Well, for my 100th newsletter on the blog, I thought I would put some elbow grease into this one and bring it back up to the standard that I like to have it at. Hooray for 100!
Week Twenty is going to be the last week before the Olympic Break and we should be in for a good week. We'll have 51 NHL games in the week, which hopefully translates into some scoring. We should also have some more player movement, as teams want to have some idea of where they are after the break. So, really... I'm thinking we might have ourselves a mildly-different looking pair of pools by the end of the week and we hopefully will be in for some of the tightest races down the stretch here.
Likely, during the week, because I have very little else to do than send out resumes and such, I will go over what the leads look like now and how they looked historically. That might make for some interesting reading, don't you think?
Well, let's hop to this newsletter... see who took the honours and such!
Wait a second! Not so fast! Since we're doing this 100th newsletter thing, let's get a poll up and running for the week, hopefully it doesn't become too redundant before week's end. I want to know which of the deals that went down in Week Nineteen was the most important. And by most important, I am going to name the scenario, rather than the deal itself and I want you to tell me which of these moves was most important to their respective teams. Was it a team getting rid of a player, a team getting a player or maybe these events were not at all interesting to you and you believe that something bigger is coming this week or just before the deadline after the Olympics. Have at it... I'm dying to know what you think.
Vote now! Quickly!
There was definitely some moving & shaking in the standings this week, as Wes M. shimmied himself right back up into the money after he had a pool-best 35 points in Week Nineteen. Wes moved up from 5th spot at the end of Week Eighteen, to being only 4 points out of 2nd place and only 21 points out of 1st place.
This is Wes' second M&S nod of the season, his first coming at Week Two of the season. His team has done fairly well to stay somewhat consistent, straying away from being a Basement Dweller all season, so that's his secret to his success.
Looking at Wes' team, however, you really wouldn't have thought that he would be close to the award, but it was a pretty low-scoring week, so I suppose anything is possible. Wes had three players that had 6 points a piece, including Dany Heatley, Steve Mason & Jonathan Quick... but he also had five active players on his team that didn't register a point. That has to be some kind of record.
Wes' biggest strength statistically this season is how healthy his team has been. Wes ranks 5th in skater games played with 639 (Ryan leads with 680) and 2nd in goalie minutes with 5,479 (Dale C. leads with 5,572). His team remains in the middle of the pack as for scoring, but as long as his guys are going, he should be safe in terms of picking up points.
Wes' consistency has also helped him out in the final jersey race, as teams are gunning for that awesome Bruins Winter Classic jersey. Wes now leads the 8-week competition with 101 points, closely followed by Chris M. (99 points), Larry D. (97 points), Wayne H. (96 points) and Stuart G. (96 points). That's quite a tight race and we still have five more weeks to go. This has turned out to be quite the contest this season, especially since the top five this time around doesn't have a previous winner (Leon or Dale B.).
A new face & name in the Basement Dweller spot this season, as Dale C. takes the nod with a 15-point week in Week Nineteen. It's been a strong decline for the Dale since the second Waiver Draft, as he's gone from 3rd place at the end of Week Sixteen, down to 8th place now. With the money fight being so tight, teams really need to keep their points up to stay afloat, but that hasn't been the case for Dale this time around. His injury list grew around the Waiver Draft and with vague injury information from most teams, it was really hard to predict which players would be coming back sooner rather than later and it was a bit of a crap shoot to make any changes.
Dale only had seven active players on his team with zero points, only two more than the M&S this week, but his highest producing player was Marian Gaborik, with only 4 points. His pool-best goaltending tandem couldn't save him this week, but that isn't to say it won't bounce back.
It was another tie for the Player of the Week nod and both players came from the same team. I could have easily gone the quick route of the first tie-breaker, but I decided to create another tie, by choosing the player who had the least amount of Player of the Week honours between the two of them and this is how Nicklas Backstrom picked up his second nod of the season.
The Capitals have been rolling through the league, winning at every stop it seems. They open Week Twenty on a 14-game winning streak, thanks in large part to their solid offense. Backstrom (along with one of his famous teammates) had 10 points in the week and where you have two players with that many points in the week, you're likely going to have wins.
So, in Week Nineteen, Backstrom finished off the week with 2 goals and 8 assists, including a 5-point effort on Thursday night in a 6-5 comeback win over the Rangers. He might only be the set-up man, but he has one of the hottest trigger men on the other side of that pass, so it's the perfect combination. The Capitals have proved in the week, that they are never out of a game.
The Sheet pool remains interesting through Week Nineteen... the lead for John P. is down again, this time its down to 35 points. Everyone seems to be chipping away at it still, as two of the four other money spots have chipped away and the other two weren't beat by too much. It really does look like we're in for a finish for the lead this year.
The top team of the week was Paul W., who finished with 85 points and he jumped up to 2nd spot in the standings this week. Paul isn't new to the 2nd spot, holding it at the end of four other weeks this season. Paul had awesome weeks from Alex Ovechkin (10 points), Dany Heatley (6), Craig Anderson (6), Jose Theodore (6) and Joe Thornton (5). Paul also has one trade left this season and he's probably saving it for a rainy day.
Moving up the most spots this week was Benson, who moved up 3 spots, from 35th to 32nd in the week. There wasn't a great deal of movement in the pool this week, as 17 teams didn't change their positions. There are still plenty of trades that could be done, so get them in... improve your position!
Other News and Notes
On Sunday, the Thrashers officially recalled their franchise goaltender, Kari Lehtonen, from Chicago of the AHL. Lehtonen was on his conditioning stint, as he is coming back from his major back injury. There is no official word as to when he will see his first action with the Thrashers, as he may have very well lost his 'franchise goaltender' tag to Ondrej Pavelec while he was gone. There have been some whispers that Lehtonen may have found his way onto the trading block, but he will likely have to play a game before a team would agree to deal for him.
A fight on Saturday night between Steve Montador and Jared Boll had some harsh consequences, as Montador was not able to finish the game, leaving with an upper-body injury. Montador was likely fighting to keep his spot in the line-up, since he has been a healthy scratch a number of times over the past few weeks. There was no official word on what the injury was, but in a fight, you could suggest it might be a broken bone in his hand, which could keep him out of the line-up for a while.
The Flames will be without Rene Bourque for the final week of the pre-Olympic schedule, as he went down with an injury over the weekend. Bourque was hit by Tampa's Kurtis Foster on Saturday night and had to leave the game, not to return. The Flames don't expect to have him back in the line-up until after the break, as he heals whatever it is that ails him.
On the eve of Mike Ribeiro's return to the Stars' line-up, it was announced that Box 5 forward, Steve Ott, has undergone an appendectomy and he will miss the last week of the season before the Olympic Break. Ott is said to be doing just fine and he'll take advantage of the time away from the schedule to recoup a little bit faster. He should be okay to go again when the season starts up.
Click here to see an updated injury page.
Hockey Night in Canada
The last Saturday before the Olympic Break should be a good one. We'll have two pretty good match-ups on Hockey Night in Canada and we'll be just about ready to have our send-off to the Olympics.
In the early game, it looks to be the Flyers visiting Montreal to take on the Habs. With the Habs having new management issues, it will be interesting to see if there is a new look to Montreal before this game happens.
In the late game, the Ducks will be in Calgary to take on the Flames. Both teams are on the verge of some more personnel changes by the end of the week, so I'm even more curious about this game. The Ducks could be moving some of their vets out and the Flames will be looking to bring someone big in, so the face of the game will definitely be different, I'm thinking.
How about an Olympic Pool? I have devised a quick, easy & free one... stay tuned!