Podcast Episode 2: More in depth on the all-time great goalies, plus commentary on Lindros, Bure and a little ’94 Rangers

Last night on my YouTube Channel, I recorded my second episode of the Podcast. In it, I continued to go through the careers of Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy. Also included a few of the all-time greats from way back as part of the goalie discussion.

Following more in depth on the great goalies, I went back in time on Eric Lindros with a surprise. Then, broke down his Hall of Fame career along with Pavel Bure. Two great players whose careers were shortened by injuries.

I also included a little bit on the ’94 Rangers, who had to contend with the Russian Rocket. Plus a few classic photos of me, my brother and father.

The podcast went a bit longer. But it’s worth the watch if you love vintage hockey. As always, Like, Share and Subscribe if you like the content. I’ll have Episode 3 later tonight. TBD.

Derek Felix can be followed:

Twitter: BattleOfHudson

Instagram: dflex2123

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Who’s Better? Brodeur, Hasek or Roy

Every hockey fan knows who Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy are. If you don’t, I suggest google and YouTube. I discussed the three below along with some commentary on other legends above. Feel free to check it out.

Last night, I was having a friendly discussion with Robert Davis in our little group chat on Facebook Messenger. A unique group that includes old Hard Hits cohosts Brian Sanborn and John “JPG” Giagnorio. We also have Colin Cannaday, Daniel Wheeler and friend Madison Miller, who has her own podcast on Anchor. I just started up.

The convo turned to great goalies between Rob and I with Colin and John pushing buttons. Ah. A favorite pastime of mine. Now, I’ve created madness. Rob is a Devils fan. So, he sides with Brodeur when it comes to who was the best of a great era that started with Roy in the 1980’s. Ironically, he was Brodeur’s idol with him being from Montreal and the son of former goalie and Canadiens photographer Denis.

Once he established himself in the early 90’s by pushing the Rangers the limit and then winning the first of three Stanley Cups the following year, Brodeur was a star. He would become so consistent on such a great team that he’d go on to set NHL records for most wins (691) and shutouts (125). He surpassed Roy in wins and all-time great Terry Sawchuk in shutouts. Along with winning three Cups and four Vezinas, Marty is one of the best goalies to ever play the game.

Photo via The Runner Sports Getty Images

For Hasek, he took a different route entirely. Picked in Round 10 at 199 overall in the ’83 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks, he stayed in the Czech Republic for several years before coming over. Once he did, it was obvious Hasek could play. Mike Keenan even went to him in the Stanley Cup Finals versus the mighty Penguins. His unorthodox style produced some remarkable saves on the likes of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. But the Blackhawks were no match for the Pens, who repeated as champs.

With Eddie Belfour established as the starting netminder in Chicago, it was obvious that Hasek needed a change of scenery to be given a real opportunity. The Hawks traded him to the Sabres for a package that included Stephane Beauregard and a fourth round pick that became Eric Daze. At least Daze had a good career even though injuries cut it short.

The deal was a steal for the Sabres, who eventually moved former Oilers star Grant Fuhr to the Kings in a trade that netted Alexei Zhitnik. Fuhr was bad for LA as a rental and would move on to the Blues where he had a couple of big years in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career.

Once Hasek became the guy in Buffalo, he quickly transformed into a star the likes the hockey world hadn’t seen. While Roy and Brodeur were receiving all the ink for winning Cups in Montreal and New Jersey, Hasek was busy proving he was a special player for Buffalo. It started in ’93-94 when he won 30 games while posting a league best 1.95 goals-against-average (GAA) along with the league lead in shutouts (7) and save percentage (.930). That was good enough to win his first Vezina and finish second for the Hart.

Interestingly, that same year in ’93-94, Hasek and Brodeur would meet in a memorable first round series between the Sabres and Devils. Not surprisingly, the best of seven series went the distance due to great goaltending. Hasek wouldn’t allow his team to lose a classic Game Six played at the old Aude in Buffalo. A game in which he stopped all 70 Devil shots to outduel Brodeur for a 1-0 shutout that sent the series back to East Rutherford. Dave Hannan was the overtime hero scoring in the fourth OT. In between them, Hasek and Brodeur faced a combined 120 shots with only one beating the then Devils rookie. Astonishing.

Ultimately, the Devils won the series by taking the deciding seventh game 2-1. They would advance all the way to the Conference Finals which in itself became an all-time classic against the Hudson rival Rangers. A series that had twists and turns along with drama with the Mark Messier led veteran Blueshirts advancing in a dramatic seven games thanks to OT hero Stephane Matteau.

That series only strengthened Brodeur and the Devils, who would win the first of three Cups by sweeping the Red Wings in ’95. I wasn’t surprised they won. They lost in excruciating fashion the year before after being so close. The only surprise was they beat powerful Detroit in four straight. Something most experts didn’t see happening. They underestimated the Devils.

Hasek was continuing to dominate the game with his odd style of stopping the puck. He would win a second consecutive Vezina in ’95 by leading in all three major categories including shutouts. Following an off year, he was back with a vengeance the next two seasons by doing a rarity. Sweeping the Vezina and Hart. Something you don’t see these days. The last to do it was Carey Price in ’13-14. Ironically, Jose Theodore also accomplished the feat in ’01-02 when he had a dominant year. Go figure. He also played for the Habs. The rest of his career wasn’t great.

Before Brodeur started racking up his four Vezinas, he had to contend with Hasek, whose Sabres teams weren’t as strong. The Dominator won six Vezinas over an eight year period all in Buffalo including his final season during ’00-01. He led them to their second Stanley Cup appearance in ’99 when they upset the Maple Leafs. Even though they didn’t have the talent of the Stars, the Sabres pushed them six games with Brett Hull scoring a controversial winner in triple overtime to give Dallas the Cup. Replays showed that his toe was in the crease. It became known as No Goal in Western New York. That crease rule was a ridiculous one.

After all the success with Buffalo, Hasek moved to the Red Wings in a trade that netted Slava Kozlov and a first round pick that was moved around. It didn’t work out for the Sabres as Kozlov, who was a good player as part of the Red Wings Russian Five, never got acclimated. He lasted one season before being rerouted to Atlanta where he was revitalized while playing with Ilya Kovalchuk and Marc Savard.

Hasek would go on to win his first Cup in ’02 when Detroit defeated Carolina in five. He outplayed Roy in a compelling seven game Western Conference Final that saw Roy make the biggest mistake of his illustrious career. He did the Statue of Liberty where he tried to show that he had the puck in his glove. A cocky move goalies will do. Only Roy dropped the puck into his own net to cost the Avalanche Game Six. The Red Wings rolled them in a lopsided Game Seven and then reeled off four straight on the Hurricanes following a surprising Game One defeat. Igor Larionov scored a backbreaking goal in sudden death to beat the Canes in a pivotal Game Three that changed the series. From there, Detroit rolled to its third Cup in six years with Hasek leading the playoffs with six shutouts. Given how strong the team was, he didn’t have to do as much.

Hasek would add a second Cup as a backup behind old Red Wing favorite Chris Osgood in ’08. While he didn’t wind up with the records Brodeur achieved mostly with one franchise with the lone exception of seven meaningless games in St. Louis, Hasek did wind up with 389 career wins with 81 shutouts, a career 2.20 GAA and .922 save percentage. Over a brilliant 16-year career, he played 735 games.

Brodeur meanwhile wound up lasting 22 years and getting into 1266 games (1259 with NJD). He totaled 691 wins with 125 shutouts while posting a career 2.24 GAA and .912 save percentage. There were three third place finishes for the Hart along with the four Vezinas. Plus five Jennings. A team award for the fewest goals allowed in a season. Marty was a huge part of that because he played in so many games. We’ll never see that again. The days of Brodeur, Hasek and Fuhr being iron men are long gone with coaches preferring to have goalie tandems and keep their starter fresh. Only Montreal and Toronto don’t which might explain their inconsistencies.

Photo credit NHL.com via Getty Images

So, who’s the best? Roy won four Cups including twice in Montreal. Once as a unknown rookie in ’86 and the second in ’93 when they had no business winning their record 24th Cup. Roy dominated overtime like few ever have during that run. He won twice more with the much more talented Avalanche after Mario Tremblay embarrassed him in a blowout loss on national TV. He never played another game for the Habs. The four-time Cup winner won three Vezinas and three Conn Smythes including in 2001 when he got the better of Brodeur in a strange seven game victory. They edged the Devils 3-2 to win that Cup. One that left Brodeur in tears during the handshake with his childhood hero.

Brodeur would backstop the ’02-03 Devils to a third Cup by upsetting the favored Senators in seven. He was superb stoning Marian Hossa in enemy territory. Unlikely hero Jeff Friesen scored the winner with over two minutes left in regulation from Grant Marshall to stun Ottawa. The Devils would go on to defeat the Mighty Ducks in seven in a home series. They shutout Anaheim in the deciding seventh game at Continental Airlines Arena. A game highlighted by little used rookie Mike Rupp scoring twice. Even though the Conn Smythe for the playoffs went to losing Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Devils were again champions.

Brodeur proved even after losing Hall of Famers Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer along with Brian Rafalski, who went to Detroit and won another Cup, that he could have success minus a great defense. He upset the Rangers by outplaying rival Henrik Lundqvist in the ’12 Conference Final. The Devils took the series in six with Adam Henrique playing the ultimate hero by scoring early in sudden death to help Marty exact revenge on the same May 25 date he lost that fateful Game Six in ’94 due to Mark Messier’s natural hat trick.

Even though they would lose to the Kings in six, Brodeur proved he still had it at 40. He did wind up sticking around too long like most great players. No shame in that. Many all-time greats do. Even Derek Jeter in these parts with the Yankees. It happens. It was so odd seeing Brodeur finish his career in a Blues jersey. They sold like hot cakes.

So, I laid it all out there for you. The remarkable trio of Roy, Brodeur and Hasek all had outstanding Hall of Fame careers winning a combined nine Cups, 13 Vezinas and a crazy amount of games. They are the three best goalies of the last three plus decades. All impacted the sport and made the art of goaltending way better.

Now, you have Price, Tuukka Rask, Andrei Vasilevskiy and future Hall of Famers Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury as great goalies who have had stellar careers. Recently retired Roberto Luongo was brilliant despite falling short in his one quest to win Lord Stanley. In some aspects, similar to Lundqvist, who’s near the end. Fleury has three Cups including one as a starter while playing a key role for the Pens in the last one when Matt Murray was injured. He’s proven he can be successful in Vegas by carrying them to the Cup Final before losing to the Alex Ovechkin Caps, who finally won.

With more offense increasing due to the rules and most goalies not playing as frequently, we may never see another era quite like what Roy, Brodeur and Hasek gave us. Where do they rank among the all-time best?

As I stated in the above podcast on my YouTube channel, it all depends on your perspective. There are a variety of factors including the changes in equipment, goalie masks, coaching, training, team defense and rules. If you’re an all-time hockey fan that goes back to the Golden Era, you might argue for Sawchuk, Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante, Tony Esposito, Ken Dryden or even Turk Broda, Tiny Thompson or George Hainsworth.

It all depends on your preference. It sure makes for a great debate. I hope you enjoyed my post on the great goalies. Wherever you stand, please feel free to chime in. Don’t forget to watch my little podcast above. It wasn’t too long. I’ll do a follow up later correcting some stuff. Stay tuned. 🙂

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JD speaks for everyone

Earlier today, Rangers Team President John Davidson relayed a very important message during this scary time.

When it comes to the COVID19 pandemic, we can’t take any chances. We must use common sense and decency. So, that means if we do go out, keep our distance. Then come home and wash our hands well. Not just a scrub. I make sure I do and use whatever hand sanitizer we have left.

On the official Rangers Twitter account, JD made sure to get the point across to fans and whoever else needs to hear it. To be perfectly honest, with how bad NYC is, it needs to be emphasized. We must be extra careful when dealing with the unknown.

I wish everyone out there the very best in these tough times. That doesn’t only apply to us here in the USA, but for all worldwide. I went out to the park the other day and picked a off peak time so it wasn’t as crowded. I made sure to utilize social distancing. Then when I got home, thoroughly cleaned up and showered.

As you can see, I picked a great day. It was after 6 too. Afterwards, I did a lot of stretching. I always do. Keeping loose is important for flexibility.

Nobody wants to be confined to their home. But that’s how we are basically living. Definitely not easy. I hope everyone is healthy and safe out there.

I will have something coming soon on the blog. A surprise of sorts. Yes. There will eventually be a new detail oriented post on something Rangers that everyone should enjoy.

Until then. See you around. 😉

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The Rangers season in pictures

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, with the Coronavirus halting play in all sports and putting everyone on high alert, I decided to share the Rangers season in pictures.

Even cooler, some videos will be included that I took from the five or six games I got out to. The big feature being the Mika Zibanejad five goal game on March 5.

The season had been better than expected thanks in large part to the brilliance of Panarin and dominance of Zibanejad, who was fifth in goals with 41 while the Bread Man ranked in the top five with 95 points in his first year on Broadway.

Without those brilliant performances along with the 10 wins rookie sensation Igor Shestyorkin had, the team wouldn’t have been two points out of the playoffs with 79 before the NHL rightly paused the season due to COVID-19 pandemic.

They wouldn’t be in this position without a breakout year from Tony DeAngelo, whose 53 points are the most by a Rangers defenseman since Brian Leetch. He’ll no doubt get rewarded this summer along with close friend Ryan Strome, whose career best 59 points ranked third in team scoring despite being snake bit the last two weeks.

Adam Fox proved worth the gamble of two second round picks to Carolina. The rookie has been the team’s best defenseman. Not only due to his 42 points and plus-22 rating, but because of how poised he is with the puck in all facets. The future is bright for the Jericho, NY native who grew up a Ranger fan. He’s living out his childhood dream. At only 22 like tough partner Ryan Lindgren, Foxy should be a fixture on the blue line along with the Warrior.

Prior to getting hurt, Chris Kreider was on track for his first 30 goal campaign. He was a point-per-game for almost three months prior to fracturing his foot while blocking a shot. So good was the power forward that the Rangers decided to keep him. It wasn’t just about his 24 goals or 45 points either along with the power play production. But also about Kreider’s intangibles. He brought that work ethic, net front presence while forming impeccable chemistry with Zibanejad and a budding Pavel Buchnevich with who he’s close with. No wonder the KZB Line was a key factor in the team’s turnaround. Buchnevich up to 16 goals and 46 points on the verge of another 20 goal season and first ever 50 point one.

There was the heady play of Jesper Fast, who was a perfect complement on the second line with Panarin and Strome. Fast of course is all hustle and grit. He is that reliable two-way forward you appreciate who does the little things well such as penalty killing and winning puck battles. He’s more than the sum of the dozen goals, 29 points and respectable plus-16 rating. Hopefully, he is re-signed.

There also were key contributions from Alex Georgiev, who led the team with 17 wins and two shutouts. While he wasn’t consistent, there were moments he stood on his head to get the Blueshirts much needed wins. Particularly over the Islanders and Maple Leafs. Montreal too where Henrik Lundqvist struggled. Is this it for Lundqvist? He won 10 games and at least got one more shutout to beat lowly Detroit. Who knows. So much is ahead whenever things return to normalcy.

The value Brendan Smith brought in a dual role as a fourth line forward and eventually back as a defenseman following the departure of Brady Skjei can’t be overstated. A good team guy who did whatever David Quinn wanted. You need those types along with guys like Greg McKegg, who will play a secondary role as needed.

It hasn’t been an easy year for Jacob Trouba, who has battled consistency after a great debut versus his former team Winnipeg in a wild home opener victory. Number 8 will have to prove he’s worth the hefty $8 million cap hit they’re paying him. Since Skjei was moved to Carolina, it’s continued to be a Jekyll and Hyde year for Trouba. He’ll have to be better moving forward.

Brett Howden might not have the best hands, but he does work hard. We still don’t know if he’s anymore than a fourth liner who can kill penalties. However, he stepped up in a third line role following the Kreider injury. He fit in well with Kaapo Kakko, who certainly struggled with the North American game. The two goal game was a huge monkey off his back. It got him to 10 goals. He’ll need to improve his skating and defensive awareness.

So too will Filip Chytil, who wound up with 14 goals and 23 points after starting the year at Hartford. The young second-year forward is still figuring it out. Only 20, he will need to continue to fill out and become more consistent in the future.

Marc Staal remains a steady stay at home defenseman who brings physicality and valuable experience to the back end. While he’s far from perfect, the alternate captain is a trusted leader on and off the ice. He has remained a solid partner for DeAngelo at five-on-five while being a key part of the penalty kill. It’s worth noting he was more effective before Skjei was dumped to free up necessary space for the off-season. That looms true for the rest of the D. You take away a big minutes logger who can skate the puck out and chip in offensively and it’s going to have an affect. Even with his defensive issues, Skjei helped. But his contract made him expendable.

What to make of agitator Brendan Lemieux, who can be equally frustrating despite drawing a lot of penalties due to a penchant for taking ill advised ones? He’s still young at 24. His hit on Joonas Donskoi was cheap and could’ve been more than a minor penalty with the Rangers trailing by a goal with under three minutes left in regulation versus the Avalanche. He was bailed out by the penalty kill and Buchnevich finding a way to get a stick on a elevated Panarin pass with 13 seconds remaining to get the team a point. Lemieux must learn to better pick his spots and become more productive.

Even Phil Di Giuseppe was a nice story after coming up from Hartford. A good skater with a strong work ethic, he didn’t hurt himself in his cameo. But he’s a secondary player who can’t be a regular. Similar to McKegg. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Libor Hajek busted in his first full year by getting sent down to the Wolf Pack where he didn’t have much success. Can he rebound? Only time will tell. Unless Nils Lundkvist is legit which he very well might be, that trade with the Lightning looks like a disaster. They gave up Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller, who to be fair didn’t fit in Tampa. He has since responded in a big way on the Canucks with a huge season playing alongside Elias Pettersson.

K’Andre Miller is signed. We won’t see him for a while due to the Coronavirus. But the key is for the team not to rush him unless he blows everyone away. Development is so crucial in any prospect. That requires patience. The organization rushed Lias Andersson. We’ll never see him again. It’s likely he’ll get moved this summer at some point.

Julien Gauthier definitely has the size and wheels for a big forward to become something good. He could be a bright spot down the road.

All in all, it’s been a good year for the Rangers. Even if it looks likely over, fans can take solace in what they’ve seen. The growth of a together young team with excellent chemistry. Even if another game isn’t played until next October, the future is bright on Broadway.

Now for the season in photos and videos.

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Rangers sign K’Andre Miller, MSG to air memorable games, Coronavirus madness

Photo courtesy ELITESPORTSNY

Over the past day or so, the Rangers have been busy. Well, not literally and figuratively speaking. There are no team practices scheduled with the NHL shutting down along with other major sports leagues due to the Coronavirus. For now, we’ll have and see what happens regarding the COVID-19 pandemic that’s halted everything.

It’s definitely a strange time. Me. I’m gonna head back to the gym and stay active before it closes. I hope it’s open. One thing I can guarantee. They won’t be out of stock on hand sanitizer and toilet paper. I took a ride last night to the Shoprite that stays open 24 hours. I ran into traffic cones at both entrances. Closed due to the chaotic situation that’s caused panic everywhere.

I laughed it off and wound up at a 7/11. Some guy went in there looking for hand sanitizer in the first two aisles. No. He didn’t have to say anything. It was obvious. I thought it was ridiculous. Like he really thought he’d find any there. He walked out with one of those David Quinn death grins after a bad penalty or goal is allowed.

In terms of what the Rangers have done but didn’t even reveal on their official Twitter account. They signed former 2018 first round pick K’Andre Miller to an entry level contract. After spending two years at Wisconsin, the defenseman has decided to forego his last two years of eligibility and turn pro. I sure hope it’s the right decision.

Given the state of the left side of the blueline since the departure of easy target Brady Skjei, they sure could use someone to help out a defense that’s struggled since the trade deadline. It isn’t Skjei who’s been on the ice for all the goals and 10 power play goals against. That’s the new defense that includes veteran Brendan Smith and misplaced eight million dollar man Jacob Trouba, whose number 8 may as well stand for his cap hit. Kind of funny how things work out.

If they ever continue what’s left of the season, the Hurricanes are one of the teams the Rangers are battling for the wildcard. They are locked into the first WC while the Blue Jackets are still in the second spot despite playing more games than the Islanders. If you went by percentage points, the Isles would squeak in over the Jackets. Right now, none of that stuff matters.

It says the Blueshirts have 12 games left. The Islanders 13. The Hurricanes 14. And so on. But we don’t know how long there will be no hockey let alone normalcy. You have to be careful and stay clean. I’m not going to keep repeating the same message. We’re supposed to be grown adults. It gets redundant and annoying real quick.

So, is there any expectation for Miller? How can there be? He wasn’t even dominant in his two years at college. He’s a excellent skater with superb offensive instincts while his defense remains a question mark. Anyone who thinks he’s gonna come in and take the league by storm probably believes in the tooth fairy. You don’t rush young prospects like Miller, who’s never played professional hockey. Especially when there could be an adjustment period.

Ticket Miller for 2021. That’s a realistic view. I don’t act like like I am some prospect wannabe expert blogger. I’ve seen Miller play. But I also know there are areas he must improve. That’s why Vitali Kravtsov wasn’t rushed after returning to Hartford. If only Lias Andersson didn’t go home and complain about whatever he felt he earned in preseason. Anyone excited about what he’s doing with HV-71 is outta their mind. What does it mean? This is coming from a guy who supported Andersson. We don’t even know if he still has a future in the organization. I expect him to be traded this summer whenever the off-season is.

Realistically, I can’t see them playing games in July. That’s insane. The ice would be melted and even with the air conditioning pumping, it doesn’t make sense. Maybe if they’re lucky, they’ll be able to complete the regular season by halving the schedule. I don’t know what Gary Bettman and the NHL is thinking. He wants to continue and not end the season. That’s commendable, but how will it play out?

MSG Networks announced they plan to air some memorable games of both Rangers and Knicks. So, here’s the question. Will they actually show stuff that’s not recent? I don’t know. This also goes for the Devils and Islanders. They used to have The Vault, which was a great show where you had hockey maven Stan Fischler giving commentary along with Dave Maloney and other guests throwing cool insight. I would love for that to return.

They can go a lot of different ways with this. Even if we got classic games from ’05-06 where Jaromir Jagr chased down Adam Graves franchise record in goals and achieved a new single season mark in points by going right by Jean Ratelle, I’d be okay with it. Plus a chance to see a then young rookie named Henrik Lundqvist, whose future is up in the air. Has he played his last game as a Ranger? That’s a hard question to answer.

There’s not much else to add. We don’t have much excitement right now. But there’s still so much we can do. Like the Puddle of Mudd song I’m listening to on my five CD player which still works. May as well enjoy whatever it is that we love to do.

Well, I’m gonna head out now and see if I can do some stuff at the gym. Please don’t let it be closed like what’s happening to Modell’s. How freaking sad. I guess customers are okay with getting ripped off for everything they buy. What a joke.

Peace. Be good.

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Devils season review and look at what’s ahead

 

 

Let’s face it, even if the NHL manages to come back in a few weeks and play a handful of regular season games to have a mini-playoff chase, the Devils’ season for all intents and purposes ended in early December when in a matter of days, 2018 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall was traded and coach John Hynes was fired.  Really, the season was over by Halloween as the Devils’ 0-4-2 start put them fatally behind the eight-ball from the outset, and even when the team started to play better under interim coach Alain Nasreddine, it was far too late for any of it to matter in terms of being a ‘contender’.

I’d like to give a dispassioniate ‘well here are the highs and lows of the season’ blog, but if you read my blogs regularly (even as I wrote irregularly), you know there sure as shooting weren’t too many highs to look back on in 2019-20.  Ironically the Devils’ best stretch may well have been their last ten games before this virus-caused season postponement, as they went 6-2-2 and even got back to NHL .500 before a dull 5-2 loss to the Penguins on Tuesday, which could be their final game of the season as it turned out.  I was going to go to the game, in part because I was starting to get the feeling every home game could be the last of the season, at least in terms of fan attendance.  Fortunately my friends got me out to trivia at the very last minute so it was good twofold, I avoided a hideous game and with society all but being totally quarantined, it may also be my last big social gettogether for a few weeks.

Don’t get me wrong, even I don’t plan to be a total shut-in the next few weeks though I’m not the most social person in the world anyway, I’ll still find a way to get outside for at least a walk around the local park or town – unless and until we have to literally quarantine society.  If you think that’s too alarmist, look at what’s happening in Italy these days.  Unfortunately it may not be too alarmist, heck I didn’t think we’d even get to a point where every sports league and most entertainment in America would be shut down for the better part of the next few weeks.  Shoot, my local rec sports leagues are on hold as well, so I’ll have to be more vigilant going for jogs in the park as the weather gets better (hopefully) to try and avoid putting on too many pounds.

Anyway, back to the team eulogy if you want to call it that.  Again, like I said this isn’t so much assuming the NHL regular season is dead as it is recognizing there won’t be all that much left of it to really care about as a Devils fan or the fan of any other team out of contention.  At least with Derek, extending the regular season a handful of games could get the Rangers a playoff berth.  What the heck is 5-7 more games going to prove for anyone in a Devils uniform this season?  We’ve already played 69 of the 82 scheduled games as it is.  Depending on when any potential makeups are held, I may even attend a couple of the stretch games for the heck of it if they do come back to finish out part of the regular season before the playoffs.  It’ll certainly be a weird feeling though.  We’re used to shortened regular seasons as hockey fans, but this is entirely new for not only the sport but society as well, given the total mystery over when ‘normal’ returns to life, or starts to at least.

Perhaps the break will make me appreciate the fun of simply watching hockey and my team again.  This season sure wasn’t a lot of fun.  Look at it through the eyes of #1 overall Jack Hughes for example…you’re in your first pro season, going through expected growing pains and then some on the ice with just 7 goals, 21 points and a -26 in his 61 games played, and the team flops out of the gate after a certain amount of preseason expectations to at least be competitive.  Off the ice, the GM who picked you and had a relationship with your family (Ray Shero) gets fired, just weeks after firing your coach only 26 games into your pro career.  Everyone from Hall to captain Andy Greene to vet mentor Wayne Simmonds gets traded with still no idea of what the future holds with both an interim GM and head coach.

As critical as I have been of Hughes’ rookie season that is a lot to work through, even with the admission that most #1 overall picks aren’t exactly getting drafted into stable situations.  And certainly Hughes wasn’t the biggest dissapointment for the Devils, as much as I like the guy that title has to go to former Norris winner P.K. Subban, who put up just seven goals and eighteen points with a -21 in 68 games in his first season as a Devil.  Sure, Subban played just over 22 minutes a night (2nd on the team) and his game improved after the coaching change, but that’s not exactly what anyone including he had in mind after this summer’s blockbuster trade.

Even in a season of dissapointments, the game that stands out the most will always be Opening Night, and the ghastly blown 4-0 lead starting late in the second period in a 5-4 OT loss to the Jets that was the ultimate harbinger of bad times to come – especially given the 0-4-2 start it led to.  Maybe second on the list in terms of dubious games this season would be a tie with the back-to-back gutpunches that finished Hynes in early December, the 4-0 thumping at the Garden followed by a listless 7-1 loss in Buffalo.  Even with the coaching change, those games started a particularly awful stretch where we lost seven straight games and nine of ten.  Really there aren’t that many other games which stood out in terms of annoyance, other than the Winnipeg lead each late blown lead – especially with Hynes – sort of ran together, and the roster is what it was after the trade of Hall and the injury to and subsequent trade of defenseman Sami Vatanen.

Yes there were good things that happened this year, but indiciative of how crappy this season was, one of the season’s biggest bright spots (Blake Coleman) was himself traded just before the deadline.  Coleman became a fan favorite with a hard-working all-around game that featured a surprising scoring touch in 2019-20, arguably putting up the goal of the season on that very same Opening Night where we suffered such a disasterous meltdown afterward.  Coleman finished second on the team with 21 goals only behind Kyle Palmieri’s 25, and even if the season resumes with some regular season games I think they’ll remain 1-2 in goals, since the closest to them was Jesper Bratt with 16 in 60 games.

Bratt’s play at least improved down the stretch in his third year and he started to look more like the former 6th-rounder that opened eyes as a rookie two years ago, but he still has limitations in terms of stamina and overall game aside from scoring.  Palmieri did what he does, put up his 25-30 goals and play with a workmanlike atitude, leading the team in points as well (though KHL import Nikita Gusev finished just one behind Palmieri’s 45, with 44 points of his own).  Fortunately K-Palm was exempted from the late-season purge by interim GM Tom Fitzgerald and the Jersey native will hopefully don the red and white for many years to come – whether it’s Fitzgerald or the next guy who has to make that decision in contract negotiations.  If it’s Fitzgerald clearly we know which way he’s leaning, judging by his comments at the trade deadline when asked why he didn’t also deal Palmieri.

Perhaps the biggest bright spot of all was ‘rookie’ goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, rookie being in quotes cause he played 23 games in 2018-19, just under the Calder qualifications so by the NHL standard he was still a rookie this year.  This time around he played 47 games, somehow compiling a 22-14-8 record, a 2.77 GAA and a .915 save percentage despite a slow start of his own and a dumpster fire of defensive breakdowns and offensive meltdowns around him.  On a better team, Blackwood would have gotten serious Calder consideration, but Devil fans who braved watching the dreck that was the 2019-20 season all know how well he had to play just to put up those numbers.  In a division with a bunch of young, talented netminders at least the Devils can stack up with the better teams in the division in that area.

Among other positives, defenseman Damon Severson took a step forward after the coaching change, improving defensively and being entrusted with more responsibility after the trades of Greene and Vatanen.  Severson led the team in ATOI per night, quite a statement with Subban on the team, even a Subban having a subpar year.  Gusev overcame a rocky start and his skill shined through not only during games but in the shootouts as well, as his slick moves stole at least a couple wins in the skills competition.  I could throw in Pavel Zacha and his 32 points (in 65 games) as a bright spot, but I’m still not much of a believer, especially with just eight goals of those 32 points.

Honestly, I’m surprised I was even able to do four paragraphs’ worth of positives about this season.  Maybe it’s part wistfulness now knowing that we’re not only going to miss the NHL for a long time but pretty well all sports and a lot of our non-sports entertainment as well.  Even freaking Disneyland closed for the first time since 9/11.  Though I hadn’t been watching the Devils all that much lately, there’s still a difference between voluntarily not watching but still at least paying attention from afar, and not having that diversion in our lives at all.  I do know there are more important things to worry about, but that’s for another day.  Thankfully I’m not among the sick at the moment nor are any of my friends, but the virus is getting closer to all of us, myself included with the first reported case in our town just today.

Still, we’re all entitled to commiserate over losing one of our biggest sources of recreation, joy, fun – whatever adjective you want to use.  Especially now before we do have to account for real-life problems.  We wouldn’t be the hockey fans we are without feeling passion for this sport and our teams.  Even if I love all my sports teams (Devils, Mets, Jets) equally, I’ve always felt in a vaccum hockey was the best sport of the three, and the best sport going with its combination of skill and physicality – even with less of the staged fighting and dirty plays that marked the game for many years.

If hockey should come back I suspect I’ll watch most of whatever games the Devils makeup simply because of more appreciation of having it around, and after being completely without it for a while.  Even if it is just a stopover toward another long summer, and one where so much is unknown.  Who will be the coach and GM – and will it even matter?  Will the owners and whoever they pick as the full-time GM want another aggressive offseason or will this be a long rebuild?  Can our supposed franchise players (Hughes and Nico Hischier) take another step next year?  Namely can Hischier improve from being a solid all-around player to something more, and Hughes from being a scrub to being a competent NHL’er.  Will Palmieri and Gusev sign long-term or be shipped out this offseason?

There’s so much unknown right now both with life in general and the Devils specifically.  I can’t really do much about either other than hope for the best, and in the case of real life walk the line of taking neccesary precautions while not living in a bubble.  There’s still a lot to enjoy about life both now and after the imminent danger from this virus passes.  There will be a lot to enjoy about hockey when it returns in the months and years to come, whatever team you root for.  Whatever hardship and nonsense comes our way in the days and weeks ahead, it’ll make everything on the other side of it more enjoyable.

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If season continues, Brendan Lemieux is suspended

Somehow, someway, Brendan Lemieux managed to get himself suspended with hockey and all of sports on hold due to the Coronavirus epidemic. It was late in regulation when he foolishly checked an unsuspecting Joonas Donskoi in the side of the head for an interference minor.

He was lucky he only received two minutes for such a bad decision. The hit came from the blindside and knocked down Donskoi. He’s fortunate if he’s not injured from such a dumb hit. The same way Lemieux better have thanked the Rangers penalty killers for bailing him out.

Not only that. But they managed to get the game tied at two thanks to an elevated pass from Artemi Panarin to a charging Pavel Buchnevich for his 16th with 13 seconds left in the third period. Even though they fell in overtime on a JT Compher deflection of a Cale Makar shot on another ridiculous play by Lemieux, who did a flyby with Buchnevich to allow Makar the room to shoot, the Rangers got a point.

If the regular season does continue at some point, they’ll have 79 points and 12 games remaining to scramble for a playoff spot. Exactly two behind both the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets with the Islanders sandwiched in between at 80. Plus the Panthers right there as well.

For now with the COVID-19 pandemic creating panic everywhere and even overreaction from some people over toiletries and other essentials, there’s no point in picturing the season even continuing. There’s too much at stake with schools closing and eventually the mind-boggling Mayor and Governor of the state will come to the same conclusion. They better.

However, this didn’t stop NHL Player Safety from issuing a statement regarding the foolishness of Lemieux’s illegal hit on Donskoi.

He’s suspended. I can’t help but laugh. Not because it isn’t the right call (it is). But due the timing. Lemieux earned it. He’s not a smart player. He can be extremely effective when he wants to be by agitating opponents and sucking them into bad penalties. Something he’s done this season. However, he has a, penchant for taking undisciplined penalties that make you scratch your head.

For a player who’s not a bad skater or forechecker, Lemieux needs to make wiser decisions. He is good along the boards and capable of setting up plays. He also can go to the net and be a distraction for goalies. But his boneheaded penalties along with poor defense are areas he must improve on.

He can be a troll as he was after the Blueshirts swept the season series from the Hurricanes in Carolina.

For the season, the son of Claude Lemieux has six goals with new career highs in assists (12), points (18), penalty minutes (111) and games played (59). The former Sabres second round pick in 2014 turns 24 in two days.

At some point, he has to get it. Especially if he wants to stay a regular in this league. The Rangers are going to improve due to their talent pool. So, if Lemieux wants to stick, he must mature.

Just getting suspended hurts the roster. Of course, there’s no guarantee the Rangers will play the final 12 games. However, if they do we don’t know if Chris Kreider will return. He might be ready if the season continues by say April 12. Or they could just skip right to the playoffs and screw some of the teams still competing for spots.

I think they’ll shorten the schedule if they do play and that would only intensify the wildcard races in both conferences. We’ll see how it plays out.

For now, it’s wait and see mode for everyone.

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NHL suspends season due to coronavirus

We won’t be seeing cool goal celebrations like this anytime soon. AP Photo via Getty Images

As expected today, the NHL decided to suspend the season due to the Coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused every sports league to pause play including every major college basketball conference. Why the Big East allowed Creighton and St. John’s to play a half of basketball is mystifying.

Here’s some of the statements by the NHLPA and NHL regarding today’s announcement:

There really isn’t much to add. This day was coming. Once Rudy Gobert tested positive for the dangerous virus without a vaccine, the NBA didn’t wait. Gobert is a fool. With Utah recently at MSG for a game with the Knicks, he acted like it couldn’t happen to him due to being in the United States. He even touched all microphones and caused teammate Donovan Mitchell to also test positive. What a idiot.

Needless to say, the Knicks will be quarantined. They have no choice. As far as whether the NHL season is over, that hasn’t been confirmed. They could either decide to continue the remainder of the schedule in 30 days (assuming things return to normal) or go right to the playoffs.

If the postseason started right up which is an assumption at this point, the Rangers would miss by two points. They are 37-28-5 with 79 points and 31 regulation wins in 70 games following a 3-2 overtime loss at the Avalanche on Wednesday night. The Islanders wouldn’t make it either, missing by a point despite two games at hand on the Blue Jackets.

The top eight would be the Bruins, Caps, Lightning, Flyers, Pens, Leafs, Hurricanes, Blue Jackets. The match-ups would pit the Bruins versus the Jackets, Lightning vs Leafs in one bracket while the Caps would take on the Canes in a first round rematch with the Flyers and Pens doing battle.

Out West, it would be the Blues against the Predators with the Avalanche and Stars doing battle in one bracket. In the other, you’d have the Golden Knights vs the Jets while the Oilers and Flames would meet up in the Battle Of Alberta. That would be good.

Teams that would just miss would include the Canucks and Wild.

Your scoring leaders would be Leon Draisaitl with 110 points followed by Connor McDavid with 97 points and David Pastrnak and Artemi Panarin tied with 95 points. Nathan MacKinnon would finish fifth with 93.

Pastrnak and Alex Ovechkin would share the Rocket Richard with 48 goals each.

Your Calder three would likely be Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes and Dominik Kubalik although I believe Adam Fox should be up for it. Good rookies like Victor Olofsson, Nick Suzuki, Elvis Merzlikins, Mackenzie Blackwood, Ilya Samsonov and Igor Shesterkin would miss out.

The Hart would likely come down to Draisaitl, McDavid and Pastrnak even though I think Panarin merits consideration along with MacKinnon.

The Norris would be John Carlson’s to lose against Roman Josi and Victor Hedman.

The Vezina would likely include Tuukka Rask, Connor Hellebuyck and Andrei Vasilevskiy. No. Pavel Hasek Francouz wouldn’t make the cut. 😂

As for what will happen, nobody can predict. It will take some time for things to return to normal. Sports are officially on vacation.

Enjoy whatever it is you can do.

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Game #70 Rangers lose to Avalanche in overtime on probably the last game of the season, Coronavirus could force suspension

I want to start this off by expressing something I’ve never felt before. The Coronavirus is something different than what we’ve seen. Nobody knows what’s going on. I would be lying to you if I knew what was happening.

All I know is life isn’t going back to the way it was before. At least not for a while. With many universities canceling classes and going virtual until further notice and schools needing to do the same if the NYCDOE wakes the heck up already, there’s no way sports are going to continue. So, when the NBA made the announcement that the season was suspended due to Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert testing positive for the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s pretty obvious what’s coming for other sports.

That includes the NHL. Something Hasan alluded to earlier last night. With the NCAA basketball tournament opting to play games without any fans aside from family members of the players at least for now, we pretty much knew what was next. In all probability, the Rangers played the last game of the regular season. They lost in an exciting game to the Avalanche 3-2 in overtime.

Given all the rumors circulating that the league is about to make a decision tomorrow, it feels anticlimactic. I enjoyed the hockey I saw. It was a lot more fun than the bore fest the Rangers won in Dallas. Unfortunately, they didn’t come out on top despite holding most of the territorial edge.

Special teams doomed them. They flat out stunk. Colorado scored two power play goals while the Blueshirts took the collar in four chances. That included a god awful long five-on-three that was so exasperating, it left me dumbfounded. At the time, they trailed the Avalanche 2-1 due to Pavel Hasek 😂 Francouz standing on his head. He wound up making 30 saves, but it felt like a lot more considering the high quality he stopped. He was brilliant.

Alex Georgiev wasn’t bad either. In his first start in four games, he gave up three goals on 28 shots. However, all three Colorado goals were on screens by the Avs, who executed well in front of the net. That included JT Compher redirecting a Cale Makar shot for the overtime winner at 2:50. A goal that could’ve been prevented if late regulation hero Pavel Buchnevich and village idiot Brendan Lemieux didn’t do a flyby on Makar. Just brutal.

More brutal was the suddenly passive Artemi Panarin. I don’t care if he setup Buchnevich for the crazy redirection with 13 seconds left for a point on an elevated pass. Panarin hasn’t been shooting the puck. That’s why he hasn’t been scoring. He passed up a wide open pointblank chance in overtime for a ridiculous pass to a covered Tony DeAngelo. It was awful. He wasn’t any better on the power play turning over the puck in a back pass to no one.

It’s very hard to critique the Bread Man. He’s been unbelievable this season. His 94 points are remarkable. But he definitely has become reluctant to shoot due to always looking for the perfect play. Maybe that’s due to Mika Zibanejad scoring at an NBA Jam on 🔥 rate. Once again, Zibanejad scored to give him 41 goals by actually beating Francouz early for a 1-0 lead. Phil Di Giuseppe and Adam Fox picked up assists on the unreal wrist shot.

Zibanejad could’ve easily had another two or three goals. He hit the crossbar twice and was absolutely denied twice more by Francouz on breakaways with the cool Colorado goalie not going for his backhand move. Part of it was he is a right glove. The other part is he was seeing everything fired his way. To say he was sensational would not be overstating it. A terrific performance by the 29-year old who may as well have changed his last name to Hasek, Roy, Brodeur, Sawchuk, Dryden, etc. You get the picture.

The issue in the game were the bad penalties the Rangers took. In the first period leading by one, a bench minor led directly to Tyson Jost sniping his ninth from Gabriel Landeskog and Makar through a screen. It only took 25 seconds and David Quinn was beet red following the penalty. His penalty kill has not been the same since the Brady Skjei trade. They allowed two more power play goals. Dallas got one too the night prior. That’s 10 PPG allowed since the trade deadline. Coincidence? Maybe. They’re not getting it done.

While the Rangers took dumb penalty after dumb penalty, they had a golden opportunity to go back ahead. Already on a power play to start the second period, they drew another to get a two-man advantage. With the top unit out, they did everything but score. In particular, the now jinxed Ryan Strome can’t buy one. He hit the goalpost on a wide open shot which basically was a slam dunk. Then he had Francouz down and misfired with players down in front. I don’t know if it would’ve counted, but wow. There were other chances for Strome, who had another shot later go off the post. He also was flat out robbed by Francouz on a rebound in front.

It wasn’t his night. I thought Strome was one of the best players. It didn’t matter. He couldn’t score. Neither could Buchnevich until some theatrics late. He was denied by Francouz on a great pass in front. He also had a wraparound turned aside by the lightning quick Francouz, who got across to get his skate on it. He also stoned Kaapo Kakko on a backhand that he couldn’t elevate. He took everything away low and his team did a good job not allowing the Rangers to get the looks needed to go high. They didn’t do a good enough job screening.

That’s why the Avalanche are where they are and the Rangers are where they are. Colorado won this game despite no Nathan MacKinnon, Mikka Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Matt Calvert and Andre Burakovsky. But they got back the ultra skilled Makar, who only assisted on all three goals they scored. What a dynamic player. He’s going to win the Calder. If he doesn’t, there should be an investigation. He’s better than Quinn Hughes and whoever else you want to put up. Adam Fox is the closest to him. He was real good again tonight recording two more assists.

Right after the Rangers failed on the big power play with Zibanejad hitting the post, Brendan Smith took a bad tripping minor. It only took Colorado a dozen seconds to score. Off a face-off win, Landeskog and Makar combined to get the puck over to old friend Vladislav Namestnikov, who waited for Compher to set up in front. The former Ranger torched his ex-team by rifling home his 17th through the perfect Compher screen for a 2-1 Avalanche lead at 3:55.

Georgiev had zero chance. He never saw it. That’s why Colorado is so tough. They can overcome all the injuries to key players including stars MacKinnon and Rantanen due to their depth. Other guys like Compher, Namestnikov, Jost, Valeri Nichushkin, Ian Cole and Ryan Graves step up. Francouz is winning all these games while Philipp Grubauer is out. If you’re the Avs and your season eventually continues, how do you not start Francouz for the playoffs?

That’s assuming there is one. We have no idea if it’ll happen. 1919 saw no completion due to influenza which killed star Joe Malone. Go read about it. I did last night ironically. It really is a crazy and scary time. Not that I’m fearful. I’m not. But you have to be careful. If you think I’m kidding, think again. Do you know how many times I’ve seen people not wash their hands at MSG after using the bathroom? It’s gross.

The issue is very real. Just take precaution. Use soap and hand sanitizer. Don’t shake hands. I saw a lot of fist pumps after my Alma mater St. John’s stunned Georgetown with a 23-0 run to end the Big East first round win. That was pretty amazing in itself. You better believe I was pumped. Though I did feel for Patrick Ewing. The players and coaches all fist pumped.

Here’s a question for those curious. The Jazz were recently at MSG. Should the Knicks be quarantined? Do the Rangers need to be? This is insane. They haven’t found a vaccine yet. I watched Stephon Marbury do the test in China with a mask on his Instagram. It made me nauseous seeing him in pain. Thankfully, it came back negative. Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson weren’t as lucky in Australia. Yikes. I sure hope they recover.

When they canceled the Indian Wells tennis tournament, that was a bad sign. I was bummed for Brian and for all the fans and players along with workers. What’s gonna happen with the rest of the season? Baseball is going through the same thing. Does anyone believe they’re going to have Opening Day on March 26? It’s likely to be pushed back.

When you have as brief a postgame press conference as I’ve ever seen featuring a few quick answers from Zibanejad, Marc Staal and Quinn, that’s a telling sign that things aren’t right. For those crying conspiracy, you’re wrong. This might feel like an overreaction. But it isn’t. This isn’t political either. It’s SERIOUS!

I gotta be honest. Given how well Francouz played following a huge save from Georgiev on a Matt Nieto penalty shot, I didn’t think the Rangers were tying it. It was frustrating. One power play was so hideous due to the first unit overstaying their shift and insisting on more passing, I got angry. I was yelling at the TV set. What were they doing? Especially Panarin. He was driving me nuts. He also took a dumb hooking minor to negate a power play earlier in the third.

You had Lemieux taking a very selfish penalty with under three minutes left in regulation. He takes a lot of dumb penalties. I know he brings energy, but some of these penalties are awful. He draws a lot too, but at some point, he needs to get it. I’m really frustrated with him.

That could’ve meant no points. But the Avs were passive. They seemed lackadaisical, allowing a clean Zibanejad shorthanded breakaway. But Francouz no sold his forehand deke, backhand to rob him. The second time he denied him. Earlier in the game, Zibanejad had him beat, but he got just enough of it to push it off the crossbar. That’s how hot Mika has been. It would be a shame if we don’t get to see more Mika Magic this season.

Following a successful kill, the Rangers didn’t have a lot of time to screw around. After a DeAngelo fumble resulted in a clear, the last gasp came. In transition, Fox got the puck up to Panarin, who had a step coming in. This time with the puck rolling, he threw the puck in the air to a charging Buchnevich, who somehow got his stick on it to put it in for his 16th at 19:47.

It was so astonishing that I went nuts on the tying goal. It felt like a miracle. That’s how fun this team has been to watch. If this really was it, thank you Rangers for one more exciting moment. How I wish they’d gotten the win.

They sure had their chances in the three-on-three OT. But Panarin jerked around with the puck and then Zibanejad hit another crossbar with his laser of a shot. Back came the Avalanche and that quickly with me up in arms that Lemieux was out, he and Buchnevich didn’t even lay a body on Makar. Their blow by allowed Makar to fire a shot Compher managed to deflect home for his 14th.

Game over. I was pissed. More so at Lemieux than anything. What was he doing out there? I would’ve rather seen Di Giuseppe or Brett Howden than him. Why not Jesper Fast? At least he’s responsible. Oh well. That’s how it ended. Joe Micheletti pulled no punches in the shortest postgame ever, calling out both Buchnevich and Lemieux. Good.

What sucks is it likely was the last game. It’s so hard to believe. I can just hear a chair umpire during a big tennis match when rain hits saying, “Play suspended.” Unfortunately, that’s what we’re looking at.

Until next time.

Battle Of Hudson Three 🌟

3rd 🌟 Mika Zibanejad, Rangers (41st goal and hit two posts, stoned on 2 breakaways with 6 shots, a star player)

2nd 🌟 Cale Makar, Avalanche (3 assists including the primary on a great setup for Compher OT winner, a remarkable player)

1st 🌟 Pavel Francouz, Avalanche (30 saves including some remarkable stops where he morphed into Hasek)

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NHL and its fans adjusting to a new normal

 

 

I don’t really want to write this blog but feel compelled to, because let’s face it – whether you have it or not, Coronavirus is affecting every aspect of our lives at this point – and if you don’t know what Coronavirus is by now, odds are you might already be in enough of a bubble to not have to worry about it.  This is a hockey blog so I’m obviously not going to get into political machinations and will only talk about how this is (and will) affect the rest of the hockey season all around the world as well as everyone’s personal lives.  Outside of the NHL you already have colleges like Harvard canceling the rest of their season already, many overseas leagues either have been or will be suspended, and the ones that aren’t may well play in empty buildings.  Inside the NHL so far you have the Sharks moving – if not outright canceling – the rest of their home games this month.

 

 

With word coming down literally as I’m writing this that March Madness (the NCAA college basketball tournament) is closing off its tournament to fans due to public safety concerns, it seems inevitable that the NHL’s upcoming games and playoffs will also be affected.  At this point it seems nothing is off the table.  Will the entire postseason be played without fans, or be suspended entirely?  It’s actually not unprecedented for the Stanley Cup to go unawarded due to health concerns, in 1919 the Spanish flu interrupted and eventually ended the Finals without a champion being crowned.  Until now, that’s been the only season in modern history other than 2005 – thanks again, Bettman – where the cherished trophy wasn’t awarded.

I have to say I’ve bounced between both extremes in terms of my mentality.  At times I have been guilty of the ‘now we’re getting a little too over the top here’ mindset while in general I am of the better safe than sorry approach.  Even if I still do think to a degree people have to live their lives, and not in fear.  This virus and the public alarm has at least temporarily changed even the most basic things about life such as curtailing public gatherings like big crowds at sporting matches, or parades – almost all St. Patrick’s Day parades are getting canceled including in Ireland itself.  For a while we all have to accept maybe your friend doesn’t want to hug or shake your hand.  And that stranger’s cough which can be an annoyance now becomes an alarm to get as far away as possible.

Even as arguably neccesary precautions get taken for the greater good, there’s a cost for many people whose jobs and lives are impacted by not being able to make a living.

 

 

It’s not just in sports obviously, it’s the cruise ship and airline workers who may get laid off, the teachers and students who won’t be able to complete their semesters, and any other profession or recreation that gets affected.  There’s no easy answer how to fairly compensate everyone for lost wages and unpaid leave.  Nobody feels bad for the billionaire sports owner who will lose a few gates over the next several months, but everyday people are going to be impacted by this as well and have the most to lose, both in terms of their ability to work and their personal health.

I’d like to say I have some message to calm everyone’s fears but that’s up to people more in the know than you or me.  Personally I haven’t changed anything major at the moment but it’s easy for me to say since I’m not personally in the high-risk (re: older) demo yet although who really knows what’s high-risk at this point with such a new virus and the lack of accurate testing so far.  In any case, you might want to be more careful if you have elderly relatives and friends around you.

I did kind of want to go to last night’s Devils game just because with the way things were heading it might be my last of the season with my next home game not till the 21st, but fortunately – given the way the Devils got smoked – I wound up doing trivia night with a couple of my friends instead.  If my last home game of the year winds up being the shocking win over the Blues last Friday I’d be fine with that at this point.  Already a season-ticket autograph session with P.K. Subban that was scheduled for tonight (a make-up since Subban couldn’t make the initial team autograph event) was canceled, and all fans who had RSVP’ed for the event will get an autographed picture via snail mail instead.

For now we just have to ride this out, hope things pass soon and in the meantime enjoy what we enjoy including the NHL from a distance, try to stick to being around the people you care about and be understanding if someone would rather Facetime or talk on the phone as opposed to in-person contact.  And if you are sick, don’t try to be a hero – stay home, take care of yourself and don’t endanger or worry anyone else.

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