The regular season is winding down about as fast as getting to this point in the season. It has been a bit of a blur, don't you think? With only two weeks left in the season, the games begin to get a lot more important and the points in the pool become that much more important.
In the draft, Clayton C. has managed to tie the season-high for lead in points after the conclusion of a week, now sitting with a 15-point gap. With the way the season is gone, that size of a lead is certainly not safe and Dale B. still has a pretty good shot at it. Stuart G. is also doing his best to creep in on the top end of the action, sitting in 3rd place, only 7 points out of 2nd. Wayne H. is only 5 points back of Stuart, while Allan S. and Stacey C. slug it out for 5th place.
Yeah, the draft has been really good this year and the finish is going to be rather exciting. Week Twenty-Six will have the largest amount of games in the NHL schedule to date, so I'm hoping that we'll see a lot of points and a lot more action in the standings. The last month, on a weekly basis, has not been able to crack the 11-point mark in NHL games (on average), showing that scoring has been down in the pool of late. Injuries after the waiver draft will normally do that.
As for the selection sheet pool, the stat pack below has some interesting news on the races there, so head on down and check that out. We'll be in for a good finish there still.
It was a busy week, so let's get right down to it...
The last month of the season has been dominated by a couple of Eastern Conference goaltenders, taking the last four Player of the Week nods in the season, not allowing anyone else to play, as it were. In Week Twenty-Five, Ryan Miller managed to lift himself up above the Pittsburgh Penguins' domination in the league to bring his Buffalo Sabres back into playoff contention in the East, picking up his second 10-point week in the last four weeks. That's some real hot play at the moment.
In the last week, Miller went 4-0-0 with 1 shutout to pick up his 10 points for the hockey pools, bringing the Sabres into a tie for 8th place in the Eastern Conference and back into the conversation for the playoff pool.
Monday, he began his week with a 24-save win over the Lightning, followed it up on Wednesday with a 34-save shutout of the Canadiens and then back-to-back wins on Friday and Saturday against the Rangers and Wild.
After a rocky start to the season, Miller has really been able to string together some good results and when we thought all was lost for the Sabres, they resurrected themselves quite nicely.
This 10-point week has now brought Miller's season total up to 70 points on the year and he currently ranks 28th overall in pool scoring, 13th among all goalies in pool scoring. When Miller took the Player of the Week nod three weeks ago, he was ranked 51st overall and 18th among all goalies, so his tear is not going unnoticed.
Miller has also become Peter H.'s best player in the draft this season, unfortunately that means he doesn't have a 1st round pick-type player on his side at the moment, but Miller is looking to get as close to the 13th overall selection that he was at the beginning of the year.
Week Twenty-Five showed us all the story of what could have been, if Sidney Crosby was able to play the whole season at 100% health this season, as he has done well to lift the Penguins into a very dominant state, to which Kristy and Don took a game on, 14th overall in the draft. The pool's duo were finally able to harness the power of what he could do this week, taking the Mover and Shaker nod for the week with 39 points. Unfortunately, it is far too late for the duo to make too much noise in the standings, finishing the week in 12th spot, 38 points out of 10th.
Crosby did help lead the way for the duo's team in the week, along with Penguins' teammate James Neal, they both scored 8 points in the week to lead the way, also getting help from Tomas Fleischmann, Duncan Keith and Evgeni Nabokov, who each had 4 points in the week as well. Only three players on their active list were held without points in the week, which is pretty good, as most everyone else was able to at least get one, most with a pair of points.
Kristy and Don's team had struggled for the bulk of the year, peaking in the standings at 6th place at the end of Week Nine falling down as far as 15th place, as late as Week Twenty-Three, but since the return of Crosby to the Penguins line-up, it has been a steady climb ever since.
There have not been very many statistical positives in regular season for Kristy and Don, because as much as they have had above-average activity in their crease, they have the worst points production in the pool from their keepers, to which, they have had four keepers through the year and very poor scoring rates from all of them. Their side only averages 0.86 points per 60 minutes in the crease.
It has been a tough year, but if they were completely healthy, more importantly, if Crosby was healthy and was scoring all year at the rate that he was, you could add another 100 points to their total today, which would have put them in 2nd.
The basement teams in the standings were indeed the basement teams in the week, because no one in the last three in the standings got passed 15 points and we did have a tie for the Basement Dweller at 14 points. With only 2 goals scored in the week, in those 14 points, Scott G. ends up with his third Dweller nod in the last four weeks, which we'll try not to dwell on too much.
The injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and James Van Riemsdyk continue to just slaughter his side this year, not to mention such little help from his favourite Philadelphia Flyers, the ones who are still healthy. That team is still winning games, but the players that should be getting points are just not doing it. A very unfortunate year.
Health is the biggest issue for Scott this season, as he ranks 21st in the pool in skater games played with 719 to his credit and is being caught by the last place team in the category, Wes M., who made up 11 games on Scott, but still has 31 games to make up before the end of the season, which looks like a long shot. Just horrible luck from both sides this year.
The sheet pool continues to be really interesting, as the race for first place is now arguably over, as it looks like there is no hope of catching Jeff E., who now sits 49 points up on 2nd place with only two weeks left to go in the season and at best, teams are only making up 10 points, so I would say it is safe to call this one and say that Jeff has taken top spot and has it locked up.
As for 2nd through 5th, there is 30 points separating teams and there has been some reasonable movement in there, as teams have been making 20-point gaps in the week between these sides, so there is still time to move around. Don D. has two straight weeks in 2nd place now, as Zac H. made up some ground there in 3rd, as did Clayton C. who retook 4th place. Justin L. had a bit of a drop-off week, settling back down in 5th place and now only has an 8-point gap to 6th place, Caterina F.. The top six look to be pretty close to be locked up now, as there is a 36-point gap between 6th and 7th, but it isn't impossible to close that up in two weeks.
Top week in the pool belongs to Chris M., who sits down in 15th place in the standings this year and was unable to make up any new positions in the pool, except he was able to close the gap to 14th, as it is now down to 5 points. Chris' big week was all thanks to Ryan Miller (10 points), Evgeni Malkin (9), Drew Stafford (6), Pascal Dupuis (5) and five players with 4 points each. Chris had the two top players in the week, which has to help his cause a lot, not to mention the last couple trades that he had made a couple of weeks ago have really helped his side climb back into respectability, of sorts.
Two teams climbed the ladder a lot in the week, as both Scott G.'s #1 team and Wes M. each had four position climbs, trailing each other up the standings in 8th and 9th after the week had finished. They are both new to the top 10 this week, Scott not being completely new, as he was in the top 10 only three weeks ago.
Our pool leader, Jeff E., led the pool in goals scored in the week with 24 and he has a 6-goal lead over Justin L. for the statistical lead this season.
NEWS AND NOTES
A sore back kept Shawn Horcoff out of the Oilers' line-up on Sunday afternoon, as they took on the Columbus Blue Jackets in a battle for last place in the Western Conference. Okay, it wasn't much of a battle, it was more of a contest that meant absolutely nothing to the standings, as the Jackets are so far below the Oilers, it didn't really matter. As for Horcoff, he is considered to be day-to-day for right now, but his season seems rather moot, even in the pools.
The Panthers got a pretty good boost to their line-up this week, as Scottie Upshall returned from a sports hernia this week, but the team is not in any position to rush him back too soon, especially with the playoffs just around the corner and the team doing so well at the moment. Upshall was a healthy scratch on Sunday against the New York Islanders and may be used sparingly, as the team sees fit down the stretch. He hasn't played a great deal all year long and the formula has been working without him, so his minutes, even if he does play, could be tempered.
An upper-body injury was the reason why Martin Erat was a late scratch from the Nashville Predators' line-up on Sunday night. The details were very limited, as he was expected to go against the Blackhawks, but obviously didn't dress for the game. We'll consider him day-to-day until there is any further news about his condition. Precautionary measures are likely a pretty good bet in this case, again with the playoffs right around the corner, the Predators don't want to take many chances with their best players.
The defensive carousel continues to turn in Nashville as well, as the bodies continue to get some time in the line-up and others get rested for the stretch. Jack Hillen, a regular scratch for the better part of the year was again in the press box for the game against Chicago and may still see another game or two in the box in these last couple of weeks. His fantasy value has not reached its potential and the potential has now dried up for the year (and possibly beyond).
A player with a long history of lower-body injuries, Anton Volchenkov, sat out for the Devils again on Sunday, dealing with another one of his favourite ailments. Volchenkov, known for being a rugged defenseman, likes to hit players and block shots, so the injury comes almost naturally to him. With the Devils also in the playoff hunt in the East, this could be as precautionary as they come, since they will want him to be healthy for the beginning of the playoffs in just over two weeks. Volchenkov is on the playoff pool sheet and may be an option, if you see the Devils doing well this year.
It looks like Nino Niederreiter was a healthy scratch again for the New York Islanders on Sunday, as they took on the Panthers. The young Swiss winger has been somewhat of a disappointment for poolies this season, with only 1 goal in 49 games this season. There were some higher expectations and now that has all been tempered this year and he'll need to be re-evaluated before next season, as to whether or not he'll be a viable option for the selection sheet pool, especially with some other young talent coming up the pipe for the team.
It sounds like a minor lower-body injury has kept Penguins forward Steve Sullivan out of his first game this season, but as we have outlined in a couple of injuries already, precaution is the name of the game. Sullivan has had an excellent season with the Penguins, finding new life in his game and the team likely wants to bottle that up and save some of it for the playoffs. Sullivan finished the week ranked 151st in pool scoring with 42 points in 74 games, something that has really turned some heads in the league and in the pools.
The St. Louis Blues are safely in the playoffs this season, challenging for the President's Trophy for the top team in regular season play, but they are also in the business of staying healthy and getting some bodies some action down the stretch. On the blueline, both Roman Polak and Ian Cole were healthy scratches for the team, as they were able to insert some other bodies in their place in a game against the Coyotes. The Blues were able to pick up another victory in Phoenix and were able to rest a couple of key players, so that makes it a pretty good night for them.
Link to the Injury/News Page
HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA
The second-to-last regular season Hockey Night In Canada is another doubleheader for those who are interested and you could argue that the CBC were hoping for a little bit more meaning out of these two games, late in the season, then what they are getting this week. Playoff implications are a little short, although there are some in these two games, but maybe not what HNIC was thinking.
In the early game, the Sabres, who are fighting for a playoff spot, head up to Toronto to take on the Leafs with the current Player of the Week in tow. This will be meeting number five between these two teams and the series is tied at 2-2-0, so there could be a good measure of fun in this one. The Sabres are in that tie for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East, while the Leafs could very well be eliminated from playoff contention by Saturday. A tough break for the home side.
As for the late game, the Calgary Flames, who still have a slim hope of making the playoffs, as of Monday morning, will be heading to Vancouver to try and keep their hopes alive (if they have any) against the Canucks. The Flames can only top out at 95 points in the standings and 8th through 10th as 86 points and the Flames could save themselves with the tie-break, only if they don't come up against the Avalanche. The Canucks, on the other hand, clinched their spot, and should be gearing up for the playoffs with this game (in theory).