Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was one of four NHL players who participated in a Zoom teleconference on Thursday with the NHL season paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. The conversation was led by the NHL’s vice president of communications John Dellapina and the other players involved were the New Jersey Devils’ PK Subban, the New York Islanders’ Anders Lee, and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Nick Foligno. Reporters submitted questions in the morning.
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the 2019-20 season is if the season will resume. Going on the assumption that it does, Dellapina asked Ovechkin if he’d want to play more regular-season games or just skip the final 13 games and begin the playoffs.
With the Capitals in first place in the Metropolitan Division, Ovi was fine just going right to the playoffs.
“Sorry, guys,” Ovi said laughing.
“It’s hard. We don’t know when this coronavirus going to end, right? I think we have 13 games left until the playoffs,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t know how many you guys have. For us, it’s better if playoffs start right now. We wouldn’t want to play extra games. I know for different guys who are fighting for a playoff spot, some guys want extra games. For me, of course, the more games we play it’s going to be better for fans and it’s going to be better for teams fighting for playoff spot. I’d rather [do the] playoffs right away.”
Ovi, who is sitting on 48 goals, would fine with jetting right to the postseason, even if that means he doesn’t hit 50 goals this season. He has 48, tied for the league lead with David Pastrnak.
“Well of course you want to score 50 but right now the most important thing is to be safe and get this [virus] done,” Ovechkin said. “It sucks to not score 50 or not to get more milestones, (but) you have to think about family and fans.”
Meanwhile, superstar defenseman PK Subban had other ideas.
“The pesky Devils aren’t in a playoff spot. We’re making a push,” Subban said of the Devils, who sit 13 points out of the second wildcard spot in the East. “I’m just happy that if we do have to play, we don’t have to play Washington anymore so Ovi’s not getting any more goals against us this year. I did like, it was floating around out there, a 31-team playoff format. I like that, giving us an opportunity to get in the playoffs and play some meaningful hockey down the stretch. For us, I don’t even know. I could be working out for no reason. I don’t know. We’ll wait and see. I’d like to play some more hockey. We’re starting to turn it on.”
The Devils had gone 6-2-2 in their last 10 games before the NHL paused its season. Subban was suggesting a March Madness-esque tournament like the NCAA puts on annually.
One of the possible scenarios is that the NHL season picks back up in the summer and the Stanley Cup is awarded in August. The NHL asked all its teams on Monday to secure home dates in August. If that happens, it would force a quick turnaround for the 2020-21 season which would potentially begin in November. The league has already stated that, “We do not anticipate a scenario in our resumption of play format that would endanger or interfere with the League’s ability to stage and execute the 2020-21 NHL season in its entirety.”
Nick Foligno worried about the toll that would take on players, especially with legends like Alex Ovechkin.
“In my head, Ovi’s logged a lot of miles in the postseason the past few years. You gotta think about the health and safety of our star players as well,” Foligno said. “When you’re playing that many games a year, and now we’re going push it into that late of the summer and possibly right into another season a couple months later, that’s a lot of games in one year that we’re not used to. I’m not saying that guys won’t grind out a way to do it. Us hockey players will find a way, but you have to think about the longevity of guys’ careers and their health as well.
“And then also, on top of that, now you have possibly — no offense, PK, to your situation — what if [teams missing the playoffs] don’t end up playing and then we come back in November. That’s a long time for you guys to be off too. Is that advantageous or worse? There’s a lot of things, as this thing pushes on, is that going to hurt us or help us. There’s so much we have to think about. That’s why it’s been well done in a sense that no one’s rushed to anything. Guys have been honest and throwing out ideas because I think any idea is worth it at this point. But we really need to think about how we’re going to go ahead here and smartly in the business side and on the health side. And the fans as well. We want to give them the best product every time we step on the ice. That’s something we pride ourselves in and they expect it. They’re paying their hard-earned money for it. So it’s all stuff we need to think about.”
“The format is going to be whatever is best for the league and the players and the fans. It’s tough to really project any of that. Every team’s in a different position,” Anders Lee added.
In a previous teleconference that included Claude Giroux and two Staal brothers, Sidney Crosby agreed with Ovi. “I wouldn’t mind starting right with the playoffs,” he said.
On a video webinar with media, Sidney Crosby says he “wouldn’t mind starting right with the playoffs” but “I think you try to get in as many [reg season] games as you can. More games you play, I think that’s better for the integrity of it.” pic.twitter.com/P779hLrXPx
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) March 26, 2020
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