This could be thought of two ways – the NHL has reached the 80th percentile on their way through the regular season… or the NHL is really playing at about 80% overall right now.
In truth, it’s both.
This article was all set to run Monday morning… as in Monday the 19th of April. Sunday the 18th was supposed to be Colorado Avalanche game number 45, the benchmark for roughly 80% through the regular season.
So what happened?
Did spring turn to summer so quickly the Avalanche could no longer create an icy surface in Ball Arena? Did the Avalanche, tired of what is the confounding process of everything “that’s so NHL,” grow weary and join a global superleague where they needed to suddenly travel to Moscow to play the newly-formed Moscow Marauders? Neither, nyther, nor. Some of you may be a step ahead of me, but here it goes – the Avalanche went into COVID protocol. This is the second time this season they’ve had to delay their season and lay off the ice for a week. Therefore, they are hitting the ice tonight for game 44 and their game 45 isn’t scheduled to occur until this weekend.
Some of you out there in hockey land may say “hmm… but wait. Didn’t the Vancouver Canucks get plagued by COVID yet the NHL is forcing them to rush through their season where they are forced to play an obscene 19 games in 31 days?” Even though the NHL brass would claim they are putting all safety procedures at the forefront, you would be correct. But, you forgot about one tiny icicle of information: the Avalanche are more important. They are one of the favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup. As an Avs fan I am not happy about the NHL’s decision-making abilities (and BTW I am not alone given Las Vegas Golden Knight’s goalie Robin Lehner’s presser), but I am pretty thrilled the Avs are given the opportunity to regain some health before blades hit rink again. The Canuck? They don’t really count. They were predicted to suck, and by golly they have done a tremendous job sucking the majority of the season. Therefore, the brain-trust known as the NHL brass – a collective of ten or so combined to create the brain of a D+ high school freshman who just got the question “what is a noun” wrong – decided to let the Avs rest and make the Canucks play. In a small, (very very small) tip of the helmet to the NHL wonks, they do have a problem when some teams are ready to lace it up for Game 49 and the Canucks are taking the ice at game 40, but it’s still their fault. They did not do their COVID due diligence and have solid plan set in place – kind of surprising considering what they did to finish last season by sequestering every team. I could go deeper and call myself the Puck Pundit, dye my hair silver and go on Fox “News” to pretend I know more, but that’s laying it out as easy as possible as to not confuse you the reader, or them, the NHL Board of Directors.
Let’s take a look at where the season leis at this point. I just tried to type ‘lies’ and ended up with ‘leis’ but frankly I am not sure that’s really a penalty. There are quite a few teams who may as well be on a beach soaking up rays wearing flowers around their necks rather than sharpening skates.
In the Honda West division, Anaheim and Los Angeles are done. One of the trio of Arizona, St. Louis and San Jose will make the playoffs but it won’t matter. They are all Civics to this group of Ridgelines, way behind the Avs, Golden Showers, and Mild. The Avs or Golden Showers will take the division and both are in the favorites category to not only take the cup, but lease an Accord at the special rate of only $229 per month with just $2,999 down.
Moving along to the Discover Central division (and man do I loathe these sponsored division names), we discover the Blue Jackets, Dead Wings and Blackhawks as done. Chicago does stand a slim chance of snagging playoff position 4 but they have 10 games left to jump 5 points and leapfrog over Dallas and Trashville. And again, it doesn’t matter. Playoff position 4 is over 10 points away from 3 in the Discover Central division where you have the opportunity to watch hockey and get cash back on your purchases at 22.99% APR. The top three – Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay – are all crammed together and will battle until the end to crown the division champion. Not that the crown means a damn thing for the phrase “home ice” in the NHL playoffs doesn’t really mean much, especially with no sold-out arenas allowed.
Let’s take a peek at the MassMutual East division. By far the tightest division, only 6 points separate 4th from 1st and the 5th team, the New York Central Park Rangers, still have an outside chance to catch up and snag the 4th playoff slot. However, team 4, the Bruin, have gotten hot at the right time so that task will be tougher than getting Ed Asner guiding a sleigh pulled by reindeer away from the actual Central Park Rangers. Out are a woeful trio – the Sabres, the Devils, and the teams I thought would make the playoffs, the Flyers. However, all three have the green light to invest in Bitcoin as MassMutual just dropped $100 mildo into the cybercash arena.
Our final division, the all-Canada show known as the Scotia North division, has Le Flame, the aforementioned Canuck, and the Ottawa Non-Representatives AKA Sitting Duck Senators on the outs looking in. The top three – Maple Leafs, Jets and Oilers – are clearly better than team 4, Le Canadien. However, I think only the Toronto Maple Leafs stand a true chance of reaching the Stanley Cup final and are, just like the rest of the division, eligible for the Scotia Preferred Package which includes 1 free non-ScotiaBank ATM withdrawal within Canada every month for every account they open. But regarding the Stanley Cup final appearance, who knows since it seems the entire country up north is currently plagued by a decidedly (and shockingly TBH) Trumpian handling of COVID. It’s as if the Canadian Government looked down at the NHL and said, “People think your COVID protocol is bad? Oh please, hold our collective LaBatt’s.”
So, who at this point will be the last team on thin ice taking germ-infested sips from the cup? Fear not Avs fans. The Colorado Avalanche will apparently be given plenty of time to get healthy and make it through to the finals. Who will they face? Does it matter? Seems to this more-than-casual observer the NHL really wants the Avs to get there. Why? I don’t really know (insert TuKKer Carlson I’m confused tilted puppy look here).
As a nearly-final thought, congratulations goes to the San Jose Sharks Patrick Marleau who just passed Gordie Howe as the ironman of the NHL. He’s now played nearly 1,800 games in 23 seasons. An impressive feat that I’m sure the NHL brass is trying to downplay as they give him a participation trophy and try to get Gramps Marleau to retire so the kids can play more. It’s so NHL to do that.
Next report – Playoffs Le Round Une – comes up whenever the Avs feel it is time to start playing them.