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Our Line Starts podcast: Bauer’s COVID-19 efforts; best NHL rosters – ProHockeyTalk


With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Dallas Stars.

Dallas Stars

Record: 37-24-8 (69 games), third in the Central Division
Leading Scorer: Tyler Seguin 50 points (17 goals and 33 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves

• Acquired Oula Palve from the Pittsburgh Penguins for John Nyberg.
• Traded Emil Djuse to the Florida Panthers for a 2020 sixth-round pick.

Season Overview: 

The Stars have gone from being a team with a lot of firepower to being a talented team that takes care of their defense first. That started happening when they hired Jim Montgomery as their head coach and it’s continued under interim bench boss Rick Bowness.

So, yeah, it’s a little shocking to see Seguin, their leading scorer, with 50 points in 69 games, but this is what the Stars have become. Their roster was always a little top-heavy. Now, their scoring is a little more spread out.

After Seguin’s 50 points, there’s no other player on the team over the 40-point mark. Captain Jamie Benn is second on the team in scoring with 39 points. Behind him is defenseman Miro Heiskanen (35 points) and Alexander Radulov (34 points).

As for their season as a whole, it’s been a strange one.

The Stars opened up the 2019-20 campaign by losing their first three games and eight of their first nine. But they went on to win seven of their next eight games to put themselves back on track. After losing in OT to Winnipeg on Nov. 10, Dallas went on to win seven games in a row.

“We’ve really matured throughout the year,” Montgomery said at the time. “This win streak and this run we’ve been on, we don’t want to get too excited and pat ourselves on the back because we’ve got to continue to get better. There are certain parts of our game that need to be better, but there is a lot of confidence on the bench and a lot of different people stepping up and saying the right things. They’re pushing each other, which is nice to see.”

Unfortunately for Montgomery, he was fired in early December to “unprofessional conduct. That’s when Bowness took over behind the bench.

Leading up to the NHL’s decision to pause the season, the Stars were struggling. They had dropped six games in a row (0-4-2). They were still sitting in third place in the Central Division, but Winnipeg (two points back) and Nashville (four points back) were quickly closing the gap.

Would the Stars have gotten back on track? We’ll never know. But what we do know is that seven of their next 10 scheduled games would’ve been played on home ice (they’re 19-12-3 at home this season).

Highlight of the Season: 

As we alluded to before, the Stars managed to tie a franchise record with a seven-game winning streak between Nov. 13 and Nov. 25. They won in Calgary, in Vancouver and in Edmonton, and they followed that up by beating Vancouver, Winnipeg, Chicago and Vegas at American Airlines Center. They also went 12 games between regulation losses

The Stars have won seven games in a row four different times. The previous time occurred back in 2008.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.





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NHL viewers club – That time an emergency backup goalie beat the Maple Leafs


Today’s game: Carolina Hurricanes at Toronto Maple Leafs, played on Saturday, Feb. 22.

It’s a “Hockey Night in Canada” telecast for a Saturday night game between the Canes and Leafs. Both of these teams have playoff aspirations, had a few bumps to start the season, but found themselves in decent shape for this tilt. This matchup pitted two high-flying offenses, so we know we’re in for a fun one on the rewatch.

Just how fun? Well, let’s just say few people predicted the transcendent impact of this game. With twists, turns, injuries galore, a folk hero is born. This is the night when the word “EBUG” enters our common lexicon. Yes, it’s the David Ayres game.

Go here to watch a replay of the game, and follow along below with our handy guide:

Best moments of the game

Everything David Ayres. See below for the timeline on this surreal and incredible moment, but a couple of points on this. First, it’s just incredible to experience this game again. A lot of us have seen the highlights or revisited parts of the game, but to watch this dream for an emergency goalie — and utter nightmare for the Maple Leafs — unfold in real time is extraordinary. Second, when he lifts his mask at 1:36:45, please tell us we’re not alone in wondering, albeit briefly, if this was actually former Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, incognito. Spitting images, those two.

Nino’s blast. Nino Niederreiter‘s power-play goal at 9:53 of the second period that gave the Canes the lead — for good, actually — is a wobbly missle over the shoulder of Frederik Andersen from the top of the circle. Remember those plastic rockets you pumped up with water to launch into the sky? It was like that.

Foegele’s steal. Warren Foegele‘s goal just 53 seconds into the third period was the most critical goal of the game, after the Leafs had put two past Ayres in the second period. And what an individual effort: converting a turnover with a nifty move in tight on Andersen.

The boos became cheers. Oh, the Leafs fans were not happy near the end of this one. Boos cascaded down to the ice as the Carolina defense kept Toronto’s shot totals down and their scoring chances benign. But as the clock hit “0.0,” an amazing thing happened: The boos turned to cheers as the fans acknowledged Ayers, who stopped the last shot he faced, and the history they had witnessed. Even if it was at the expense of their team.


Players to watch

David Ayres, G, Carolina Hurricanes. This is why you’re here. The 42-year-old emergency backup goaltender (EBUG!) enters the game at 8:41 of the second period for the Hurricanes, after goalie Petr Mrazek sustained an upper-body injury in a collision with Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford in a race for the puck. The rest is NHL history: After giving up two goals on his first three shots faced, Ayres — with a major assist from the Hurricanes’ defense — would stop seven shots in the third period to become the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut.

Warren Foegele, LW, Carolina Hurricanes. He played only 12:42 for the game, but 10:49 of it was at even strength, and boy did he make an impact there. Foegele’s line with Jordan Staal and Justin Williams generated two goals — both by Foegele — and a 9-3 shot advantage that was the best of any line in the game.

Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs star played 20:27, more than any other Toronto forward. He didn’t tally a point in the game, which is one of the reasons to keep an eye on him: Matthews got four shots on goal, including two in the third period, and tried to create offense in a variety of other ways; but, he saw Jaccob Slavin for 9:52 of his 15:15 of even-strength ice time, and that was a matchup the Hurricanes won. If nothing else, watch for Matthews’ resplendent mustache.


Goals


Power plays

  • Hurricanes at 3:07 of the first period (Zach Hyman gets two minutes for interference against Jaccob Slavin)

  • Maple Leafs at 6:10 of the first period (Andrei Svechnikov gets two minutes for boarding against Tyson Barrie)

  • Maple Leafs at 9:31 of the first period (Nino Niederreiter gets two minutes for roughing Kasperi Kapanen)

  • Hurricanes at 8:44 of the second period (William Nylander gets two minutes for high sticking Brett Pesce)

  • Hurricanes at 11:19 of the second period (Kyle Clifford gets two minutes for charging against Petr Mrazek)

  • Maple Leafs at 15:39 of the second period (Erik Haula gets two minutes for slashing against Auston Matthews)

  • Maple Leafs at 5:55 of the third period (Warren Foegele gets two minutes for hooking Denis Malgin)

  • Hurricanes at 9:31 of the third period (Alex Kerfoot gets two minutes for hooking Trevor van Riemsdyk)


David Ayres timeline

1:29 of the telecast: With 8:41 remaining in the second period, Petr Mrazek goes down, which gives us our first hint that EBUG action could be happening.

1:30: The first mention of David Ayres! The broadcasters mispronounce his last name though, like it’s the Aries Zodiac sign. “David Aries could potentially be needed tonight.”

1:32: The booth sends it down to reporter Kyle Bukauskas, who gives us our first scouting report of Ayres. “What a night this could potentially become here,” Bukauskas says. Bukauskas first tells us that Ayres is “an Ontario boy” who “played some Junior B hockey back in his day.” Bukauskas reports that Ayres is 42 years old, has “toiled around some minor-league camps” and has been around the Leafs and Marlies the past few years, both as a Zamboni driver and as an extra body when the teams need a practice goalie. “Well familiar with the Maple Leafs organization, and maybe thrust into action tonight,” Bukauskas says, before throwing it to a break.

1:35: Ayres walks through the tunnel! He gets fist pumps from his new Canes teammates. We get a shot of Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour on the bench. He looks incredulous.

1:36: The refs throw some pucks on the ice and let Canes players give Ayres a mini warmup. It’s our first real look at Ayres’ gear, and it’s hard not to notice his Marlies helmet and Marlies pads sandwiching his Hurricanes jersey. Weird!

1:40: Ayres touches the puck! He comes out of the net to shovel the puck around the boards, with the crowd cheering the effort. The Canes subsequently score to go up 4-1. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.

1:42: John Tavares scores on Ayres. It’s the first shot that Ayres faced, and he barely had a chance at it. Forget what we said two minutes ago, this might be really, really bad. 4-2 Canes.

1:44: Pierre Engvall scores another one for the Leafs. 4-3 Canes. Second shot Ayres faced. Big yikes.

1:46: Carolina’s Erik Haula gets called for slashing. Leafs power play. Pray for Ayres.

1:48: Canes kill off the penalty and don’t allow a shot. Ayres has just over two minutes to get to intermission. Allowing only those two goals would be a win at this point.

1:51: Ayres makes his first save! He has no idea where the puck is. Who cares!

1:53: Ayres escapes the period while still maintaining a lead. He gets stick taps from several Canes — as well as Leafs, like William Nylander and Frederik Anderson. Auston Matthews skates by him, too. Maybe Matthews whispered something into Ayres ear, but it sure looks like he snubbed him.

2:11: We’re back! And the Canes score in the first minute. If the Leafs are going to win this, they need to generate more offense. They’ve only registered three shots on Ayres so far, and, as the broadcast notes, almost look too timid to shoot.

2:21: The Leafs get a much-needed power play. The Canes have amped things up defensively and the broadcasters call this a “must-score” situation for Toronto, down three goals in the third.

2:23: Zach Hyman is right in front of the net, but there is Ayres, square and deep in the net, in perfect position to make the save.

2:34: Awesome slow-motion shot of Ayres laughing on the Canes’ bench with one of his new teammates. Just eight minutes left in the game to seal the win. “It’s good that he’s settled in now,” the broadcast notes. “It looks like he’s enjoying it!”

2:45: Ayres stops the last shot he faces, from Clifford, and the Canes swarm him. “Books can be written about what has happened here tonight.”

2:47: Ayres is named the No. 1 star. But stick around for his postgame interview.


Best dressed coach

Even though Rod Brind’amour is now an accomplished NHL head coach, it’s still odd to see the 20-season veteran player dressed like a lobbyist. (Or, since he’s known as Rod The Bod, simply wearing a shirt.) His off-white shirt and striped-tie ensemble looked sharp, but Sheldon Keefe‘s wide-collared shirt with eye-catching lavender tie gets the nod over Rod.


Best Jim Hughson ad read

“A big party means big trouble for Kate’s PR firm and Anne’s teenage daughter. ‘Workin’ Mums!’ A new episode on Tuesday at 9:30, only on CBC.” (40:40)


Most random crowd shot

We have a trade to announce. Granted, it’s not all that random to have a shot of the Maple Leafs’ general manager during a “Hockey Night in Canada” game, but Kyle Dubas was featured early in the first period because there was a trade transacted, two days before the NHL trade deadline. And it was a blockbuster: The Leafs dealt Ben Harpur to Nashville for Miikka Salomaki. OK, perhaps considered a blockbuster only in the Harpur and Salomaki households, but a trade’s a trade. (36:00)


Worst decision

With 8:41 left in the second period, Kyle Clifford chases the puck deep on a breakaway. Canes goaltender Petr Mrazek comes way out of the net and tries to beat Clifford to the puck. Why oh why would Mrazek do this? Clifford happens to be one of the Leafs’ biggest and toughest players. Mrazek, who played the night before, has already come into the game in relief, which makes the play only riskier.

The two players collide and Mrazek’s helmet comes flying off. He’s shaken and needs to be attended to by trainers. The refs initially gave Clifford a five-minute major for charging, which was later reduced to a minor. Mrazek exits the game. Enter David Ayres … so maybe it wasn’t all bad.


Other highlights and lowlights

  • With 16:53 left in the first period, the dominoes begin to fall leading to Ayres eventually entering the game. In this case, the domino was shaped like Slavin, who was shoved onto Carolina goalie James Reimer by Toronto’s Zach Hyman. Reimer stayed down for a bit, was checked by the Carolina trainer and then exited the game.

  • Andrei Svechnikov’s shove from behind on Tyson Barrie launched the Leafs’ defenseman into the end boards and sent him off the ice for the rest of the first period. Barrie would return, but a scary moment for an already depleted Leafs’ blue line.

  • Brett Pesce’s injury at 13:36 of the second period, right as Ayres gave up that goal to Tavares. Lost in all the EBUG hysteria after the game was the fact that the Hurricanes were able to shut down the Leafs with a Zamboni driver in goal and without one of their top defensemen for nearly half the game.

  • Check out the play by now-former Hurricane Erik Haula on Martin Necas’ third-period goal. He lunges with his stick to tap the puck over Andersen and off the crossbar, leaving the Leafs baffled as to where it landed. In front of Martin Necas, actually, who shot it into a vacated net.


Lingering questions we have after this game

  • Is the Leafs’ offense fundamentally broken? It’s hard to undersell just how badly the Leafs blew this game. This is the only team in the league with three forwards making $10 million or more per season; Toronto’s roster is built to go toe-to-toe with anyone in a high-scoring affair. But over a period and a half playing against a 42-year-old EBUG — whom they are familiar with! — Toronto mustered just two goals and 10 shots. When Sheldon Keefe took over as coach, it appeared he freed the Leafs’ stars, creatively, but maybe that wasn’t sustainable.

  • Where did this Canes defense come from, and can it show up every game? Once the Canes regrouped after the second period intermission, they played a stingy defensive game that was inspiring. Carolina had been a little shaky on the blue line, seeing their team goals-against average sink from 2.70 goals per game a season ago to 2.84 this season. The Canes traded Justin Faulk on the eve of the season, lost Dougie Hamilton to injury in January, and their big free agent acquisition, Jake Gardiner, hasn’t exactly meshed. The Canes played the third period without one of their top defensemen, Brett Pesce (who would leave the game after attempting to check Tavares, and ended up undergoing shoulder surgery a few days later that has him sidelined four to six months). Nonetheless, it was an incredible defensive effort from Brind’Amour’s team. Maintain that standard with this offense, and the Canes sure could make a run.

  • Did the NHL have an “EBUG” problem? During the game, Brian Burke of Sportsnet blasted the fact that a goalie as old as Ayres was the emergency option, saying “it was embarrassing for the NHL.” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly hinted that the league would explore the issue and potential fixes for it. The league’s general managers didn’t feel it needed any remedy, keeping the EBUG rules as they were at a subsequent meeting. But if this ever happened again, and the results weren’t as storybook for the team with the emergency, could squashing the current EBUG rules become a possibility again?



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Second Avs player tests positive for COVID-19


A second Colorado Avalanche player has tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced Saturday.

The player, who was not identified, is in self-isolation and the team said no other players or staff members have shown symptoms of the coronavirus.

On Thursday, the Avalanche said another player had tested positive but already recovered from the virus.

The Avalanche and Ottawa Senators (two players) are the only NHL teams to say they have had players test positive.

The NHL season has been on pause since March 12 amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, the NHL announced that the scouting combine and draft had been postponed.



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McDavid: ‘A fair season is a full season’ – ProHockeyTalk


What do you do if you’re an NHL player and don’t have access to your team’s workout facilities? If you’re Anders Lee you order a Peloton bike. If you’re Alex Ovechkin you have your personal trainer work you out in your home gym.

The NHL’s season pause due to the coronavirus pandemic has forced players to do what they can at home. Treadmills, push-ups, sit-ups, sprints, and chasing their kids are some of the methods being used.

“The biggest thing in all of this is you realize how spoiled we are with the way we train now,” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno told reporters on a Thursday video conference. “It’s way different from the calisthenics that the older guys would do. You’re kind of going back to that Rocky mentality where you’re doing pushups and sit-ups and punching the cow.”

“It’s hard to be stuck in limbo and to really not have an idea of a goal or maybe a date to set yourself up for being at your peak when the puck is dropped,” said Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal.

When not trying to stay in shape, there’s time for binge-watching — Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal both recommend the “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” Netflix documentary series — and keeping up with the team group text. For the Flyers, it was at first a group video chat, but that didn’t work out.

“We did a group FaceTime the other day and it didn’t go very well,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux. “Everybody just started screaming and couldn’t hear anybody. We’re just trying to keep the group chat going.”

[MORE: Crosby, Ovechkin fine if NHL chooses to go right to playoffs]

It’s in those chats where players discuss the latest updates from the Players’ Association and debate various hypotheticals for finishing the season.

As the players wait to find out when they’ll playing hockey again, they’re doing their best to stay busy. Lee and his wife, Grace, had their first child earlier this month. P.K. Subban of the Devils is spending time in Los Angeles with fiancee Lindsey Vonn trying to stick to his routine as close as possible. Rangers defenseman Marc Staal has been helping with his daughter’s kindergarten homework and cleaning his floors “a lot.”

The players and their families aren’t used to them being home this much at this time of the year. It’s a time of waiting and remaining optimistic.

“It’s getting to a point where you start to feel now things aren’t right,” said Foligno. “We’re used to this time of year gearing up [for playoffs] and we’re sitting around being told it’s probably going to be a little longer. It’s hard. It’s a mental game right now, but we know it’s for the right reasons. So you hold on to that and seeing what’s going on around the world, it’s kind of kept everything in perspective for us all.”

Follow this NBC News live update thread for more on the coronavirus pandemic.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.





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Avalanche player recovers after positive coronavirus test


The Colorado Avalanche said they were informed Thursday that one of their players has tested positive for coronavirus, though he has recovered.

It is the third known case in the NHL after two players for the Ottawa Senators had tested positive.

“The player has been at home in isolation since the first symptoms appeared, and has recovered and is back to normal,” the Avalanche said in a statement. “The Avalanche have notified anyone who has had known close contact with the athlete.

“The health and safety of our players, staff, fans, and community remains our highest priority. The Avalanche organization will continue to work in conjunction with our medical staff and public health officials to do everything we can to help the Avalanche community remain safe and healthy during this time.”

The NHL’s season has been on pause since March 12 and players were told to self-isolate. Four days later, the NHL told players they were allowed to return to their offseason homes or home countries, as long as they self-isolate there.

On Wednesday, NHL chief medical officer Dr. Willem Meeuwisse called it “fortunate” that the NHL had only two positive tests to that point.

“I think we were fortunate in making the decision on March 12 to not only pause play, but actually have players go into self-quarantine, including staff and coaches,” Meeuwisse said. “We have a pretty good idea now, because we’re almost at the two-week mark, that the likelihood of them being affected prior to that period is pretty low. That doesn’t mean someone can’t be exposed now.”



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Bauer switches from making hockey equipment to medical gear


The hockey manufacturing company Bauer had been winding down business in both of its North American manufacturing facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the company figured, if it couldn’t provide helmets and skates for elite athletes, perhaps it could use its resources to help doctors, nurses and other first-responders in the medical field.

Bauer is now producing medical shields that could be delivered to hospitals as soon as next week. By Wednesday morning, Bauer had orders come in to its Quebec facility for more than 100,000 units across Canada, according to Bauer CEO Ed Kinnaly.

The company is also looking to provide for the United States.

“In the U.S., honestly, the word is not out yet.” Kinnaly said. “We’ve been doing outreach to various medical entities….we’re also going to use our social channels to basically let the medical community know that we have the ability to produce these.”

Kinnaly says the cost of each medical shield is about $3 in the U.S., including shipping. The company does not expect to make any profit on the new endeavor.

Bauer now has a dozen employees working at its Liverpool, New York facility, which typically focuses on lacrosse business, and approximately 20 in its Quebec facility, which usually produces custom skates for Bauer’s elite hockey athletes across the world – including the NHL’s Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov and Henrik Lundqvist. Kinnaly said the number of employees working on the project will go up, based on the demand they are already seeing.

“That’s the ancillary benefit to it,” Kinnaly said. “We can keep some people employed to work on these.”

Bauer had some raw materials in-house; other components will be sourced locally in upstate New York and Quebec. Bauer produced a half dozen prototypes to get the fit right. The company then used relationships some employees had with medical professionals to review the product, testing on whether the fit was right and if it was the right coverage. That process – from being greenlit, to securing the funding, to finding the right model -was completed in four working days.

The shields will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis based on demand, and Bauer will not be working with any individual consumers.

“Frankly I wish we could do more,” Kinnaly said. “Anyway we can help, we’re going to try.”



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Looking at the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres – ProHockeyTalk


With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take at where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Boston Bruins. 

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Bruins have two big things going for them to maintain a pretty big window for Stanley Cup contention.

The most important is that they have a great core of talent to build around in David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, David Krejci, and Brandon Carlo.

Along with that is the fact they have a significant portion of their team signed long-term on deals that not only have term, but are also below market value. Nobody on the team carries a salary cap hit of greater than $7.25 million (Krejci) while only two players (Krejci and starting goalie Tuukka Rask) count for more than $7 million against the cap in a single season.

The quartet of Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak, and McAvoy, for example, takes up less than $25 million in salary cap space per season through the end of the 2021-22 season. That not only keeps a tremendous group of players together, it gives the team the type of salary cap flexibility it needs to build a powerhouse team around them. The Bruins have done exactly that.

Their big challenges this offseason are going to be re-signing UFA defenseman Torey Krug — one of their top blue-liners — and securing a new contract for restricted free agent forward Jake DeBrust, currently one of their top complementary players. Because they are getting such bargains at the top of their lineup they should have the salary cap space to make it work.

Krug will definitely be the biggest challenge (especially if there is pressure to keep him around the $6.5 million mark that everyone else in their core currently makes) but there is room.

Long-term needs

It might seem like an outrageous thing to say right now given the way the team is built, but it is really tempting to put goaltending as a long-term question.

Right now the duo of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak is as good as it gets in the NHL. They are both outstanding and capable of being No. 1 starters in the league, while Rask has been one of the league’s elites for most of his career. But there is some uncertainty beyond this season. For one, Halak is one of the Bruins’ biggest unrestricted free agents after this season so there is no guarantee that he returns. But there is also the fact that Rask recently hinted at the possibility of potentially retiring after next season (via the Boston Globe). Still a lot of unknowns there and a situation to keep an eye on in the future.

Beyond that, depth might be the other big long-term issue.

If they are unable to re-sign Krug that would love a pretty massive hole on their blue line, and there is going to come a point where Zdeno Chara is no longer part of this team. That is half of your top-four and would be an awful lot to replace at one time if neither one is there beyond this season.

Long-term strengths

It kind of relates to everything mentioned in the core part, but they have some of the league’s best players at forward signed for multiple seasons at below market contracts.

The trio of Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand is one of the best lines in the entire league. Individually, they are all among the top-20 players in the league. Together, they are almost unstoppable.

On the blue line, McAvoy and Carlo are both already outstanding defensemen and are just now starting to hit their prime years in the NHL.

Basically, the Bruins have the most important pieces for sustained success already in place (superstar forwards and young top-pairing defensemen), have them all signed long-term, and they are mostly at points in their career where they should still have several elite seasons ahead of them. The Bruins have been one of the league’s top-four teams for three years in a row now and there is no sign that they are going to drop off from that level anytime soon.

 

MORE:
• Looking at the 2019-20 Boston Bruins
Bruins surprises and disappointments

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.





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The NHL’s coronavirus pause – Latest on a possible return, playoffs, draft, Seattle and more


Although it feels like it’s been quite a bit longer, the NHL declared a “pause” on its 2019-20 season on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the theoretical possibility of hitting “unpause” and resuming the regular season and playoffs (or just the latter) in some fashion at some point in the future.

In the time since, there has been little in the way of clarity on that timeline, while there have been two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in players, both on the Ottawa Senators (the identity of the players has remained confidential).

As we begin another week with no NHL hockey — a situation similar to what is transpiring in the overwhelming majority of other sports — let’s explore the various angles to the continuation of the pause.

Does the NHL have a timeline for when play could earliest resume?

Greg Wyshynski: The NHL remains on the timeline it established in a March 16 communication to the players, who were told to self-quarantine through March 27. The NHL hopes after that point to allow “the opening of club facilities to players in scheduled and coordinated small groups for voluntary training, and care of the players on the same basis as in the offseason.” It still hopes for “the potential of opening a training camp period roughly 45 days into the 60-day period covered by the CDC’s directive.”

But any plans by the NHL and its players are entirely contingent on federal and local restrictions on travel and social distancing. As we’ve seen, some regions are taking more stringent action than others. For example, the stay-at-home edict enacted by California’s governor last week meant residents were to stay at home “except for essential reasons like buying groceries or seeking medical care.” How would that affect the Sharks, Ducks and Kings players and staff attempting to use team facilities?

What have the players said?

Emily Kaplan: Not much, via the media. In the week after the suspension, NHL players and teams largely shied away from interviews. That could change in the coming days, as the league understands the importance of staying relevant. The NHL initially told players to stay in their home cities, but it reversed course last week and told them they could self-quarantine anywhere, which led some European players to book trips to their home countries.

We’ve seen a few players do public service announcements — appearing in videos on either their personal or team social media accounts — reminding fans to stay safe. Connor McDavid released a video, alongside his bernedoodle, Lenny. “Like a lot of you, just stuck inside, practicing my social distancing, trying to control this thing before it gets out of hand,” McDavid said. “What one person does affects the other, and we all need to make sure that we’re being safe and taking all of the steps needed to stop the spread of this thing.”

While reminding everyone to keep “washing their hands,” Sabres captain Jack Eichel said, “We miss you at the rink, and I know everyone misses coming to the rink and playing in front of you.”

Meanwhile, the Bruins uploaded a video in which Brad Marchand revealed what his social distancing looks like: staying up late watching movies, painting and finding as many games as he can play in the house with his wife and kids. (He also has trimmed the hedges and “cleaned up every drawer and closet in the house.”)

We’ve also heard from Anze Kopitar and Anders Lee; had this cute video of Antoine Roussel rollerblading around his kitchen with his son; and seen Nicklas Backstrom try his driveway goalie chops. And if you check in on any player with an active Instagram account, he probably is doing that juggle-a-roll-of-toilet paper challenge:

Will there be a mini training camp when the NHL returns?

Kaplan: Yes. The NHL and NHLPA are meeting regularly, and they agreed that this a necessity. Players haven’t had access to ice and, in most cases, the professional-grade gyms and trainers they have in the offseason, so it would be unfair to ask them to jump right back on the ice in game situations — let alone in a playoff scenario. That would be an injury risk.

What that training camp will look like depends on when the league restarts. If public authorities deem it safe, teams will open their training facilities and allow players to get back on the ice or in the gym even before something formal is announced. For now, players have been asked to remain in self-quarantine until at least March 27.

Are players being tested?

Kaplan: NHL players are getting tested on a case-by-case basis. Those efforts are coordinated between the NHL, the NHLPA, the individual clubs and local health authorities, with input provided from infectious disease specialists. We haven’t seen full teams order tests for their players from private companies, like we’ve seen in the NBA, and according to sources, the NHL testing so far has focused mainly on those who are showing symptoms.

So far, there have been two confirmed COVID-19 cases in the NHL: Both players are on the Senators, and they were part of the March 7-11 road trip that included games in San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles. There were 52 people as part of Ottawa’s traveling party, which includes staff, media, guests and flight crew.

“Of those on the trip, 44 have shown no symptoms, eight people have been tested and two positive results were received,” the Senators said in a statement, noting they were still awaiting results from tests that occurred later in the week. A Senators spokeswoman told ESPN that testing for the players has been coordinated through Ottawa’s public health system.

The Florida Panthers said a part-time arena worker tested positive; that employee last worked at an event at the arena on March 8, for a concert. The Vancouver franchise said a member of Canucks Sports & Entertainment also tested positive, though that person does not have a fan-facing role and isn’t in contact with players.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN that as of Sunday morning, there hadn’t been another positive test for a player.

What’s the latest on arena and part-time staff compensation?

Wyshynski: After the Boston Bruins‘ ownership finally released their plans on Saturday, every NHL team has now offered some promise of assistance for those game-night workers affected by the “pause” of the NHL season. But there’s a wide variance in how specific teams have gone about providing that aid, as well as when workers would get paid.

The Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres, for example, have decided to compensate workers only when the NHL cancels regular-season games, which it has not yet done. As the Bruins’ statement read: “The Jacobs Family has established a $1.5 million fund for the Boston Bruins and TD Garden part-time gameday associates who will be financially burdened if the six remaining regular season Bruins games are not played.”

Is there a cutoff date when the league would just cancel the rest of the 2019-20 season?

Kaplan: If there is, the NHL hasn’t shared that date publicly. The NHL has made a stance, however, that it wants to do everything it can to have a complete and “relatively normal” 2020-21 season. Commissioner Gary Bettman told ESPN’s Get Up last week that he believed that under the current circumstances, the league can “go later than we’ve ever gone.”

“How late is a good question,” Bettman said. “What we want to make sure of is that we don’t do anything from this season that might impact next season and having the normalcy it is supposed to have. So the two factors are timing relative to how late we can go without impacting next season, and making sure that whatever we do competitively, if we are going to complete this current season, it has to have integrity, and it has to be respectful of the well-over-100-year history of the Stanley Cup. And that’s something we’re very focused on.”

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman discusses the league’s plans to conclude the regular season and when the Stanley Cup playoffs could begin.

Any word on what this all means for the NHL draft? How would the lottery work if the season is canceled?

Wyshynski: There are calls with both the board of governors and the NHL’s general managers this week, and one assumes this topic will come up. It isn’t just teams well outside the playoff picture that are curious. Consider the Arizona Coyotes, who are right now out of the postseason seedings and whose first-round pick in the Taylor Hall trade with New Jersey is top-three-protected. Consider the Vancouver Canucks, who are out of the playoffs in points but could be in through points percentage and whose first-rounder belongs to Tampa Bay from the J.T. Miller trade. If the Canucks make the playoffs, the pick goes to the Bolts; if they miss, it defers to next season.

As for the draft itself, scheduled for Montreal on June 26 and 27, the NHL told ESPN on Sunday that it hasn’t made a decision yet on whether to postpone that event or modify it. Same goes for the NHL Awards, which were expected to be held earlier that week in Las Vegas.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on scouting could be considerable. The International Ice Hockey Federation’s cancellation of the world under-18 championships in Michigan took away a great “last impressions” showcase for draft prospects from around the world. Travel restrictions and the cancellations of seasons at all levels have further impacted scouting.

Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, told the league’s website that the final rankings for North American skaters and goalies is expected by mid-April and will be determined through teleconferencing. Goran Stubb, NHL director of European Scouting Services, will provide the ranking of the top international skaters and goalies.

Has any of this affected the Seattle expansion team’s timeline?

Wyshynski: Yes. The team, scheduled to debut in the 2021-22 season, sold many of its premium ticket plans starting last fall and has delayed payments on those plans until July. General seat selection was slated to begin in March, using a facility called the “Seattle Preview Center,” which would have allowed fans to choose their seats on a large model of the arena. Now the team might instead use a virtual space for those ticket buyers.

Finally, the thing you’re probably most curious about: The team’s name and logos could be revealed while fans are social distancing or self-quarantining.

“In theory, coronavirus will not delay our name and will not affect it, but we’re in unprecedented times. So I can’t say that as soon as the legal process is wrapped up that we’ll go with the name. We’re working as hard as we can. We know how badly our fans want it,” said Katie Townsend, vice president of corporate communications at NHL Seattle.

What happens to the awards if the rest of the season is canceled?

Wyshynski: As of now, the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association voting on the awards has been paused along with the regular season. One assumes the league treats this season’s awards like they would in a lockout-shortened season, when they are still handed out even after an incomplete campaign.

Absent an awards event, the NHL would probably announce the winner of each one via some form of media release. The intrigue — selfishly, for your authors — is whether the league would still have the PHWA, the Professional Hockey Broadcasters Association (which votes on the Jack Adams Award) and the NHL’s general managers (who vote on the Vezina Trophy) choose the award winners this season; or, due to the circumstances and the shifted timeline, would the NHL simply select the award winners via its hockey operations department? Let’s hope, for the sake of precedent, it’s not the latter scenario.

Are those who purchased tickets getting refunds?

Wyshynski: No. It’s like the end of a horse race, before the results are official: “Please hold all tickets.”

Most NHL teams are following the league’s “season pause” pronouncement and are not offering refunds until the games are officially canceled. The Senators, for example, told their fans that “all tickets purchased for postponed games remain valid and will provide entry to the same game on the rescheduled date.” And if you can’t make the date of a postponed game? “Decisions on transferring tickets between games will be made once the schedule has been confirmed by the NHL,” the team said.

The Philadelphia Flyers have told fans that “tickets for canceled games or games played with no fans present” will be eligible for “credits and/or refunds” from the team.

This goes for ticket purchasers from third parties, as well. StubHub is not issuing any refunds for tickets unless the game is formally canceled. When it is, ticket buyers have the option of a refund of the original order amount via the original payment method or a “StubHub coupon worth 120% of your original order” that can be applied to future purchases.

NHL teams also are taking action for season-ticket holders, in particular for next season’s payments. The Nashville Predators, for example, have delayed automatic payments that were scheduled for April 1. The Chicago Blackhawks are pausing all renewal plan payments and have extended the payment deadline to renew season tickets for 2020-21 for an indefinite period.

What are teams doing to keep fans interested?

Kaplan: The NHL joined other pro leagues in temporarily offering content on their streaming service for free. Replays of all 2019-20 games as well as select classic games are free through April 30 on NHL.tv.

Individual teams also are looking for ways to get creative. On Thursday, we got a slate of five virtual games on EA SPORTS NHL 20, with several of the actual NHL clubs live-tweeting and commentating through it. The Devils even conducted an interview with the real Cory Schneider afterward, in which he analyzed his virtual self’s 98-save performance.

The Blackhawks summoned fan-favorite Marian Hossa to reflect on a 2010 playoff game before they aired it on TV. The Washington Capitals‘ broadcast partner, NBC Sports Washington, plans to air video game simulations of the Caps’ (and NBA Wizards’) remaining regular-season games. The Golden Knights launched a virtual book club.





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