The stretch run is on! There are only three more weeks of regular season action and most teams are now down to about 10 games left in their schedules, albeit the Colorado Avalanche are down to eight games and there are still eight teams with 11 games, but the average is 10, trust me.
The NHL will have a 52-game week in Week Twenty-Five, which should amplify the races a little bit more, either bringing them closer together in each pool or busting the leads wide open.
In the draft, the lead is now up to 10 points, with a new leader. The gap between 3rd and 7th is now 26 points, which is still available to close up with the right combination of games, so that's far from over. Those who are in the top 10 have pretty well clinched their spots, as the gap between 10th and 11th is 46 points and I don't expect that to close up fast enough, so congrats to those in the top 10, it makes for a great season that way. 5th and 10th is only separated by 23 points, so if 3rd to 7th is possible, there are still 10 teams vying for the money.
The sheet pool had a really good shuffle at the top, which will be explained in better detail in the stat pack. 49 points separates 5th and 13th, which may be a little outside of the realm of possibility, but I wouldn't count it right out just yet... a few weeks of gaining 15 to 20 points can go a long way. It's more difficult in this pool, but not impossible. We'll have another look at it again soon.
And for those teams who are looking for something new, now that they are out of the money races... check out the Playoff Pool, which will go live later on Monday. Start your homework now, as teams now join and fall out of the playoff race. It's a good time for only $10.
Let's see how Week Twenty-Four fared, shall we?
I have a feeling that we have seen this before in the recorded history of the hockey pools, but we have now a back-to-back winner of the Player of the Week award, as Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has now taken his third honour of the season with another great performance in Week Twenty-Four.
After a horrifying stretch around and after the Winter Classic, Bryzgalov has rebounded nicely to start removing the doubt about his skills about leading the Flyers into the playoffs, even with a diminished blueline in front of him.
Bryzgalov played in four games in the Week Twenty-Four, earning a record of 3-0-1, establishing a new Flyers' franchise shutout streak at almost 250 minutes with another shutout on Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils. An impressive feat, for sure, and it makes him more than worthy to take the PoW honour for a second straight week.
On Thursday, he had his shutout streak snapped by the Islanders, but was still able to post 29 saves for the win. Saturday was his overtime loss to the Bruins, but he bounced back with a solid 38-save effort in a 3-2 overtime win over the Penguins to finish with 8 points in the week.
With another 8 points, Bryzgalov took his overall points total up to 73 points, which is now good enough for 13th in overall pool scoring this year, up from 24th at the end of last week, making him into a solid 1st round worthy player in this year's draft.
Allan S. picked up Bryzgalov in the draft this year, 9th overall, and he is almost properly cashing in on that pick number this season.
A pretty big week, seemingly out of nowhere for Chris M. in Week Twenty-Four, as his team led the lot with a 32-point effort and he takes his first mention as the Mover and Shaker this season.
This is the second-lowest position a team has been to take the Mover and Shaker in a week this season, as Chris finished the week in 17th place, but Peter H. leads that category after taking the nod in Week Fifteen, finishing in 20th place.
It has been a really rough season for Chris, making a couple of mistakes at the opening draft and paying for them through the first waiver draft and then having some more troubles after the fact. His team has put in somewhat of a redemption week with a Mover and Shaker nod, but it is too little, too late for him overall.
Chris' big week came from the likes of Martin Erat (7 points), Semyon Varlamov (6), Jussi Jokinen (4) and Henrik Sedin (4). His team only had two active players on his roster with 0 points each, so 12 of his 14 players were able to register points and that's a pretty solid sign of a good week.
Chris has not had his share of bargain picks this year, but his best player in the week, Erat, has certainly been his best pick this year, taking him 187th (9th round) and he's now an early 4th round player (67th) this year. He had also taken Vaclav Prospal late, 210th (10th round) and he's now 123rd overall. Prospal had 1 point in Week Twenty-Four to help his cause.
The big week got him out of 18th place for the time being, but he is nowhere near his peak position of the season, which was 8th place, back at the end of Week Two.
A ridiculously tough week for Leon G., who couldn't catch a break in Week Twenty-Four, registering only 8 points in the week and falling down to 18th spot, the spot that our Mover and Shaker just got out of.
This is Leon's second mention in the Basement this season and he has been unable to get into the Mover and Shaker category this year, making it into a really tough season for him. Leon's best player in Week Twenty-Four was Evander Kane of the Jets, who had 3 points, while nine of his active 14 players were unable to register points, three of which were due to injury.
The only position that Leon has been above-average in for points is his goaltending, which is only two players deep and unfortunately, both Tomas Vokoun and Niklas Backstrom were on the shelf for periods of time in the week, if not the whole thing. It just wasn't adding up well for him in this stretch.
This is Leon's third draft season and after winning the pool in his first year (2010), his teams have taken a real tumble in the standings. It's almost time for a major comeback for him, possibly in 2013?
What a huge week in the selection sheet pool! The races have been made more exciting with all kinds of points to certain teams, while other teams took a pretty good hit and now we're really racing!
The top 10 didn't necessarily change in membership, but there was all kinds of movement. Jeff E. still leads the pool and still has a reasonably comfortable lead, currently sitting at 47 points. Don D. had a great week, making up 22 points on Jeff and actually managing to take over 2nd place, jumping over both Zac H. and Clayton C. in the process and will take an 8-point cushion into Week Twenty-Five. Yes, Zac has dropped out of 2nd place, the first week he didn't finish in the silver spot since Week Six, when he was tops. Justin L. also moved into some bigger money, as he took 4th place in the week with a great week of his own, while Clayton C. dropped all the way down to 5th with a relatively poor week.
Nipping at the heels of the money positions now is Caterina F., as she took the biggest week in the pool for Week Twenty-Four, scoring 79 points, 4 points better than anyone else in the standings. Her team also took home the weekly honour for the most goals as well, picking up 29 tallies. She wasn't able to technically move up any positions in the standings, but she has effectively closed the gap on 5th, which is now down to 4 points. Caterina owes her big week to Drew Stafford (6 points), Tyler Ennis (6), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (5) and seven players with 4 points each. Only seven of her active players failed to register a point and the rest did a great number on the standings. Cat's team is on the move and is poised to take home some money, if they can keep this roll going.
There were quite a few points handed out among teams, but only a couple of teams moved up the most positions, which was only two each. Don D. moved from 4th to 2nd, while Wendy C. also moved into the money conversation, up from 9th to 7th.
This has been a fun season, hasn't it?
NEWS AND NOTES
An upper-body injury was the listed reason as to why defenseman Toni Lydman was held out of Sunday's game between the Ducks and Predators. Lydman is listed as being out day-to-day at the moment, but that could change before too long. Lydman has been a regular on the Ducks blueline and he is currently listed on the first draft of the playoff pool, so we'll keep a close eye on him.
Defenseman James Wisniewski left the game against the Calgary Flames after taking a puck to the face in the 3rd period and didn't return from the game. There was no immediate word as to the condition of his upper-body injury. We'll consider him day-to-day for right now, can't imagine it would be too long on the shelf on him, even if there is some reasonable dental work.
On Sunday, the Minnesota Wild decided to send forward Nick Palmieri down to the minors, as the team is getting healthy yet again. It sounds like the Wild will be able to get Mikko Koivu back from an undisclosed injury, a few weeks later than initially expected and it also looks like that they will be getting him back too late for the Western Conference playoff race. Palmieri was not the offensive replacement that the Wild hoped he could be and they fell out of the race.
The Nashville Predators are still trying to work around their line-up these days, as the rotation sees Colin Wilson out of the line-up again on Sunday night. Wilson has been among a few of the forwards making the rounds up to the press box in the last week or so and everything will likely get a little more complicated with the expected arrival of Alexander Radulov from Russia this week. With the Predators doing well in the Western Conference playoff picture, this could be a chance for the team to rest some of their younger legs, making sure they remain sharp, as the team goes into the playoffs.
The Coyotes kept themselves in the midst of the Western Conference playoff picture with a win over the Oilers on Sunday night and they did so without defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who suffered a lower-body injury earlier in the week and has been held off the ice since. The Coyotes may not want to rest Aucoin, but as long as they stay in a playoff position, they might as well do so, because he'll be just as valuable in a playoff series, as much as his health would be a benefit for the end of the regular season. It'll be a fine line that the Coyotes ride here.
With Zach Bogosian returning to the line-up for the Jets on Sunday night, the team decided to scratch Grant Clitsome again, which doesn't look great on the defenseman, after he was acquired off of waivers from the Blue Jackets earlier on in the season. Clitsome had lost his slot in Columbus earlier on in the season, due to his play and with another healthy scratch to his name in Winnipeg, it looks like the experiment isn't going terribly well there either The Jets do have some good depth on the blueline, so Clitsome will have to work extra hard to keep a position there.
Link to the Injury/News Page
HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA
This coming weekend's Hockey Night In Canada would have been better if the early game had a little bit more of an impact on the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but that doesn't look like it'll be the case, while the late game has plenty of intrigue left in it. We'll again look at the top players in the money race in this week's previews, just so you know.
In the early game, the New York Rangers will make their way to the ACC in Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs in a battle that should be more concerning to the visitors than it is to the hosts. The Rangers now find themselves in a fight for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and they will be looking to keep that ball rolling this week and into Saturday, as the Pittsburgh Penguins are now coming hard for them. The Leafs are starting the week well out of the playoff picture and it looks rather unlikely that they'll even push for a spot by Saturday. Top player in the money race in this game is Henrik Lundqvist, who leads all players in this game in pool points heading into the week with 81 and he belongs to the 3rd place team of Stuart G..
In the late game, the Colorado Avalanche will try to stay in the Western Conference playoff race, but they face a stiff task with the Vancouver Canucks coming to town to take them on. The Avalanche go into this week holding onto the last playoff spot in the Western Conference and the Canucks are comfortably in a playoff spot, now trying to warm up their legs for a long playoff run. The Avalanche will have to be playing for their playoff lives and it should be a great atmosphere for the game, so we'll be in for an ace game. Top player in the money race in this game also belongs to Stuart G., as he has rookie forward Gabriel Landeskog, who is having a marvellous rookie season with 47 points in 74 games. He is the favourite for the Calder Trophy this year and a big reason why Stuart is doing so well.