A funny thing happened to me on Friday night after I finished my dinner: I turned on my TV and there was an NHL game to watch. I grabbed a can of beer, and for the next 90 or so minutes, I watched hockey in a way that I might have before this whole global pandemic thing. It was familiar, and comforting. I’d of course watched some other games during the re-start, but for whatever reason Friday night felt more like the regular course of events. It was very much the kind of thing I could have found myself doing on a Friday in the middle of February; maybe before I headed off to my own rec league game.
I’ve had my doubts about the safety, the practicality, and the ethics of the NHL re-starting the way they have. Those aren’t all gone, but the fact that we are now 10 days in without a single positive COVID test has been a great relief. It’s felt like a warm, comforting blanket. It’s been nice. I don’t think the folks that voiced concerns were wrong to do so, but I’ve never been cheering for the league to fail — I want this to work. So here’s to hoping it continues to work and we’ve got more mundane hockey things to write about in the weeks to come.
Along with the return of play, we’re also now seeing a return to normalcy in terms of activity around the league so lots to get to on this Monday:
- There hasn’t been much Sens news lately, but the social media squad is running a bracket for fans to vote on which goalie had the best helmet while they were with the team. Patrick Lalime’s Marvin the Martian is iconic, and will probably win, but I’ve got a soft spot for Martin Prusek and Big, Bald Alex Auld’s designs. Voting starts today, check out the team’s Twitter account for more details.
- In some lighthearted fare, Emily Kaplan has a fun piece examining the best and the worst fashion choices in the bubble so far. I’m not a big fan of mandating suits and ties, but some of those guys could maybe use the help given what they’re coming up with when left to their own devices!
- After yet another disappointing play-off performance, the postmortem is underway in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby, who just turned 33, admitted that the Penguins’ window to the win the Stanley Cup again might be closing. Sean Gentille did not hold back in his assessment of the Pens’ play for the Athletic. Are we really starting to see the end of the Crosby era?
- On the other side of the Pens-Habs match-up, the Canadiens are now readying themselves to face the formidable Philadelphia Flyers in the next round. I wasn’t exactly sanguine about the Habs’ chances against the Penguins in the play-in round but a combination of stellar play from Carey Price and some opportunistic goal-scoring let them walk away with three of the four games the two teams played. Will they be able to repeat the same formula against Philly? I say no, but I’ve also been known to be wrong about a lot of things!
- In Edmonton, folks seem to be a bit upset about how the team’s play-in series unfolded. There isn’t the same urgency with the Oilers as Pittsburgh, Connor McDavid is still only 23 after all, but it’s hard to look at that roster and see anything resembling a contender without major work. Some real help on the blueline would go a long way; just maybe this time don’t trade your star winger for a mediocre second-pairing defenseman.
- Last but not least, Greg Wyshynski has a brief discussion of whether the NHL should continue with the expanded play-off format past this season. I say no, the regular season is already de-valued enough as it is, but I won’t deny this first set of games have been exciting.