Friday, March 24, 2017

Goalie Announcements (Mar 24)

It's a quiet Friday night in the NHL, as there are only four games in the league and there isn't a great deal of pressing matters on the night.  By the early afternoon count, there was only one confirmed money game for the hockey pool, with the possibility of a second game on tap.

Let's not get too excited about tonight.  Go out and enjoy yourselves, have a beer and we'll talk again in the morning tomorrow.

Jaroslav Halak (Troy) versus Marc-Andre Fleury (Cam)
The return of Jaroslav Halak headlines the early game on the schedule tonight, as the Islanders struggle to even stay in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.  They open the night 2 points back of Boston, with a couple of games in hand, but they get Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins tonight, no easy task.

In the pool, this is a battle of two teams battling for the Basement Dweller, as Troy leads with 6 points, while Cam follows closely with 7 points.  Winner gets much closer to being safe.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (Ryan) versus Petr Mrazek (Stacey C.)
We are being left to assume it will be a money game in Detroit tonight, as it hasn't been confirmed that Vasilevskiy will play for the visiting Lightning, but if he does, Ryan will have a shot at trying to close down the 5-point gap to Brenda & Seward in 3rd place.

Stacey C.'s team is currently riding a good hot streak, tied for the Mover & Shaker lead this week, but his 7th place team is still 15 points behind Ryan's and needs this hot streak to ride through the last couple weeks of the season to even have a chance at the money.

Aaron Dell (N/A) versus Antti Niemi (Wilton)
We know that the Sharks will be starting their back-up, Aaron Dell, tonight, signalling no pool points from that side of the ice tonight, but neither of the Stars goalies have teams in the top 20, so this game becomes quite the wash, whoever they decide to go with.  At the time of the post being written, it was assumed that Niemi would get the call tonight.

Michael Hutchinson (Grant) versus Jonathan Bernier (Eric)
There is one money game already confirmed and that is the late game tonight, as Eric's 5th place team, 4 points out of 3rd, will get a start from Bernier and the Ducks again, while the Jets, who played on Thursday night, will likely (although not confirmed) go with Hutchinson.  Bernier should continue to get the net, as it sounds like the Ducks are going to be very cautious with John Gibson, ahead of the playoffs.

Race to the Sin Bin (Mar 24)

I am somewhat glad that I didn't get to publish a sin bin post yesterday, thanks to those time constraints, because there really wasn't much that came out of those games last night. It was a busy schedule, but no one wanted to dance... well, not anyone in the pool, at least.

Marcie's lead is still 81 minutes, but Eric took over 2nd place, as his team was able to pick up some time in the box on Thursday night, but Troy's team is only 2 minutes behind Eric's and both teams have lost ground this week.

Right now, this is a 3-horse race and the lead horse is way out in front.  Can Friday night's action possibly reel in the leader at all?

The fight card in tonight's late game is easily the most interesting.  Troy has three of his four skaters going in this one, including Chris Thorburn, Jared Boll and Josh Manson, while Eric will have the biggest goon of the night going in Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien.  This game might need a little bit of feeling and hopefully, one of these four, if not all of them, find a little passion to give this PIM pool race some intrigue.

The only other game, of the four, with any interest in the PIM pool is the San Jose/Dallas game, but that interest is minor, if at all.  Eric will rock Jamie Benn, while Marcie has Brent Burns, both not strangers to the box at all, but neither are relied upon for their pugilism.  Although, if those two were to go toe-to-toe, who would you put your money on?

Morning Player Notes in the Draft (Mar 24)

On Thursday night, Minnesota Wild forward Ryan White missed his second straight game with a bout of the flu, something that continues to run rampant through the league, causing absences of longer than one game.  The Wild play again on Saturday afternoon against the Canucks and White's return is still questionable today.

White has been a Waiver Draft disappointment for Kristy & Don, who employed him to keep them in the PIM pool discussion, but with only 7 minutes in penalties in 20 games, that hasn't quite happened for them.  Now they are 93 minutes behind 1st place and continuing to lose ground.

The Philadelphia Flyers, in the middle of the season, were rotating their defensemen through on a regular basis and now that they have returned to a bit of normalcy with their health, they may have started that up again, with their playoff lives in the balance.  On Thursday night in Minnesota, Michael Del Zotto was held out of the lineup as a healthy scratch and with the win, that might mean that he could sit again on the weekend.  The Flyers play both Saturday and Sunday afternoon this weekend, so I would imagine he will draw into at least one of those games.

For Wes' pool team, the hot streak may have cooled down for his side, as his team stormed up from 25th at the end of Week Nine, all the way up to 14th at the end of Week Twenty, but now sits in 17th place and slowing down.  It was a pretty good push, regardless.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Boom Lowered on Ristolainen

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen found himself in some pretty hot water with the Department of Player Safety after he laid waste to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel on Tuesday night.  The DoPS decided to hand the big Finnish defender a 3-game suspension, as per the video below, for the nature of the hit and the injury that had resulted in it, as Guentzel has suffered a concussion and has no timetable for a return, currently.

The 22-year old has flourished this season, despite being on a non-playoff bound team in Buffalo, picking up 5 goals and 44 points in 74 games this season, which had him ranked 12th overall among defensemen scoring, before action had started on Thursday night.

The suspension will start to be served on Saturday, go through Monday and Tuesday's games and he will be eligible to return on next Sunday, when the Islanders visit Buffalo.

For Benson, this is a pretty tough break, but his team has already had too many of those and at worst right now, he could drop from 13th to 14th, before this suspension is up.  His team started the night 50 points out of the money and didn't have a hope in any of the mini-games this year.

Goalie Announcements (Mar 23)

12 games on the NHL schedule tonight, but we'll go over the key starts to the money race and I think we'll add in a couple of starts, just to include some of the alternate logos that we'll see tonight on some teams.

Mike Smith (Marcie) versus James Reimer (Eric)
It's a money game match-up in Sunrise tonight, as the Coyotes visit the Panthers.  Marcie's team moved into 3rd place on Wednesday night and her team holds an 8-point advantage over Eric's team, which sits in 6th, the last of the money racers.  This is the headline game in the hockey pool tonight, as Eric tries to keep pace with a home team win tonight.

Cam Talbot (Marcie) versus Jeremy Smith (N/A)
Marcie's team find itself with a second start, as Cam Talbot will start on back-to-back nights, thanks to an early yank on Wednesday night in Anaheim.  The Oilers number one will have the right opponent tonight to try and regain his confidence, while the lowly Avalanche will send their green back-up out to the wolves tonight.

Ryan Miller (Brenda & Seward) versus Jake Allen (Mike)
It's expected that the Canucks will give Brenda & Seward their first start of the night, as they visit the Blues.  They should be sending Ryan Miller out to continue playing out the schedule on this road trip, while the Blues are trying to hold onto their playoff spot in the Central with Jake Allen in net tonight.

Steve Mason (Brenda & Seward) versus Devan Dubnyk (John S.)
The duo were bumped from the money last night and only sit 1 point back and they get a second start as well, but this one is fairly difficult on the scale.  Mason and the listless Flyers are into Minnesota to take on Dubnyk and the revitalized Wild, which should favour the home team, in theory.

Sergei Bobrovsky (Mike) versus Braden Holtby (Jeremy)
The Capitals will be wearing their retro jerseys tonight with the Blue Jackets in town, which also pits the top two players in the hockey pool, Bobrovsky against Holtby.  Both players are at 90 points this season, Bobrovsky taking the title of top spot with a couple more wins, but it's a pretty big game.  It's too bad it has no bearing on the money race.

Matt Murray (Scott) versus Mike Condon (Stacey C.)
The Senators will be donning their heritage jerseys tonight, while trying to solidify their playoff position with the already-clinched Penguins in town tonight.  The two pool teams are only separated by 6 points, with Scott trailing Stacey's team, but neither are within striking distance of 3rd place heading into tonight.  This could start a miracle run for one of these teams, but it is rather unlikely.

Noon Player Notes in the Draft (Mar 23)

The New York Islanders announced on Thursday morning that they have recalled goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the AHL, possibly preparing him for the team's next game, Friday night in Pittsburgh.  Halak has been in the minors since the end of December and has been lighting it up down there, making the most of the starts he was getting.  The Islanders are hoping that his confidence will translate with the big club down the stretch.

This is actually a pretty big blow to Dale B.'s chances at 1st place, if Halak begins to start games for the club, as his goalie, Thomas Greiss would be demoted to back-up, which doesn't help.  Halak still belongs to Troy, as there was no use wasting a Waiver Draft move to replace him on a goon team.  There is obviously some hope that he will hack and slash his way into the playoffs.

Speaking of goalies for New York teams, the Rangers sent Magnus Hellberg back down to the AHL, giving the sign that the return of Henrik Lundqvist is imminent.  The Rangers coaching staff have pointed out that they expect the 35-year old number one to start two of three games on their road trip out West, starting this weekend.

It is too little, too late for Grant's team, which will enjoy the idea that Lundqvist is coming back, just for shits and giggles.  It helps his team's projected games total, which lifts up to 32 games for the finish of the week, only two games back of the leaders in the column.

Ahead of the match-up against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night, the Montreal Canadiens are going to adjust their lineup a bit, including the expected healthy scratch of defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, as Brandon Davidson, an acquisition from the Oilers this year, will slot in for him.

Cam's team is only 1 point clear of the Basement Dweller spot in the weekly standings and he doesn't need another body up in the press box.  Not much hope left in this season for Cam's team anyways.

The Florida Panthers will again be without defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the Arizona Coyotes in town on Thursday night.  Ekblad was fresh off a concussion, when he suffered a neck injury this week and he's now day-to-day again.  There's no timetable available for his return, but the Panthers could really use him, if they are going to make any progress for a playoff spot.

Wilton only has the PIM pool left to play for and Ekblad has been a key contributor, with 58 minutes in penalties this season.  Wilton's team is 115 PIM behind Marcie's team today, but I don't think Ekblad was going to close that gap.

Morning Player Notes in the Draft (Mar 23)

The Columbus Blue Jackets have clinched their playoff spot already and are now trying to test some new lineup configurations as we head towards the Spring Dance. On Wednesday night, the Jackets scratched forward Scott Hartnell, thanks to a plethora of poor performances and a lack of offensive production.  Hartnell hasn't scored a goal since January 21st and the coaching staff is now looking to other options, including the returning Alexander Wennberg, who came back from missing a game with a stiff neck.

Hartnell's lack of production is one of the leading causes of Cam's collapse in the pool standings, as his team now sits in 10th place, 10 points back of 9th and it has significant risk of falling further down with teams right on his heels.

The New York Islanders appear to have opted for a rest night for veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, as the 35-year old was up in the press box as a healthy scratch on Wednesday night.  The German has 5 goals and 20 points in 64 games for the Islanders this season and has been fairly solid all season, deserving of the rest, as the Islanders improved their chances of making the playoffs with a win against the Rangers last night.

For Tony, Seidenberg was a Waiver Draft pick-up that really didn't pay off as well as he would have preferred, but certainly better than the player that he had dropped.

It appears that the Rangers are still rotating their lineup on a nightly basis, especially in the bottom six forwards, as Pavel Buchnevich was a healthy scratch again for the blueshirts, with the Islanders in town.  The Rangers are trying to find their optimal lineup, as they head towards the playoffs.

Tony has only seen 15 games from the young Russian this season, where he has posted 2 goals and 6 points in that time, including a point this week already, before getting scratched.  Unfortunately, Tony's team is in the firing line for the Basement Dweller nod, having only 4 points through three nights.

The St. Louis Blues were dealt a big blow to their lineup, as they lost the services for Paul Stastny on Tuesday night and on Wednesday, the team announced that he will be out week-to-week with a lower-body injury. With about two and a half weeks left in the regular season and is 8 points clear for their playoff spot, they might be able to coast a bit towards the postseason.  If anything, this injury should get Stastny rested for the playoffs, for wherever they possibly finish in the West standings.

Stastny was among the better picks in the 8th round of the draft, taken by Grant's team, as he has 40 points in 66 games this season, but he has been one of the few bright spots on his team, which still sits 19th in the standings today.