Welcome to the Olympic Break
Saturday night, with the latest games starting at 6pm MT, closed out the pre-Olympics portion of the schedule, which made way for an early audit and early edition of the weekly Newsletter, which we have here.
There will be some Olympic hockey coverage here on the blog, as I'm preparing the Selection Sheet pool for the tournament. If you want to join, as there will be a reasonable number of people participating at $10 a head, just let me know. Send me an e-mail or a text message and I'll try to hook you up with a sheet. I would like to have all my entries in on Monday/Tuesday, so you've got to be quick. Play starts on the 12th, so hence the rush.
Tight at the Top at the Break
Everything tightened up at the top of the standings, as 3 points separate 1st to 4th, 5 points for 1st to 6th, 17 points for 1st to 10th. This is still anybody's pool to win and the teams that are in the top 10 can finish just about anywhere in the money/prizes.
Thanks to some favourable scoring changes in the weekly audit, Allan retains the lead through the week, going into the break with a 1-point lead over Chris, who finishes back-to-back weeks in 2nd place. Derek Wilton fell out of the money, which gave Stacey C. an open door to take 3rd place at the break, followed by Scott, who finishes with back-to-back weeks in 4th place.
Stacey M., Wilton, Mike, Clayton, Dale C. and Brenda round out the top 10 and the two Saskiw's, Cindy and Grant, round out the top half of the standings, as they're still in it, with only seven weeks left to play in the NHL regular season.
Scoring Suggests the Break Started Early
It was somewhat of an uncanny week, as teams and players were somewhat unpredictable on the scoresheet, while some Sochi-bound players found themselves with new injuries and others were already looking forward to what they were going to do during their time off.
The NHL schedule saw 45 games played and there was only 471 points taken from these games, which made for a season-low average of 10.5 points per game scored. The number of games played and minutes played were pretty good this past week, but no one showed up where it counted for us, in the points column.
When Play Resumes...
The NHL schedule resumes on Tuesday, February 25th, as the league will make up a game lost to the Polar Vortex earlier this season, as the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes will lead the way out of the break. Yes, it will be a short week, but with some rested bodies, hopefully it will be a crazy-good week.
In total, there are 350 games left on the NHL schedule, with Boston, Buffalo and St. Louis leading the way with 25 games left to play, while there is seven teams with only 22 games left to play.
Assuming everyone is healthy and/or a part of their NHL teams when play resumes, Tony leads leads the pool in the number of games to be played with 334, followed by Dale C. and Wyllie with 333. On the opposite end of the scale, Brenda has 316 games left to be played, followed by John with 320. Minor-league players and long-term injuries aside, there is going to be lots of hockey left, lots of opportunity for fun times.
Seeing as though it was a pretty quiet in the scoring department, I was getting worried that we wouldn't have an excellent point total for our Player of the Week and that I would be tie-breaking a bunch of players with 5 points each, but thankfully, that wasn't the case in the end. No, Canadian Olympian and Montreal Canadiens starter Carey Price came up with a big week before taking off for Russia, which should have his confidence at an all-time high.
Price went 3-0-0 with a shutout in the week, finishing with 8 points and sole possession of top spot in the Week Nineteen scoring race.
The 26-year old netminder started the week off right, with a 27-save shutout over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, followed up with a 42-save win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday and finished with a 31-save effort in Carolina against the Hurricanes. He was kept relatively busy all week and it will be interesting to see what game he starts and where he finishes in Sochi.
The 8 points in the week brings his season total up to 62 through Week Nineteen, which is good enough for 9th in the overall pool scoring race, 16 points back of Sidney Crosby, who leads the way this season. The 62 points is good for tops on Stacey M.'s team, accounting for 13.5% of her team's total points this season.
Stacey will need a big finish from Price, as her team sits in 5th place, thanks in large part to Price's season. Her prize hopes fall heavily on Price's shoulders.
This week wouldn't necessarily qualify as a full week, since there were no games on Sunday, but there were 45 NHL games played, which isn't the worst by any stretch. Nevertheless, scoring was down and the two teams that finished atop of the weekly scoring, finished with only 28 points and it is to the tie-breaker we go.
With 28 points and 9 goals (winning 9-5 in the tie-break), Stuart comes in with a nod in the positive paragraph of the Newsletter. Despite being in 21st place in the standings, this is his first mention in the Newsletter, which is surprising, as he doesn't have any Basement Dweller mentions. Stuart also takes the mention for the lowest standing with a Mover & Shaker nod this season, a dubious mention, to say the least.
Stuart can thank Jason Spezza of the Senators, who finished with 6 points in the week to lead the way for his club. Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins and Tyson Barrie of the Avalanche each finished with 4 points as well, for a mention. 10 of the 14 players on his team were able to pick up points in the week, but there was nothing from his goaltenders, Kevin Poulin and Antti Raanta.
The big week in the scoring column didn't really help his standing, as he continued to be in 21st place, his peak position for the entire season, where he has been for the last four weeks and seven weeks through the whole season. Stuart's team is tied for 20th in points, but lost the tie-break to hit a new peak position, but he is in striking distance of setting a new personal best.
On the plus side, the big week has Stuart in the mix for the third segment standings, finishing the week in 3rd place after three of the ten weeks. Stuart finished with 85 points, only 3 points back of Mike, who is also having a good stretch as well.
It's another fall from the top of the standings, in catastrophic fashion, as Grant, who led the pool for seven weeks, including having the largest lead of the year (18 points), now sits in 12th place, 26 points out of 1st place, thanks to an 11-point week.
Six out of his active 14 players failed to register a point in Week Nineteen, while Jakub Voracek of the Flyers, Dennis Wideman of the Flames and Ben Scrivens of the Oilers finished with 2 points each to lead the way for his team.
Grant's team has been increasingly unlucky with their health, as his team has fallen below the average mark in skater games played for his skaters, while his goaltending, which hasn't been very active all year, continues to suffer in the below-average section of the pool. His team does hover around the middle of the pack for remaining games to be played through the season, but he'll need the combination of being healthy and on fire to get his team back into prize contention.
In the last three weeks, Grant's team does rank at the bottom with 50 points and only 80 points in his last five weeks, also a pool-low. The Olympic Break couldn't come at a better time.
NEWS AND NOTES
With the Olympic Break upon us, there are certain restrictions for players who can and cannot play in the AHL during the NHL hiatus, and two players for the Los Angeles Kings qualify, as forward Tyler Toffoli and goaltender Martin Jones each played enough games in the AHL to be sent down and compete with the Manchester Monarchs. Both players are in the pool, belonging to John and Clayton, respectively, and both should be back up with the big club when play resumes.
Even with the Olympic Break upon us, the Anaheim Ducks and veteran forward Teemu Selanne, stuck to their playing schedule, as the Pacific Division leaders played back-to-back games, which meant the Finnish Olympian sat out the second game, as a healthy scratch. I wouldn't expect anything to change for the 43-year old in the last seven weeks of the season, maybe even taking a couple more games off, thanks to his experience in Sochi.
Another pool defenseman, Dylan Olsen, also qualifies to play for his team's AHL affiliate, as the Florida Panthers blueliner will go join the San Antonio Rampage for a couple of weeks. Despite being a healthy scratch for a couple of games leading up to the break, Olsen should get that call back-up to the big show when the Olympics conclude, which is good news for John, who is fending off some pressure at the bottom of the standings.
Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty had an early start to his Olympic Break, as he barreled into the net behind Anton Khudobin of the Carolina Hurricanes, leaving the game on Saturday with a lower-body injury. On the plus side, Pacioretty, a member of Team USA heading to Sochi, will still be able to go, as the injury was not considered to be too serious. There was no extra details about the injury, but the thumbs up for travel to Russia was all that everyone was looking for.
Another injury to start the break a little early, as Ottawa Senators forward Clarke MacArthur suffered a foot injury against the Bruins in the team's 7-2 schalacking. The injury is not considered to be serious, but a couple weeks out of a skate boot should go a long way to making sure he is 100% for the resumption of the NHL schedule. The Senators will open their schedule on the 27th, home to the Detroit Red Wings.
Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris missed out on the last game before the Olympic Break, due to an upper-body injury he suffered on Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks. Details on the injury were not disclosed, nor the extent of the injury, so it isn't fair to speculate whether or not he'll be ready to return when the NHL schedule resumes, but he was listed as out day-to-day, so I've got to believe there is a good chance that he'll be ready to go.
Link to the Injury/News Page