Welcome to the third and final segment of the regular season, as Week Nineteen is now in the books and we now have eight weeks left in the season to determine our winners.
Being as though it was the first week after the second waiver draft, the draft pool saw some fairly impressive numbers, in terms of points and skater games played in the week. We'll start with the skater games, which saw an average of 16.3 skater games played in 51 NHL games on the schedule in the week. That is the highest total of the season, which means, all of the injury replacements and the guys who returned from injury did a huge number on the availability of points this week.
In terms of points, we saw 603 points collected in the week, bettering the previous high of 554, which we saw in Week Eleven, two weeks after the first waiver draft of the season. That was a massive amount of points in Week Nineteen and hopefully that continues on, especially since we saw quite a few returns from injury in the week and hopefully, that leads to more games played and more points collected.
We won't have quite as many games played, as we did in Week Nineteen, just 49 games are scheduled for Week Twenty, but I don't think that really matters, as Week Eleven only had 48 games played and it did quite well for points then too, didn't it?
With the NHL playoff races being as tight as they are and the pool races being quite good as well, I think the potential finish to the season improves as the weeks go on. There is so much to watch out for now, we are all in for a treat.
No doubt left in the minds of those deciding who the Player of the Week is for Week Nineteen, as Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes was the clear winner with 10 points in the week. Smith has been very impressive for the Coyotes, doing his best to help keep the Coyotes in the Western Conference playoff race, which they currently do sit in.
Smith won all four games that he appeared in during the week, lifting his own personal winning streak to five games and he is now closing in on ranking among the top 22 in pool scoring, which would actually make him worthy of being a 1st round pick this year.
Smith beat the Red Wings on Monday, the Stars in Dallas on Tuesday, Calgary on Thursday and shutting out the Blackhawks on Saturday for his 4-0-0 record with one goose egg. In the week, he stopped 116 of 119 shots that he saw in those four games and he now has the Coyotes sitting in the final playoff spot in the West, holding a slight 2-point lead over the Flames.
The 10 points in the week brings his season total now up to 53 points, which is now good enough to have him ranked 25th overall in pool scoring, only a point out of the top 22 at the moment. If there was one bright spot to Darren S.'s pool season, it would be Smith, who he chose in the 3rd round of the draft this year.
Week Nineteen was the highest-scoring week in the draft this season, yet there was no need for any tie-breakers or anything to decide the Mover and Shaker of the week, since Peter H. virtually ran away with the scoring, finishing up with 40 points. A lot of the weekly scoring was spread out over most teams, which kept the numbers very high for a lot of teams, yet only a few teams managed to really excel more than others.
Peter didn't make a move in the second waiver draft, which should be grounds for ignoring his team's accomplishment in the season, as he has probably given up, but a 40-point week is hard to look away from. It did lift him up from 19th to 16th in the standings, the highest position his team has been in since Week Six, when it finished in 13th.
Peter's big week was due to big weeks from Ryan Miller (6 points), David Jones (5), Alex Goligoski (5), Patric Hornqvist (4) and Anze Kopitar (4). Only three players on his active team failed to register a point and only one of those who did only managed to pick up 1 point, so there was a good display of bulk scoring, which by the look of his motley crew, may have only been a blue moon away from happening all at once.
Another one of the more remarkable numbers in the week for Peter's team was that it ranked 21st in skater games played in the week with only 32 (leaders had 43 in the category) and was also below average in minutes played by his goaltending with 204, which is less than three full games. Yet, there his team is, above everyone else in scoring. Bravo!
His team also now has the lead in the third and final segment in the season, after one week, something that would be remarkable, if he could take it home with him to salvage his season.
In the Basement Dweller spot this week, there was also no need to head to any tie-breaks to decide our overall occupant for Week Nineteen. Chris M. took the honour with only 15 points in the week, which has to be very disappointing, given the bounty of points that everyone had taken from.
Chris' team was 22nd in skater games played in the week with only 30, dropping him a little further from the pool average on the season. His research for the second waiver draft matched his research for the season's draft, picking up another couple players that were on the verge or were actually injured, so they were unable to play a game for him in the week.
His three best players in the week each picked up 3 points each: Martin Erat, Vaclav Prospal and Henrik Sedin.
There hasn't been very much puck luck for Chris this season and with that being said, he has now dropped down to his lowest position in the standings this season, 19th, but he should be fairly close to safe there, although his buffer to 20th is only 12 points.
The top of the sheet pool saw a bit of a power shift in Week Nineteen, as there were quite a few points taken on by the top teams and there was a big leap to jump into the money taken, which shifted a few things around.
Jeff E. still leads the pool, opening a bit bigger lead on Zac H. after a pretty good week, still followed at quite a distance by Clayton C., who now has new company in the top five after the week. A huge jump by Justin L. now sees him in 4th place, only 2 points out of 3rd, while Kendra E. has also made her return to the money, after a 2-week absence in 5th, only 3 points out of 3rd. It's a tight race!
Justin L. took all three big mentions in the selection sheet stat pack in the week, most points (79), best jump in the standings (four spots, from 8th to 4th) and most goals scored by his team (29), so this should keep the selection sheet section of the newsletter rather brief. Justin's good week was due in large part to Evgeni Malkin (8 points), Brian Elliott (6), Kristopher Letang (6), Fedor Tyutin (5), Steven Stamkos (5) and four other players with 4 points each. Only eight active players on his team failed to pick up a point in the week and his team still has one trade left to be made, which it appears he could save for one last push to the finish.
There is still lots of time for a lot of teams to jump up and try and hit the money spots, as 36 points only separates 5th from 14th, which is really exciting. If your team can do much like Justin's in any given week (or maybe two, not necessarily consecutive weeks), your team could be sitting in the money as well, in no time at all.
NEWS AND NOTES
The injury bug still seems to be plaguing the Calgary Flames, who may have lost the services of Mikael Backlund, after he left Saturday night's contest against the Canucks with an apparent upper-body injury. Backlund had an altercation with Canucks defenseman Andrew Alberts, which he came out on the short end of, likely suffering an arm injury. There was no immediate update on Sunday, so we are awaiting something more official on Monday. The team has called up Paul Byron from the AHL, which suggests that Backlund could be missing some time this week.
Oilers defenseman Cam Barker returned from injury this week, but it looks like he has continued where he had left off, with plenty of uncertainty about where he actually fits in the organization, becoming a healthy scratch again on Saturday, when the team took on the Senators in Ottawa. Barker was thought to be a pretty good pick-up in the off-season for the young Oilers, but he just hasn't panned out the way they would have hoped, not to mention being the victim of the injury bug, which has hurt his season tremendously. He's a player looking forward to the 2013 season already.
On Saturday, Panthers defenseman Jason Garrison had to leave the team's game against the New Jersey Devils with a lower-body injury and he was unable to return. The injury is thought to be an ankle or a foot problem, after taking a puck to the area in the game. Garrison did not dress for the team on Sunday for their game against the Islanders, calling up young defenseman Colby Robak to fill in his spot. The team will likely get a thorough look at him on Monday, as they are returning home from the road and will play again on Wednesday night against the Senators.
The rumour mill is buzzing after the Los Angeles Kings decided to scratch disappointing forward Dustin Penner from their line-up in both Saturday's game against the Islanders and Sunday's game against the Stars. Penner has been anything but impressive for the Kings, since coming from the Oilers a couple of seasons ago and there is some hope that management could shift the big forward's ugly contract now or around the deadline. Penner is on the final year of his deal, which has an annual cap hit of $4.25 million, which still has $1.26 million left on it this season. I can't see a contending team looking at that and saying it's a good deal.
It has been a pretty good run for Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis, who had come up to the big club from the AHL when Shea Weber suffered his concussion. Ellis has carried the tag of being too small to compete in the NHL, despite having some off-the-charts offensive talent for the power play, so it was a major credit to his compete levels that when Weber returned to the line-up, Ellis continued to play in the NHL. However, on Saturday against the Bruins, Ellis was made into a healthy scratch, likely a coaching decision to keep Ellis away from the rough and tumble Bruins. I don't think this is an indication of his immediate future with the team, rather a safety precaution, given his size.
Looks like the Philadelphia Flyers have another injury to contend with at the moment, as forward Jakub Voracek suffered an upper-body injury on Saturday afternoon against the Rangers, which also forced him out of Sunday's game against the Red Wings. The coaching staff seemed to believe that the injury should be considered minor and that Voracek shouldn't miss very much time, but I guess we'll wait and see if that stays true. The Flyers did call up forward Eric Wellwood from the AHL on Sunday to take his place, which leads to my suspicion that Voracek may be out a little bit longer than originally expected.
A short and sweet entry here, as St. Louis Blues defenseman Kris Russell missed out on Saturday's game against the Avalanche with a bout of the flu, only to return on Sunday for San Jose's visit. It wasn't much of anything, since Russell has been in and out of the line-up, between Columbus and St. Louis, fairly often this season already. There was also one other notable return to the Blues' line-up on Sunday, as Andy McDonald returned after missing over 50 games with a concussion. He made an impact upon his return as well, picking up an assist in the 3-0 victory over the Sharks.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were without oft-scratched defenseman Matt Gilroy on Sunday for their game against the Penguins, as the young defenseman is reportedly dealing with an upper-body injury. Another injury not believed to be serious, but frankly, this just allows for the team to scratch him without him being healthy at this point in the season. Gilroy has not provided the Lightning with very many quality minutes, showing brief flashes of talent here and there, but nothing of much value. I don't think this is a very big loss for the team, who is struggling to get any traction in the East.
Link to the Injury/News Page
HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA
It is going to be an exceptionally quiet Saturday, with only eight games on the NHL schedule, which makes the Hockey Night In Canada double-header a little less of a surprise. The CBC just finished with two back-to-back triple-headers, so who is really to complain about only two games. This week, we'll highlight the defensemen that are making an impact in the broadcasted games this season.
In the early game, the Canucks will be playing host to the Maple Leafs in a rare early start in Vancouver. The Leafs are making a quick Western Canada swing in the week and they get the benefit of being the headline team for the CBC, which means they force the Canucks into hosting an early game this year. This will be the second meeting between these two teams, as the first meeting in Toronto went to the Canucks, 5-3. The top-scoring blueliner between these two sides is Alexander Edler of the Canucks, who is having a great season with 39 points, ranking 87th in pool scoring, going into Week Twenty.
In the late game, the Calgary Flames travel down the West Coast to Los Angeles to pay a visit to the Kings. The Kings are only playing two games in the week, so they should be well-rested when the Flames come to town and they have a slight edge in the season series to this point, going 1-0-1 in their first two meetings this season. These two teams have made for some pretty good hockey games this season and in the last couple of years, so there is no reason to think they won't this week. Even after a slight hold-out this season, Drew Doughty leads all defensemen in this match-up with 25 points going into the week, as he tries to re-establish himself as a top end defender in the league.