Monday, February 18, 2008

Week Twenty-One Newsletter

As I look over the two pools I have going on this season, I can't help but love how tight the races are for the money. In both pools, Stuart and Chris have opened up some substantial leads in the Draft and Sheet, respectively, but the other money slots are far from being decided.

In the Draft, only 8 points separate 2nd from 5th place, while 6th place is only 9 points behind 5th. That's pretty tight, when you look at how streaky teams have been this season. Making up those points in the Draft doesn't seem to be too difficult. Remember, only the top three earn money in the Draft, which has six team in the immediate future making a push for.

On the Sheet, the top five make money and between second and sixth are only separated by 18 points, with a few more players than you have in the Draft. Seventh is only 16 points from fifth, eighth is still 30 points behind fifth, but there is still nine weeks worth of play left. Still anything can happen... not to mention a few more trades for these teams.

Hopefully a few more teams from a bit lower can have some better weeks and we'll have ourselves a very tight race going down the stretch. This has been good as it is, but I'm sure it could be a little bit better.

Well, despite their losing streak, the Red Wings are still the favourite for the Cup, according to the eight votes received this past week. They received five of the eight votes, while Anaheim and Montreal received the other votes. The Wings are likely going to be big players at the trade deadline, which should increase their chances at victory.

This week's poll will surround the biggest question around the trade deadline. Will Mats Sundin (John P.) waive his no-trade clause? The 'will he or won't he' question has been plaguing the Leafs and the rest of the league since the team hasn't been doing so well of late.

It's been seven weeks since we had someone new jump into the money positions and now Clayton has jumped into the third place position, among the tight race for money in the Draft. He had nearly a week-high total of 35 points in Week Twenty-One, which got him to overtake third place and even touch second through the weekend, before the statistic audit.

During the week, the only two players that he didn't receive points from were the two he chose in the second Waiver Draft. Both Dan Girardi and Jose Theodore played during the week, but couldn't manage points as a warm welcome. Instead, he had to rely on some old favourites. Marian Gaborik and Alexei Kovalev each had 5 points in the week, while Eric Staal and Marek Zidlicky both had 4 each. Chris Drury, Patrik Elias and Erik Johnson all chipped in with 3 points a piece as well.

On the Sheet, there wasn't a lot of movement or significant movement in the week, so it will be the highest performing team in the Sheet pool who gets the nod for the M&S. Mitch had himself back-to-back 51-point weeks, the second of which was the best week in the pool. He had himself a lot of help from Ryan Miller (6 points), Ruslan Fedotenko (5), Marek Zidlicky (4), Jonathan Toews (4), Ilya Bryzgalov (4), Tomas Kaberle (4) and Vaclav Prospal (4). Mitch now sits in 14th place, 2 points out of 13th, but 28 points out of 10th. It's a long way to go for Mitch to have a good finish, but it isn't out of the question.

And as a promise to Chris, I said that when he fell out of the money, he would finally get his beloved spot in the Basement, as he finally officially ended a week in fourth place. Chris didn't manage to get points out of some of the players that brought him up to the top of the Standings at the beginning of the season. Both Martin Biron and Martin Gerber both failed to get points in the week and have been very cold as of late. Also failing to get points in the week were Wade Redden, who played during the week and Sergei Zubov, who was injured. Only a month ago, Chris was in first place in the Draft... and in that month, he has had some injuries and some cold players to drop him. Only to solidify his place, in Week Twenty-One, as the Basement Dweller.

Well, I don't think I had seen these kind of numbers, except for the first couple weeks. The week-low in the Sheet pool was a remarkable 15 points for Derek B.. Derek only received points from 9 of his 24 players in the week, with Evgeni Malkin (Box 14) earning 4 of those 15. Derek only managed to drop one position, from 30th to 31st, in the week, but he has situated himself in a fairly safe spot for movement, unless he has another miserable week.

It's the first time since Evgeni Malkin (Dale B.) in Week Sixteen last season, that a rookie won the Player of the Week honour. This week, it's Carey Price (Marcus) of the Montreal Canadiens, who led the team up to the top of the Eastern Conference.

Price started three of the four games for the Habs this past week, winning all three and getting his first career shutout against the Flyers on Saturday. But that's not all. He also added an assist during Sunday's game, also against the Flyers.

With a three-game winning streak going for the young keeper, it's very likely that he'll continue to get starts heading down the stretch, which is good for Marcus, but bad for Cristobel Huet (Stuart). Huet has helped Stuart get up to the top of the Draft and extend his lead. This could be a very important change for the lead in the Draft.

The epitomy of cold this past week or the past couple weeks (for that matter), has been the Detroit Red Wings. Chris Osgood (Dale C.) has been in the middle of this cold streak and he hasn't done very well at all. In the two starts he made in the week, he had been pulled in both, only playing a combined 40 minutes in both games. In actual fact, Osgood hasn't won since February 2nd and has gone 0-4-0 since.

Other News and Notes

Thrashers defenseman, Alexei Zhitnik (Box 16) missed Saturday's game with a bout of the flu. The veteran has been underperforming offensively this season, only 6 points in 59 games. He won't likely see the sheet or many pool teams next season.

On Sunday night, the Blackhawks announced that they signed on young defender, Brent Seabrook (Box 4), to a 3-year contract extension worth $10.5 million. Seabrook is one of the good young pieces of a franchise that is getting ready to bloom and they'll be very happy to have him in their line-up for at least three more years.

In time before the trade deadline, the Blue Jackets got Sergei Fedorov (Box 7) back from his concussion on Sunday. Fedorov has been on a couple rumour lists over the past couple weeks, even my own. Look for his name to float around in the next week before 26th.

The Oilers missed the services of defenseman Joni Pitkanen (Dennis) on Saturday night against the Canucks. Pitkanen missed the game with a hip flexor injury and will be listed as out day-to-day for the time being. Pitkanen has been at the root of some trade rumours involving the Oilers, so the team may need him back soon to show off his talents.

The Habs didn't sit Michael Ryder (Box 14) on Sunday, rather Bryan Smolinski (Box 20) was the guy in the press box from the forward roster. Smolinski has 18 points in 45 games this season, which isn't too bad, but I think the Habs were expecting a little bit more, despite his injuries.

The Predators were without their top scorer over the weekend because of the flu as well. J.P. Dumont (Benson) caught the bug during the week and it's been pretty harsh on him, according to reports.

The Rangers were without their rookie defender, Marc Staal (Box 23), for their weekend games on Saturday and Sunday because of the flu. Those were the first two games he missed this season, but he should be expected to re-join the line-up on Tuesday in Montreal.

The Rangers used up some of their cap space over the next couple of seasons by signing two defensemen over the weekend. Both Dan Girardi (Clayton) and Fedor Tyutin (non-pool) signed extensions with the club. Girardi signed a 2-year deal worth $3.1 million. Tyutin got 4 more years and it's worth $11.375 million over the term. Both Girardi and Tyutin have been good for the Rangers this season and definitely earned their new deals.

In a turn of good news, Braydon Coburn (Dale B.) returned to the Flyers line-up a week early from his torn buttocks. Unfortunately for the Flyers, Coburn wasn't enough for the Flyers to solve the Canadiens on Sunday.

In the fight-filled outing in Vancouver, the Canucks may have lost Taylor Pyatt (Box 8) for a considerable amount of time with a shoulder injury. The loss of Pyatt could be a big hit to the team's offense, which they have had trouble getting over the past couple weeks. The nature and severity of the injury hasn't been announced yet, but it didn't look good.

We have ourselves a doozy of a tripleheader on CBC on Saturday. The Senators will travel to Pittsburgh and will likely get a look at a fresh Sidney Crosby (Benson) in that match-up. The Senators are all healed up and maybe have been upgraded through the week, so the Penguins will have their hands full, despite being hot of late, without their captain. In the second game, the Blue Jackets will go to Montreal across the full network and that has the makings of an entertaining game. The Blue Jackets have played well this season, while the Habs are starting to win in front of rookie goalie, Carey Price (Marcus). In the late game, the very cold Red Wings will be in Vancouver to take on the lukewarm Canucks. It all has the making of a good day/evening of hockey.

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