Monday, April 05, 2010

Week Twenty-Five Newsletter



Last week of the season coming up and we are in for some great races! I do a good piece on the Sheet pool in this Sheet Stat Pack, so I'll just keep it to the Draft here in the Headline.

Well, unless Leon doesn't register a point this week in the pool, I would say that his 32-point lead will be enough for him to capture his first hockey pool title here at OpiatedSherpa.com. It does seem like an absolute lock, so an early congratulations are in order. I suppose there is plenty of time for Larry, Dale B. and Wayne to get together and order some hits, Tonya Harding-style, on Leon's players, but it does seem unlikely again.

The money race for 2nd & 3rd is tight between those same three teams listed above. The teams are separated by 3 points on either side, so there will be a strainer applied to every point and a big push will be on.

Larry, who currently sits in 2nd place, holds 44 skater games, which is an advantage over the other two teams, but he only has one goaltender that should get the remainder of his team's games in Miikka Kiprusoff. Larry does carry one minor injury, which may see a return in Filip Kuba, so his skater games are a bit skewed, since Kuba could very well miss all of the remaining games as easily as he could return.

Dale B., sitting 1 point behind Larry, has 41 skater games to play this week, including three games each for the Sedin twins in Vancouver, who are Dale's bread & butter this season. Dale is also battling goaltender issues, as Jonas Hiller is suffering from a bad back (including spasms), so his minutes will hurt down the stretch. Fortunately, Evgeni Nabokov should be able to shoulder the load from the crease. Only one other concern on Dale's team sees Slava Kozlov still in the doghouse in Atlanta, keeping him from regular playing time. Kozlov could also see some time this week, as the Thrashers make that final push for the playoffs.

Finally, Wayne is 3 points back of Larry in 4th place, on the outside looking in. Wayne has 42 skater games, minus Thomas Vanek's day-to-day injury, which isn't looking great going into the final week of the season. I don't think the Sabres will rush Vanek, but he probably wants a game before the playoffs start, I would imagine. Wayne has both goalies going for him, which could be his biggest advantage, except one of them is starting for the Hurricanes (Cam Ward), so that might not translate into many wins.

Each team seems to have their weaknesses, it'll just be a matter of who steps up and who falters! Buckle up, you three... it's on like Donkey Kong!

Poll Question
Last week, I wanted to know who you thought would finish as the leading point-getter in pool scoring this year and there was a lot of support for Henrik Sedin and his push for his first Art Ross Trophy and Pool MVP. Sedin finished Week Twenty-Five in the lead with 106 points, now 3 points up on Martin Brodeur of the Devils and 4 points up on Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals. Sedin picked up 50% of the vote last week, so there is a fair bit of support, while Ovechkin and Brodeur each received a nod or two in their direction. It will be a close race down the stretch, as the Canucks only have three games left on their schedule, while both the Devils and Capitals have four each. This is a good race to watch.

This week, I was thinking of doing the same poll as I did in the second-to-last week of the season, but that actually turned out to be the poll above, so I guess that won't be happening. Most of the polls have been eerily similar down the stretch, without looking mind you, so I need to think of something just a little bit different.

Okay, looking a little bit further ahead, if you had to choose a top-rated prospect for your pool team next season, who would you be going after? That'll do it...

I suppose this is the epitome of "too little, too late," as John B. comes up with a big week in the Draft, scoring 37 points and being far and away the best team in the pool, in a low-scoring week.

John, who has seen three weeks in the middle of the season as the Basement Dweller, finally picked up a positive note in his year with his first M&S nod and the highest point total of his season. Thanks to that big season, he now moved up to his highest position in the standings since Week Six, now sitting in 13th spot, 7 points ahead of Stacey in the standings. John spent seven weeks in last place in the pool and the Waiver Drafts were a big help to his restoration of respect (in one way or another), to sit in 13th. It does seem unlikely that he'll move up any higher, but I suppose it isn't impossible to make up another 21 points to catch 12th.

John had really good weeks from a few players in Week Twenty-Five, but you need those good weeks, if you're going to make Mover & Shaker, am I right? Of course I am. Antti Niemi led the way for John in the week, scoring 9 points in Chicago; Saku Koivu also had a monster week scoring 8 points in Anaheim. Marian Hossa rounded out the top end players with 4 points in Chicago, but really, that was a big gap from his great players to his good players.

Unfortunately for John, the 2010 season has been full of mediocre-to-poor numbers for his team. He ranks fairly low in games played and minutes played by his skaters and goalies, so that's probably the biggest reason why he ranked so low in the standings all year. His skater scoring rate was also pretty low, which doesn't help, but his goaltender points rate is actually exceptionally good, ranking 2nd behind Dale C. in the season average. It's too bad he didn't get more minutes from his keepers or else it would have been a much better season for him.

Anyways, thankfully, it's a small positive that keeps him coming back to the hockey pool and I applaud him his efforts.

Another set of back-to-back weeks in the Basement Dweller position cannot sit well with Chris M., as he's the one getting chased down by John B., who finished with the good nod above him in the newsletter. Chris finished the week with only 17 points in the week, again being the only team in the Draft with a sub-20-point week. This makes him the worst team in the past three weeks, scoring only 60 points in that time, while there were a number of teams that were scoring 60 or more points in the past couple weeks. That's a poor showing altogether. Chris did have reasonable weeks from Patric Hornqvist and Jonathan Toews in Week Twenty-Five, as they had 4 points each, but those were his best players in the week, which doesn't look good. His team also saw seven active players not scoring a point, Jason Arnott being the only one injured of that bunch, so excuses are running thin. He'll need a huge week, just to save some face in Week Twenty-Six.

The race for the Player of the Week came down to some tie-breakers in Week Twenty-Five. Two players tied at 9 points a piece and surprising they were both goalies, meaning that both of them picked up assists in the week to go with some pretty good records. Well, the tie-breaker, since neither of which had been named as Player of the Week thus far in the season, was the better record between the two and one of the goalies did not suffer a loss in the week, so he gets to be the best player in the pool. Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers went 3-0-0 with a shutout and an assist for 9 points in the week and he gets the nod for Stuart and his pool team this time around.

It was a short week for the New York Rangers, but Lundqvist made the most of it, especially for being a road team. On Tuesday on Long Island, Lundqvist made 25 saves in a 4-3 win over the Islanders. Friday, it was a 5-0 shutout of the Lightning in Tampa, making 30 saves. Finally, in Miami, Lundqvist registered his assist and 19 saves against the Panthers in a 4-1 win. That made him 3-0-0 for the week with a shutout and an assist. That is a mighty fine week, if I do say so myself.

Those 9 points now brings Lundqvist's pool points total up to 75, thanks to 33 wins, 4 shutouts and 1 assist, which ranks him 29th in pool scoring this season, down from his 19th place finish in 2009. Lundqvist would have to run the table in the final four games to come close to finishing 19th again in 2010, so I think its safe to say its a bit of a down season, especially if the Rangers fail to make the playoffs.

Lundqvist was taken in the 1st round, 10th overall by Stuart this year in the Draft, so his value was not much of a bargain, although it was a pretty good bet that he would end up being 1st round material (first 17 picks) this season, but that wasn't to be the case in the end. Currently, Lundqvist would be considered a low 2nd round pick, according to his standing.

Stat Pack

One week to go and we are in for one hell of a race to the finish! Paul W. has himself the lead going into the final week of the season, currently sitting with 1,700 points after Twenty-Five weeks, but he is being chased by three other teams that have to contend with themselves, as well as trying to catch Paul. Clayton has the outright (be it only 1 point) lead for 2nd place in the standings, sitting only 7 points back of Paul. Both Wes and John P. are tied for 3rd with 1,692 points, but Wes has a clear advantage in the first tie-breaker, which is goals scored, so Wes will take the title if they finish tied. Actually, Wes has the clear advantage in goals scored through all four teams vying for 1st place in the pool.

If you want to see how the top four teams break down going into the last week of the season, click here, and you'll see how it all breaks down and which players don't mean anything to the pool, since all four teams have them.

There is one more race to speak of as well and that's the one for 5th place, the last money spot in the pool. Currently, Tim L. holds the position with 1,652 points, which is well below the top four, so Tim is just fighting to keep his spot from a few teams below him. It's not unreasonable to think that the possible catch-up rate could be 25 points, so we'll work with that, see how many teams are within that points bracket. In 6th place right now, Carl D. is only 8 points behind and is well within striking distance, especially after making up 6 points in Week Twenty-Five. Dale C. currently sits 7th, 17 points behind... a little further, but still possible. Jamie C. is 30 points behind in 8th, so I guess we have to cut it off before him, although, its worth mentioning, just in case. This is a decent race in itself, which could have a surprise ending by late Sunday night.

So, top billing in pool scoring goes to Gerald B. in Week Twenty-Five, thanks to a big week for the Rangers. Gerald topped out at 78 points this week, which ends up being his best week of the season, scoring-wise. It hasn't been a great year for Gerald in the pool, as his biggest week brings him up to 36th place from his 37th position in the pool. His top players were Henrik Lundqvist (9 points), Saku Koivu (8), Pavel Datsyuk (7) and Teemu Selanne (6).

Having an amazing week up the pool standings was Jeff R., who sailed up 5 spots in the standings, thanks to a 77-point week, moving up to 29th spot in the standings. If Gerald was trailing Jeff a little bit closer, I'm sure they both would have moved up significantly. Jeff did a great job to put himself in a little bit better position for the last week of the season.

Other News and Notes

The Bruins are going through some blueline concerns, as they play for one of the remaining playoff spots in the Eastern Conference this week. First off, Mark Stuart did not play on Saturday and will miss the remainder of the regular season, due to a finger infection. There was a big name for it, but I can't seem to find it anywhere. Stuart underwent surgery on his finger to help and he'll now miss the next couple of weeks. In Saturday's game, Dennis Seidenberg had to leave after suffering a laceration around his wrist. He was cut by a skate after contact along the boards in their game against Toronto, but after further examination, there was no damage to any tendons or ligaments, so stitches are all that was needed and he should be good to go this week.

Deciding to go with youth over experience on Sunday night, Avalanche coach Joe Sacco went with scratching Darcy Tucker when Matt Hendricks was declared healthy against the Sharks on Sunday night. Tucker has been a healthy scratch before this season and has seen his role start to become limited down the stretch. With only one week to go, I would imagine that this would be the direction that the Avalanche are going to take, especially after a game of such importance being used as a guide.

Big injury news from Avalanche camp on Monday morning, as Peter Mueller has now been listed as being out indefinitely with a concussion after a questionable hit from Rob Blake in Sunday's game against the Sharks. Mueller has reportedly not joined the Avalanche on their current 2-game road trip up to Canada, beginning on Tuesday in Vancouver. Indefinitely is not the word that the Avalanche were looking forward to, as they are currently in the playoffs, not clinched, but holding a playoff spot, and they will need all the help they can get to keep it.

Playing back-to-back games over the weekend was enough reason for the Red Wings to make Dan Cleary a healthy scratch for their Saturday game. The veteran forward was just given the day off from game action, likely to prepare for the playoffs, where he is actually a part of the Playoff Pool in the last forward box on the Sheet. Cleary did play on Sunday against the Flyers, in the team's 4-3 loss, but they did manage to clinch their playoff spot due to other results in the weekend.

On Thursday, Kings veteran forward Jeff Halpern suffered an upper-body injury after taking a hard hit into the boards. Halpern will now likely miss the last week of the season or the better part of it, because of the injury. Halpern was acquired at the trade deadline to help the Kings into and through the playoffs and fortunately, the Kings did clinch their spot over the weekend, so job number one is done.

On Saturday, the New Jersey Devils were taking on the non-playoff bound Carolina Hurricanes, so the coaching staff thought they would make the effort and have both Jamie Langenbrunner and Paul Martin get a rest in before the last week of the regular season and a possible long playoff run. Both players were healthy scratches for the Devils and should likely return for their next game, which is Tuesday in Atlanta.

The Phoenix Coyotes are running a little healthier after this past weekend, as Zbynek Michalek was able to return from a maintenance day, nursing some bumps and bruises, to play on Saturday night. In response, the Coyotes scratched veteran defender Mathieu Schneider again, who has been a regular scratch, when the team has been healthy. I would expect this to be a regular thing, especially come the playoffs, seeing Schneider only used in roles for the team, when needed.

It's really hard to gauge what the Sharks are up to, in regards to their line-up, but it could very well be cap-related. San Jose has been shuffling the deck with call-ups and demotions for the better part of the season and Jason Demers has been one of those players. With only a week to go in the season, I wonder if they have used up their post-trade deadline AHL call-ups, because Demers was a healthy scratch, instead of demoted on Sunday night. It's hard to tell, but it does appear to be that way.

Some concerning news out of Vancouver's division-clinching game against the Wild on Sunday night, as Christian Ehrhoff left the game with a knee injury. It was later described to be more of a 'tweak,' but he was unable to finish the game. The Canucks don't play again until Tuesday, so there should be an update on his status before then.

Click here to see an updated injury page.

Hockey Night in Canada

Can you believe it? It's the last Hockey Night In Canada for the regular season this coming Saturday! It's definitely going to be a good one, with two rivalry games headlining the evening. One of which will definitely play a factor in some of the hockey pool results, not too sure about the other one though.

In the early game, the old rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs will ramp up again at the Bell Centre. The Draft race will see Roman Hamrlik play for Dale B. in this game, but that's actually about it for the money in that pool. In the Sheet pool, there will be a few different players trying to make an impact on the race for 1st place and they include: Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges, Luke Schenn and Jonas Gustavsson. That could be a very integral game.

In the late game, we have the Flames and Canucks finishing off their season with possibly a lot on the line for the Flames, including their playoff spot. The Canucks clinched their division title on Sunday night, so they will be looking to play spoilers there. In the Draft, the Sedin twins will highlight this game, as Dale B. looks to take a money position with their help on Saturday night. Wayne holds Alex Edler in that game, while Larry has Miikka Kiprusoff, just to be contrary. On the Sheet, its going to be a busy one as well. The Sedin twins will play a role here as well, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Roberto Luongo are all key players in the race for 1st place, with no Flames to be seen here.

It's not the end all of the pool, but its really close. I know I'll be watching!
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