Thursday, March 29, 2007

Second to Last Thursday of the Season

Wednesday night wasn't overly eventful... no team clinched a spot last night, but there was only four games. Tonight, we have 8 games and only one of them has any bearing on the Eastern Conference race.

Ninth place Toronto has made the trip down to Atlanta to take on the Southeast Division leading Thrashers. A win for the Leafs will mean a 3-way tie for 7th, but the Leafs lose the tie-breaker because of less wins and will remain in 9th place. A loss for the Leafs will move them down to 11th, behind the Islanders and Hurricanes because of the tie-breakers. Atlanta wants to extend their lead over the Lightning to five points and move a little closer to finally clinching their playoff spot. As of right now, the maximum amount of points 7th through 10th can get is 96 and the Thrashers are sitting at 89 going into this game. 4 wins out of their last 5 games would guarantee the division win.

Detroit needs a win in regulation to take top spot in the conference and a tie for top spot in the league. Nashville, on the other hand, needs a point for the outright lead (but both Detroit and Buffalo have games in hand) in the standings. Detroit has been having a bit of a tough time in their last 5 games, going 1-2-2. This is the best time to turn it all around... especially since Nashville is only 2-4-1 this season against the Red Wings, with one of those losses coming at home in the Nashville Arena.

With Calgary's magic number down to three, they'll want to make quick work of this hurdle into the playoffs and they'll need another performance against the Wild like they had on Tuesday. The Wild despite their shootout loss is still 9-0-1 in their last 10 and still didn't play too badly against the Flames on Tuesday. Miikka Kiprusoff (Box 6) will have to stand on top of his head again as the Wild won't let two slide too easily. A win for the Wild would give them first in the division until the result in Los Angeles is resolved, but the Canucks will still have a game in hand.

The Avalanche will try and keep their playoff hopes alive in the desert. With destiny out of their own hands, they will just have to keep winning to hope that their games against Calgary mean something down the stretch. Phoenix is a great place to start winning again, as the Coyotes are 2-6-2 in their last 10... a team who's been out of the playoffs for some time now. The Avalanche are 2-0-1 against the Coyotes this year and their last meeting was a 6-3 win for the Avs at the Glendale Arena.

The Canucks can continue their reign over the Northwest with a good result in LA tonight. This late game will feature the NHL debut of defenseman, Jack Johnson. A name to remember for future pools. This is the third meeting between these two teams and the Canucks hold a 1-0-1 record against the Kings this year, winning at the Staples Center on their only other previous visit. Depending on the result of the Wild/Flames game, the Canucks can re-take the lead or open a bigger lead with a win. You know I'm hoping for the latter!

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wednesday's Playoff Implications

With a little time today, I'm gonna quickly blow through tonight's games... just in case you were wondering.

The Sabres will host the Devils in Buffalo tonight in a big 4-point game for the Conference title in the regular season. The Sabres have a magic number of 4 for the title and this is a game that could bring it down to 2 if it's done in regulation. On the other side of the table, Martin Brodeur (Box 18) will try to move one win closer to Bernie Parent's record of 47... a win will put Brodeur at 45 for the year.

The Carolina Hurricanes are in Philadelphia tonight to try and pull two points out of the City of Brotherly Love. The Hurricanes are currently two points back of Montreal for 8th with this game in hand. Even if the Hurricanes win, they will still be in 9th, as the Habs have more wins than the Hurricanes. The host Flyers will hope that their new goaltender, Martin Biron (Box 24), will start re-paying the new deal he received over the weekend.

Still mathematically in the race, the Panthers are this year's snowball's chance in hell of making it and they're hosting the current Southeast Division leader, Atlanta tonight. Atlanta, currently in the 3rd seed, will try to increase their lead over Tampa Bay to 4 points, as they even up the number of games played.

The Ducks are trying to outpace the Stars tonight with a win in Chicago. The Pacific-leading Ducks will even up the number of games with their division rival and hope for a 4-point lead. With 2 points tonight, the Ducks will move a little closer to the leading Central Division teams, Nashville and Detroit, but won't be able to catch them with this game alone.

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Look Who's in the West

Well, with the results last night... back scratching included (see yesterday's entry to know what I mean)... now 7 of the 8 positions in the West have been clinched. Not decided... but clinched.

Nashville holds the number one spot in the West and the Central Division with 105 points in 77 games. Their division rivals, the Red Wings are only 2 points behind with a game in hand, so anything can happen. The Predators and Red Wings will face each other on Thursday in one of the bigger games of the season for both teams. If the Predators were to lose that game, they would still retain first place on a count of the number of games played and wins.

Second in the West currently belongs to the Anaheim Ducks. They are currently five points behind Nashville for first in the West, with a game in hand as well. The Ducks play in Chicago tonight to make up their game in hand and then in Columbus on Thursday. By Friday morning, they could only be one point behind both the Wings and the Predators for top spot in the West. That's to say Detroit beats Nashville on Thursday. Division-wise, they are only 2 points up on Dallas, so a decision about where they'll finish is far from over yet.

Tops in the Northwest Division today is Vancouver. The Canucks hold a slim 1 point advantage on the Minnesota Wild with a game in hand on their rivals. Thursday, the Canucks take on the Kings in Los Angeles and then are back home to the Flames on Saturday. They are currently one point behind the Ducks for 2nd in the West and 6 back of Nashville for 1st. With the win last night against Colorado (in regulation), that set off a chain reaction of most of the Western teams clinching last night.

The Red Wings hold down the 4th spot in the West with 103 points. The Red Wings have their work cut out for them if they're going to take top spot in the West. In Nashville on Thursday, home to Dallas on Friday and then away to Columbus on Sunday to round out the week. Chris Osgood (Box 12) will likely be pinned to play either Nashville or Dallas to rest Dominik Hasek (Box 6), but for all intensive purposes, they are in.

With their win against Phoenix last night, they earned enough points to clinch their spot last night as well. The Stars are sitting in fifth spot at the moment with 98 points, tied with both San Jose and Minnesota, but earn the tie-breaker of least games played... the Stars having one game in hand on both the Sharks and Wild. It's nearly impossible to pick and choose first round opponents at this point, with all the points being so close. The Stars don't have it so easy either... the Red Wings on Friday and the Predators on Saturday. It could go horribly wrong or jubilantly right this week for Dallas.

The Sharks leapt into 6th spot in the West after a win against the Kings last night, which also clinched their spot with 98 points. The Avalanche can only currently get 97 points, maximum, so the Sharks are now in. With Joe Thornton (Box 2) and Jonathon Cheechoo (Box 3, pictured) on a major hot streak at the moment, it would be hard not to think that they could jump a few more places and possibly even get some form of home-ice advantage. The Sharks don't play again until Friday, when they host the Coyotes *cough*win*cough* and then they play host to the Kings on Sunday *cough*win*cough*. With four potential points like that, they could find themselves in the thick of it all and have some serious consideration through the last week of the season.

Craving their first division title ever, the Minnesota Wild have a little bit of work ahead of them, but at least they're definitely in the playoffs. The shootout loss to Calgary was enough to get themselves the 98-point cushion to secure their spot last night, so now it's time to pounce on the Canucks. On Thursday, they'll finish their two-game home series with the Flames and then will be off to Denver on Saturday to try and help the Flames clinch their spot when they play the Avalanche. It's the ol' "Hinder & Help" routine... gotta love it.

On the outside looking in:
Thursday @ MINThursday @ PHO
Saturday @ VANSaturday vs. MIN
Apr. 3rd in Calgary
Apr.5th @ SANApr. 5th @ VAN
Apr. 7 vs. EDMApr. 7th vs. NAS
Apr. 8th in Colorado

Right now, the Flames magic number to clinch their playoff spot is 3. Any combination of 3 Calgary wins or Colorado losses and the Flames are in the playoffs. So, in essence, the Flames could be in the playoffs by Saturday. If so, then the two meetings next week, will all be for not.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Tuesday Update

Well, between work & beer, it's been a little tough to keep writing updates for the pool during the week, but I've found some sober time here on Tuesday to put a little bit through.

This evening, there's 12 games on the schedule and there is some news as I go along... so let me begin in the East.

The ninth place Islanders will play host to the Devils tonight on Long Island and it's not going to be anything close to a cakewalk for the Isles tonight. They lost their number one goalie, Rick DiPietro (Box 18) to post-concussion syndromes, stemming from the collision with the Canadiens' Steve Begin a while back. The Islanders, in the midst of the playoff hunt, will dearly miss their number one. The Devils lead the season series against the Islanders 5-1-0 and will need another win to keep on top of the Penguins, who are tied for the division lead (and 2nd in the Conference) in points. With a win tonight, the Devils can clinch their playoff birth in the East.

Also tied for the 8th spot, but with one more game played already, the Canadiens fight for their playoff lives against the 6th spot, New York Rangers, at the Bell Centre. This is the third meeting of the season between these two teams, the Rangers winning both previous match-ups, one in each building. A win for Montreal tonight will guarantee them at least a piece of 8th spot, the share will depend on how the Islanders & Hurricanes end up tonight. Henrik Lundqvist (Box 18) is the hottest player in the league of late, winning all four games of his last week and was the pool's PotW.

In Toronto tonight, the 8th place Hurricanes will be up against the 10th place Maple Leafs. Talk about a key game in the race... the Hurricanes will try to stave off all opponents who are tied with them, while the Leafs will look to join the logjam at 84 points. There is just so many possibilities that could happen with all these games tonight, I won't even begin to conjure up scenarios at this point. What I will tell you, however, is that the Leafs lead the season series 2-1-0 heading into this contest.

In a little less of a dire situation, the Lightning, who hold the seventh spot in the East, will play host to the Panthers in a Battle of the Sunshine State. The Lightning cannot fall out of a playoff spot tonight, but a win would move them ever-closer to the 6th place Rangers. Hell, they're only two points behind division-leading Atlanta, which would give them 3rd in the Conference.

So, that would be your quick look at the East for Tuesday night... let's check in with a couple games in the West, that hold quite a bit of significance tonight.

On Flames PPV tonight, the first game of their two-game series in Minnesota tonight. The Wild are currently tied with the Canucks for the division lead in points (but 2nd, because of GP) and the Flames are trying to hold off the Avalanche for 8th spot. In the Xcel Energy Center, the Wild are 2-0-0 against the Flames and they'll finish the last two games tonight and Thursday. A sweep of the Flames would open a 4-point window for the Avalanche to gain some ground. The Wild are 9-1-0 in their last 10, winning their last 9 consecutively. The Flames are 5-4-1 in their last 10 and have won their last 3. The last meeting between the two teams was a 4-2 win for Minnesota in Calgary. If you Flames fans have any nails left, this is a good time to finish them off.

Division rivals say to each other, if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. The Canucks would love a Calgary win, whilst the Flames would love a Canucks win tonight. Both are road teams... and both of their opponents are saying the same thing. It's no secret the races between the four teams, so you know the importance of it all already. The Avalanche won the last game on Sunday in overtime against the Canucks and now they'll finish the home & home series in Denver, where the Avalanche are 3-0-0 against the Canucks. If there was ever a better time to win away for the Canucks, now would be the time.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Week Twenty-Five Newsletter

Two weeks left! Two weeks left!

Dieter is 18 points up on Don... 30 points up on Jeff... but even 30 could be too far. Don could make up 9 points a week in these last 14 days, but where's he gonna get it?

The race for 6th is heating up as well... someone is gonna get their money back and there is only really 3 teams in the race for 6th. Going into Monday's action, Caterina held a slim 2 point lead over Paul and Trevor is only 19 points behind. But have you noticed below, Caterina is one of the hottest teams of late... so there's a great chance she'll end up with her money back.

Hot Teams Over the Last Four Weeks:
Dale B.... 262
Larry..... 249
Scott G... 245
Dale C.... 244
Brydon.... 239
Caterina.. 239

Cold Teams Over the Last Four Weeks
Fred...... 135
Brian..... 155
Mike W.... 163
Gerald ... 167
John B.... 167

Let's see what happened in Week Twenty-Five...

Player of the Week

2-1 win over Pittsburgh on Monday. 5-0 shutout over Philadelphia on Wednesday. 2-1 win in Boston on Saturday. 2-1 win against the Islanders on Sunday. That's 10 points for Henrik Lundqvist (Box 18) of the Rangers. The run for the playoffs is paying dividends for all Lundqvist owners... all NONE OF THEM. Yes, no one has the Player of the Week for this past week.

This isn't the first time no one has had the PotW, but this is more for awareness towards the playoffs. Do you think the Rangers are going all the way? With the likes of Jagr, Nylander and Straka... the Rangers are looking decent in the 6th spot in the East with only two weeks left.

Only 4 points off of the week leader, Scott moved ever-closer to the Top 10 with a great big 61-point week. He's now only 11 points behind Marcus for 10th spot and closing in quite fast. Ten weeks ago, Scott was down in 18th position, battling away, then his team got hot. His Christmas time trades have paid dividends, so much so, that's he's here in the M&S article. How did he get so high up, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

8 points from Joe Thornton, 6 from Miikka Kiprusoff, 5 from Milan Michalek & Thomas Vanek is a pretty good start, don't you think? There wasn't a great deal of scoring this past week, but somehow a few teams made good with what they got. Scott is definitely one of them. Will he make 10th spot?? Only time will tell.

Falling out of the Top 20 this week, Tim L. dropped three spots into 21st. There was a lot of zeros on Tim's page this past week... ten active zeros to be exact. Out of Tim's 38 points, Thornton was 8 of them and Emery was 4... his top two scorers for the week. With two weeks still left in the year, Tim has plenty of time to climb back into the Top 20... he's only 5 points behind 20th place, Dale B. What a race!

Martin Brodeur & Sidney Crosby – 111 points
Martin Brodeur's first assist of the season gives him an odd number of points and was almost enough to take the outright lead in points before Sidney Crosby had 3 points against the Bruins on Sunday afternoon. Overall, it was a pretty quiet week for our high scorers... until the weekend that is. Brodeur had his 3-point night on Saturday and Crosby's on Sunday. Both players, however, are looking over their shoulder as Sharks forward, Joe Thornton, is storming his way up to the top as well. Thornton has had 22 points in the last 3 weeks to bring him up to 104 on the season.

Pool Trades
Still no trades. This section of the newsletter has got about 3 inches of dust on it. Anyone care to dust it off? C'mon... one trade. Just one... that's all I ask.

Trades Remaining in the Top 10:
Dieter... 0 Paul..... 1
Don...... 0 Marcus... 0
Jeff..... 0 Trevor... 4
Dale C... 0 Caterina. 0
Larry.... 0 Brydon... 0

Box 5 defenseman, Steve Staios has shut himself down for the rest of the season. The season is lost for the Oilers and by now, I would think that John would have given up on him anyways. Granted, John probably gave up on the year ages ago... heh heh. Knee surgery will keep Staios from returning this year and he will need 4 months for a full recovery... doesn't sound like too much golf this summer, does it?

Hockey Night In Canada this week...

The second-to-last regular season Hockey Night In Canada should be a gooder. Sidney Crosby (Box 14), before going to regular playoff coverage, will show a little flair in Toronto and will give us all a preview of what to expect in the first round of the playoffs. In the second game, the Flames will try to burn Roberto Luongo (Box 6) in his own house.

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