Saturday, April 06, 2019

Weekend Preview (Apr 6)

Welcome to the final day of the regular season!

What is really left to play for?  Well, there's jockeying to be done in the NHL playoff races, as the Jackets did clinch the final spot in the Eastern Conference last night, so now we just try to figure out who is playing where in a few cases.

The biggest story in the hockey pool, which is a horrible long shot, but it's all we got... can anyone catch Kristy & Don for 3rd place?  Jesse starts the day 17 points back and now we're heavy into the healthy scratch territory and it's not going to be pretty.

The weekly scoring honours are still up for grabs, for whatever they're worth.  Stuart has the lead in the Mover & Shaker at the start of play today with 26 points, 6 points back has five teams in the race, at least.  Troy's team has the caboose this week with 6 points, 7 points has nine teams in vying for the final title of the season.

Everything gets started at 11am MT and there are the maximum allowable amount of games in the league today, so there's lots to cover.  Let's get this party started.  Is this why I can't sleep at 3am?  Doubtful, but it's helping with the prep.

Louis Domingue (Eric) versus Tuukka Rask (Jesse)
There's nothing to be decided in Boston, when the Lightning visit the Bruins, both have clinched home-ice in the opening round and if these two meet in the next round, Tampa would have home-ice, thanks to being the best team in the regular season by a country mile.  This could just be one ugly stare down that has no real vigor to the game.  Both teams will likely save it all for when the games really matter.

The Bruins coaching staff did confirm that Tuukka Rask will get the nod for the Bruins this morning/afternoon, which is certainly to the delight of Jesse's team, which you'll get your fill of his name in this post, racing for 3rd place.  The Lightning had yet to confirm, but if I had to lean one way more than the other, I would think that Louis Domingue gets the start in the finale, just to save their number one on that extra push for nothing.  Eric's team is still vying for a top 10 spot and he may sneak a start from under Dale C., the team he's chasing for that spot.

The goaltending is the only mention of the 3rd place race in this early game, but the race will be prominent in this post, right around this same spot in every game.

Jacob Markstrom (Chelsea) versus Jordan Binnington (N/A)
The St. Louis Blues can put some pressure on their Central Division foes for top spot in the division with a win over the Vancouver Canucks in one of the two early afternoon games.  The Blues start the day in 3rd, but could go 1st with a win in any fashion.  If Winnipeg or Nashville get at least a point in their respective games, the Blues don't have the tie-breaks to stay up though, so they'll need a lot of help to win the division today.

The Blues confirmed that they will be going with their rookie wonderkid in this game against the Canucks, which is of no help to the hockey pool, while the Canucks had yet to confirm early on this morning, but the lean is towards one more start for Jacob Markstrom, which would give Chelsea her first start of the day, in theory.  There's not a lot in this one for the hockey pool, so we'll try not to dwell in it too much from the goaltending perspective.

As for the 3rd place race, also nothing.  The Blue have the storyline here and the 2pm MT start will likely move along with the wind, just breezing on by.

Frederik Andersen (Wilton) versus Charlie Lindgren (N/A)
It will be Bob Cole's last game on Hockey Night in Canada and he gets to call the classic rivalry between the Leafs and the Canadiens.  I'm sure everyone would have preferred this game to mean something, but it doesn't.  The Leafs are in and the Habs are out and that's about that.

Surprisingly, no Carey Price for the Canadiens in the finale at home tonight, as Charlie Lindgren, who has been sitting around as the team's number three for the last few weeks, will draw into the start against the Leafs, a likely reward for his patience this year.  Frederik Andersen will indeed get the start for the Leafs, as he looks to stay sharp heading into the playoffs.  Wilton's team sits 9th after some big gains in the third segment and looks to finish strong in the top 10.

Garret Sparks will not be backing up Andersen tonight, as he was given a 10-day sabbatical away from the team in the late part of the week, as the Leafs called up Michael Hutchinson to take his place, likely into the playoffs.  Sparks has really lost his confidence and needed the time away.  This wasn't going to be a scheduled start for him anyways, so Grant doesn't really lose out here.

Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey also won't be going tonight for the Leafs, he'll be a scratch for some rest tonight, joining Jake Muzzin who has missed the last couple games due to illness.  Both Hainsey and Muzzin are on Neil's team this year and are only hanging on to 7th place by the tie-breaker and two games being removed.  This is not an ideal situation for his team.

In the 3rd place race, Kristy & Don have some stock here with Max Domi, he's still expected to dress and play in the finale.

Joonas Korpisalo (N/A) versus Craig Anderson (Mike)
The best the Columbus Blue Jackets can finish is the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, which would need either 2 points and a Carolina loss in any fashion or 1 point and a Carolina regulation loss.  The Jackets get the lowly Sens to finish, so that should really put the pressure on Carolina to win and not have to face the Lightning in round one.

Craig Anderson was in the starter's net for the Senators at the morning skate, which likely means he'll get the nod for the home side in their finale of the season.  Mike's team starts 8 points back of Benson's team in 20th place today and could be the only pool goalie going tonight, as the Jackets did play last night and likely will go with Joonas Korpisalo.

The early indications this morning suggest that Bobby Ryan will get a twirl in the last game of the regular season tonight, giving one more skater game to Jeremy's 19th place team.

In the 3rd place race, Matt Duchene will be Jesse's representation tonight, while Thomas Chabot appears to be the only guy going for the duo tonight, if the goaltending match-up is what it says above.  That would divide the game evenly between sides and both have been quite good for their respective pool teams.  A barn-burner would be a fun one to watch here.

Carter Hutton (Wes) versus Jimmy Howard (Tony)
In the overall standings, the Sabres sit 28th and the Red Wings sit 27th, both tied at 74 points and the Wings edging in the ROW column, 29-27.  Loser of this game gets 28th spot and increased draft odds, so maybe defense won't be the order of the game?

Carter Hutton and Jimmy Howard may be subject to a lot of shots on goal and could you possibly blame either of them if they only mailed in their effort, given the situation?  Wes and Tony are sure hoping their goalie doesn't mail it in, they'd rather have the 2 points and they don't care where either of these two teams draft.  That's just the long and short of it all.

Both teams in the 3rd place race are betting on the Red Wings tonight, as Jesse has both Andreas Athanasiou and Niklas Kronwall going, while the duo should have Anthony Mantha going as well.  Mantha has been the hottest of the three players in this group, which is good news for the duo to keep their spot free and clear of any intruders.

Mackenzie Blackwood (N/A) versus Roberto Luongo (John P.)
It's a nothing game in Florida tonight, when the Devils and the Panthers face-off.  Well, it may not exactly be nothing, but losing this game means that there's a chance that either the Devils or the Panthers' lottery odds will improve, depending on a bunch of other results, but it's only marginal improvement and almost not worth thinking about.

John P.'s team is the only one of the two locked in with a hockey pool start here and there's a good possibility he gets two starts as well.  John is eyeing up that last Mover & Shaker nod and a couple of wins would have him snug as a bug in a rug in that race, so maybe the Panthers can do him some good with a win for the home fans tonight.  Roberto Luongo will get the nod for both teams tonight to do that.

In the race for 3rd place, Kristy & Don have Nico Hischier in this game and I would imagine he goes to get that valuable experience in his sophomore year.  46 points in 68 games this season, he has been okay for a sub-par team like the Devils this year.

Petr Mrazek (Stacey C.) versus Carter Hart (Jeremy)
The Hurricanes do have an extra little bit of incentive today, as they could finish as high as 3rd in the Metro with a win today and a regulation loss from the Penguins or as explained earlier, they could finish in the last wild card spot in the east as well, if the results don't go their way.  The games in question for the Hurricanes all get started at the same time, so there will be plenty of scoreboard watching among them.

The Flyers laid out their goaltending plans early on in the week and Carter Hart was the one tapped for the season finale at home, giving Jeremy the first of two possible starts tonight.  Nor the Flyers or Jeremy's team has much to play for tonight, but those points would just look good in their column.  The Hurricanes had yet to confirm this morning, but with moving up on their mind, it seems very likely that Petr Mrazek gets the nod, which would aid Stacey C.'s attempt at moving into the Mover & Shaker spot this week. This appears to be his only start of the day, looking down the line.

The duo have some stock in this game, Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton features on their team and could feature in this game as well, if the Hurricanes put on a scoring display.  Hamilton has been slowly finding the scoresheet more and more in the late part of the season.

Alexandar Georgiev (N/A) versus Matt Murray (Scott)
The Pittsburgh Penguins need at least a point to finish 3rd in the Metro Division, but a regulation win and a regulation loss by the Islanders, another 5pm MT start, could see them as high as 2nd in the Metro and home-ice against those same Islanders.  A regulation loss by the Pens and a win for the Hurricanes would then see the Crosby versus Ovechkin playoff match-up we've all come to enjoy.  What are you hoping for?

This could have been an all-Scott match-up in Pittsburgh tonight, but it sounds like Henrik Lundqvist has conceded the net to his rookie counterpart, giving Alexandar Georgiev the net for the finale, taking precious minutes away from the hockey pool on the last day.  Matt Murray does indeed give Scott at least one start tonight, going for the Penguins.  Scott's team is going to need all the help it can get to make it out of 25th before the final buzzer, starting the day, 5 points back.

No love in the 3rd place race in this game, neither the duo or Jesse have any players going in Pittsburgh tonight.

Robin Lehner (Chelsea) versus Pheonix Copley (Brian)
The last of the 5pm MT start games sees the Islanders take on the Capitals in Washington and they need a point to clinch home-ice against 3rd place in the Metro, whoever finishes there, Pittsburgh or Carolina.  The Capitals already have top spot locked up and will cruise this game and into the playoffs with their opening round opponent to be decided today.

After the morning skate, the teams appeared to have both of their goalies locked in for the night, bot Chelsea and Brian are getting a start in this game, thanks to Robin Lehner and Pheonix Copley getting tapped for this one.  Neither team has fared particularly well this week in the scoring race either and neither will want to be in the Basement Dweller nod, so this will another opportunity for points from the crease.

If the morning skate is any indication, it looks like the Capitals will be resting some players tonight, namely Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson.  This means no skater games for Steve, Tony and John P. in the Capitals' finale.  For the Islanders, Valtteri Filppula will make his return from a hyper-extended elbow tonight, returning for Neil's team in a race for 7th place, where he desperately needs the bodies after the scratches for the Leafs.

Alex Ovechkin and Jake Vrana are expected to play for the Capitals tonight, which is good news for Jesse's team, while Ryan Pulock and Anthony Beauvillier were both in line rushes for the Islanders this morning, both expected to go for the duo tonight.  The split becomes pretty easy, Jesse looking for a very lopsided victory from the home side tonight.

Cam Ward (N/A) versus Pekka Rinne (John P.)
The Nashville Predators are the outright favourites to win the division, having the 1 point lead heading into action today, so a win in any fashion against the Blackhawks will seal the deal and then the Jets will be playing for 2nd place, depending on the Blues' result.  Otherwise, 1 point gives Winnipeg a shot and a regulation loss blows open the door.  Very interesting.

The Blackhawks played last night and lost Corey Crawford to a groin injury, so Cam Ward will be playing on back-to-back nights, shortly after getting the win against the Stars the night before.  It hasn't been confirmed, but with the Predators looking to clinch the division title, it does seem rather likely that they will go with Pekka Rinne with a few days before the playoffs start.  If they can ensure a better match-up, I would imagine they would.  I wouldn't be surprised, however, if they did go with Juuse Saros, just because the Blackhawks did play last night and they are a non-playoff team.

Each team in the 3rd place race has some stock in this one, Jesse has Jonathan Toews for the Blackhawks, while the duo has Ryan Ellis for the Predators.  So, I guess we know where their allegiances lie in this game tonight, eh?

Alex Stalock (Ryan) versus Ben Bishop (Clayton)
The wild card spots in the Western Conference also need to be settled today and the Dallas Stars could do that before their division rivals in the same boat faceoff, as they will play the Wild for the top wild card spot and the chance to play the Central Division winner instead of the Calgary Flames in the opening round.  Pick your poison, right?  The Stars need 1 point to take the top wild card or else they open the door for the Avs to swoop in and possibly take it in the last game of the year.

One confirmation for the goalies this morning and it comes from the visiting Wild, as they will go with Alex Stalock for their finale, seeing as though he didn't have a lot of ice-time in games this season and the Wild don't have any stock left in this season.  It's a good move for this team and for Ryan's team, which starts 13th, 8 points back of 10th.  There have been some rumblings that Ben Bishop will be ready to start this game tonight, coming back from another stint on the injured list with a lower-body injury.  Both Wes and Clayton's teams are dangerously close to the Basement Dweller nod this week and they both are looking for points to keep out of that lowly position and this match-up might just give them their chances.

Jesse has Stars rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen going in this game today, who has played in all 81 games to this point, so I would fully expect him to dress for #82 as well.  33 points in 81 games is a solid rookie campaign from the back end.

Connor Hellebuyck (Jeremy) versus Calvin Pickard (N/A)
The Jets and Coyotes have an 8pm MT start, two hours after the Predators get started, so they might have a good idea of what's at stake for their game, before they even faceoff against the city predecessors in the desert.  If the Predators don't come away with 2 points against Chicago, the Jets need 2 points to win the Central or else they play the Blues and the results today decide where they open up the series.

The Jets goaltending had yet to be confirmed, but with the division on the line, it does seem rather appropriate that Connor Hellebuyck gets the nod in this post, at least.  The Jets will want to finish off the season strong, since they haven't necessarily been playing all that well of late, 4-5-1 in their last 10 games.  The Coyotes, on the other hand, don't have much to play for, so they are rewarding Calvin Pickard for his service with the last start of the season, confirmed.

The 3rd place race has no stock in this game, so we'll quickly move on from this one and into the rest of the late games.

Mikko Koskinen (Tony) versus Mike Smith (Brian)
Well, if the Oilers have anything left to play for this season, it's taking one away from their provincial nemesis, the Flames, before they see their Alberta rivals head to the playoffs.  The Oilers could also play for Leon Draisaitl, who sits on 49 goals at the start of play tonight, only 2 goals back of the league lead and the Rocket Richard Trophy.  That's something too.

In practice on Friday, it looked like Mike Smith was getting the nod for the Flames, as he was in the starter's net, so Brian should be getting this start.  Tony's team will likely see the Oilers' season out with one last start from Mikko Koskinen, who had the night off in their last game and they'll want that win over the Flames, I'm sure.

We're not sure how the scratches will play out in this game, as there is a chance for some nastiness and the Oilers really playing spoiler to the Flames' chances, if Calgary isn't careful.  That could impact the 2nd place race, as Kristy & Don do have Elias Lindholm on their side and he was a scratch earlier in the week... do they dare risk him tonight?

Marc-Andre Fleury (Troy) versus Jonathan Quick (Brenda & Seward)
The Golden Knights are visiting the Kings to finish off the regular season and this game doesn't have a lot of play in the standings tonight either.  The Kings could move up to 29th overall in the standings, if the Devils lose and the Kings win, in the most simple of terms, which would mean their chances at the draft lottery could take a good kicking, but that won't stop them from letting Jonathan Quick play out the last home game tonight.  There are some out there that believe that this could be his last game in a Kings uniform.

The Golden Knights haven't confirmed their goalie yet this morning, but they have been unafraid at letting Marc-Andre Fleury go overboard this year and since he's still shaking off the rust from a late season injury, I would have to think they plop him back out there and continue to shake off that rust.  It seems most likely, really.

There's definitely some play in the 3rd place race here in this game, as the duo will have both Jonathan Marchessault and Cody Eakin as possibilities for the lineup for Vegas, while Jesse should have Dustin Brown in the finale for the Kings tonight.

Philipp Grubauer (Jesse) versus Martin Jones (Brenda & Seward)
Yes, depending on how the Stars do earlier in the evening, the Avalanche may have something to play for.  I don't think either team really wants to play the Flames in the opening round, but if the Stars fail to pick up a point against the Wild, the Avalanche could upset the Sharks with a win and jump up a spot to play the Central winner.  It's all so very exciting.

We're just spitballin' here on the goalie match-up for this one, since this post is so early and this game is so late, but if the Avalanche still have a chance at moving up, they will likely go back to Philipp Grubauer tonight, since he has won the confidence of this group.  Jesse is hoping that his team is within 2 points of 3rd place at the time, just so that win can mean something.  Aaron Dell got the call for the Sharks in their last game and I don't see them letting Martin Jones go flat ahead of the playoffs, so I would imagine he gets the last home game of the regular season, giving the duo a second start on the night.

Both Jesse and Kristy & Don have skater stock in this game too, so what Jesse is looking for is an avalanche of points from Colorado, seeing as though he has Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie as well.  He also has Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the home side, but the duo have Gustav Nyquist too.  Wouldn't it be neat if 3rd place came down to this game?

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