Monday, March 19, 2018

Week Twenty-Four Newsletter

We're off to the record books this morning, as the pool has now seen the first defenseman to hit the Player of the Week nod this season in Alex Pietrangelo of the Blues, who finished with the outright lead in points this week, with 3 goals and 6 assists in four games.

This is only the fourth time in the 11+ seasons (almost 12 full) that we've had a defenseman as the Player of the Week and the last time was back in Week Five of the 2015 season, when Mark Giordano of the Flames finished with 7 points.  The other two defenders to earn this nod, Tomas Kaberle in 2010 and Erik Karlsson in 2012.

Pietrangelo and the Blues played in four games this week, Monday against the Ducks (2 assists), Thursday against the Avalanche (shut out), Saturday against the Rangers (2 goals and 1 assist) and finally, Sunday against the Blackhawks (1 goal and 3 assists).  Certainly, no one saw this coming near the end of the week, since it took him a 4-point effort to go over the top and get the job done.

As for totals this season, Pietrangelo is now the 10th ranked defenseman in pool scoring, now with 15 goals and 50 points in 68 games this season, only 9 points off the pace for top spot, which after a week like this, doesn't seem insurmountable now.

Jeremy picked up the St. Louis captain in the 4th round of the draft this year, taking him with the 89th overall pick and he's been getting a reasonable return, one would say, especially since he was the 17th defenseman taken by that time of the draft.  Very few of the defensemen ahead of him in the draft have been performing quite as well, remarkably.

And then it's back to the record books for the Mover & Shaker nod this week, as Tony hit the season-best total this week, breaking the 50-point barrier with a huge 52-point week!

Tony's week is only third week in pool history, where a team had eclipsed the 50-point mark and the first time since the 2012 season, when there were only 22 teams in the pool, that this feat was accomplished, back when Allan took home the record, 53 points in Week Twenty-Three of that season.  The other 50-point week came in the 2010 season, when there were only 17 teams, which gave Wayne 2nd place money that year.  Very good company to keep!

It was a huge week all around, obviously, for Tony's team, which was led by Nathan MacKinnon of the Avalanche and John Gibson of the Ducks, both having 8 points each this week, the kind of weeks that would usually get you into the conversation for the headline spot on the blog post, if someone didn't get 9 points or better.

Those two were closely followed by Tomas Hertl of the Sharks and Gabriel Landeskog of the Avalanche, as they each had 7 points, while Logan Couture of the Sharks and John Carlson of the Capitals each had 5 points.  Out of those first six players alone, that is already 40 points worth of action in the last seven days.  That is outlandish!

If you can believe it, Tony's team actually had three players, one due to injury, finishing with 0 points in the week.  11 of his 14 players were contributing to this record-setting week this year and it would be crazy to think if those three were able to contribute just 1 point in the week.

What does this mean in the standings?  Well, it means we've now got ourselves a race for 3rd place again and maybe I will save more of that for the Trophy Talk down below.  It's better than repeating myself..

My record book for the Basement Dweller is far from complete, as it hasn't been a top priority over these 12 seasons to collect all the futility records, so we won't go to the book this time around, but I can tell you that this is Wes' second nod in the last three weeks, thanks to the goon squad not exactly putting up the points.  It still wasn't the worst of the Basement Dweller weeks, rather it was a pretty decent week at 16 points, staying away from single digits.  We haven't had a single-digit week since Week Seventeen and that's not a bad streak to have in the overall scope of the pool.

Wes' team remained in 21st place, now for the third week in a row.  Six of his 14 active players finished with 2 points each to lead the way for his side, but four players had no points, only one of them due to injury.

It's been a rough last few years for Wes' team, which appears destined to finish outside of the top 20 for the third season in a row, after picking up his best finish of all-time, a 3rd place money finish in the 2015 season.

Speaking of the money race, Stuart's team continued to pull away in 1st place, as his lead is now 41 points and it should be a good cruise through the final three weeks of the season, towards his second time on the trophy for the pool win.

Dale B. did not have a great week, with only 19 points, nor did Benson at 23 points, which has allowed Tony to creep into the conversation with his record-setting week.  Tony's team, which is red hot at the moment, only sits 9 points out of 3rd place and 23 points out of 2nd place.  2nd place could be tough for his team, but 3rd certainly isn't.  Now we have something to watch and it's exciting!

Also exciting is the plus/minus pool, because we have a new leader!  Brian's team took the overall lead by a point over Dale B., thanks to a +17 week, outpacing his rivals by a fair margin.  Dale's team was only a +8 in the week and the former leader, Steve, only was a +3 in the end.  The volatile nature of this pool means that there is still a lot that can happen in these last three weeks, which makes it really exciting.

Speaking of record-setting weeks... Troy's team set a new season-high in this category, as his team finished with a +30 rating overall!  Tony's team also had a great week, tying his own previous season-high in the pool, at a +26 rating.  Sadly, for both teams, they were both minus teams at the start of the week.

The records just keep falling this week, as Neil's team set a new season-high for penalty minutes in a week, topping Wes and Eric's previous season-high by a minor penalty, finishing with 49 minutes in Week Twenty-Four.  Neil's team now sits in 2nd place for the year, but is still 55 minutes behind Wes' team for the overall lead.  One would think that the lead would be safe, but Neil just made up 36 minutes this week, so you never know!


Of course, you can't have all these records without setting a new weekly-high in combined scoring either.  Yes, the pool finished with a combined 717 points in the week, besting the previous high by 9 points, which only happened a couple weeks prior.  It was a 53-game week, so the averages weren't quite there and neither was the participation, as we were below average for the year in both skater games and goalie minutes, per NHL contest in the week.


One note missed from Saturday night, as San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was forced from the game against the Canucks, after taking a deflected shot, up into the chest area, catching him awkwardly. He left in the 2nd period, not to return. The Sharks don't play again until tomorrow night and if he does indeed miss some time, it is thought that he would be considered day-to-day. If there are any more updates, we'll post them.

Vlasic has had a pretty good season for Clayton's team and his pool team is now holding out a little bit of hope for 3rd place after a pretty good Week Twenty-Four.  Vlasic has 30 points in 71 games this year, so he has been a good contributor, who could be missed.

Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie was hit pretty hard by Vegas' Ryan Reaves in yesterday's game, forcing the mobile defender from the contest with an upper-body injury. We're still awaiting word on the diagnosis after the hit, but it was a crunching one and one wouldn't likely expect a quick return after it. The Flames play again tonight in Arizona, so we'll learn quickly, if Brodie can go or not.

Ryan's 23rd placed team didn't really need any help to stay down in the standings, but this will certainly help its cause that way.  Scott's team is now only 9 points back, so dropping down another spot could certainly happen.

Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop returned to action on Sunday night against the Winnipeg Jets, but his return was short-lived, as he couldn't make it out of the 1st period without re-injuring himself.  It is of the lower-body variety and the Stars coaching staff had said after the game that they will reevaluate their keeper in two weeks time, which could possibly give him a week's worth of action, before the playoffs get underway, if all things go well.

This also leaves Kristy & Don's 9th place team with only one goalie for the bulk of the last three weeks of the regular season, but their buffer to 11th place, trying to keep a top 10 spot, is at 17 points, which could be made up in three weeks, but they should have enough left on their roster to hold on.

Edmonton Oilers tough guy Zack Kassian was held out of the Oilers again, the second time in a few weeks, but this time he wasn't a healthy scratch, rather an undisclosed injury was to blame for his absence against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday afternoon.  It's unclear as to whether or not we'll ever find out what the injury is before the team's next game, Tuesday night in Carolina, but the Oilers are now coasting to the finish, outside of the playoffs, so it might not really matter.

As mentioned in the PIM pool spot above, Wes' lead may not be all that safe, with Neil's team finding some record numbers this past week.  Not having Kassian in the lineup, although he hasn't been the goon that Wes wanted since his activation, might really put that PIM pool title in jeopardy.

The Winnipeg Jets hadn't had the services of Jacob Trouba back in their lineup for very long this week, coming off the IR only days ago, before suffering what is believed to be an upper-body injury in the game against the Stars, after a collision with Jamie Benn.  By all accounts on Twitter, it didn't sound very good and there could be fears that his regular season could be done, especially if they want to save him for the playoffs.

That's not a definite, by any stretch of the imagination, but if Stacey M.'s team wants to make up that 7 points to get into the top 10, I'm sure a guy like Trouba would be better suited for her team's lineup.  Stacey's team starts the new week only 7 points out.

Finally, some quick notable returns on Sunday... Erik Johnson of the Avalanche missed a number of games on the Injured Reserve, returning yesterday afternoon against the Red Wings, which is good news for Grant.  Patrick Maroon of the Devils returned after missing one game with a lower-body injury, playing against the Ducks and for Stacey C.'s team on Sunday.  Finally, Mark Scheifele returned to the Jets lineup after missing a few weeks with an upper-body injury.  Brian's team is also sniffing around the top 10 and could really use the help of one of his top forwards.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Goalie Announcements (Mar 18)

It isn't quite the early start that we've seen this weekend, but we still have some early afternoon action in the NHL on Sunday, as the games will get started at 1pm MT. Eight games in total today/tonight, so we'll hop on the finish to the week in Mover & Shaker land.

Tony's team absolutely took off on Saturday and jumped into the lead, now sitting with 41 points on the week.  Troy's team, which was holding steady atop the weekly scoring, has now dropped down to 2nd, already 5 points back, while Eric's team is 7 points back, Clayton's is 8 points back and Derek B., 10 points back.  That's your top five right there, separated by a whopping 10 points.

Will there be enough help from the crease to make this race close before the Newsletter tomorrow morning?

Cory Schneider (Jeremy) versus John Gibson (Tony)
It looks like Tony gets one start tonight, out of his five projected skater games and it comes in the late game, as it is expected that we'll see John Gibson in net, taking on the traveling caravan, that is the New Jersey Devils tonight.  The Devils were in Los Angeles yesterday and they'll go to their other keeper, in all likelihood, Cory Schneider, after Keith Kinkaid got the nod yesterday.  There's no guarantee on either, but with the Ducks on the outside looking in and the Devils hanging on to a wild card spot, this seems likely.

Troy's team will have to rely on four skater games, as neither of his goalies will be going today.  Eric appears to be in the same boat, six projected skater games, none of which are in the crease.

Scott Darling (Clayton) versus Jaroslav Halak (Benson)
The starts for Scott Darling and Carolina haven't been the source of points that Clayton was hoping for this year, but he gets the call this afternoon against the Islanders, who are in a state of flux, now that they are also outside of playoff range, at the start of play today.  There is no actual indication of which goalie they will go with, the veteran Jaroslav Halak, to be competitive today, or look to give Christopher Gibson another start, hoping he can show the coaching staff that he's ready for a full-time job next season.  Your guess is as good as mine here and the result of this game is wide open for predictions.

Ville Husso (N/A) versus Anton Forsberg (Derek B.)
It was J-F Berube in net for the Blackhawks last night in Buffalo, so it should be Anton Forsberg today at home to St. Louis, giving Derek B. a start.  The Blackhawks have been pretty poor of late, but an injured Blues team on back-to-back nights might not be as one-sided as the standings may make it look.  I don't think the Blues will be too anxious to play Jake Allen on back-to-back nights, so I would imagine that Ville Husso will get another start tonight.

There's your starts for the top five, in theory... let the games begin!

Morning Player Notes in the Draft (Mar 18)

The Buffalo Sabres could very well be in wind down mode, heading towards the last three weeks of the season. It's been quite some time since they were in the playoff race in the East and now it's time to see some more talent through the roster and Robin Lehner made way for Linus Ullmark to dress (albeit not start) today, as Lehner was a healthy scratch for the afternoon game between the Sabres and Blackhawks.  There is a mighty fine chance that Lehner's time in the crease could be limited down the stretch, especially with Ullmark now up and ready to show the organization what he can do.

Of course, this is bad news for Kristy & Don, who have some pride left to play for.  Their team currently sits in 9th place, 39 points out of the money, 24 points out of 4th and 6 points out of 6th.  They'll need some strong weeks down the stretch for 4th place, as 3rd is now likely well out of reach.

Scary moment for Boston Bruins forward David Backes, who suffered a laceration from a skate blade in the game against the Lightning on Saturday night. The early indications is that quite a few stitches were needed to close up the wound, but it doesn't sound like anything too serious at the moment. This is just piling on for the veteran forward, who hasn't had a decent stretch of play all year long, without dealing with some kind of unfortunate injury.   He has only appeared in 50 games this season, scoring 12 goals and 28 points.

Remarkably, Neil picked up Backes in the last round of the draft, 343rd overall, and has picked up reasonable production from his last pick.  He has been a bargain pick this year, one of the few for Neil's 19th placed team.

St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko also left his game against the New York Rangers on Saturday night, leaving with an upper-body injury.  From what I could gather in the Twitter-sphere, Tarasenko did seem to be okay leaving the building after the game and he was likely to be with the team on their flight to Chicago, where they play on Sunday.  No word on whether or not he'll be in the lineup or not, but with the Blues 3 points out of a playoff spot, the push could be on to get him back in.

Getting him back in the lineup would be ideal for Dale C.'s team, which hasn't had a bad week this week, with 26 points, but a couple of teams around his have had better weeks and his team has fallen down to 13th.  The top 10 now sits 13 points away and if Tarasenko misses some time at all, that could really hamper that rally back into the top 10.

The names keep popping up on the list this morning for injuries last night... Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin was added to the list as well, as he left the game against the Flyers with an upper-body injury, not to return to the contest. There hasn't been much for updates on the young defender, but with the Hurricanes playing again in Brooklyn today, there will likely be some kind of mention somewhere. If it is anything more than a day-to-day issue, it will likely get the mention on the Newsletter tomorrow morning.

Derek B.'s team has made it north of the equator last night, as his pretty good week continued on, despite the Hanifin injury.  Derek's team hit 31 points this week and moved up into 12th place and his team still has a good presence of players on Sunday yet.  I'm not sure he's going to make Mover & Shaker, but it's still a great week.

It's a little late to be adding new elements to the blog posts, but it occurred to me that there wasn't a lot of coverage of players returning to action this season and that might get a fix for next season here with this little add. St. Patrick's Day did see the return of a few players from injury, Antti Raanta of the Coyotes got his first start in a few weeks, returning from a lower-body injury, Jack Eichel of the Sabres finally returned from his high ankle sprain and Chris Tanev of the Canucks also came off the IR for Saturday night's game.  Good news for Ryan, Wes and Scott, respectively.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Goalie Announcements (Mar 17)

Sonofabitch! I'm in a rush to get this post done and I lost a good chunk of writing, 45 minutes before I wanted to get this post done. Okay, now I have to work faster.

So, we're going to look at the top five teams vying for the Mover & Shaker this week, which has the difference of 7 points from top to bottom, which is still a pretty close race.  The NHL schedule gets started nice and early, so we'll be playing a pretty good guessing game, although, a number of teams have already confirmed this morning.

Troy's team continues to lead the weekly scoring race, going into the weekend at 34 points, while Tony sits at 31 points, Eric's team has 29 points, followed by Stacey M.'s squad at 28 and Clayton's at 27 points.

Cam Talbot (Wes) versus Roberto Luongo (Stuart)
Well, if Troy's team is going to defend its lead in the Mover & Shaker race today, it will have to do so without representation in the crease, as his only possible start is being taken by Stuart's goalie.  Roberto Luongo is getting the nod over James Reimer today, when the Panthers take on the Oilers in one of the afternoon games.  There is a race worth mentioning here, as Wes currently holds down the Basement Dweller spot after Friday night's action and he gets a Cam Talbot start, as his team is 1 point back of Wilton for 24th in the week.

Mike Condon (N/A) versus Sergei Bobrovsky (Derek B.)
Well, Tony's team really clawed back some points in the Mover & Shaker race last night, partly because both of his goalies played last night, both earning wins.  So, in saying that Ottawa isn't likely to play Craig Anderson today.  Derek B.'s team wasn't going to feature in this post, but with this game being what it is, his team is 8 points back of the Mover & Shaker and he should get a start, since the Jackets are in a playoff crunch, trying to stave away all comers, so Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to go again tonight.

Tuukka Rask (Clayton) versus Andrei Vasilevskiy (Wilton)
Eric's team, 3rd in the weekly standings, also doesn't have a goalie playing today, but this game falls into the lap of Clayton's team, which is supposed to be featured, so that's a happy coincidence.  The Bruins are trying to catch the Lightning in the Atlantic Division standings, so this game has some significant meaning in the playoff race, which means both teams will be going with their number ones, Tuukka Rask against Andrei Vasilevskiy.  Wilton could really use the points to stay out of the Basement Dweller and he'll be relying on the best player in the pool to do so today.

Alex Lyon (N/A) versus Cam Ward (Stacey M.)
The last game worth featuring in today's post sees a start from Stacey M.'s goalie in Carolina, Cam Ward.  The Hurricanes open up back-to-back days with a game hosting the Flyers, which means Clayton's other goalie, the other Carolina goalie, will go tomorrow.  Ward and the Hurricannes get the Flyers' number four goalie today, as the Flyers are opting to give Petr Mrazek the tougher game of their back-to-back set, tomorrow against Washington.  This game certainly won't be easy for Ward and the Hurricanes, but it might still be a good shot for Stacey's team to pick up 2 points.

Happy St. Patrick's Day all... time for a Guinness, right?

Morning Player Notes in the Draft (Mar 17)

The Edmonton Oilers are not expected to have Kris Russell in their lineup today, when they visit the Florida Panthers in an afternoon game. Russell blocked a shot in the team's last game, Wednesday night's loss to the Sharks, suffering the injury. Russell didn't practice on Friday and the coach confirmed that he was very doubtful to play tonight. The veteran defender has played in 68 games this season, picking up 4 goals and 21 points, ranking 76th among all defensemen in pool scoring.

Is 'the race for the equator' something?  I think Derek B. wanted to make it something, as his goal for his team is to finish in 13th and that's where his team is right now, after Friday night's action.  4 points back of 12th and 3 points up on 14th, his team has a tiny little bubble in the middle and that must make him so happy.

Joonas Donskoi of the San Jose Sharks was an afternoon scratch on Friday, ahead of their game in Calgary, as he too was hurt on Wednesday night in the game against the Oilers.  Donskoi suffered an upper-body injury and wasn't able to dress for last night's game.  He's currently believed to be day-to-day, but that can certainly change as we move forward, since we haven't heard much in the way of an official word yet from the team.

For Eric's team, Donskoi has just been mediocre, since joining in the Week Nine player swap, only picking up 18 points in 39 games since his activation.  That is tied for 20th in scoring among players taken in that swap, which I suppose isn't too bad for the 27th player taken.

Finally, the Washington Capitals are likely holding their breath a little bit, as they await word on news regarding the arm injury that Evgeny Kuznetsov suffered on Friday night, in the team's 6-3 win over the Islanders.  Kuznetsov was slashed while on a partial break, favouring his arm as he went down and left the ice, but there has still been no update on his condition.  With the playoffs just around the corner, the Capitals could ill-afford to lose such a key piece.

Jeremy's season as been marred by injuries, so what's one more before the end of the year.  For the team that sat in 1st place through Week Seven, the toll that injuries have taken on his team has seen it drop down to 20th place.