Hello again! Yesterday, we started off our pre-playoff coverage with a mailbag of sorts. Today, we’re going to shift gears a bit and answer a few questions more specifically about the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs, including which potential SCF matchup would bring the most chaos to the world (there’s only one right answer).
Without further ado, here we go…..
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While hoping with every fibre of my being that they will finish, should they not be able to, what will that look like? 2 or 3 infected players per team? What if every team has 0 infections except for one that has too many to play? Is a 14 days pause, then a restart possible?
Dave Gordon: I honestly have no idea how this is going to look. I do have confidence in the bubble, ensuring players are tested and Covid free before entering the bubble is key. If the cases are at zero going in I’m fairly confident in the leagues ability to get the tournament finished. I don’t know what a pause would look like, and if a pause were required if they could even restart. We need to remember that there will only be 24 teams in the bubble for a short time, then 16, 8 etc. If the league makes it through the play in and the first round I think they’ll make it the whole way.
Rex Libris: I was mulling this over the other day. If a team has an outbreak and has to isolate as a result, thereby dropping out, I suspect the NHL would push on and let their opponent get a bye to the next round because there is just too much television money on the table to quit again. The NHL spends money to cast doubt on the long term effects of concussion (CTE) so risking the health of a half a dozen or even dozen players to a virus that could end the careers of a handful is a risk they are likely willing to take. Whether the governing health authority chooses to, or is allowed to by their provincial overseers, shut the league down again is another matter altogether.
Alex Thomas: I think a team would have to be knocked out by the virus for them to stop. These playoffs are just massive for financial reasons and I believe the league will do everything they can to finish. I’m actually pretty confident they’ll be able to, as well. I think enough teams will take this seriously and this might be the only time ‘hockey culture’ is a good thing. Guys aren’t going to screw around because of the reaction it could get. In terms of a restart, I think once they shut it down again that’s it. You can’t push this season even further back.
WheatNOil: If it gets stopped, I think it’ll be a good portion of one team going down that does it. Some player gets it, spreads it presymptomatically among the team so by the time the tests come back, half the team is down and they can’t ice a full lineup and don’t have enough players in the bubble. The other way this stops is even worse. A coach or player dies from complications due to COVID.
Avry Lewis McDougall: If we do have to call off the rest of the season I think we get into four players per team at the same time. I could see teams trying to isolate two or three and rely on the reinforcements in the bubble. If we’re at a point where even those guys are testing positive on various teams you’re looking at this thing being called off. If we’re looking at one team, I could see the league still wanting that team to continue their series and things being paused for 14 days. The question there is what happens if after those two weeks that team still is having problems with infections? I could see that series being forfeited to the other team to keep things moving.
Megan Fowler: I am cautiously optimistic that there won’t be any interruptions, but as we’ve seen in other sports it’s pretty tough to know what’s going to happen (MLB, wyd???). I think a pause and restart is possible, but at some point you’d have to wonder what the effect of a 14 day pause would have on the players, especially if it happens in the first 2 rounds of the playoffs. There’s too much money wrapped up in TV deals for them to cancel things outright, plus the hub cities would lose the economic boost and no one would be able to see the mountains from Edmonton if things got shut down.
Steven Stauffer: How long are you willing to delay the start of next season? At what point does this season become next season? How long can one year really last? In my opinion if this jumps the tracks, it’s gone forever. (The season I mean. I’m not suggesting we euthanize the players.) That said, I have a pretty high bar for “cancel it”. As long as every team can ice 21 players who are covid-free, you keep going. I could see MAYBE delaying a game a couple days to wait for test results, but otherwise there will be no stopping. If one team gets horribly sick and everyone else is healthy they can call up their farm team or forfeit- but considering they’re all in the same bubble I can’t see how that would happen.
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Which play-in matchup are you most excited to see and why?
Dave Gordon: Oilers vs Chicago Just want to be watching the Oilers back on the ice. Honourable mentions go to the Rangers vs Hurricanes and Flames vs Jets.
Rex Libris: This appears cliche, but the Oilers and Chicago most interest me because by all rights the Oilers should have an easy time against this opponent, but we don’t yet know the effect of this hiatus on players’ abilities and routines. Also, I remember with cruel clarity the years of Eddie Belfour and Chris Chelios in Chicago versus the Oilers in the post-season and so the matchup offers some Smythe Division nostalgia.
Alex Thomas: Obviously the Oilers/Hawks because I think the play is going to be super high-tempo and there will be a lot of offense. Plus, you know, Oilers. Outside of that series? Toronto/Columbus. The Blue Jackets, when healthy, are a good team with strong goaltending. The Leafs are a lot of fun to watch with their speed and skill, and obviously it’s fun to watch them lose and Toronto go into a tailspin. I think that series is going to really close and really entertaining.
WheatNOil: The Oilers of course. Otherwise the Blues and the Avs I think will be a fun series.
Avry Lewis McDougall: Outside of Edmonton-Chicago I’m most excited for Toronto-Columbus! I want to see if Elvis Merzlikins can continue his hot run for Columbus. Merzlikins has been one of the best stories in the league holding down the fort in net with Joonas Korpisalo injured earlier this year. This series also has the storyline of is this the year Toronto finally wins a round? The Leafs haven’t won a series since 2003-04. Toronto’s future will be an interesting one if they fail to get over that hump again. Surely, the likes of Matthews, Marner and Nylander would not be satisfied in yet another Groundhog Day moment in the 416. If Toronto can get past the Jackets, they could be a team that could be a real threat in the round of 16. I do think this is one of our Qualifying series that has the potential to go five games.
Megan Fowler: Arizona and Nashville. I feel like I’ve been around here long enough that everyone knows why this is the series I’m most excited for. Plus, an Arizona win puts me one step closer to my ultimate hockey dream (see the final question).
Steven Stauffer: Not to sound like a total homer, but Oilers vs the Hawks. The Hawks’ combination of mediocre defence and Covid-infused goaltending should allow the two best offensive players in the league to express themselves. Really explore the space. It’ll be your classic young wolves vs the old lions, or whatever, and Chicago has enough good players to make it interesting. Plus there’s always the chance Toews will shut down Connor or Kane will annihilate Edmonton goaltending. Must-see-tv. If I’m not allowed to pick Edmonton, it’s Rangers-Hurricanes. There’s no amazing story here, it’s just that the ‘Canes are just one of the funnest teams in the league and the Rangers aren’t going to stop them from being that. Plus it will be nice to take a good look at Panarin and Fox.
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Which higher seed gets swept this round?
Dave Gordon: Toronto! At least I hope so. But if I had to put money on the big upset I’d say the Panthers can knock out the Islanders in 3.
Rex Libris: From what I’ve heard from the major sports media markets, is there a higher seed this post-season than the Auston Matthews’ led Toronto Maple Leafs? That doesn’t answer the question, but I’d wager we’ll see one top seed from the East and one from the West go. If I had my druthers it would be Toronto and St. Louis.
Alex Thomas: Nashville. I think the Coyotes have elite goaltending and enough star power where if they get hot for a week, Nashville won’t be able to stop them. Something seems off with that Predators team. A lot of skill, but they can’t score. Carolina is in danger too.
WheatNOil: None. That’s my bold prediction. No higher seeds get swept.
Avry Lewis McDougall: I won’t go too radical with this one, but I’ll say that the 9th seed Jets take down the 8th seed Flames in three. Winnipeg comes into this with four skaters at 60 points or more in the form of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Patrick Laine. A full 82 game regular season surely would have also had Nik Ehlers join that group as he finished the shortened year with 58 points. Calgary does have their own firepower with the likes of Matt Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau as a couple of examples but I’m not sure how their goaltending handles this series. David Rittich and Cam Talbot have certainly had their ups and downs as a tandem and I think it in the end sinks them in the qualifiers. If I’m wrong on this I’ll rightly eat a plate of the finest crow that I’m sure the JW Marriott has to offer when the public can go inside the hotel again.
Megan Fowler: I want it to be Toronto, but it might be Calgary. I also think that the Coyotes are better than their record suggests, and for all of Nashville’s skill there’s something a little off with that team, so maybe it’s the Preds.
Steven Stauffer: In a best of 5? In the world’s most random major sport? With the “top seeds” being no better than the 5th best team in their conference? Could be anyone. Carey Price could win three straight against the Pens. The Preds could fail to score 3 straight games against the Coyotes. It’s all on the table. But if I had to bet against one team it would be the Canucks, because they are wieners.
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What is the single most chaotic matchup you can think of for the SCF, given that it will be in Edmonton?
Dave Gordon: Montreal vs Chicago because neither team would have been in a regular non-Covid playoff. And of course Edmonton vs Toronto because that would just be so much fun on social media.
Rex Libris: Carolina.
Alex Thomas: Toronto V. Calgary. If that happens, I’m not certain the bubble will hold from the angry mob. In terms of max chaos? Canadiens Vs. Blackhawks. A lot of people would be pissed off. I’m a lot of people.
WheatNOil: Oilers vs Leafs. Just pure chaos through the city, through Twitter, and through hockey media.
Avry Lewis McDougall: That’s an easy question for me to answer! The maximum chaos series for me has to be the Arizona Coyotes taking on the New York Islanders for Lord Stanley. Jordan Eberle vs Taylor Hall in a Best of Seven at Rogers Place. I’m not sure if Hockey Twitter would be able to handle that.
Megan Fowler: Coyotes vs Islanders. My emotions would vacillate between schadenfreude and joy for the sake of joy. Either team winning would be fine for max chaos but for me personally, seeing Taylor Hall hoist the Cup on Rogers Place ice would probably cause me to spontaneously combust while my soul left my body.
Steven Stauffer: I’m tempted to say Islanders vs Coyotes, as it would be fun to see a team with no fans, no history, no GM, and no offence vs a team expertly coached to make their opponents even less interesting. Considering the lack of home games and the… ahem, “other distractions” facing Arizona right now they could be the first team to win the cup without anyone in their city noticing. That’s pretty chaotic, especially if they move that same summer. Wouldn’t that be neat? But since it’s in Edmonton, the answer is Flames vs Leafs. The only good outcome for Oilers fans would be the arena burning down.
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That’s it for our pre-playoff mailbag. Stay tuned tomorrow for some more, uh, insight from Avry, Alex and Megan.