Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday Preview (Mar 31)

It's another early start for the NHL on this second-to-last Sunday of the regular season and we're winding down in many of the races we've seen this year.

One race that has heated back up again is the one for 2nd place, as Kristy & Don have vaulted up the ranks with a Mover & Shaker-type week, already at 40 points with one more day to go and now trail Stacey M. by only 7 points, leaving 4th place behind, Grant now 13 points back.

The duo have at least one challenger still remaining for the Mover & Shaker this week, as Stacey C.'s team has been trying to keep up the pace, starting the day 4 points back in the weekly race and both teams have five projected games to play today.

Scott and Troy have been left to slug it out at the bottom of the weekly table, Scott's team down with 8 points and Troy at 10 points, no one left to be seen less than 6 points away from Troy's side.  Everyone else seems to be pretty safe.

Alexandar Georgiev (N/A) versus Carter Hart (Jeremy)
Well, I'm sure the schedule maker was hoping that this game would have meant something today, but both the Rangers and the Flyers are out of the playoff picture today and now they are just playing for position in the standings, improving or degrading their draft lottery position in the end.

Carter Hart is expected to start for the Flyers, after taking the day off yesterday, which is good news for Jeremy's side and one would think that Shayne Gostisbehere would also return from his day off as well, but that hasn't been confirmed just yet, much to the chagrin of Scott's team.  Out of the three goalie system for the Flyers, Cam Talbot will be the healthy scratch.

Devan Dubnyk (Wes) versus Darcy Kuemper (Neil)
Both the Minnesota Wild and Arizona Coyotes are on the outside looking in on the playoff picture in the west, the Coyotes just on top of the Wild by a point, but start the day 3 points back of the Avalanche.  The race isn't quite over yet and a 3-point game in the standings could really make this one interesting.

In the pool, this is a top 10 match-up, which possibly makes this the hockey pool game of the day, as Neil's 7th place team should have Darcy Kuemper going again for the home side, while Wes' team, narrowly holding onto 10th, should have Devan Dubnyk going for the visitors.  Wes' team trails Neil's by 16 points, which is a long shot to make up, but chipping away can't hurt.

Curtis McElhinney (N/A) versus Matt Murray (Scott)
The Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins are locked into a pretty good playoff battle this afternoon, as the Hurricanes could pass the Penguins and move into the division playoff spot with a regulation win today, which makes this a very good game for the television viewing, one would assume.

Scott's team gets a good look at trying to make its way out of the Basement Dweller nod with a start from Matt Murray today, unconfirmed, but assumed.  The Penguins were not active last night, unlike the Hurricanes, which leads to the assumption that Curtis McElhinney will get the nod at the other side.

Joonas Korpisalo (N/A) versus Linus Ullmark (Steve)
Both the Blue Jackets and the Sabres played last night and given that the early game today is really early, we're left to assume that the goalies that didn't start last night will start today, but that may not necessarily be the case for the Jackets, since they are still in the playoff race, holding the last wild card spot in the east and could be in need of that win.  As it stands right now, Steve would be the only one with a pool start, but the moving and shaking duo may get that back-to-back start, just to try and ensure 2 points.

Steve's team starts 20 points out of the top 10 in 18th spot and a Mover & Shaker week of his own in the final seven days could potentially have his side up there.  That whole race could be something to watch, if a team gets hot in the last week.

Jaroslav Halak (Stacey M.) versus Jimmy Howard (Tony)
The goaltending match-up for the Bruins and the Red Wings was set good and early, as we'll see Jaroslav Halak and the Bruins try to lock up home-ice for the opening round match-up, likely against the Leafs, against a Red Wings team that is stumbling with injuries, but they still have a healthy number one in Jimmy Howard, who will go at the opposite end.

This was pretty close to being the hockey pool game of the day, but Tony's team is just too far away from Stacey M.'s team in the standings, 28 points, so it didn't make too much sense.  Nevertheless, Stacey's team wants these 2 points to stay clear of the charging duo, while Tony still has a candle lit for his hopes for 3rd place, which now stands at 21 points away.  Do you believe in miracles?

David Rittich (Ryan) versus Aaron Dell (Troy)
The Calgary Flames can lock down the Pacific Division and the Western Conference with a win over the San Jose Sharks at the Shark Tank tonight.  There's nothing confirmed, in terms of goalies, but the Flames have been rotating and the Sharks played last night, so that has led this post in the direction you see above.

Ryan's team is looking for a top 10 spot, starting 6 points back and possibly getting the start from the visitors, while Troy's team is just hoping to keep out of the basement and it would be a coin flip to see if Aaron Dell indeed gets the start or the team goes to Martin Jones on back-to-back nights.  They did go to overtime last night, so don't count on it.

This will also be a great game to watch, since these two teams don't like each other and are on a collision course for the 2nd round of the playoffs.

Morning Player Notes (Mar 31)

Going five games without a point, even on a team that hasn't had any intentions of the playoffs this year, is still enough to be a healthy scratch and that was the situation for Mikkel Boedker and the Ottawa Senators against Toronto on Saturday night. The Sens played with a little bit of purpose in that game, surprising their provincial rivals with a 4-2 win at home.  Now the question becomes whether or not this scratch was a statement game and Boedker goes back in or if he's found himself in the doghouse for the last week of the year.

I can't imagine Chelsea has had much stock in the back half of this season, as her team is a little bit more comfortable in 22nd place, now 7 points clear of 23rd after Saturday night.  Boedker has been disappointing for her team, since the Week Eighteen Waiver Draft, picking up 5 assists in 18 games played.

A curious collision in the Tampa Bay/Washington game last night, saw defenseman Victor Hedman collide with Carl Hagelin at the offensive blueline and Hedman's chin took the top of Hagelin's helmet, as the defenseman engaged on the hit and that collision was enough to send Hedman packing, missing the last two periods of the game.  Hedman does have a record of concussions and now there is a real concern that he may have suffered another one, which would come at a very poor time, as we start leading up to the playoffs.  We'll have our eyes peeled on this situation.

Dale C.'s team did not have a great Saturday night, failing to move up from his 11th place spot at the start of play, instead, dropping a spot, down to 12th, and will start Sunday's action 4 points back of 10th place.  The loss of Hedman could be big in his chase for the top 10.

One lineup change for the Vancouver Canucks between Thursday night and Saturday night, as Sven Baertschi returned from his night off and Jake Virtanen came out, cited to be dealing with a lower-body injury.  The coaching staff have said that Virtanen is day-to-day with the injury, but the team has now officially been eliminated from playoff contention, so it could be more about getting some looks at some other players, which may keep the coaches from rushing Virtanen back.

Grant's team has not had a very good week and the bad luck compounds with this injury to Virtanen, who has only been okay for his team, as one of his player swaps this season, 13 points in 39 games since coming on board.  Grant's team is losing ground to Kristy & Don, who now sit in 3rd, now 13 points back.

Vegas forward Paul Stastny was a late scratch for the Saturday night tilt between the Golden Knights and Sharks in San Jose, but there hasn't been any information released as to why he was a scratch.  Stastny reportedly took the pregame skate, but something like that could have been an illness that caught up to him or maybe a minor injury causing him some discomfort, but it's hard to say for sure.  We'll consider him day-to-day, questionable for Monday's game, at home to Edmonton.

Currently, there are two top 10 spots still available to change hands, 9th and 10th, and Wilton is currently holding on to the 9th spot in the standings, 6 points clear of 11th and 12th, which is far from comfortable.  Even 8 points opens up 13th spot and none of these teams in the week have pulled away from each other, leaving a bit of a dog fight for the last week.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Recent Contract Extensions (Mar 30)

The Arizona Coyotes were certainly happy with the early returns from forward Nick Schmaltz after they acquired him from the Chicago Blackhawks this season, as he posted 14 points in 17 games after the trade and helped give the team a bit of a boost in-season and they were in the hunt for a playoff spot into February and March.  Unfortunately, Schmaltz hasn't seen any action since the end of December, due to injury, but there was certainly a lift of spirits when he arrived.

On Saturday morning, the club announced that they signed the 23-year old forward to a new 7-year extension, reportedly worth $40.95 million, which works out to be a $5.85 million cap hit per season.  If he can continue to post the same scoring rate as he did before his injury, this could work out to be a very good deal.

We'll have a lot more on the Coyotes cap situation when the season concludes and we get into the Pool Outlook posts, but I don't think they have much to worry about at the moment.

Saturday Preview (Mar 30)

Well, it's another rush job today, as we get the preview ready for Saturday, as it was a late start for me and a fairly early start for the NHL, with the first game going at 11am MT.

Kristy & Don have leapt out to the lead in the Mover & Shaker race, now up to 29 points and really taking a good grip on 3rd place in the standings.  Tony and Stacey C. are not far behind at 27 points, while Jesse's team remains hopeful at 25 points.  Between Tony and Jesse, if either of those two want 3rd place, they need their teams to be much, much better than the duo's this weekend.

Troy and Scott are duking it out in the Basement Dweller race, both teams start the day at 6 points each, and only Steve is in ear shot of those two, up at 9 points.

Roberto Luongo (John P.) versus Tuukka Rask (Jesse)
The Boston Bruins can get one step closer to clinching home-ice in the opening round of the playoffs with a win against the Panthers tonight at home.  Of course, this is one of those key games that Jesse needs to get some points and climb back into the 3rd place race, as Tuukka Rask has been given the nod for the Bruins today.  Jesse's team is only 3 points out of 4th at the start of play tonight, which would be a good hurdle to get over.

In other pool news, Mike Matheson of the Panthers is expected to return to the lineup, which is good news for John P. today.  Matheson spent a game in the press box as a healthy scratch, which has been pretty popular for his blueline this season.

Cam Talbot (Mike) versus Petr Mrazek (Stacey C.)
The Carolina Hurricanes are doing Stacey C. a solid in his bid for the Mover & Shaker this week, giving Petr Mrazek a spin in net on Saturday afternoon against the Flyers.  Philadelphia is also in the charitable mood, giving Cam Talbot a start in the matinee game, as Mike's team looks to take back their top 20 spot in the standings.

We do know that Shayne Gostisbehere has been tapped to be a healthy scratch in this game this afternoon, he will make way for youngster Sam Morin to get some minutes down the stretch, now that the games don't mean nearly as much.  Scott's team fell back into last place last night and this scratch won't help.

Carey Price (Stacey M.) versus Connor Hellebuyck (Jeremy)
It hasn't been confirmed exactly, but it seems fair to assume that Carey Price will be going for the Canadiens in Winnipeg tonight, as they desperately try to claw their way back into the playoff picture against the Jets.  Stacey M. is starting to look over her shoulder, since her lock on 2nd place has begun to get unstable, now only 12 points up on the surging duo in 3rd.  A bad weekend could really make that interesting.  Connor Hellebuyck is expected to get the start for the Jets, with Jeremy's team still floating in 19th.

Lots of lineup news for this one, as the Canadiens are expected to scratch Jesperi Kotkaniemi tonight, which doesn't help Stacey M.'s cause much at all, but he hasn't exactly been putting the points up to warrant staying in the lineup either.  On the Jets side, Dustin Byfuglien is expected to be back in the lineup for the last push to the playoffs, trying to shake off the rust in the last nine days before the end of the regular season.  Dale C. is eyeing up a top 10 spot, starting in 11th today and getting a big piece back healthy.

Garret Sparks (Grant) versus Craig Anderson (Mike)
The Battle of Ontario goes tonight in Ottawa, when the Leafs take on the Senators.  Grant's team gets a rare start out of the Leafs, as they will go with Garret Sparks tonight against the lowly Sens, a couple of points that Grant really needs, if his team is to climb back into 3rd place again before the end of the year.  His team starts 10 points out of 3rd and is chasing the current Mover & Shaker to get there.  Mike has been confirmed for two starts already today, which is good for that chase for 20th, but that's about it.

Did I mention that the Leafs could clinch their playoff berth tonight?  No?  Oh, silly me.  They only need 1 point tonight to do so, so either an overtime/shootout loss (or a win, whatever!) or a Montreal loss in any fashion, will get the job done.

Braden Holtby (Stacey C.) versus Andrei Vasilevskiy (Dale C.)
We know that Braden Holtby has been given the green light in Tampa Bay tonight, giving Stacey C. another start for his chase for the Mover & Shaker this week.  At this point in the morning, we still haven't heard about the Lightning's starter, but given the opponent, it would seem very likely that Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the nod at the other end.  Dale C.'s chances at 10th place get better with a start here, if it happens.

His chances might take a hit, since Brett Connolly is questionable to go for the Capitals tonight, as he may have been bitten by the flu bug.  He'll be questionable to a game-time decision ahead of this one and if he can't go, he'll be day-to-day.  Ondrej Palat is expected to make a return from an upper-body injury tonight, another positive for Stacey M. and her defense of 2nd place.

Jake Allen (Steve) versus Cory Schneider (N/A)
A pair of teams cycling through their goalies, the Blues playing last night and the Devils just going through the motions, will go tonight in Jersey.  The Blues clinched last night, despite their loss, and they still have an outside chance at winning the Central Division, starting the night only 4 points back of both Winnipeg and Nashville, both teams going tonight.

Steve appears to be getting the only pool start in this game, if Allen does indeed go, it's still unconfirmed.  His team could distance itself from the basement with a win here.  As it was mentioned before, his team is the closest to the race to the bottom, starting 3 points clear.

Carter Hutton (Wes) versus Robin Lehner (Chelsea)
Wes' team is trying to defend his return to the top 10 with a Carter Hutton win on Long Island tonight, as the Sabres are trying to redeem a little bit of their pride after a tough collapse on a great start to the regular season.  They would like to have some sort of glimmer of hope, heading into the off-season.  Chelsea potentially could have two starts today, the first coming here in this game, as Robin Lehner is expected to get the start for the Islanders, who still have their eye on a Metro Division title.

The Islanders can also claim their playoff spot officially with a win or a Canadiens regulation loss or if both teams lose after regulation.  It's just that easy.  I'm expecting a big game from those Islanders though.

Sergei Bobrosky (Kristy & Don) versus Juuse Saros (Eric)
Neither goalie for the game between the Blue Jackets and the Predators were confirmed, but here's my best guess in the early part of the day.  The duo should be getting their start from Sergei Bobrovsky, since the Jackets are in the thick of the wild card race in the east and if Juuse Saros is over his bout of the flu from last night, he could get the nod tonight, but again, that's still up in the air.

Maxime Lagace (N/A) versus Martin Jones (Brenda & Seward)
Nothing confirmed in net for the Golden Knights and the Sharks, but as long as Marc-Andre Fleury is injured, Vegas won't have a pool goalie regardless.  They played last night and lost, yet still clinched their spot, thanks to the Coyotes' loss, so I would assume that Maxime Lagace will finally get a start in San Jose tonight.  We're looking for Martin Jones to get the nod again for the Sharks, giving Brenda & Seward a start, they're still chasing down Chelsea's team for 22nd in the standings, starting play 5 points back.

Anton Khudobin (Grant) versus Jacob Markstrom (Chelsea)
The injury to Ben Bishop should suggest that Anton Khudobin will get another start tonight, this time in Vancouver, taking on the Canucks.  Khudobin and the Stars can clinch their playoff berth with any type of win tonight, they just need the 2 points and Grant could use the points as well, in that chase for 3rd place.  The Canucks goaltending, still unconfirmed, could go either way, but since Jacob Markstrom got the night off on Thursday, we'd expect him back tonight.

John Gibson (Kristy & Don) versus Mikko Koskinen (Tony)
Fresh off getting their feathers ruffled in Calgary, the Ducks are in Edmonton on the Alberta back-to-back challenge, taking on the Oilers.  In the pool standings, this would probably be considered the hockey pool game of the night, since it's 3rd place Kristy & Don seeing their goalie, John Gibson, return to the net after a night off, while Tony's 6th place team should get another start from Mikko Koskinen.  The gap between the two teams is 18 points, which is improbable to make up, but it all starts with 2 points here in this game.

Corey Crawford (N/A) versus Jonathan Quick (Brenda & Seward)
Remember when these two teams were the class of the Western Conference at the same time?  Those were definitely some days.  The Kings were long eliminated from playoff contention and the Blackhawks are not long for the playoff world either.  They're not officially eliminated yet, but it's close.  Jonathan Quick is the likely keeper for the Kings, unconfirmed, but likely... while the same goes for Corey Crawford is the likely keeper for the Blackhawks.  The last gasps for Chicago are painful to watch, but there they go.