Well, the All-Star festivities have come and gone for another year and it was a pretty good time had by all. Sadly, that really shortened the week out in the hockey pools and I think the enthusiasm for the near week-long break really got the best of most of the players in the league.
According to the draft statistics, there were 20 NHL games played between Monday and Wednesday, which only pulled 180 total points out of those games, giving us a season-low scoring rate of only 9 points per game on the schedule, including goalie points. The average NHL game, before Week Seventeen, was 11.1 points per game, which makes for significant losses in scoring overall.
The pool was also not pulling the same amount of man games out of the 20 NHL games either, which certainly led to the lack of coring, as participation through the draft was down at 14.7 skater games per NHL game and just about five periods of action from our goalies as well. Between injuries and looking forward to the break, we saw some very lacklustre hockey in the week.
It seems like it was so long ago that all of this happened, so I guess I'm going to have to give us all a quick recap on the pools in the newsletter.
If Jonas Gustavsson is going to be anything, he'll be a good poster boy for the waiver draft, since he was a pick in the first waiver draft eight weeks ago and now he has now earned his second Player of the Week nod in a month, picking up 6 points in the All-Star shortened week. Gustavsson has done an amazing job taking over the nets for the Maple Leafs and has done an amazing job giving Dale B. a padded lead into post-All-Star schedule.
Toronto was one of the few teams in the short week that actually played a couple of games and Gustavsson was one of the few goalies that was able to pick up a couple of starts in the week as well. Just before the All-Star break, the Leafs and Islanders played in a home-and-home series, which worked out well for Gustavsson, who made 25 saves for the shutout on Monday night and then 29 saves in the win on the Island for the win. It is almost like it was meant to be with an opponent like that before the break.
With his second Player of the Week nod, Gustavsson has now lifted himself up to 39 points on the season, thanks to 16 wins, 3 shutouts and an assist, which is good enough for 62nd overall in pool points. He currently holds company with Ilya Bryzgalov and Carey Price, who have more wins and a lot more minutes on the season, which puts into perspective, how good this stretch has been for him.
Gustavsson belongs to the draft leader, Dale B., who has collected 22 of Gustavsson's 39 points over the last eight weeks, which is a pretty good number in the second segment.
Well, it's hard to not mention the Player of the Week in a shortened week without mentioning the team he plays on and Dale B. did manage to run away with the Mover and Shaker nod for Week Seventeen as well, since six teams only managed to hit double-digits in weekly production. Five of those teams finished with 10 points each and Dale finished with 17, which was a clear win. Dale doubled up on 12 teams in the pool with his weekly production, showing why he'll be a force in the last segment, looking for the overall win.
Even with three players on the injured list, Dale's team went to town, getting points from his rag-tag group of players that all seem to be hitting their stride at the same time. His team was led by Jonas Gustavsson (6 points) and Leafs teammate Mikhail Grabovski (5), who made up for 65% of his weekly total in the week. Then you take into account five more players with points in the week and the All-Star break makes for a good time for our pool leader to rest on his laurels.
Remarkably, considering where Dale is in the standings, this is his first Mover and Shaker nod of the year. his team has been consistently good for the better part of the year, but this is the first time he can say he had a great week, atop of everyone else.
This is now the third consecutive week with Dale B. at the top of the draft standings, who has one of the hottest teams in the pool over the last three weeks, picking up 76 points in the last three weeks worth of action. Dale has now opened up a 13-point lead in the standings, opening it up by 7 points in the past week. It isn't the biggest lead we have seen this season, but it's getting close.
In the segment race, Dale is behind Clayton C. by 4 points for the last eight weeks, with one week to go before we wrap this one up. If Dale's team continues to excel, this 4-point lead isn't quite safe, so there could be another merit to his year, if he can nail this one down.
A very hard-luck season continues for Scott G. in the draft, as all the injuries on his side have really let his team down. This is Scott's third Basement Dweller mention of the season and each time, you can see how far he has dropped. He sat 10th with his Week Six nod, 14th with his Week Eleven award and now 16th through Week Seventeen.
On the bright side, this has given Scott the chance to get a couple of better picks out of the Waiver Draft, then what he may have had without a batch of poor weeks, but that isn't really going to provide any solace.
We would have to expect that Chris Pronger will be an immediate drop for the Scott this season and depending on the severity of his concussion, we might see James Van Riemsdyk cast away, if it isn't the disappointing Ville Leino. There are some choices that need to be made from Scott for his team, but if his goaltending can come around and be awesome, he still has a good enough team to possibly make some noise in a segment race.
Scott will pick 7th and 29th overall in the Waiver Draft.
The shortened week didn't damper the spirits of competition in the selection sheet pool, as there was still some movement in the tight race for the money in Week Seventeen. Jeff E., Zac H. and Clayton C. stayed in the 1-2-3 positions, but both Wes M. and Don D. leapt over Kendra E. in the week, dropping Kendra out of the money for the time being, but the gap between 3rd and 6th is only 8 points, which is nothing in this pool.
Chris G., Justin L., Dale C. and Scott G. are all in the mix as well, all in need of one more great week and they'll be elbow-to-elbow with some of the other money teams in the pool. Yes, this is one close race this year.
Best week in the pool belonged to Dylan I. in Week Seventeen, who benefited the same as the top team in the draft, having a number of small fish for points and then Jonas Gustavsson and Mikhail Grabovski for the big points. Dylan finished with 29 points in the week in total and had five players with 2 points each, including All-Star forward from the Sharks, Logan Couture. Dylan has yet to make a trade this season and he has been mired in 17th position for quite some time now, but frankly, he only sits 39 points out of the money, which, with a third of the season remaining, isn't out of the race at all. Good chance he isn't reading this or caring, which is kind of too bad.
Three teams moved up three positions in the standings this week, despite being three days long. Chris G., Caterina F. and Wendy C., all in the top 15 teams, moved up three spots each, confirming that there is still plenty of movement left in the season.
Gerald B. had the biggest week, goals-wise, scoring 10 goals and leading the entire pool in that statistic. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to string these kind of weeks (of leading the pool, not weeks of 10 goals) together, as he sits 26th in the pool for goals scored.
NEWS AND NOTES
As expected, the Chicago Blackhawks are expecting to have their captain Jonathan Toews back in their line-up on Tuesday, when they return to action from the All-Star break. Toews suffered an upper-body injury the weekend before and he had missed out on the team's only game in Week Seventeen, but the week off has done him some good. The Blackhawks placed Toews on the Injured Reserve, which kept him away from the All-Star festivities as well. The team has done well to protect one of their best assets for the stretch run.
The All-Star Game was the perfect stage for the return of Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn, who will return to regular NHL action when the season resumes on Tuesday night. Benn had a great showing at the Skills Competition, winning the shooting accuracy competition and was great in the skills relay as well. Benn will be returning from an emergency appendectomy, which was supposed to keep the sniper out of action for upwards of three weeks, but he has returned a week early.
An update has been provided to the status of Los Angeles Kings forward Simon Gagne, who has been dealing with a concussion and the news is not good. It appears that Gagne is a long way from coming back from this injury, as he has not been able to exercise at any great length, not even on the stationary bike. The after-effects of working out is one of the first indicators for a player coming back from a concussion, as headaches and dizziness may occur shortly after, which would suggest that the symptoms are still around. I would be surprised if Gagne made it back this season.
In somewhat of a strange update on Sidney Crosby, the team announced that he has healed from a couple of vertebrae fractures, which he may have suffered on the hit from Bruins forward David Krejci, which was also partially blamed for his latest concussion. The update just appeared to be an update for the sake of an update, but it doesn't seem to have affected his timetable for a return, which the team is hoping will happen around the playoffs. The prognosis for Crosby is not very good and it would likely be in everyone's best interest to drop Crosby, if they can.
It appears that we'll see the return of Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman this week, as the possibility of him returning for their post-All-Star Game opening night looks very promising. Hedman has been out with a concussion for the last month and reports are indicating that he has been working out and practicing at full speed and not getting any more symptoms from his head injury, which has him close to being officially cleared to return to game action. I would have to believe that the All-Star break may clear out a number of players who are on the injured list, all of which had this week ahead as their projected return date.
Link to the Injury/News Page
HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA
As of next Saturday, we'll be one week away from Hockey Day In Canada, but that won't stop the CBC from teasing us with another triple-header to wet our hockey appetites for the big weekend of hockey coverage. We will get four Canadian teams in action this coming Saturday and it should be a pretty good set of games. This week, we'll highlight the best performing All-Star from Sunday's spectacle, which will be playing in each of the games.
The Montreal Canadiens will play host to the Washington Capitals in the Noon MT game. The Canadiens are currently 8 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and they are going to play host to the Southeast Division leaders, which will be a tough test for the home team on Saturday. This will be the second meeting of four in the regular season between these two teams, with the Capitals taking the first game, also in Montreal, 3-0. There were only two players represented in the All-Star Game in the draft pool and fortunately, one of them managed a point in the game and that was defenseman Dennis Wideman. Wideman has been pretty good for the Capitals this season and definitely earned his position in the mid-season classic, with 34 points in 48 games.
In the 5pm MT game, the All-Star Game hosts, the Senators, will play to their Provincial rivals, the Maple Leafs, which will give the fans in Ottawa another chance to boo the blue and white, like they did at their festivities this past weekend. This is going to be the fifth of six meetings this season between the two clubs, who won't see much of each other down the stretch, when the games could really be more exciting. The Senators lead the series 3-1-0 already this year and could take the outright series win with a victory on Saturday. It was a pretty good showing of talent between the two Ontario teams at the All-Star Game, but it was team captain Daniel Alfredsson that led the way between all the players, scoring 2 goals and an assist in the loss to Team Chara. Alfredsson has had a pretty good year and it was almost topped off with an ASG MVP.
In the late game, the Red Wings will continue their most-hated road trips, something they are trying to avoid in the a possible realignment of the league, in Edmonton, taking on the Oilers. The Red Wings have beaten the Oilers in the first two meetings of the season and the two teams will conclude their season series the week after, playing in two games in close proximity to each other in the next 10 days. The Oilers could have only healed over the All-Star break, so it will be interesting to see where some of their players are, in accordance to their injuries, after this weekend, while the Red Wings just continue to roll. Pavel Datsyuk has yet to score an All-Star Game goal in his career, which is a remarkable statistic, when you think about it, but he did have 3 assists in the game to lead the three representatives from the late game in points. Datsyuk has quietly had another great season in Detroit and his All-Star Game nod is a real testament to what he has done this year.