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This was supposed to be the final week of the NHL season and teams should have been gearing up for the playoffs to get under way next Wednesday.
Instead, like the rest of the sports world, the NHL and its players are on hold with no idea what may happen next or whether they’ll even be able to resume the season or playoffs because of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
When the NHL decided to pause its schedule because of the COVID-19 virus, the Boston Bruins were well on their way to winning the Presidents’ Trophy with 12 games left on the schedule and a trip to the Stanley Cup final for the second straight spring certainly looked like a strong possibility.
If all had gone as planned, the regular season would have wrapped up Saturday night while the draft lottery was scheduled for April 9 at the NHL Network studios in Secaucus, N.J.
Now, everybody is waiting to see what happens next and if the spread can be slowed to make it safe to return to work.
Captain Zdeno Chara noted on a conference call organized by the league and the players association Monday that hockey shouldn’t be first, and foremost, on anybody’s mind at the moment.
“Right now it’s one of those situations that you can’t really control,” said Chara, who was accompanied by Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk, John Tavares of the Maple Leafs and Detroit’s Dylan Larkin. “Right now, we all have to look after each other and look after our families. I know it’s kind of cliche answer but I think in these days hockey is secondary if you look at it that way.”
Chara added that he hopes the Bruins will get back to playing this season and if they do the challenge will be the same for everybody involved.
“Yeah it’s kind of hard to pause the league at the stage where we were, close to the playoffs and with only a few games remaining,” Chara said. “Our team played well and with confidence and we were going at a good pace but who knows? I think we can’t always wish for the perfect situations. These situations, as we see, do happen once in a while. Hopefully we’ll play again and we’ll see when that’s going to be.”
OFF THE GLASS
One aspect of the game Tkachuk doesn’t mind getting a break from is having to face off against Chara and the Bruins. “First, playing against Big Zee and the crosschecks in front of the net, those are something I definitely don’t miss,” Tkachuk said. “We have pretty good battles in front of the net so when he lays the lumber on me with the shoulder it definitely doesn’t feel as good. I’ve grown up watching him and I’ve met him a couple of times at a couple of all-star games when we were younger and he was always super-nice to us and that was great to see.” The Senators were scheduled to face the Bruins last Thursday night at the TD Garden … Speaking in a conference call with reporters in Los Angeles Monday, coach Todd McLellan indicated the Kings haven’t had any staff or players test positive for COVID-19. The Senators and Avalanche have both had two players test positive and both teams were in the Los Angeles before the NHL decided to take a break in the schedule.
AROUND THE BOARDS
Chara and his family decided to drive to Florida when players were given the go-ahead to leave their NHL cities by the league on March 16. Asked if he had a message for Bruins’ fans, Chara said he understands it’s not easy for anybody right now. “These are strange times,” he said. “Most of us are away from things we love to do, to work, to play and to entertain people. Hopefully, we get through this together. A huge thank you has to go to the medical professionals, volunteers and people delivering food. It just takes time. We have to be patient, safe and disciplined. There’s no other way to do it so we just have to do it together.” … While Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk and sister Tayrn have done a couple of Tik-Tok videos, Brady hasn’t been involved. “That’s their thing,” said Tkachuk … Larkin is in Detroit waiting to see what happen. “I’m at home with my girlfriend. We just got a puppy and I’m just trying to get into a routine, stay safe and stay home, more importantly, and hanging out but that’s about it” Larkin said.
THE LAST WORDS
There was a quite a moment when moderator John Dellapina of the NHL asked each player about the teammate who they’d want to be quarantined with the most and who they wouldn’t? “I have to say Tuukka Rask,” said Chara. “The way he farts, the smell is just awful. He likes his chicken wings, and after the chicken wings, I sit behind him on the bus I’ve got to tell you I’ve got to control myself sometimes.” While everybody was having a good laugh, Dellapina changed the subject and said: “Well that went in a direction we weren’t expecting.” Later in the day, Bruins’ winger David Pastrnak said on social media he wouldn’t mind being quarantined with Rask because they both “like chicken wings. His farts are pretty bad and I definitely wouldn’t skate through his crease more than once in practice,” said Pastrnak.
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