After a crazy week of goalie dust-ups, line brawls and some decent sized suspensions, I can honestly say that I'm so glad that I don't have penalty minutes as a redeemable statistic in my hockey pools. The Bruins and Canadiens had a great night of rivalry madness, the Islanders and Penguins had revenge on their mind and a few minor fisticuffs in between.
Last year, about this time, we were just about to shut down the NHL season for the Olympic tournament, which was a pretty good vacation for the pool, but that isn't to be this year and I've already had my mini-break from the pool competition with the All-Star break.
I will take the time to note that the upcoming weekend will be very spotty with updates, as I have secured some tickets for the weekend's worth of action at McMahon Stadium for the Heritage Classic festivities. So, if the updates are not up to your liking... too bad. You really should have picked up some tickets and made your way to see some outdoor hockey.
If you are actually going to any of the Heritage Classic festivities, let me know... we can definitely meet up and make the weekend a little more social.
The Week Nineteen nod for Player of the Week did come down to two players, both having 8 points a piece, but thankfully, the tie-breaking system that I have employed has made the selection process really easy. The first player, well, he's a goaltender and wasn't going to make it if there was indeed a skater to rival him and indeed there was. John Tavares of the Islanders finally takes a shot at the Player of the Week nods in the pools, now in his second season in the NHL, thanks in large part to two massive scoring fiestas in the week.
Tavares is currently on a 5-game point streak, to which four of those games were played in Week Nineteen, helping him towards his recognition in the weekly newsletter. During the week, Tavares scored 3 goals and added 5 assists to help the lead the Islanders to three wins and a loss in the week, pretty good for a bottom ranked team.
On Tuesday, the Islanders were on the wrong side of a 5-3 decision against the Maple Leafs, but Tavares did manage an assist to get his week off to an okay start. Wednesday in Montreal, the Islanders forced the Canadiens to a shootout and ended up beating the playoff-bound side, 4-3, where Tavares had a goal in regulation. On Friday, things got very interesting for the Islanders, with the fight-filled affair against Pittsburgh, Tavares managed to stay out of the box for extended periods of time and pick up a goal and 3 assists in a 9-3 rout. Finally, on Sunday, Tavares had a goal and an assist in a 7-6 shootout win against the Sabres, another game where the points came quickly and often. A very exciting weekend, no?
This week has definitely raised the notoriety of Tavares back up to some more reasonable levels, especially for the number one overall pick in 2009's draft. It did take Steven Stamkos a little while to get going on his merry way, with a lot more help, so Tavares is making good progress. His 8-point week has now lifted his totals up to 47 points in 53 games with the Islanders, ranking him 41st in pool scoring, a massive improvement on the 99th overall finish he had in 2010.
There were a few runaway trains in the scoring department for the draft in Week Nineteen, but there was no need to employ a tie-breaker this week, as Leon G. clearly took the nod and the early lead in the third segment of the pool with a 38-point week. Actually, it was one of our higher scoring weeks, where a number of teams did quite well, but Leon did pull away in the end.
Unfortunately for Leon, as much as he shook out a solid number of points from his players, it wasn't good enough for any moving up in the standings, as he has now been stuck in 9th place for the last five weeks. He only made up 2 points on 8th place, Dale B., and now sits 11 points back of him after this marvelous week.
Leon's week was led by his 2nd round pick in the second waiver draft, Drew Stafford, who had a pair of hat-tricks in Week Nineteen, giving him 6 points, followed closely by Rick Nash with 5 points, while Bobby Ryan and Jonathan Quick each had 4 points a piece. A couple of injuries and a cold defender were the only zeros on the list, so it was a pretty good week, as weeks go in the pool.
Thanks to a monster week from Stafford and some of his other players, Leon rocketed up the list for total goals scored in the pool, now ranking 3rd in the pool for goals with 156 this season, now only 17 back of our leader, Don D..
In terms of the segment races, Leon has been in the middle of the pack for the first and second segments, finishing with 213 points and 212 points, respectively, in each race. Now, jumping out to an early lead is good and all, but it hasn't really lasted for those who have gotten out to that lead. Maybe it'll be different for Leon, now that he has Stafford in tow.
Just when he thought he was done with the Basement Dweller nods, just as his team was getting healthy again, they all collectively decided that another go around the bottom of the weekly standings was definitely in order. Clayton C.'s team made another visit down to the Basement, a fourth trip down there this season, after another sub-20-point performance in the week. Clayton's team only managed to pick up 15 points in Week Nineteen, even with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf returning to the Ducks line-up from nasal fractures.
There was no help from his goaltending tandem, little help from his second waiver draft pick-ups and the guy who did return from injury was the only one to do better than 2 points in the week. Yes, it was not a very productive week, as weeks go in the draft, hence another trip to the basement.
Well, it's now three weeks on top of the pool for Burc B., but fortunately for the rest of the teams behind him, he hasn't been able to break away and make a big lead for himself. Between Week Eighteen and Nineteen, his lead hasn't grown too much, having a 1-point lead on Mitch F. a week ago to a 5-point lead on Kendra M. now. The shifting of the spots below Burc may be the only reason why he has opened up a bigger lead at all, but it is still so close, that one week can change the lead again.
The top week in the pool belongs to Chris M., both in points and in moving up the standings in Week Nineteen. This actually makes for back-to-back weeks in the pool, where he has finished as the top team in it. He moved up from 23rd to 19th a week ago and then 19th to 14th this week... and rumour has it, he'll be making trades for Week Twenty.
It was a relatively low-scoring week in the sheet pool, as Chris only finished with 64 points, but it was 9 points better than the next best team in the standings. Incredibly poor. Chris had good weeks from Mikael Samuelsson (6 points), Mason Raymond (5), Jiri Hudler (5), Daniel Sedin (4), Brad Boyes (4), Roberto Luongo (4), Vincent Lecavalier, (4), Milan Lucic (4) and Anton Babchuk (4) to help lift his team that much further up the standings. With those kind of jumps, he might make things a little more interesting at the top.
As for interesting boxes in the sheet, how about looking at the number one defenseman boxes in both the West and Eastern Conferences... Keith Yandle leads Box 10 with 46 points through 19 weeks, while Box 26 sees Tobias Enstrom leading the way with 42 points. Did you see either one of these leading the way this year?
NEWS AND NOTES
Now that we're getting into the trade-heavy part of the NHL season, the rumour mill is going at a blinding speed. The Rangers are looking to be buyers this time around and it sounds like they may have given up on Michael Del Zotto, now that he has been a healthy scratch a number of times and has been sent down to the minors a couple times. Of course, that is just a rumour, but he was a scratch again on the weekend, so I'll bring it up here. I'm sure there would be a lot of teams lining up to give Del Zotto a try, if it were true.
The Flyers decided to make Nikolai Zherdev into a healthy scratch again on Sunday, the first time in quite some time, I do believe. Zherdev's offensive consistency hasn't shown up at all this season, remaining a very streaky scorer for the Flyers and drawing the ire of the coaching staff. He does provide some pop to the line-up, which the Flyers will likely keep around, but come playoff time, he will certainly be tested.
In the crazy melee of the Islanders and Penguins game on Friday night, Box 25 forward Eric Tangradi was the victim of a nasty hit from Trevor Gillies. Tangradi has suffered a concussion and will now be out of the line-up indefinitely, which will likely hurt his minor-league season more than his NHL season, because he was having such a great year in the AHL and was used very sparingly with the big club, more so now, due to all the injuries. Tangradi will likely be re-evaluated on the weekend to see what his timetable will be like for a return.
Link to the Injury/News Page
HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA
The Saturday night doubleheader really isn't the prime ticket event next weekend, but I'll at least go through it, like I usually do. We'll be treated to the worst in the East and some of the best in the West on Saturday, which should make for an interesting start to a hockey weekend.
In the opening game, the Senators will play their provincial rivals in Ontario, the Maple Leafs, in Toronto. The Senators are in the midst of one of their worst stretches in the post-lockout era and they're closing in on last place in the NHL, starting to become sellers in the trade market. The Leafs are surprising some with some resiliency in their game, only being 8 points out of a playoff spot, but it may not be too long before that bubble bursts.
In the draft, the Senators go into Week Twenty with a pool-low seven players after the trade of Mike Fisher to Nashville, while the Leafs only have nine players represented on their side, including the two goalies. In terms of scoring between the two teams, it's all Toronto, as the Leafs have six players better than Brian Elliot, who leads the Sens in pool scoring with 32 points. Leading the Leafs is Clarke MacArthur, who has 44 points in 56 games.
In the late game, we should see a game with a bit more meaning with the Stars travelling up to Vancouver to take on the Canucks. The Stars have been stumbling a bit of late, being under .500 in their last 10 games, but they still have the Pacific Division lead to their name. The Canucks continue to work it all out, despite some key injuries to their blueline.
In the draft, we'll see a few more players in this game, as the visiting Stars have 10 players going in this one, led by Brad Richards, who has 62 points in 55 games this season, ranking 9th in pool scoring. The Canucks have 11 players on the other side and they are led by Daniel Sedin, who has 73 points in 56 games, ranking 2nd in pool scoring this year. Lots of firepower in this one, I'd say.
It just wouldn't be right if I didn't include the Heritage Classic coverage, which will go on Sunday evening between the Montreal Canadiens and the Calgary Flames, the Canadian outdoor game.
Only a few weeks ago, there was the belief that this game may have meant very little, as the Flames were not looking their sharpest and the Canadiens would be the only playoff-bound team in this contest. Well, that isn't the case at all. The Flames are now making the most of their stretch drive and have a shot at the playoffs going into this one. The Canadiens are still playing fairly well and are still working hard on solidifying their playoff spot in the East, so we should see a great game.
This game doesn't have a lot of representation in the draft, as the Canadiens only have eight players going for them, while the Flames only have nine. I don't think that should take away from the game, but there is little meaning to it, pool-wise.
Carey Price leads all players in this game with 68 points this season, ranking 4th in pool scoring, while the Flames will be led by Jarome Iginla, who has 54 points in 58 games, ranking 21st. That could be the match-up that we'll be looking forward to when the puck drops.