the basement.

This week is by far the hardest week to decide the Player of the Week. Six players finished the week with eight points, so there's a bit of work here to decide who is worthy to be the Week Twenty-Seven honouree. But instead of doing work, I am going to use an arbitrary mode of deciding, the lowest team in the Draft to have a player with eight points will be the tie-breaker. That means our winner is...

Marc-Andre Fleury (Dennis) had himself a week of wins, three of them, in fact. Fleury won all of his games this week, having sat on Monday in the Penguins loss to the Islanders. Fleury came back to the ice with a shutout of the Devils on Tuesday and then posted wins against the Islanders and Rangers around the weekend. A 3-0-0 record, 0.66 GAA, and a .976 save percentage in the week has given him the honour. It's a pretty good week for the young netminder, which should give him the confidence to enter the playoffs on a high note. This may earn him plenty of consideration for joining your Playoff Pool team.

Other News and Notes

The Hurricanes can't seem to shake the injury bug at all this season. Going down the stretch, with their playoff hopes hanging on a thread, they have lost another defenseman, Bret Hedican (Box 22), to a torso injury. It will only keep him out of the line-up on a short-term basis, but it's still an injury that the team doesn't need. Hedican missed Saturday's match-up and there is no word about their next game on Tuesday against their key rival, Washington.

Well, Peter Forsberg (Wes) may have had a great week, but he did miss Sunday's contest against the Wild on Sunday as a rest day for his aching body. There is no indication whether or not he needs more time, but that news should come awfully quickly as the Canucks and Avalanche face off on Tuesday.

The Columbus Blue Jackets had a little bit of an injury hit over the weekend. Ron Hainsey (Jeff) suffered a head injury on Friday night and missed Sunday's game for the Jackets. Jeff has had plenty of injuries in the past couple weeks and since Columbus is pretty much out of the playoff race, there won't be much need to rush him back.

The Stars started sitting Joel Lundqvist (Box 9) again on Sunday. He has been a healthy scratch when the rest of the team is healthy. Lundqvist has had a hard time cracking the Stars line-up, scoring only 12 points in 52 games.

In minor injury news, Kyle Calder (Box 9) has been out of the line-up in the past week with a finger injury. It certainly doesn't sound like much, but Calder has missed all that time, so it's got to be something, right?

With the return of Paul Mara (Box 17) to the Rangers' line-up, that means Marek Malik (Box 22) became the goat again and is back in the press box as a healthy scratch. Malik missed both games over the weekend as a scratch and will likely sit in the final week of the season as well, unless there is an injury suffered.

The Senators haven't quite clinched their playoff spot yet, but it didn't stop them resting Cory Stillman (Dale C.) on Saturday night, who is suffering from a bruised leg. It's a day-to-day sort of injury, but with how close they are to clinching, they have chosen not to push Stillman through the pain and have him sit.

The Flyers are still in the big fight for a playoff spot, so it's all hands on deck for them down the stretch. They came out of Saturday night in seventh spot with a win over the Islanders, but they did it without Vaclav Prospal (Jeff) who sat out with the flu. He should be good to go for their three remaining games.

The Sharks had a little good news/bad news on the weekend. The bad news was that they had lost Craig Rivet (Aaron) to an upper-body injury, but that couldn't be terrible news, as he has been guilty of being a healthy scratch of late. But if Rivet gets a little extra rest before the playoffs, that's a little bit of a silver lining out of the bad news. On the good side, Ryan Clowe (Box 8) finally returned from his knee injury and played on Sunday night.

Even with Rivet out of the line-up, Matt Carle (Box 5) still couldn't make the line-up and sat as a healthy scratch on Sunday. Carle made room for Alexei Semenov (non-pool) against Phoenix.

The Lightning, already out of the playoffs, are having some tryouts on the blueline (it seems), as Shane O'Brien (Box 23) was a healthy scratch on Saturday night. O'Brien, already signed on for 2009, made room for Brad Lukowich (non-pool), who returned from injury, while Matt Smaby (non-pool) and Alexandre Picard (Box 22) continue to audition for next season.

The Canucks have continued to have their question marks on the blueline in their fight for a playoff spot and youth is losing to veteran help. Luc Bourdon (Box 11) continues to be the odd-man out as a healthy scratch.

The Capitals are trying their hardest to make the playoffs, but they are struggling still to find their right defensive pairings. Steve Eminger (Box 22) has found himself on the outside looking in again, despite players like John Erskine (non-pool) having troubles staying in the line-up as well.

The last Hockey Night in Canada of the regular season should be one hell of a pair of tilts. In the early game, the Canadiens will host the Maple Leafs, possibly in a game for the Habs to clinch the Eastern Conference or it will be a question of whether or not it will be Mats Sundin's (John P.) last HNIC as a Maple Leaf. Plenty of questions will surround that match-up.

Then in the late game, the Flames and Canucks will go once more, which will likely have some serious playoff implications around it. The Canucks very well may need that game to sneak into the playoffs. As the schedule goes, both the Predators and Oilers are done before Saturday, so it will be exceptionally interesting.