Monday, February 28, 2011

Week Twenty-One Newsletter

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Hooray! It's the trade deadline day today and as much as we've seen some of the bigger deals already go down over the past couple of weeks, I'm expecting to see some more movement on Monday. I'm not sure how much of it will impact either pool, but I think we'll see some deals that will have some sort of merit in our gambling ways.

I think saying that, I'm going to keep the headline rather short, especially since there will be a lot of writing going on today.  For all the posts that are upcoming on Monday, I'll probably be skipping some of the overall cap numbers, since most teams are well aware of what they are doing and how much more they can do for next season.  Just so you know.

PhotobucketTo kick off the weekly review, as usual this season, we'll hit up the Player of the Week nod, which did come down to a quick tie-break, as two players finished with 8 points each in Week Twenty-One.  The tie-break was quick because it was between a forward and a goalie and the first tie-breaker is goals, so we can jump immediately into crowning Phil Kessel as our Player of the Week.

As the Toronto Maple Leafs have started their ascent into the playoff conversation, they have been led by the player that has given the team the most scrutiny has now started to lead the way.  The Leafs went 2-0-2 in the week and Kessel had 4 goals and 4 assists to lead all scorers in the pool in points.

On Tuesday, Kessel opened up the week with the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Long Island;  Thursday, it was a big night, with 2 goals and 2 assists in a 5-4 victory over the Canadiens; Saturday, the Leafs lost a barn burner against the Penguins, 6-5 in the shootout, where Kessel had a couple of assists; and finally, on Sunday, Kessel had a goal in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Thrashers.

This good week has now bumped up his overall scoring totals to 26 goals and 21 assists in 63 games for Toronto this season, ranking him 64th in pool scoring, currently on pace to narrowly eclipse his career-high of 60 points, assuming he can stay healthy for the rest of the season.  If Kessel is picking up the pace in his game, I don't think there should be any problem with that notion at all, especially considering his extremely slow start.

PhotobucketI know I said it last week as well, but seeing the top team in the pool get the Mover and Shaker award is not exactly what any of the 19 teams below wants to see, but it does look like Allan S.'s team is now about to run away with the overall standings, thanks again to the best week in the pool, 39 points.

Allan has now opened up a 20-point lead over 2nd place through 21 weeks of action and there doesn't seem to be any sign of slowing down either.  His goaltending is coming on at the right time, his forwards have been firing quite well and his defensemen are chipping in quite regularly.  Despite having a guy who retired after only two games on his active roster, Allan is doing remarkably well.

Leading the way for Allan in Week Twenty-One is Corey Crawford, who had 8 points in the week, followed by Antti Niemi, who had 6 points, while Claude Giroux, Marian Hossa and Andy McDonald all had 4 points a piece as well.  That is a solid bit of scoring right there, I'd say.

The trade deadline is not lost on Allan either, as he has seen one of his players, James Neal, find his way over to Pittsburgh from Dallas, where he has yet to register a point with his new team, but if that team ever gets healthy again, Neal is only going to benefit from that.

PhotobucketIn the basement, we had ourselves another tie to break this week, but it was awfully quick as the goals situation solved that problem in a hurry.  With 14 points and only 3 goals to count, Jani K. is our Basement Dweller in Week Twenty-One.

This is Jani's second appearance in the basement this season, the first time coming in Week Six, where he also finished with 14 points, but was one spot lower in the standings in 17th, compared to the 16th position where he stands now.

Jani has seen some serious injury trouble over the last few weeks, losing Valtteri Filppula, Mikko Koivu and J-S Giguere to injury, while James Van Riemsdyk had a 1-game sabbatical as a salary cap victim in Philadelphia.  Things were just not adding up for him now.

Jani is in danger of dropping a little bit lower in the standings, being chased down by a couple of teams and he also currently sits in a tie for last in the third segment.  A first season to forget, it seems.

PhotobucketThere was a little bit of jockeying going on in the money positions in Week Twenty-One, but we still have the same leader, now going on five weeks with Burc B. in the lead.  Kendra M. fell a couple spots, down to 4th place in the week, but she'll be using her last trade to beef up and make a big stab at the bigger money.  Wes M. and Mitch F. each jumped up a spot, with one of them making a trade for some beefy goodness.

Burc was able to stay in the lead this week, because his team was the best yet again, finishing the week with 72 points, opening up his lead now to 26 points, which isn't in any way insurmountable.  Burc, who has made all of his trades for the season, had good weeks from Corey Crawford (8 points), Martin St. Louis (6), Milan Lucic (6), Henrik Lundqvist (6), Devin Setoguchi (4) and Tim Thomas (4).  It's an interesting mix of names leading the way, but those are the sort of weeks that will really lift a team above and beyond the pack.

Three teams saw good jumps in the standings, as both Chris M., Ryan V. and Matthew A. all climbed three spots in the standings.  There was a fair bit of movement through the standings, which is pretty good with only six weeks of action left to go.

Have you seen what has been going on in Box 24 this season?  Lucic of the Bruins is running away with the box now, finishing Week Twenty-One with 46 points, now 15 points clear of his nearest competitor.  He might be a safe pick right about now.

NEWS AND NOTES

Increasing some of the scuttlebutt around the league, the Predators made J-P Dumont into a healthy scratch on Sunday night, as the team took on the Blue Jackets in Nashville.  Dumont has seen a dramatic drop in production this season and it could very well be because of a lesser role with the team.  There is some suggestion that he could be moved on Monday, but it would likely be a tinkering move, as the Predators are still in the mix for the playoffs.

The Rangers were able to debut Bryan McCabe on Sunday afternoon, but it meant that someone had to leave the active roster to make room for him.  The easiest one to move was Michael Del Zotto, so he was the one that was sent down to the minors to fit McCabe into the 23-man roster.  With the roster limits lifted after the trade deadline, we'll likely be seeing Del Zotto back with the club before too long, saving their AHL call-ups for down the road.

It was another trip up to the press box for rookie defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson on Sunday night.  Ekman-Larsson hasn't been able to find his offensive touch with the Coyotes this season and has spent a number of games up in the press box and in the minors this year, but still manages to find a place in the line-up for a good number of nights.  His development has been a bit slower than anticipated, but he's still coming around.

An accident in warm-up on Sunday night caused Coyotes back-up goalie, Jason LaBarbera, to miss out on backing up Ilya Bryzgalov against the Blackhawks.  In what is supposed to be a normal warm-up routine, Shane Doan fired a puck at an unsuspecting LaBarbera, thinking full well that the goalie was paying attention, hitting him high around the mask/neck area.  LaBarbera had to leave and didn't return.  Thankfully, the Coyotes didn't need a back-up goalie in a 4-3 shootout loss.

While working on a shutout against the Atlanta Thrashers, James Reimer was run over while playing a puck around his crease, taking the brunt of a Thrashers' player's leg right to the head and injuring the goalie.  It is still unclear what kind of injury the young goalie has suffered, with some speculation that it could be anywhere between a concussion to a neck injury.  Nevertheless, he may miss some time down the stretch here.

Link to the Injury/News Page

HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA


Next week's Hockey Night In Canada could very well be another entertaining affair, as it will feature two games that could be very good for different reasons. One is an Original Six match-up and the other is a 'nothing to lose' game, both of which has some potential for scoring.

In the early game, it will feature the Chicago Blackhawks going into Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs. This Original Six match-up will actually have some playoff implications on either side, as both teams finished up Week Twenty-One within reasonable striking distance of the top eight of either conference. The Blackhawks, the defending Cup champs, may have their hands full with a Leafs team that is trying to prove everyone wrong.  The headline player in this game is Jonathan Toews, who leads both teams in the pool rankings with 22 goals and 36 assists in 60 games for the Blackhawks.

In the late game, the 15th place Oilers will travel to Denver to take on the 14th place Avalanche in a basement dwelling match-up that means very little to anyone, except for maybe some scoring numbers.  The new-look Avalanche will try and get some chemistry together, while the Oilers are likely preparing for another Summer of some retooling.  The headliner in this game is Paul Stastny, who currently ranks 51st in pool scoring this season with 19 goals and 31 assists in 61 for the Avalanche.  With nothing to lose for either side, I'm hoping both teams come out firing and make it all offense.
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