If the NHL is able to restart its 2019-20 season, which was paused March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby had his way, he would just as soon have the league not bother completing the remainder of the regular season and just proceed directly with the playoffs.
“I mean, you try to get in as many [regular season] games as you can, I think, but I wouldn’t mind starting right at the playoffs,’’ Crosby, speaking on one of several video conference calls set up by the NHL with various media outlets, said Thursday.
Not surprisingly, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, who was on the same call as Crosby, disagreed.
“You want to get as many games as possible to get your true tournament . . . whether that’s opening up [to allow] a few more teams in, or a ‘play-in’ [to determine the last few playoff spots],’’ Staal said. The Rangers were two points out of a playoff spot with 12 games left in the season when play was halted.
“Who knows when this is going to start up, how much time we have, and I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,’’ Staal said. “But definitely not what Sid said.’’
Staal’s younger brother Jordan, the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, was also on the call. He sided with Crosby, rather than his brother. When play was stopped, the Hurricanes were holding one of the two wild card playoff spots in the Eastern Conference (along with the Columbus Blue Jackets), and were trying to hold off the Islanders and Rangers to secure a playoff spot.
“Screw the Rangers,’’ Jordan Staal joked.
Crosby, the Staal brothers and Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux were the foursome on the first group that spoke with reporters, two weeks after the NHL followed the NBA’s lead and interrupted its schedule. The players were each speaking from their homes – Crosby was in Pittsburgh, Marc Staal was in Connecticut, his brother was in Carolina, and Giroux was at his offseason home in Ottawa. It was the first interaction between NHL players and the media since play was stopped.
The NHL chose to take control of the access as a league, rather than allowing individual teams to make their players available to local reporters. A league spokesman moderated the session, asking questions, some of which had been submitted ahead of time by reporters.
The players all had the same answers to many of the questions, such as how they dealing with the pause and how they were staying in shape. Marc Staal said he is “laying low in the house’’ and “cleaning my floors a lot and doing kindergarten work with my daughter, just killing time.’’ As for staying in shape, he said he has a treadmill in his house, but he hasn’t been able to skate or do serious conditioning, without access to team facilities.
“There’s nothing that replicates skating,’’ he said. “So, I’m just trying to sweat a bit, trying to stay active, and when the time comes to get back on the ice, that’s going to be the biggest difference. I’m kind of waiting to see, like everyone else.’’