Well, the end of a week brings us to look forward to Friday's Winter Classic, taking place in Boston this year between the Bruins and the Flyers. I'm getting the feeling that this time around doesn't quite have the flavour of 2009's game, which saw the Blackhawks and Red Wings, two teams going up in the standings, duke it out in the confines of Wrigley Field. Both the Bruins and the Flyers have come to this game with such great intentions, but the current state of affairs for both teams has been relatively negative that it may not roll on into New Year's Day with quite the thunder.
There will be plenty of Draft representation in this game, which does make it a little bit more interesting for the 17 teams in the pool this year. Saying that, there is a chance that we might not have a goalie starting from the Draft this year. Ray Emery, who is the only Flyers goalie in the Draft at the moment, is on the IR with abdomen problems, while Tim Thomas of the Bruins has been splitting time with Tuukka Rask and there hasn't been any word on who might start.
On the skater side of the ledger, the host team, Blackhawks, will have upwards of 10 players represented in the Draft, with Chris and Trevor having two each. The Flyers will also have 10 players represented, with Wes having two of them on his side. That should drum up some interest, shouldn't it?
Last week's question about policing headshots was a bit more of a split decision, but I didn't really know what to expect when I put the question out there. The leading vote-getter of the week was removing the instigator penalty and letting the players do the policing themselves. This was my choice, as there should be less sitting back and letting the media have their shot at these all the time, but what can you do? The next best selection was actually handing out automatic suspensions for the crime, which is harsh, but would likely be effective in the long run. Only a couple votes for the automatic penalty, but there wasn't really much justification to that answer.
In Week Fourteen, I would like to know how you think the Senators are going to fare at the end of the year, after this long sequence of time with injuries. Already out is Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Nick Foligno, which accounts for a lot of scoring. Will the Sens make the playoffs despite all their injuries at the moment?
This is a first in the season, we have our first back-to-back Mover & Shaker winner this season, as Benson has now taken both mentions from Week Twelve and Week Thirteen. Benson finished off the week with 42 points, which is 10 points better than anyone else in the week. Benson has now picked up 107 points in his last three weeks, which is tops in the pool, and he's now moved up from 12th to 6th in the last couple weeks. Talk about some real moving & shaking.
It was another week for Benson where everyone was scoring on his team, which is also back-to-back weeks where that has happened. Every active player on his roster had points again. Jaroslav Halak led the way with 6 points, while Bill Guerin and Ryan Malone had 5 each and Sidney Crosby, Brian Campbell and Dwayne Roloson each had 4. That's exactly what a team is looking for in a season.
Benson now sits 16 points out of the money positions and has nestled himself right in the mix for talk about the money with these back-to-back huge weeks. Will he be able to keep it up now?
Despite leading the pack over the past few weeks, Benson isn't quite in the mix for the 8-week segment race for one of the Winter Classic jerseys. It's still pretty much a 2-horse race between Dale B. and Leon, who have 174 and 171 points, respectively. Benson and Wayne sit 3rd and 4th in the race with 159 and 158 points going into Week Fourteen, but we now only sit three weeks away from the end of this competition and 15 points will be tough to make up, unless the front runner collapse really soon.
It was back to the Basement for John B. in Week Thirteen, as he made his third trip back down to the weekly abyss, thanks to a poorly 15-point week. His first overall pick, Alex Ovechkin, continued to be the only bright spot in his team with 6 points in the week, but that was nearly half of John's weekly production right there. John has seen his fair share of bad luck this year with some injuries, but he had five players that were active on their respective NHL rosters, who didn't pick up a single point in the week. That's pretty cold.
John currently ranks 14th in points-per-game from this skaters and 15th in points-per-60 minutes from his goaltending tandem this year, which are poor numbers to begin with. He also ranks 15th in games played by his skaters and 16th in minutes played by his goaltenders. He is now 13 points behind 16th place, Chris in the standings after this week.
Well, this is one of the biggest logjams I've seen in the Player of the Week contest all year, despite the fact there were only five days in the week where there were games being played. Nevertheless, there were four players that finished off the week with 8 points a piece. There were two forwards and two goaltenders and I have to pick one from this bunch to be my PoW. After careful consideration of the stats...
... Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. Kane had a pretty excellent week, which could very well help Wayne in the standings in the long run, since he scored the most goals, which is the first tie-breaker in the standings. Kane finished the week with 5 goals and 3 assists in four games this week for the Hawks and remarkably, 3 of those goals were game-winners. That was also enough to earn Kane the 2nd star of the week in the NHL.
On Monday, he had a goal and an assist versus the Sharks, another goal and assist on Wednesday in Detroit, a goal in Nashville on Saturday and finally, a pair of goals and an assist against Nashville at home. It was a pretty action-packed week for the Blackhawks, which makes this honour a little bit more special, since there was a significant amount of travel.
The honourable mentions go to Ilya Bryzgalov, Tim Thomas and Tomas Plekanec, who all had 8 points as well.
The lead was cut down again in Week Thirteen, as the four teams in the top five chasing John P. all made up some ground. John only has a lead of 49 points after Week Thirteen, down from 66 last Monday, so there have been great improvements made. There was also a fair bit of movement in the standings, as only 12 teams remained dormant in their position from last week.
We also have a new occupant of the last place position, as Ryan M. has fallen back down to the last spot, after an 8-week absence from the spot. Gerald B. moved past him in the week, thanks to a 68-point week.
The biggest week in the Sheet pool came from Wes M., who moved back up to 2nd place from 3rd after a 90-point week. That's a massive week, especially in this pool. Obviously, this is Wes' best week of the season, clearing his previous best week, which was 77 points in Week Nine. That's a pretty good improvement. having a big week for Wes was Tomas Plekanec (8 points), Dany Heatley (7), Joe Thornton (6), Evgeni Nabokov (6), Alex Ovechkin (6) and Nikolai Antropov (5).
The biggest move up in the pool came down in the bottom half of the standings, as Allan S. moved up six spots in the pool, from 37th to 31st, his peak position in the pool this season. Allan had a 69-point week, which was good enough for the big move. He's also within striking distance of the top 30.
Two teams moved into the money positions in Week Thirteen, as Tim L. moved into 4th spot from 8th, and Caterina slipped into 5th spot in the week as well. It's good to see some movement in those spots still this season. There's still plenty of room to move this year, so keep those trades coming!
Other News and Notes
The Ducks suffered a bit of an injury scare on the weekend, as Ryan Getzlaf ended up suffering a leg laceration from his own skate in an awkward fall against the Sharks on Saturday night. The initial reports are that the injury is not major, but Getzlaf did require a lot of stitches. He is on the injured list as day-to-day and the Ducks don't play until Tuesday night, at home to the Wild, so he might have more than enough time to recover.
Also on Saturday, the Sabres lost the services of forward Derek Roy to an undisclosed injury. Roy left the game against the Senators after an open-ice hit and didn't return to the game. Roy didn't end up dressing on Sunday against the Blues either, but there is still no actual word as to the extent of the injury.
On Sunday, the Sabres also scratched Drew Stafford for their game against the Blues, because of a lack of production in the past few games. In Stafford's last five games, he has only 2 assists and a plus/minus rating of -4. His -4 rating had actually occurred in the previous two games, so this scratching was more likely due to those two performances.
An injury update on Chuck Kobasew, who had an MRI on Sunday on his injured knee. It's not the worst news, but it's still pretty bad. Kobasew will miss the next 4-to-6 weeks with a sprained MCL, which should be more than enough time to justify trading him away on the Sheet. The Wild aren't far out of the playoffs at the moment, but this injury is a pretty big hit.
It's been an up-and-down couple of weeks from the press box to the ice for Predators defenseman, Alexander Sulzer. The Predators will look to get him some more ice-time in the minors, unless they are running a bit of a salary cap hit issue, doing the up & down sequence to save some cap space. The Preds play on Tuesday against the Blues, so an immediate recall would suggest cap, but a game or two away would suggest ice-time.
It was announced on Monday morning that the Rangers are now expecting to be without Vaclav Prospal from their line-up for 10-to-21 days after getting his knee scoped. There is a pretty good chance that Prospal has been playing with a nagging problem in his knee, although his numbers wouldn't necessarily suggest that. Playing regular minutes and having 5 points in his last five games seems pretty regular. Likely a precautionary measure.
The Penguins were out to send a message to Tyler Kennedy, who hasn't scored a goal in 12 games, by making him a healthy scratch on Sunday against the Maple Leafs, who arguably could have been the team to fix his scoring woes. I would imagine that Kennedy will figure back into the line-up this week.
Click here to see an updated injury page.
Hockey Night in Canada
The first Saturday in 2010 will be a good one, with 12 games on the schedule, including four afternoon games, but that doesn't translate into a Hockey Night in Canada tripleheader... it's just another one of those soft doubleheaders. Also of note, the first HNIC of 2010 will also take place in Alberta, both the early and late game.
Starting in Calgary, the Maple Leafs are continuing a western swing with a game against the Flames at 5pm MT. The Leafs are still trying to find some sort of identity with their club and a swing through Western Canada will quickly develop a better understanding of what the team is like. The Flames, on the other hand, will be playing their third home game in a row, as they try to re-establish a good home presence.
In the late game, CBC will travel up to Edmonton where the Oilers will be hosting the Sharks. This game will likely be billed as another game between Dany Heatley and the team that he spurned in the offseason. These two teams are going in opposite directions of sorts, so the Oilers will have the tough task of stopping the scoring juggernaut, which is the Sharks. Teams with lots of Sharks are likely looking forward to this game.