Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Playoff Pool Elminations Tonight

We're drawing nearer to the playoffs and the Playoff Pool needs to be trimmed, just for all of those who are not quite in the loop like the rest of us. Looking at the standings and some of the Death Watch numbers, I think we can safely eliminate a number of teams, like we eliminated the Panthers the other night. Actually, the Panthers probably could have held out until this post, while a couple of teams I'll note here could have gone before them.

Despite the wondrous efforts of Steven Stamkos this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning are not going to make the playoffs in 2010, as they go into Wednesday's action with only one game to lose or one game to win for the Boston Bruins. Of course, the loss seems a little more believable, especially with the Bolts facing off against the Penguins on Wednesday night. The 14th place team in the East will be removed from the online selection sheet, with no hesitation.

In the West, it will be the ol' heave-ho for the Dallas Stars, who sit a 1.5 games away from complete elimination on Wednesday afternoon. The Stars host the Sharks on Wednesday night, while the Colorado Avalanche have the Anaheim Ducks, which has a pretty good combination of possibilities for elimination for the Stars. If the Avalanche win and the Stars lose, then there is little math to do here. An overtime loss to either team, in lieu of their other elimination possibilities, should do it as well.

Finally, its the Minnesota Wild who sit in the same boat as the Stars, in terms of points left to go, as they host the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. Again, a Wild loss and Avalanche win will do the trick, with the overtime loss possibilities also in there. So, being this close makes it really easy to eliminate the Wild from the Playoff Pool sheet tonight. No Martin Havlat, Marek Zidlicky or Niklas Backstrom for your picking pleasure this year.

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Kariya Out With Lower-Body Injury

The Blues were without the services of Paul Kariya after the first period against the Blackhawks on Tuesday night. The veteran forward left the game with a lower-body injury and didn't return. The word out of Blues' camp is that he is undergoing some more tests and is definitely not going to go on Thursday night against the Predators. Until there is more definitive word, we'll call him day-to-day with his lower-body injury.

ImplicationsThe Blues are in the thick of the playoff race in the NHL, only trailing the Flames, who are in 9th, by 2 points, which should suggest that a slip by Calgary could mean they could be chasing down the Avalanche for the 8th spot in the West. If the Blues do make it in, Kariya may be an outside gamble in Box 3 of the Playoff Pool. That's all the pool value Kariya will have for the remainder of the 2010 season.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Scratches & Injuries on Tuesday Night

The Oilers have been getting beaten up at every turn. In Tuesday night's game against the Red Wings, Dustin Penner left the game after taking a puck to the face. The reports during the game said that he took the puck right underneath one of his eyes and that he wasn't going to return to the game. There was no immediate word after the game, but we'll consider him day-to-day until otherwise noted.

The elbow injury to Randy Jones was very minor and he was back in the line-up on Tuesday night, which means Peter Harrold came out as a healthy scratch again, as the extra defenseman. This looks to be the set formation heading into the playoffs. Its a good thing Harrold wasn't included as one of the Kings' defensemen in the Playoff Pool, eh?

Surgery is the word of the day for the Minnesota Wild, as they are preparing to be without both Josh Harding and Andrew Ebbett for the remainder of the season. Harding will need surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip and Ebbett will need it to repair a broken finger, which he suffered last night against the Kings. With the team virtually out of the playoff race, neither player will be missed terribly after the season is over.

The regular season has concluded for Glen Metropolit of the Canadiens and his playoff participation will depend on how long the Canadiens can last in the Spring dance. Metropolit suffered a separated shoulder over the weekend and it will keep him out for 6-to-8 weeks, which will be at least a month into the playoffs. Metropolit is in Box 19 of the Playoff Pool, so you might want to avoid him in that box if at all possible.

I missed out on a quick note on Tuesday morning, as Martin Erat was not in the line-up for the Predators on Monday against the Panthers due to a lower-body injury. Well, that was the only game that he missed, as he re-joined the Predators' line-up on Tuesday night, as the team took on the Kings at home. His inclusion wasn't enough on Tuesday, however, as he couldn't help his team score and the Predators were shutout, 2-0.

Another note missed in the last couple days... so many small injuries these days, its hard to keep up. Bruno Gervais missed his second straight game on Tuesday night with a slight groin problem. The Islanders are not saying too much, except that he's day-to-day for now. He's not a popular guy on the regular season sheet and he won't be in the playoffs for consideration in the Spring.

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Another Suspension for Carcillo

It appears that Box 24 forward Dan Carcillo has been stewing in some hot water again, as he received a 2-game suspension from the NHL on Tuesday afternoon for his cross-check to the face of David Clarkson of the Devils. Carcillo was handed a match penalty and game misconduct for his actions, which automatically sees a hearing and since he's a repeat offender, the book has come down on him.

Carcillo's suspensions have been noted before on the blog, click here to see more.

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Penguins Extend Letang

Early on Tuesday morning, word came down that the Penguins have extended blooming defenseman, Kristopher Letang, by four years. The deal is reportedly worth $3.5 million per season, which ends up being a $14 million extension and now the Penguins have another one of their core young players signed up for the foreseeable future, which is a definite plus for any young franchise.

Letang has set a new career-high in assists already this season with 24, but is a little ways from his best goal total. In 67 games, Letang has only 3 goals and 27 points, which isn't the greatest totals among defensemen, but he's proven that he's more valuable to the team than just his offense. He is enjoying his first season on the positive side of the +/- ledger, as a +3 through 67 games. With more and more ice-time, his numbers should improve on these, making him a much better player for the hockey pools and fantasy leagues.

In the playoffs in 2009, Letang did have 13 points in 23 games and since we're nearing the year-end tournament, that might be something to definitely consider.

Salary CapNow the Penguins are proud to have Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz, Alex Goligoski, Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik for more than the 2011 season. The team's 2011 cap hit is still quite reasonable, sitting at $44.5 million for 14 players, including the core up above, which suggests that GM Ray Shero is a very shrewd businessman, as he should have more than enough money during this off-season to secure good depth to help out his core group of players. Incredible.

I'm not totally convinced that Letang's scoring is enough to warrant $3.5 million per season right now, but he definitely has the potential to grow into his contract. With the talent that the Penguins have surrounded Letang with, his numbers should increase drastically when the team leans on him more for quality special teams minutes. How nice would it be to be a key part of this team's core? Pretty special, if you ask me.

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Erat Out Because of Lower-Body Injury

The Predators didn't dress Martin Erat on Monday night against the Florida Panthers due to a lower-body injury. Erat reportedly suffered the injury over the weekend, but the Predators' coaching staff do not think that the injury is too serious, expecting to have Erat back in the line-up by Thursday.

The Predators are having a pretty tough go of the stretch run with some injuries, already having Jason Arnott, Denis Grebeshkov and Joel Ward out on a regular basis. Nashville did manage to pull out a win over Florida, which keeps them firmly in the playoff picture, but how long is that going to last?

ImplicationsCurrently, Erat is a member of Stuart's Draft team, which sits well out of the money at the moment. Erat is scheduled to be a big part of Nashville's drive in the playoffs, which puts him in Box 2 of the Playoff Pool, a pretty good box for Western Conference players. I have a feeling that Nashville won't be a favourite to go very far, which means Erat likely won't be taken many times.

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Monday Night's Sheet Injuries & Scratches

'Tis the season to be blocking shots, tra-la-la-la, la-la-la-sonofa... Aaron Ward sat out Monday night's game against the Dallas Stars with a bruised foot and is considered to be day-to-day right now. The Box 30 defenseman missed out on a key win to help the Ducks keep their slim playoff hopes alive, but that's about all it is at the moment, as they are still trailing the Flames by 4 points and they are not even in the playoffs.

Also, Jonas Hiller did miss a scheduled start due to back spasms, which he started suffering in the pre-game warm-up. Curtis McElhinney did get the start for the Ducks and eventually the win in Hiller's place. Not entirely sure if these back spasms will keep Hiller out any further.

It looks like the Buffalo Sabres are going into full-resting mode, mostly due to injuries in these last couple weeks. You can add Thomas Vanek to the list of players already out of the line-up and he's out due to a lower-body injury, which still remains somewhat undisclosed. Sabres GM Darcy Regier did comment about his injured players, suggesting that they will all be ready for the post-season, but that was about it. If I was trying to draw a conclusion from that, it would be that these star players will get all the rest they need between then and now.

Playoff Pool defenseman, Chris Butler, was made into a healthy scratch again on Monday night. He did return to the Sabres line-up over the weekend, so he is still seeing some ice-time, for those considering taking him as your last Sabres player in the pool.

A couple of quick scratches in Los Angeles on Monday night, as both Erik Ersberg and Randy Jones were not available to play for the Kings against the Minnesota Wild. Ersberg has suffered some strained muscles in his back and was unable to play at all. The Kings recalled Jonathan Bernier from Manchester of the AHL for this week, where he'll get another start on Tuesday night. Jones was sidelined with an elbow injury and is currently considered day-to-day with the injury.

The Wild were fortunate to get Mikko Koivu back from his minor arm injury last night against the Kings and some other questionable players were deemed good to go as well, which meant another roster player had to sit and that turned out to be Chuck Kobasew. Kobasew has been struggling of late and has played himself into a solid candidate for being a healthy scratch. The Wild are getting close to the brink and will likely play some of their young players down the stretch to give them some experience.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Panthers Removed From the Playoff Pool

Tonight was a good night for eliminating a team from the Playoff Pool Selection Sheet tonight. A loss in overtime to the Nashville Predators was enough to send them packing, but frankly, I had them off the sheet before the game was even over... and they were up 2-1. The Panthers' death number is now down to three, meaning that a combination of three regulation losses or three Boston wins. I think that's more than enough of a buffer to have the Panthers eliminated, don't you?

So, no Tomas Vokoun... no Nathan Horton... no Stephen Weiss... nothing like that. So, if you had the Panthers as your sleeper team in the East... really? Come on!

Anyways, you still have two weeks left to study for your Playoff Pool team... the price is right, the format is challenging and it gives you something to look at during the playoffs.

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Ribeiro Disciplined

Sounds like some minor issues at the Dallas Stars camp, as Mike Ribeiro is not going to dress, as he missed a team meeting this weekend and will be scratched from Monday's game against the Anaheim Ducks. The team was not saying anything about suspending Ribeiro for the game, just keeping him out of the game for disciplinary reasons. So, since he's out of the line-up and you don't know why... what's the matter with you? It's right here.

ImplicationsNot much going on here. Dale C. has Ribeiro in the Draft and has already suffered enough from injuries and healthy scratches, which has started his week in 10th place, so there isn't much there.

The Stars are also on the verge of missing the playoffs, so he won't be a big player in the Playoff Pool this year.

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Jackets Shut Down Clark

With only a couple of weeks left in the season, the Columbus Blue Jackets are not going to rush Chris Clark back into their line-up from a sprained knee and wholly expect to be without the veteran forward for the remainder of the regular season. Clark suffered the injury on Sunday against the Blackhawks, not being able to finish the second period and the rest of the game. The Box 24 forward, acquired from the Capitals in the season, will finish with 7 goals and 13 assists in 74 games between Washington and Columbus, ranking him no better than 370th in pool scoring.

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Week Twenty-Four Newsletter

We are only two week away from the end of the season, we're just about to give away another jersey... well, just about meaning that it happens a little bit further down in this post... and we're finally counting down to the Playoff Pool, which is now live on How very exciting!

I thought I would have a quick look at the comparisons between 2009 and 2010, in terms of scoring, pool-wise.

In 2009, we finished with only four players over 100 points... Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Miikka Kiprusoff. That's all well and good, but are we possibly on the verge of a better year for centuries.

At the end of Week Twenty-Four, we have had the first two players crack the century mark for points this season and it's Henrik Sedin and Alex Ovechkin who lead the way. We're already halfway to 2009's number of players and we still have two weeks to go in the season.

Martin Brodeur is on the verge of becoming the first goaltender to crack 100 points this year, as he sits with 99 points going into Week Twenty-Five and the Devils are in the thick of the Atlantic Division title race, so you know he'll get his starts down the line.

Ilya Bryzgalov and the Coyotes are tracking down the Sharks for the Pacific Division and the Western Conference titles in the regular season, so he'll improve on his 97 points this week, likely cracking the 100-point plateau at his pace.

Sidney Crosby enters the week at 94 points, meaning he'll need 6 points in the next two weeks to make that mark. The Penguins will need him to do so, if they want to be out the Devils for the division title.

Ovechkin's centre, Nicklas Backstrom, has an outside shot at making the 100-point mark for the first time in his career, has he enters the week with 90 points.

I suppose it's not out of the question to think that Craig Anderson and the 11 points he needs is out of the question either, especially if the Avalanche want to make to the playoffs to begin with.

Otherwise, 13 or more points does seem to be a little out of reach, unless Martin St. Louis or Jonathan Quick want to post a Player of the Week honour between now and the end of the season. That's what its going to take for anyone beyond this point to even get consideration, especially since the top week this season is only 12 points.

Poll Question
It was a two-question week for the polls and it looks like some of you didn't see the second one, because the vote counts are pretty lopsided. Nevertheless, I'll move on. I wanted to know what teams out of the 5 through 9 spots in each conference would be more likely to miss the playoffs. It was pretty interesting to see what the votes looked like.

In the West, it was a runaway victory for Calgary to lose. Funny how that sounds, but that's what everyone on the blog thought, taking 81% of the votes. The Flames, however, do have a shot at making the playoffs at the moment, but they will need an extra little bit of help to get there, like seeing Colorado lose their game in hand, for starters.

In the East, it wasn't as cut and dry as the West, but very interesting nonetheless. The Atlanta Thrashers, who sat in 9th spot going into the week earned the most votes at only 40% and they are still more than capable of jumping over Boston, Montreal and Philadelphia going into the week, mathematically. The Thrashers open the week against Carolina and Toronto, so it isn't entirely out of the question that they could make it realistically either. Ottawa, who picked up 20% of the vote, moved closer to the safe zone during the week and now have a magic number of 3 to clinch, meaning wins or regulation losses by the Thrashers in any combination. That looks safe.

So, for this week's poll question, I would like to know who you think will end up with the most pool points to finish the season. I suppose the term pool points does apply more to the goaltenders, since I just count goals & assists in the pools for skaters, but I digress. For the poll, I chose the top five point-getters going into the last two weeks and I would like to know if its going to change or not. Remember, its 2 points for a win, another 2 for a shutout and goalies to register assists as well. Go on, vote!

It was another great big week for Dale B., who set a personal team record this season with 45 points for the Mover & Shaker nod for Week Twenty-Four. Dale enjoyed some more success from his Vancouver players and that made him jump into money consideration again, losing the first tie-breaker to Wayne for 3rd place. That's a pretty solid week for him.

Dale is enjoying a fine season from Henrik Sedin, who finishes the week in the NHL scoring lead among skaters with 101 points. He was the first player in the league to eclipse the mark and he currently leads all players in the league, including goaltenders in points, as you can see from this week's poll. Dale also had an excellent week from his top goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, who had 8 points with the Sharks. Other players having good weeks include Kristian Huselius, Daniel Sedin and Wojtek Wolski, who all had 5 points each in the week.

Moving up to 4th place in the pool, actually a tie for 3rd, isn't the highest that Dale saw this season. He actually topped out at 2nd place at the end of Week Seventeen, which seems like an age ago. Dale had a pretty good stretch in the middle of the season to earn the second jersey this season. He did drop slightly down to 5th spot, but it looks like the recovery is on and it couldn't come at a better time.

Statisitcally speaking, Dale ranks 3rd among all teams for skaters scoring pace, picking up .704 points per skater game this season. Amazingly, he ranks 15th among teams in skater games played, so you could only imagine how far ahead his team would be if it was healthy all year. Also, his goaltending ranks 4th in points per 60 minutes, picking up 1.27 points per. Thanks to a healthy goaltending situation all year, he ranks 1st in minutes played by his goaltending tandem. That's an incredible season, with two weeks to go.

Jersey PrizeWell, we've come to the end of the last 8-week segment of the season, leaving two weeks to decide the regular season races, so we can give away the Boston Bruins Winter Classic jersey. It was quite the finish at the end of it all, as Allan S. outscored Larry D. by 6 points in Week Twenty-Four and was able to leapfrog the teams in front of him and beat Larry by 1 point at the end of it all.

If the competition came down to a tie-break, which it very well could have, Larry would have clinched the jersey by goals scored, as he had 74 goals scored in the segment, while Allan only picked up 66 in the same timeframe. I only mention it for argument's sake.

Congratulations Allan, I will be calling to see when I can get that jersey to you!

It was a horrible week for Chris M. in the Draft in Week Twenty-Four, as he had his sights set on being in the jersey race right until the end. Chris went into the week as the leader, 1 point ahead of Larry, but a 14-point Basement Dweller week took him from 1st down to 8th in the race, leaving him 20 points behind Allan when it was all said and done. Absolutely heartbreaking.

Injuries to Evgeni Malkin, Jason Arnott, and Mattias Ohlund piled issues on top of the problem. A healthy scratch for Joe Corvo during the week also didn't help much either. Chris' top scorers were Simon Gagne and Patrick Sharp, who each finished with 3 points a piece.

The drop in scoring also dropped him in the overall standings, as he now stands in 12th place from 10th a week ago, but now stands 19 points behind 10th place with two weeks remaining.

A terrible, terrible week at the wrong time of year.

I'll tell you what wasn't a terrible week... that would be Jimmy Howard's week in Detroit. Howard had a perfect week in the win-loss column, going 4-0. He also picked up a shutout in a major goaltending battle and he had an assist as well, which is the cherry on top. All in all, that left him with 11 points in the week, far and away the best week in the pool in Week Twenty-Four. That's a big relief to Stacy C., who capitalized on the good week.

In a quick recap of the week, Howard picked up all four starts, starting on Tuesday against the Penguins. Howard made 26 stops in a 3-1 win. On Thursday, the Blues came to town and Howard made 30 stops in a 4-2 win and that's the game where he picked up his assist. Saturday, it was an easier game, making 25 saves in a 6-2 win at home to Minnesota. Finally, it was in Nashville on Sunday where he made 33 saves and had to go to the shootout in a 1-0 win; a duel with the Predators' Pekka Rinne.

With that big week, Howard now ranks 32nd among all players in pool scoring, as he now has 32 wins, 2 shutouts and 2 assists for 70 points. He currently sits tied in points with both Corey Perry and Evgeni Malkin this season, just to put it all in perspective.

Stat Pack

We have ourselves a new leader! Paul W. has done it... he's scaled the mountain and caught John P. with only two weeks to go in the season. Paul had himself a fantastic 72-point week and now carries a 1-point lead over John going into the last couple weeks of the season. It's not much, but its definitely a story. Not far behind, we have both Wes M. and Clayton C. coming up the rear, sitting only 14 points behind 1st place, which is definitely achievable in one week. It's going to be an incredible finish to this pool, I can't wait to see how the next couple of weeks play out.

Paul's 72-point week wasn't the best in the pool in the week, actually. Caterina F. came in with the top week in the pool, with 85 points, which was an excellent showing. She rode Jimmy Howard (11 points) to the top week, with Evgeni Nabokov (8) close behind as her second best player. Also having a good week for her was Sidney Crosby (6) and Henrik Zetterberg (5).

One of Scott G.'s teams took top honours of the best moving team in the pool... the other shared the mention for one of the bigger drops in the pool. Go figure, right? Scott's best team did move back into the top 10 with a 66-point week, just bettering the teams surrounding him. That's a pretty good finish for him, but I think the money spots are still out of reach from there.

Other News and Notes

The Chicago Blackhawks seem to be getting their blueline shored up with some healthy bodies or at the very least trying to fill in some gaps with some bodies that are healthy. On Sunday night, the Blackhawks re-inserted Brent Sopel and took out Nick Boynton for their game against the Blue Jackets. Boynton has played five games with the Hawks since coming from the Ducks and has only registered an assist.

The Colorado Avalanche said that Peter Mueller missed Saturday's contest against his former team, the Phoenix Coyotes, was due to a minor hip problem tht Mueller has been dealing with. Fortunately for the Avalanche, he was able to return to the line-up the day after, as they took on the San Sharks. On the other side of the coin, the Avalanche lost both games this weekend.

The Rangers are not only looking from the outside in on the playoffs, they are dealing with a couple of knee injuries. On Saturday night, the Rangers went into their game without Ryan Callahan, who aggravated a knee injury during the week and wasn't able to go with the Rangers. Callahan remains listed as out day-to-day with his knee injury, which will make their playoff run much harder. Also on Saturday, they lost Sean Avery to a knee injury of his own. He was taken into the boards by Luke Schenn against the Leafs and had to leave the game with the injury, he is also considered day-to-day. Finally, Matt Gilroy looked to be a healthy scratch against the Leafs, likely getting an education day with the team. I would imagine he'll be in the line-up for next game.

Flyers rookie, James Van Riemsdyk, appeared to be a healthy scratch as the team took on the Devils on Sunday night. Van Riemsdyk hasn't had the biggest of impacts on the Eastern Conference as some may have thought (including myself), so it couldn't come as a terrible surprise that he would be off for a game. I am expecting him back in the line-up for the Flyers next game, barring any news of an injury.

After Saturday's game against the Canucks, the Sharks came away with an injured Joe Thornton, who suffered a lower-body injury after an awkward fall into the boards. Thornton's injury hasn't officially been announced, so we should consider him as out day-to-day for now. The Sharks were also proactive before their playoff run by resting Rob Blake on Sunday against the Avalanche. He was a healthy scratch on a back-to-back situation.

It looks like Patrik Berglund is back in the Blues' coaching staff doghouse with a couple weeks to go in the regular season. Berglund ended up being a healthy scratch again for the Blues on Sunday and it's unclear as to how long he'll be in there for. He hasn't had the best of years with the Blues, after a good preview last season. Hopefully, he'll have a good summer and come back as a strong hockey pool sleeper.

Sounds like Kurtis Foster has suffered a concussion of his own this week, which might just finish his season off a couple weeks early. Foster took a heavy hit against the Boston Bruins this week and wasn't able to continue to play in that game. He tried to practice on Friday to no avail, but there hasn't been any confirmation of a concussion, despite a little bit of evidence suggesting there is. I would consider him done... or at the very least, no fantasy value.

The word this weekend out of the Capitals camp was that Brendan Morrison has tweaked something in his lower-body and is no unable to go for the team. He missed Sunday's campaign against the Flames and will likely miss at least another game by the sounds of things. The Capitals have been resting some of their veterans anyways, so Morrison might just get an extended rest before the playoffs.

Click here to see an updated injury page.

Hockey Night in Canada

The second-to-last Hockey Night In Canada of the regular season was probably booked up with a lot different intentions than what the two match-ups mean going into this coming weekend.

In the early game, the Bruins travel to Toronto, hoping that they are still holding onto a playoff spot, while the Maple Leafs are going to try and play spoiler in this one. I would imagine that the CBC had better hopes for the Leafs this year and both would be fighting for a better playoff position.

In the late game, the Oilers travel to Phoenix to visit one of the top contending teams in the Western Conference, the Coyotes. I suppose you can imagine that the previous sentence didn't even cross the minds of the executives of the national channel, eh? I bet they would have figured that this could be the last HNIC to broadcast from Phoenix, with a buyer taking the team to Canada and the Coyotes would be so dreadful that the Oilers would walk all over them.

Guess again!