We've now gone passed the halfway point of the calendar year for the NHL season, as the conclusion of Week Fourteen is already a few days into the second half of the 27-week regular season. Whatever has happened in the first half of the season can, theoretically, be made up by the rest of the teams in the second half of the season, thinking that no lead is truly safe, in either pool. Of course, that isn't necessarily the case, but it is sure nice to believe.
Actually, the second half of the season, should get to be a little bit busier, as there will be a good number of weeks with condensed schedules, mostly because of the All-Star Game weekend, which is coming up in a few weeks. We'll see some more weeks where the NHL schedule will see more that 48 NHL games played between Monday and Sunday, so there should be some more points made available through these weeks. If injuries can be kept to a minimum, our pool teams should do well.
The draft was quite exciting in Week Fourteen, as we saw three teams hold down the top spot at various times during the week and we have ourselves a new leader after Week Fourteen. The race between all the money spots is still within reasonable gain, especially with the second half of the season to go and a waiver draft in there as well.
Last season in the draft, we saw four teams hold the top spot at various times in the first half of the season, just before Allan S. ran away with it in the second half. The first half of this season, we have now seen four teams with the lead and the lead is not safe, by any means, as 4 points from 1st to 3rd is not going to be very safe, while 17 points to 4th and 23 points to 5th isn't exactly comforting. All it takes is a slight foray into the injured list and the tables can turn suddenly.
The week was pretty exciting and I think we're in for another one in Week Fifteen, but let's do a quick recap of the week that was and we'll move on from there.
A fairly busy week in the NHL made for a pretty good week for scoring, with a number of good individual performances through the week, but there was only one player in the draft that lifted himself above the pack to clearly take the Player of the Week nod and that was waiver draft pick-up, Jonas Gustavsson of the Maple Leafs, who finished up with 8 points in Week Fourteen.
There is now a full-blown goaltending controversy in Toronto with the emergence of Gustavsson, playing up to the standard that his pre-NHL hype may have led us to believe, starting to win games with the Leafs on a regular basis. The team has had no other choice than to ride the hot hand of late.
In the week, Gustavsson made three starts, picking up a record of 3-0-0, including a shutout for his 8 points. On Tuesday, he picked up a 21-save win over Tampa Bay, Thursday was a 24-save shutout of the Jets and Saturday saw a 37-save win over the Red Wings.
In the draft, Gustavsson belongs to Dale B., who picked him up in Week Nine and Week Fourteen is the first week that he has seen some tangible results out of the Swedish goalie. Since the pick-up, Gustavsson had only won one other game before this week, but the timing couldn't have been better for the big week, as Dale has climbed the ranks in the standings to sit in 2nd place.
Very big week for Clayton C. in the draft in Week Fourteen, as his side has picked up their fourth Mover and Shaker of the season, but it's the first nod that sees him in the lead of the pool. The last time he was in this position, he had just moved up to 5th place in the standings, but his team has been the hottest since the Week Nine waiver draft and he has closed all the gaps ahead of him and then opened up a 5-point lead of his own after a 42-point performance in Week Fourteen.
The big week was led by four players on Clayton's team, who all had 6 points each in the week: Daniel Alfredsson, Patrick Marleau, Erik Karlsson and Antti Niemi all posted good weeks and Taylor Hall was not very far behind, picking up a 5-spot of his own. There were only a couple active players on his list that were not able to register a point in the week, but everyone else had a pretty good week.
Clayton leads the second segment of the season by 21 points over his next rival since the end of Week Nine, thanks to having the best forwards and defense since the waiver draft. In the last five weeks, Clayton has seen 102 points from his forwards and 45 points from his defensemen, which is tops in each category, while getting 24 points from his goalies, which isn't in bad shape in that race either.
At the end of Week Nine, Clayton was in 8th place in the standings, but since, he had seen some significant gains, moving up a position or two in each week, except Week Twelve.
It was a rough week for Munden G. in the draft, as his team was not able to feast on one of the highest scoring weeks of the regular season, where the pool picked up a season-high 12 points in each of the 45 games on the schedule. Unfortunately, Munden's team was only able to pick up 10 points in total from the week, which solidified his place in 19th in the standings this week.
It was a combination of some injuries on his roster, combined with some cold players on some even colder teams, which led to his Basement Dweller nod this year. Dennis Wideman of the Capitals was his best player in the week, picking up 3 points, while his goaltending tandem had some minutes, but were unable to post a win for him at all.
This is Munden's first Basement Dweller nod of the year, which has allowed the three teams below him in the standings to catch up to him by upwards of 11 points, so his position isn't necessarily the safest at the moment. He is still 9 points up on 20th, but some more injuries on his side will likely close that gap in the weeks ahead.
We saw a slight shift in the top five teams in the sheet pool race, as Chris G. fell out of the money positions after a slightly sub-par week, going from 4th to 6th, while Kendra M. and Don D. each moved up a position to sit in some money spots in the week. There is still quite a great competitive gap in the pool this season, as there is less than a 20-point gap between 4th and 11th, which can be closed up by the right team in the right week or two. There is nothing really safe about these leads through 14 weeks.
For those trying to catch the leader in the pool, the unfortunate news is that Jeff E. had another one of the better weeks in the pool, leading all teams in Week Fourteen with 65 points, opening up his lead by 9 points again. Jeff had a few weeks, where his lead had shrank by a few points here and there, but he did open it up again, so there is extra work to do in the second half of the regular season. His big week was thanks to Joffrey Lupul (7 points), Tyler Seguin (5), Jiri Hudler (4), Brian Elliott (4), Jason Pominville (4) and Adam Henrique (4). He had six active players without a point on his side, but for the most part, everyone else did quite well.
A couple of teams moved up three spots in the standings, to lead the way in that department, as Scott G.'s second team and Tony C.'s side each moved up three spots in the standings, after scoring more than 60 points each in the week. Scott's team is in the money race, sitting in 8th place, while Tony is trying to climb into the conversation at 15th. It's certainly still possible, with trades still remaining and half the season left to go.
Clayton C.'s sheet team had a pretty good week, leading the pool in goals scored with 24, helping his cause in the tie-break arguments. You got to have those tie-breakers, especially with such close races throughout the money spots this year.
NEWS AND NOTES
Some big injury problems in the Anaheim crease, as both Jonas Hiller and Dan Ellis are now dealing with some hurting body parts. Before the Ducks game against the Blue Jackets, Ellis was placed on the IR with a groin injury, which is expected to keep the veteran back-up out of the line-up for upwards of a month. Hiller, on the other hand, suffered a lower-body injury in the game against Columbus and didn't return, leaving Iiro Tarkki to tend the net and eventually get the win for the Ducks. I would expect to see more about Hiller on Monday afternoon.
It sounds like we'll be looking for an update on an upper-body injury that was suffered by Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp in Sunday night's game against the Red Wings. Sharp had already scored a goal in the game, but the injury cut his night short and the details are very sketchy to say the least. Any major updates will be noted on the blog, but if the injury is minor and he is listed as out day-to-day, you may not see that update. A game or two away from the line-up isn't worth a full-blown update.
Much like the Anaheim injury above, there was a scratch pre-game and then an injury in-game, as Ryan Johansen was injured this weekend, blocking a shot against the Kings on Saturday night and then on Sunday in Anaheim, Jeff Carter suffered a separated shoulder and had to leave the game with the injury. It doesn't sound like Johansen's injury is too serious, it may just be a deep bruise, but in Carter's case, this injury could be much more significant. There will be a full update on Carter, when the news drops, likely on Monday.
Link to the Injury/News Page
HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA
A tripleheader of hockey goodness on Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday! The triple bill will see a Canadian team play host to an American opponent and we might be in for some real treats. For our highlighted players, we'll have a look at the top goal scorers taken in the draft this time around.
In the early game, we'll see the Winnipeg Jets play host to the New Jersey Devils, in an Eastern Conference tilt. This will be the third meeting of the season between these two clubs, with the home team winning each game in the season series, both being fairly good scoring, close affairs, so I think we can expect much of the same, especially for an afternoon game. The leading goal scorer between these two teams is Evander Kane of the Jets, who has 18 goals this year, tied for 11th in the NHL at the moment. He's quietly having a pretty good year in Winnipeg, giving the revisited city some hope for the future.
The 5pm MT game will feature the winners of the Winter Classic against the old favourite national team in the Saturday prime time spot, as the New York Rangers travel to the ACC for their third meeting of the season against the Maple Leafs, this being the first time they play in Toronto. The Leafs have a 2-0-0 series lead against the Rangers, so they will look to continue their fortunate ways, unless the Rangers want to make this into a visiting team series. No surprise here, but Phil Kessel still leads these two teams in goals scored with 24, but he only had a small margin on one of the top snipers on the other side, which made this race quite close. Kessel currently sits 2nd in goals in the NHL, but is still close enough to the pace where he could hit 50.
The late game will be a doozy, as the Calgary Flames will welcome Darryl Sutter, their former General Manager and Head Coach, to the Saddledome to the for the first time since he took over the coaching job for the Los Angeles Kings. Sutter has his new team rolling along quite swimmingly, while his former team are barely treading enough wather to stay afloat. A bit of a surprise for the goal scoring lead between these two teams, both of which have struggled this season, as Curtis Glencross is the Week Fourteen leader between these two teams, with 17 goals. That's good enough for a 17th place tie in the league for goals, as he has been quite good for the Flames, despite their troubles this year.