Sunday, December 31, 2017

2018 Winter Classic Preview

It's that time again!  It's time to ring in the New Year and nurse our hangovers with an outdoor NHL game on the television.  Yes, the Winter Classic is back on January 1st and will go tomorrow afternoon at Citi Field in New York, with the Rangers taking on the Sabres.

These games haven't exactly been the goal scoring feasts that us poolies would have ever hoped for, as teams find one way or another to tighten up defensively, trying to limit their mistakes on the outdoor ice or in the less-than-controlled conditions, but still, it's a marvel to watch from time-to-time.

These two teams line-up rather lopsided to the visitors in pretty well every fashion.  The Rangers hold a playoff spot, while the Sabres are last in the Eastern Conference heading into this game.  The players divvied out in the hockey pool are very heavily weighted towards the Rangers, as you can clearly see below.

New York Buffalo
Benson Rasmus Ristolainen
Brian Mika Zibanejad
Henrik Lundqvist
Cam Mats Zuccarello
Dale C. Ryan McDonagh
Wilton Zach Bogosian
Eric Nick Holden Evander Kane
Jeremy Chris Kreider
Kristy & Don Jason Pominville
Robin Lehner
Mike Kevin Hayes
Brady Skjei
Scott Rich Nash
Stacey C. Pavel Buchnevich
Stacey M. J.T. Miller
Steve Michael Grabner
Tony Sam Reinhart
Troy Kevin Shattenkirk
Wes Jack Eichel
Ryan O'Reilly
Kyle Okposo
Marco Scandella

Of course, if this was a mini-game, we would all be chasing down Tony's team, which leads after the NHL100 Classic with 4 points and he does have representation in this game, in the form of Sam Reinhart of the Sabres.

Wes bought heavily into the Sabres as well and he leads all teams in the pool with four players likely to play in this game.  He had a player playing in Ottawa in the first outdoor game of the season, but didn't come away with any points, so his team would start 4 points back and in need of a big game from the home side.

Three other pool teams had points in Ottawa, but two of those teams don't have any representation in tomorrow's game, only Stacey C., who has Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich.

There is also two goalies, and the likely starters, taken in the pool, with Henrik Lundqvist probably taking on Robin Lehner, which actually is a top 10 match-up between Brian's free falling team against Kristy & Don, who remain entrenched in the money conversation. 

There's plenty going on in this game, pool-wise... it's a shame there is no money on it.

Goalie Announcements (Dec 31)

It's the last day of 2017 and if you're not staying indoors, away from this freezing cold... you're mental!

The year and Week Thirteen will finish off with a busier than normal Sunday, which makes up for the quiet Saturday we just had, maybe some of these teams were really looking forward to capitalizing on a New Year's Eve game, more than the traditional Saturday night out.

Eight games are on the schedule and they kick off with an early afternoon game in Vegas.  I'm sure there is lots to do on the strip, rather than sit inside of a frozen arena in the desert for when the calendar flips over for another year.  So, with that being said, it's an early goalie post today, hoping that we get most of these right.

Frederik Andersen (Mike) versus Marc-Andre Fleury (Scott)
The bright lights of Las Vegas will play host to what could be a fairly electric game this afternoon.  The Maple Leafs and the Golden Knights can certainly turn it on, when needed.  We're definitely expecting to see a battle of number ones here, as the visitors should be going with Frederik Andersen and the hosts opting for Marc-Andre Fleury.  In the pool standings, this is Mike versus Scott, 18th versus 25th, divided by 68 points.  For Mike, the difference between his team in the money is only 46 points, so it could be much more about Scott's goalies playing spoiler, more than anything else.

Antti Raanta (Ryan) versus John Gibson (Tony)
The Arizona Coyotes confirmed that Antti Raanta was getting the last start of 2017, ensuring that Ryan would get one last start today, as his team dropped a spot to Wes this week and I'm sure he'd like it back before it's all said and done.  The Anaheim Ducks are not on back-to-back nights, so that should be more than enough indication to think that John Gibson will get the nod here this afternoon.  Tony's team is a few hot weeks away from being back in the conversation, as his team only sits 38 points out of the money, at the start of play today.  Gibson and the Ducks can certainly give him a start against the lowly Coyotes.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (Wilton) versus Sergei Bobrovsky (Derek B.)
It's a full-on Russian affair in Columbus tonight, as this could work out to be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals, if the dominoes were distributed correctly on the board.  Wilton has had a bit of a tough week, seeing his team only pick up 13 points and that has shuffled him out of the top three to start Sunday's action.  Fortunately, Andrei Vasilevskiy will go for the Lightning, trying to help him out of his funk and he'll face off against Derek's Sergei Bobrovsky.  Derek's team is in 10th to start the day, 29 points back of Wilton and this is the time to get the results that will close gaps.

Connor Hellebuyck (Neil) versus Cam Talbot (Wes)
It's an early start in Edmonton this evening, also likely trying to shove people out the door to enjoy the festivities at a reasonable hour.  The Jets are in the frigid north to take on the Oilers and we were made aware of the road goalie first, so we'll start with him.  Neil's team had a decent week, so far, with 19 points, but he's stuck in 20th place, since the teams directly ahead of him had good weeks too.  He'll get Connor Hellebuyck in the Jets net tonight, trying to help his team be just a little bit better than the rest.  For the Oilers, Wes' team is trying to track down Neil's but didn't have quite the same week, with only 15 points, but a huge game from Cam Talbot can help his team keep the pace.

Matt Murray (Stacey M.) versus Jimmy Howard (Dale C.)
The Detroit Red Wings will close off the 2017 calendar year with a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins and this could prove to be a desperate game, as neither team will be in a playoff spot, when the ball drops tonight.  Jimmy Howard was confirmed early on to be the starter for the Red Wings, taking reps in the starter's net at the morning skate, giving Dale C. a start tonight.  Dale's team also struggled this week, dropping down to 12th with a 12-point week, so far.  At the other end, it looks like Matt Murray is ready to go again for the Penguins, as he was on the ice for practice and was the first one off the ice after, usually signalling the start.  Stacey's team opens the day only a couple points out of the top 10 and that's exactly what Murray is looking to give her tonight.

Jaroslav Halak (Benson) versus Jonathan Bernier (Scott)
Up in Denver tonight, the Islanders and Avalanche close off their 2017 calendar years with a non-conference tilt, ringing in the New Year with a fairly intriguing match-up.  After the morning skate, it was confirmed that Jaroslav Halak was getting another nod for the Islanders tonight, giving Benson a chance to solidify his spot in the money tonight.  Benson jumped up to 2nd this week and holds a 1-point advantage on Jeremy's team for the position.  Talk about a rarity sort of night, Scott will get two goalie starts today, as the Avalanche have opted to dress Jonathan Bernier for this game against the Islanders.  Scott's team, like I mentioned earlier, could certainly play spoiler to some teams, if he can get the goalie starts and this is one that the rest of the money teams are really pulling for tonight.

Martin Jones (Chris) versus Ben Bishop (Kristy & Don)
As of today, both the San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars are destined for the playoffs and with the goaltending match-up that's set for tonight, you can probably see why.  Chris' team took a rough tumble since it got off to a great start, dropping from 3rd down after Week Four to 13th now, but his team can work its way back up with a win from Martin Jones tonight.  On the other side of the ledger, Kristy & Don got off to a slow start, but for the last six weeks, they have been hovering just outside of the money spots, starting the day, 7 points out.  Ben Bishop has been good for them and they'll need him to be good again to close up the gap.

Jeff Glass (N/A) versus Mike Smith (Ryan)
The last game of the calendar year will be in Calgary tonight, as the traveling Blackhawks finish their Western Canada swing against the Flames.  Only one pool goalie in this one, due to injury, as Ryan gets a second start in this one, with Mike Smith getting the nod for the Flames.  Ryan's team is looking to make a move or two today, as his team is currently chasing Wes' down for 21st, actually tied at the start of play today and he could certainly use a couple of goalie wins to help his cause.  For the Blackhawks, ti's a feel-good story with Jeff Glass, who will make his second career NHL start tonight in his hometown.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Goalie Announcements (Dec 30)

There was definitely a big shift down around the border of the top 10 on Friday night, as the busy night produced quite a few points.  Some teams were fortunate, other teams, not so much.  The gap between 1st and 10th, the ties were broken last night, is now 45 points and growing, since Dale B.'s team is in the running for the Mover & Shaker nod this week, which is bad news for everyone.

Only six games to be played tonight, which is a shockingly weak schedule for a Saturday night, but it is what it is.  There's no sense in complaining about it.  Since it's such a small schedule, I might as well go ahead and look at every game!

Tuukka Rask (Clayton) versus Mike Condon (N/A)
Clayton gets the first of two starts in Ottawa tonight, with the Boston Bruins in to take on the Senators at the Canadian Tire Center.  Tuukka Rask gets the call again for the Bruins, while the Senators will counter with their number two, Mike Condon.  Clayton's team has moved up to 7th this week and has eyes on 6th tonight, while on the other side, Tony's team has made some gains this week as well, but still sits in the bottom half at the start of play today.

Carey Price (Dale C.) versus James Reimer (Troy)
The Canadiens continue to roll through the Southeast USA with a game in Sunrise, Florida tonight.  Dale C.'s pool team fell out of the top 10 on Friday night and will take aim at getting back in, starting with an appearance from Carey Price for the visitors.  Dale needs 5 points to climb back into the top 10 on Saturday afternoon, so he'll need more than one good game from Price tonight.  Troy's 18th place team is hanging around the Mover & Shaker nod this week, already with 17 points on the week, 6 points back of the weekly lead.  A win from James Reimer could inch his team closer, before a busy Sunday.

Cory Schneider (Jeremy) versus Braden Holtby (Grant)
Grant's team is the current leader for the Mover & Shaker nod this week and his team gets one more start this week out of his number one keeper, Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals, taking on the visiting New Jersey Devils.  Grant's hot week has also vaulted his team into the top 10, jumping over a few teams on Friday night and a big game tonight could get him closer to moving up again.  At the other end, the Devils are running with Cory Schneider on back-to-back nights, looking to aid Jeremy back into the top three tonight, as he opens the night in a tie for 3rd place, but losing out on tie-breakers.

Scott Darling (Clayton) versus Carter Hutton (Benson)
It's been a busy week for just about every goalie in the hockey pool in this shortened week, as teams battle through back-to-back games.  Both the Hurricanes and Blues are on the back half of their sets tonight in St. Louis, so it is expected that those goalies who didn't "start" last night, plays tonight.  Scott Darling gives Clayton's team a second start of the night, while Carter Hutton, who came on in relief last night for the Blues, should give Benson one start tonight.  Clayton's team trails Benson's by 22 points, at the start of play tonight.

Alex Stalock (N/A) versus Juuse Saros (Eric)
It's the second half of back-to-backs between the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators tonight and it is expected that both backups will be playing in this one.  One pool goalie playing in that case, as Eric gets a rare start from Juuse Saros and the Predators, who look to split the two games, after losing away last night.  Eric's team opens the night, safely in 23rd spot, 7 points back of 22nd and 14 points clear of 24th.

Jonathan Quick (Chris) versus Jacob Markstrom (Wes)
All indications suggest that this will be a top draw goaltending match-up in Vancouver for the late game of Hockey Night in Canada, as the Kings will take on the Canucks.  Chris' team will try to find its way back to the top 10, starting with a game from Jonathan Quick tonight, while Wes' stagnant team in 22nd place will counter with their number one guy, Jacob Markstrom for the Canucks.  Not a lot of intrigue in the pool in this one, but it should be a decent Pacific Division rivalry game, nonetheless.