Monday, March 29, 2010

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 OpiatedSherpa.com. 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!
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