March 31st, 2020

Crosby, Ovechkin fine if NHL goes directly into the playoffs post-COVID

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on March 26, 2020.

Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby smiles in the face-off circle while playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, February 20, 2020. Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, P.K. Subban and Claude Giroux are among eight NHLers from Metropolitan Division teams scheduled to speak with reporters via video conference Thursday amid the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin wouldn’t mind the NHL going right into the playoffs if the league’s able to resume the 2019-20 season in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking on separate media teleconferences Thursday, both stars say it would be their preference to start a Stanley Cup tournament instead of contesting the final dozen or so games remaining on each team’s schedule.

The NHL, like most other professional leagues and tours, postponed its season earlier this month amid the novel coronavirus pandemic that’s crippled the economy and brought about an era of social distancing and self-isolation.

Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals sat first in the Metropolitan Division with 90 points when the season was paused March 12, while Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins were third with 86.

Not surprisingly, Marc Staal of the New York Rangers, whose team is just outside the playoff picture, has a different view.

A number of ideas related to what the league might look if it can return this spring or summer have been floated, including playing out the schedule and playoffs, going right into the usual 16-team format or an expanded post-season beyond the usual field.

The earliest the NHL could resume would be mid-May because of a recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control in the United States against events or gatherings of 50 or more people until that time.

Ending the regular season early would come with a caveat for Ovechkin – he’s currently tied for the league lead in goals at 48 with Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak.

The eight-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner has scored at least 50 goals seven times in his career.

Ovechkin, 34, has 706 goals in his NHL career and sits 188 back of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time mark of 894.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2020.

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