It’s still too early to say whether the NHL can resume play this season. The pause, which began March 12 due to COVID-19 concerns, is expected to stretch into June at the very least. But if the NHL can salvage things and award the Stanley Cup, the idea is to play many of the remaining 189 regular-season games before commencing the playoffs.
Each team has between 11-14 games remaining in the 82-game regular season. And while 82 games are far from feasible, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic said that 78, 76 and 74 games are all options that are being considered.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told LeBrun on Thursday that the NHL’s push for regular-season games is due to the intensity of the playoffs and letting teams get reacclimated to NHL competition before participating in the postseason.
The players have echoed these sentiments. Most notably Connor McDavid, arguably the best player in the league. The former Hart Trophy winner participated in a league Zoom conference call two weeks ago. His Edmonton Oilers currently rank second in the Pacific Division.
“You want a fair season. And a fair season is a full season,” McDavid said. “If we can do that, then that’s what we’d obviously prefer.”
He added: “I don’t think we can just step into playoffs, Game 1, Calgary comes to Edmonton, and guys are just running around killing each other and haven’t played a game in two months. It’ll end up being the Stockton Heat versus the Bakersfield Condors (AHL affiliates) if that’s the case. We want to keep guys healthy and we want to make sure everyone’s up and ready to play some playoff hockey.”
The Avalanche are second place in the Western Conference and the Central Division. They have a game in hand over the St. Louis Blues and are two points behind. Colorado also holds the regulation wins tiebreaker (37-33), meaning a tie with the defending Stanley Cup champions will give it the upper hand in the standings.
“We want to catch St. Louis and get home ice through the first two rounds at least,” Avs superstar Nathan MacKinnon said in November. “If we had home ice for Game 7 against San Jose, we probably win that series in my opinion.”
The NHL’s goal of playing some regular-season games could only help the Avalanche. The Avs are 10 points ahead of the third-place Dallas Stars, making it nearly impossible to drop in the standings.
If the Avalanche are unable to catch the Blues, they will likely play the Stars in the first round and have home-ice advantage. If they surpass the Blues, Colorado will likely open the first round against either Nashville, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Vancouver or Calgary.
Bottom line: Let’s hope we can play some hockey.