Monday, March 24, 2008

Week Twenty-Six Newsletter

There are only two weeks left in the season and the races for first are a little bit spacious. Stuart has a 22-point lead over Clayton in Draft, which is quite possibly all but sewn up as a win for Stuart. It isn't impossible for Clayton to make up that gap, but it is unlikely. In Week Twenty-Seven, Stuart will have 37 man-games to be played and his goaltenders are both getting starts for their respective teams. Clayton, on the other hand, has 38 man-games to be played, but only has one goalie making a regular start.

Clayton's lead over third place Dale B. sits at 16 points, also not impossible to reach, actually much more likely that the first/second place gap. Dale B. has a pretty healthy team, which are going to play 38 man-games, but he also only has one goalie that is going to make every start down the stretch.

The real race in the Draft will be for that third place money, as Chris only sits 4 points out of third, 34 man-games to be played and has two starting goalies on a regular basis. This is where the most excitement should come from over the next couple weeks. In fifth, 27 points out of third, sits John B., who has faced many injury problems will try and make a push with two regular goalies and 38 man-games. He certainly isn't officially out of it, especially with a hot week a possibility.

The Draft has all sorts of possibilities for movement, but are some of those leads too big for substantial movement in the money?

The Sheet arguably has just as much excitment heading down these last couple weeks. Chris has a 36-point lead on Clayton, which should be pretty safe since he had made a couple of defensive trades to keep Clayton away from his first place money. There is a 19-point gap between second and third place Dale C., while the gap between third and fourth is only 8 points for Paul to make-up. Of course, there are five money spots and currently, on the goals scored tie-breaker, Mike C. holds the spot, 14 goals up on Don in sixth. Seventh place Tim sits 19 points away and Benson sits 21 points away in eighth.

This point in the season is certainly the best part of being in a hockey pool and since both pools have some potential, it certainly makes for plenty of interest to see who finishes where.

Before the Week Twenty-Five Newsletter was out, I had asked for your opinion. Which Red Wings goaltender should be the choice for the Playoff Pool sheet and of three votes, all said it should be Chris Osgood (Dale C.). Unfortunately for the voters, they didn't get their way, because the Sherpa is pretty sure he knows Red Wings head coach, Mike Babcock, a little bit better than that. Babcock will go with the big-gamer, Dominik Hasek (John B.), despite the number of great minutes that Osgood gave him this year. It's pretty much a certainty, but I did want to see if you guys would pick up on that as well. I am also not without some doubt, however. Hasek could be hurt here in the next couple weeks and Osgood will have to start, but that's just the risk I'll take.

This week's poll question will be in regards to the hopes and dreams of the Edmonton Oilers. They are one of the hotter teams in the NHL, going 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. They will start Week Twenty-Seven with six games to go and only three points behind the Colorado Avalanche for eighth spot in the West and only one point back of the Nashville Predators for ninth. Are they going to make a surprise finish inside the playoffs, even without all their big stars in the line-up. Here's some food for thought... they only have one game left against the Avalanche.

There was one move in the Draft this past week and it did involve the highest point total of the week as well, so it was an easy decision to make Wes the Mover & Shaker. Wes tallied a solid 37 points in the week, to give him top spot for the weekly total and also move him back into 9th place over Peter. Wes was in a money position a couple times in the season, but had some serious injury problems to his active players and couldn't seem to shake any luck out of both Teemu Selanne and Peter Forsberg through the year. One more Mover & Shaker award should make the guy feel a little bit better as we near the end of the season.

Wes had his big week thanks to the performances from Henrik Zetterberg (6 points), Rick Nash (5), Evgeni Nabokov (4) and four others with three points a piece. Only one player didn't register a point for Wes, Peter Forsberg, who has continued to battle a groin injury since returning to the game a few weeks ago.

On the Sheet, there was a big move towards the money for Tim, who managed to jump from 10th place to 7th after a 63-point week, which was tops in the pool. Tim now sits 19 points out of the money, which isn't out of the question in two weeks time. Tim had productive weeks from Alexander Ovechkin (7 points), Henrik Zetterberg (6), Evgeni Malkin (5) and five others with 4 points a piece. Tim will need two more weeks of something a bit better than this past week and he should be in line for some fifth place money.

Dropping that spot that Wes had gained was Peter, who actually had the week-low in points for the week at 14 points. He has seen more than his fair share of injury problems, as he also had quite the promising team at the beginning of the season and was eyeing the money weeks after the draft had finished. With all those injuries, however, it kept Peter hovering around the tenth position all season and that's now where he finds himself after this past week. His big performer for the week was the WIld's Nicklas Backstrom, who had 4 points. On the flipside, he had seven players on his active roster who failed to get a point for him in the week, mostly due to injuries. Peter does hold a 35-point lead over eleventh, so it doesn't seem likely that he'll lose his top ten finish.

There were a couple teams that dropped a couple positions in the Sheet pool, so we'll use the tie-breaker of the least amount of points to determine our Basement Dweller. And with a 6-point cushion, Jeff takes another Dweller spot this season with only a 30-point week. Jeff, who hasn't made a trade all season, had nine players on his roster that didn't get a point for him in the week. It certainly cements the argument that trades are good in the Sheet pool and it is important to stay on top of your roster, especially if you have trades remaining.

Another team making their fight to a playoff spot rather exciting is the Phoenix Coyotes and they are being led by the captain, Shane Doan (Dale B.). Doan, the last remaining Jet on the team, leads by example for the team, but the team is still six points out with only six games to go and they still have three teams to jump in the standings, none of which are division rivals.

Doan did finish the week with seven points, despite the team going 0-3-1 in their week's worth of games. The Coyotes did manage to score 11 goals in those 4 games, but their opponents scored 19 goals in response.

On Monday, the Coyotes were in Vancouver, where they lost 3-1. Doan was shut out in that game of any points. Then on Tuesday, the Coyotes lost 8-4 in Edmonton. There, Doan managed a goal and 2 assists. They went back home for a 6-5 shootout loss to the Kings on Thursday night and Doan had yet another 3-point effort with a goal and 2 assists. Finally, on Saturday, the Coyotes hosted the Ducks and lost 2-1. Doan had an assist on the only goal for Phoenix in that game. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem very likely that the Coyotes will be in the dance for the final playoff spot, thanks to that dismal week in the Standings, but at least they had a silver lining from their captain.

In the week, the Columbus Blue Jackets went 1-2-0 against divisional opponents, which should keep them out of the playoffs for good, just about now. They are one point behind the Coyotes, which adds yet another team to jump over to get to the Spring dance. The team couldn't generate enough offense to keep their heads a float and Nikolai Zherdev (Stuart) couldn't muster a single point in those three games. Zherdev only has a goal in his last five games with the team and is a -2 in those games as well.

Other News and Notes

The Ducks were without both Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Dale C.) and Ryan Getzlaf (Aaron) on Saturday night in their game against the Coyotes. Giguere sat out the game with back spasms, which apparently started on him during warm-ups of Friday's game against the Sharks. That was two starts that Giguere missed out on over the weekend. Getzlaf missed only the one game against Phoenix with an injury, which wasn't disclosed before the game. He'll remain on the list as out day-to-day.

The Bruins were happy to see their stud defender, Zdeno Chara (Benson) return to the line-up in the week, so he could play in the team's key match-ups against the Canadiens. Unfortunately, the inclusion of the giant blueliner wasn't enough to get a win, but they did manage a shootout loss on Saturday, which helped their cause in the Eastern Conference's eighth spot.

The Blackhawks are definitely in the mix for the eighth playoff spot in the West, now sitting four points out of that coveted spot. On Sunday, they mixed it up with St. Louis, winning in overtime, but without both Robert Lang (Stuart) and Cam Barker (Box 11). Lang sat out with a sore back and is listed as out day-to-day, while Barker suffered a head injury this week and missed both of Chicago's weekend games. Barker is also listed as out day-to-day.

The Avalanche are the team being chased down in the eighth spot in the West and they really need to stay healthy, if they are to keep that spot for the Spring Formal. Unfortunately, Adam Foote (Box 10) can't seem to keep his hip from aching and it kept him out of the line-up again on Saturday. With the race as tight as it is, the team must be hoping that he can get back into game shape here soon, as they only have six games to go.

Veteran forward, Mark Parrish (Box 9), has found himself being a healthy scratch in the Wild line-up for the past couple games. Parrish has now been scratched six times in the Wild's past 14 games and in the eight he did play, he hasn't registered a point and has been a -2.

The Predators have lost defenseman, Greg de Vries (Box 11) to an upper body injury this past weekend, which caused him to miss Saturday's match-up against the Blackhawks. It was the first game of the year that he had missed. With de Vries missing that game, the Predators will not have a player who played in all 82 games for the first time in franchise history.

The Rangers were witness to a scary moment in Friday's game against Philadelphia. Their leading scorer, Scott Gomez (Peter) barrelled into the end boards head/shoulder first in the game and had to leave and never returned. There was reports he had underwent some x-rays, but the team would only say that he had suffered an upper-body injury. The Rangers currently have a good grip on a playoff spot and are hopeful that Gomez's injury isn't too serious so they can coast into the playoffs without incident. If the injury is substantial, there should be an updated report on the blog here. The Rangers next game is tomorrow versus those same Flyers.

The Senators suffered a blow to their offensive depth over the weekend. Centre, Chris Kelly (Box 21) suffered a fractured leg, which will keep him out of the line-up indefinitely. The Sens don't need this injury as the team is having a hard time gelling as it is and are very inconsistent heading down the stretch. It seems very unlikely that Kelly will return before the playoffs, but there is some indication that he could play again if the Sens are deeper into the playoffs.

Key Canadian match-ups highlight Hockey Night in Canada's line-up on Saturday. The Leafs will hope that their playoff hopes are still alive when they host the Canadiens in the first game at 5pm MT. The Leafs are only 4 points out of the East playoffs, but have plenty of teams to leap-frog to get there. They will have to contend with a home & home with the Bruins through the week to get there as well. The Habs are in the fight for top spot in the Eastern Conference, with no fear of missing the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, they're road to Saturday takes them through games against the Senators and the Sabres before their match-up against the Leafs.

In the late game, it will be the Battle of Alberta for the tight Northwest Division race. The Oilers are climbing rapidly and will either have a game for their playoff lives or they'll just be playing spoilers for the Flames and their playoff hopes. The schedule is tough for the Oilers. They play a home & home against Minnesota this week and then have a Friday night game in Colorado before going to Calgary for the Flames. On the other side of the rink, the Flames will have a tough divisional game against the Canucks at home on Tuesday, before waiting for the Oilers on Saturday.

This has the makings of a classic night of pre-playoff hockey on HNIC.

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