Monday, March 23, 2009

Week Twenty-Five Newsletter

Wow! We've only got three more weeks of action to go this season and almost every race, both in the leagues and in the pools are remaining tight an interesting. The playoff hunts in the West and East are far from over, but three teams have officially clinched their spots in the playoffs, two clinching division titles already. It does look like everything will come down to the wire to see who will be making it in to the playoffs in both conferences. Gotta love Spring hockey, eh?

In the Draft, the lead was taken over by a new name in the week and was expanded to 10 points out of Week Twenty-Five. Clayton charged his way up to the top and there was plenty of shifting throughout the standings. Stay tuned to the blog to keep up with previews of action, mostly during the week, as we'll keep everyone in the top six up-to-date with who they have going that night and how it will likely impact the standings.

The Sheet is pretty tight as well, as Dale C. leads the way with a 21-point margin between him and Wes. Wes stands pretty solid in second with a 16-point buffer between him and Paul. Paul's buffer to fourth is 16 points on Jeremy, Jeremy is 11 points up on Caterina and Cat is 5 points up on Mike E.. Mike holds a 2-point lead on Tim for the last money spot in the Sheet pool, so there is plenty of movement still to be decided there. How very exciting!

In this week's poll, I asked if you were looking forward to the Playoff Pool, which should be looking to start being under construction here soon. The result was a resounding 'yes,' as 7 of 12 votes could hardly wait for the Playoffs to start, while 3 of 12 were almost ready for them to start. Not surprisingly, there were a couple of votes saying no, likely still in the money hunt for the rest of the season.

This week, I thought I would ask you who you would consider taking first overall in next season's Draft, if it were to happen right about now. There are a number of choices and I even through in the potential number one overall pick in the Entry Draft this summer, John Tavares, just to throw in a little bit of new flavour into the mix.

Well, it's going to take a Mover & Shaker week nowadays to get a team up to the top of the standings. That's what we saw this time around in Week Twenty-Five, as Clayton took the weekly honour and the lead, as his team put together a 37-point effort and jumped over both Jeremy and Marcus in the week, while the rest of the top six did their shifting in the Standings.

This is Clayton's fourth M&S award this season, earning nods in Week Four, Week Eleven and Week Twenty also, but this is only the third time he finished a week with atop the standings, being tied for first back in Week Four and Week Twelve. There is a slight correlation with the M&S awards and being up at the top.

Helping the way to a M&S week, Clayton's team only had two active players with zero points, which is a pretty big help. The best players on his team during the week were Zach Parise (6 points), Brian Elliot (6), Joe Thornton (5), Jason Pominville (4) and Steve Mason (4). Surprisingly, one of the zeros was not Dan Girardi, who finally registered his first point in several weeks on Saturday night.

For his team's efforts this week, Clayton earned himself a Karl Alzner Team Canada jersey card. The prize for Week Twenty-Six is a gooder as well, as there is a rookie card up for grabs, for Atlanta's Zach Bogosian. Bogosian has had somewhat of a troubled year with injuries, but he's been back for a while and really establishing himself as a solid player. This should be a good rookie card to have.

On the Sheet, there was a fair bit of movement on the standings, including one team who took one of the better (not the best, but second best) scoring weeks and moved up four spots to 10th place in the standings. Stuart made a move to try and situate himself a little bit closer to those money positions, as his team picked up 86 points in the week for him. Stuart now only sits 33 points out of the money, which shouldn't be impossible to make up in the last three weeks, but it is rather improbable. Stuart did only make up 5 points on 6th place, in the grand scheme of things, but I wouldn't say it was impossible quite yet. Having a big week for Stuart in Week Twenty-Five were Evgeni Malkin (8 points), Evgeni Nabokov (6), Jason Spezza (6), Henrik Zetterberg (5), Alex Ovechkin (5) and seven other players with 4 points a piece.

We saw a tie for the bottom of the Draft this past week, two teams finished with 18 points, but the difference between the two is that one team's finish was somewhat expected, while the other one took the team right out of the money. So, our Basement Dweller for Week Twenty-Five will be Jeremy, who started the week in second place, but dropped all the way down to sixth with a rough week in the books. Jeremy now sits 6 points out of the money, which isn't a terrible spot to be in at the moment, but with only three weeks left in the regular season, you want to be postured quite well, just to keep from having an anxiety attack. The troubles for Jeremy were. for the most part, injuries, as Ryane Clowe and Ryan Miller both sat out during the week with injuries, Clowe likely being the first one to return, hopefully this week. Other cold players that didn't help out his cause were Mikko Koivu and Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Wild, neither of whom finished with a point in the week.

I think as there is only three more newsletters after this one, I think I might move away from the Basement Dweller on the Sheet, as the same few people keep showing up as candidates. Matt E. has continued his problems with only two teams on his Sheet, Detroit and Montreal, and he only finished with 40 points in the week, sitting in 42nd of 44 of the pool. Yeah, it's a pretty rough strategy to go on this year, so he can be the Basement Dweller for the rest of the season.

Well, I think we may have our MVP somewhat decided already, as Evgeni Malkin continues to collect points at a league-best rate, picking up 8 points in Week Twenty-Five, leading the pack for another week this season. The Draft's third overall pick eclipsed the 100-point barrier in the week, finishing off with 105 points, a clear 10 points ahead of second place.

Malkin, a Draft pick of Derek's, has been somewhat reborn with the coaching change in Pittsburgh, as the team continues to excel with Dan Bylsma at the helm. On Tuesday, Malkin had a big night against the Thrashers, picking up a pair of goals and 3 assists for a big 5-point night. Friday, he had a goal and a helper in the team's win against Los Angeles. Sunday, the Flyers did manage to beat the Penguins, but Malkin did figure onto the scoring sheet with an assist.

With yet anoter Player of the Week honour, does this give you more reason to pick him number one overall in the Draft next season?

There are some tough times brewin' in Montreal, as Carey Price has seemingly been frozen in ice and can't seem to break free of these doldrums. Price, the Draft's fourth overall pick to Grant, has not seen anywhere near the same success of his top five pick counterparts this season, now only having registered 43 points in the season and a goose egg in Week Twenty-Five. Price's lack of success is becoming a focal point in Montreal, where success was practically expected this season. He'll need to regain his confidence soon, if he's to get Montreal a long way into the playoffs.

Other News and Notes

On Sunday, the Blackhawks didn't have defenseman, Cam Barker, in the line-up against the Kings, as he was sitting out with a reported lower body injury. Barker, a Waiver Draft pick of John P.'s this season, did have injury problems at the beginning of the season, but has been instrumental in helping the team back up to fourth in the Western Conference.

It looks like Kings' forward, Teddy Purcell, has been working his way out of the line-up as of late, being a healthy scratch on Sunday. Purcell, a Box 9 forward, is thought to be one of the Kings' brighter prospects and has shown some flashes, but has failed to click on either the Kings' first or second lines this year. I would imagine that he'll be back in the line-up on Tuesday in St. Louis.

A lower body injury will now keep Peter's Draft pick, Marek Zidlicky, out of the Wild line-up for another game or two. There currently is no real optimism that Zidlicky will be returning to the line-up any time soon, but that also can neither be confirmed or denied. Peter is another top six team in the Draft who needs all his bodies healthy to be in the top three in three weeks.

The Canadiens are looking to add some spark this week, as they have decided to recall Box 24 forward, Sergei Kostitsyn, from Hamilton of the AHL. Kostitsyn was sent down ages ago, because of a lack of work ethic and now that they Habs have new coaching staff in place, they are hopeful that the younger brother can bring a little offensive punch to the table and help the team out of their funk.

The Devils gave their free-agent signing veteran, Brendan Shanahan, a day off from play, as the Devils had an early matinee on Sunday against the Bruins. The Devils go again tonight against the Flyers and they wanted Shanahan to have himself a maintenance day, instead of risking injury in one of the more likely sort of games, the early afternoon type. Shanny should be in the line-up tonight.

The Rangers will not have Michal Rozsival in their line-up for their next game, at home to Minnesota, as he left Sunday's game with an undisclosed injury. Rozsival, who had hip surgery in the off-season, may have re-injured his mid-section, after taking a bump against the Senators and not returning to the game afterwards. This could be yet another big blow to John B. and his Draft money hopes, as his injuries are also piling up a bit.

The Senators rested Anton Volchenkov on Sunday, as he was suffering from a lower body injury during the week, suffered a week ago. Volchenkov has played through the injury though the week, but was finally scratched on Sunday against the Rangers. Stay tuned for further news on the Box 29 defenseman, as not a lot has been disclosed as of yet.

The rotating door of the Coyotes line-up continued to spin, as Keith Yandle, a Draft pick Jeremy's, was a victim of the scratch, yet again. The Coyotes are quickly working their way to being one of the most labeled teams on the blog, with all of these posts about scratches. Figuring back into the line-up on Sunday was Box 14 defenseman, David Hale, as he's also been a popular guy in the press box as well.

The Penguins have their rotating line-up in full swing as well, as Craig Adams has been an in-and-out player of late, Sunday being a game where he was out of the line-up. Adams has not done well to earn himself a consistent spot in any line-up, being in Chicago before the deadline and being picked up on waivers by Pittsburgh at the deadline.

Yet another lower body injury has claimed a player in the pools, as Rob Blake has gone down with the same injury. Blake didn't play last night against the Avalanche, opting not to skate on Sunday and likely won't skate today either. The Sharks don't play again until Wednesday, in Chicago, and he will likely be re-evaluated on Tuesday before the team gets on to a plane to head out East.

Click here to see an updated injury page.

Hockey Night in Canada

It's more doubleheader action on Hockey Night in Canada, as we wind down to the playoffs. In the early game nationally, we should see the Bruins in Toronto to take on the Leafs. Check out the previews during the week, as there are a number of players in that game, who are vital to the results of the top six teams in the Draft. In the second half of the doubleheader, the Wild are in Calgary for a key game in the Western Conference playoff hunt. The Wild, who are still in the playoff race, are in Calgary to try and keep their hopes alive against their division rival, while the Flames, who have a number of players in the top six as well, will have a chance to keep the Canucks in their rear-view mirror at the top of the division. This has the makings of a very good game.

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