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Inside the week that has left the NBA and NHL shut down

It has been just one week.

That’s all. Just one full week since Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, just one full week before the NBA became the first of the North American pro sports leagues to suspend operations, one week since sports essentially stopped.

The NHL quickly followed the NBA’s lead and suspended play. Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball shuttered as well. Golf lasted a day before deciding it couldn’t still play, and auto racing screeched to a halt before the weekend. The NCAA basketball tournaments were called off and college sports for the entirety of the academic year soon followed.

The situation, when it comes to the pro sports at least, is different for the NBA and NHL. The playoffs were looming, roughly a month or so away. They’re on hold now, just like virtually everything else in the world, and the only opponent for the best basketball and hockey teams on the planet is an invisible foe called COVID-19 — the coronavirus, a pandemic that has stopped the world on its axis.

“I’ve washed my hands so much,” Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “I’m not a big lotion guy, but my hands are getting dry, my knuckles are kind of bleeding. I think we’re all walking into this unknown. … It’s not something we’ve ever experienced. It’s not something we ever expected to experience.”

Yet here everyone is, entering a new reality.

POSITIVE TESTS

There are seven NBA players — four of them identified — known to have the virus. A member of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators has it as well. The NBA, according to a person with knowledge of the plan, knew it would have to shut down as soon as someone tested positive and hoped originally that it would only be for two weeks.

Forget two weeks now. At this point, two months seems overly optimistic of a timetable.

“We just don’t know,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said last week. He offered a similar sentiment Wednesday night in an interview with ESPN.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and his staff were keeping track of the situation on a moment-by-moment basis while different contingency plans were being worked out. Bettman told the Board of Governors that once a player tested positive, all bets were off. The NBA had sent similar indicators.

THE GOBERT DOMINO

Connecting the dots is impossible, simply because it’s unlikely to ascertain when or how Gobert or any other infected player got the virus.

The Jazz played at the New York Knicks on March 4. The Washington Capitals played at the New York Rangers — using the same locker room that the Jazz did — the next night. The Detroit Pistons visited the Knicks on March 8, using that same locker room again; the Pistons’ Christian Wood tested positive about a week later. And the Tampa Bay Lightning went on the road to face the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, both times following the Jazz.

“The Lightning followed the Utah Jazz into arenas in Boston and Detroit this past weekend, moving into a locker room in Boston that had been occupied by the Jazz,” the Lightning said. “We know that in both arenas, deep cleaning and sanitization took place in our locker rooms prior to our arrival. We also understand that with no actual contact with an infected person, our risk levels are low.”

A week ago, most probably thought the risks seemed low.

Now, everyone is just guessing. And it only took a week for everything to change.

“We’re flying by the seat of our pants here,” Kaminsky said. “And I feel like everyone is.”

MORE NHL AND NBA TESTS

When Gobert tested positive just before a game the night of March 11, it sent shockwaves around sports. NHL games were ongoing, but Bettman and others sprung into action.

“It was clear to me that no matter what scenario we came up with that we continued to play with, either with or without fans, it was inconceivable, certainly unlikely, that we were going to get through the rest of the regular season at minimum without somebody testing positive,” Bettman said.

NHL teams had scares. The Tampa Bay Lightning followed the Utah Jazz into the same arena in two cities, including the same locker room in Boston. The Carolina Hurricanes followed the Jazz into a Detroit hotel, and broadcaster John Forslund went into self-isolation after being informed the person who used his room before him tested positive.

It took almost a week after the NHL season was suspended for the first player to test positive. The Senators announced late Tuesday night that an unnamed player had COVID-19 and that other team employees were instructed to self-isolate and monitor their health.

“The player has had mild symptoms and is in isolation,” the team said. “The Ottawa Senators are in the process of notifying anyone who has had known close contact with the athlete and are working with our team doctors and public health officials.”

The Senators said Wednesday other players were being tested under supervision of medical officials. The NHL is not mandating testing unless someone shows symptoms, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.

NBA teams were worried as well. The Toronto Raptors were tested; their entire travel party had tests come back negative. The Los Angeles Lakers, a second person with knowledge of the matter, were in the process of getting players and staff tested this week because the Nets — who said they obtained private testing — had four players test positive. The Lakers played the Nets on March 10.

WHAT’S NEXT

Yet even a week ago, very few saw this — a global shutdown — coming.

“It’s funny. We had one guy in our entire organization that was taking it extremely serious,” Phoenix center Frank Kaminsky said in his “Pros and Joes” podcast that was released Wednesday. “He was warning everybody. Everyone would crack jokes at him. … Like, you just think, ‘Oh, that’s in China. That’s not going to get here.’ And then the next thing you know, there’s reports that it’s getting worse and worse.

“And then Rudy Gobert tests positive,” Kaminsky continued. “And then your season is pretty much over, or in a hiatus as they’re calling it.”

It very well may be over. Basketball and hockey both say they plan to continue, but the reality is nobody can say anything with any real level of certainty.

Blue Jackets-Maple Leafs stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

Blue Jackets-Maple Leafs stream
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NBCSN’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Sunday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Blue Jackets-Maple Leafs stream at 8 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After back-to-back overtime games on Thursday and Friday night, both which saw the winning team overcome a three-goal deficit, the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs will meet Sunday night in a win or go home scenario. This is the only Qualifying Round series to go to Game 5.

The winner of this game will play the Lightning in the First Round.

A win in this game would give Columbus a postseason series wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. Last year, the Blue Jackets won their first-ever playoff series by becoming the first team in NHL history to sweep the Presidents’ Trophy winners (Tampa) in the opening round.

WHAT: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Sunday, August 9, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: John Forslund, Mike Milbury
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Blue Jackets-Maple Leafs stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

(8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (9) Columbus Blue Jackets (Series tied 2-2)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Maple Leafs 3, Blue Jackets 0 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Blue Jackets 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT) (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs 4, Blue Jackets 3 (OT) (recap)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)

West NHL playoff matchups set after Stars finish third, Blues slip to fourth

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With the Stars beating the Blues 2-1 via a shootout, the West NHL matchups are all set for the First Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blues joined the Bruins as teams that finished the regular season at the top of their conferences but sank to the fourth seed thanks to rough round-robin showings, while the Stars rose a spot to third. In case you missed it, the Golden Knights took first by beating the Avalanche, who settled for second in the West.

Meanwhile, three of the four East NHL matchups are set for the First Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the Lightning await the winner of Game 5 of Blue Jackets – Maple Leafs (on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET; livestream).

The Blues held a 1-0 lead for much of the round-robin game. Joe Pavelski then tied things up 1-1 in the dying seconds, however, setting the stage for the Stars to snatch the third seed via a shootout. It all felt … fitting.

Jeff Vinnick of Getty Images got an exclusive shot of fans who will miss the round-robin games:

G-get it? (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

All West NHL matchups set for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs

1. Vegas Golden Knights vs. 12. Chicago Blackhawks

Robin Lehner against the team he briefly played for this season? Fun/awkward.

2. Colorado Avalanche vs. 11. Arizona Coyotes

Taylor Hall against Nathan MacKinnon and the rising Avs could make for good theater.

3. Dallas Stars vs. 8. Calgary Flames

Calgary could be a threat, although the Flames have been up-and-down.

4. St. Louis Blues vs. 7. Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks boast quite a bit of starpower for a lower seed (although the West presents multiple lower seeds that, while flawed, have some big names).

Three of four Eastern Conference matchups now set for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs

1. Philadelphia Flyers vs. 12. Montreal Canadiens

(Yes, that still feels weird on a few levels.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. winner of Blue Jackets/Maple Leafs Game 5

Who would you prefer to face if you were the Lightning?

3. Washington Capitals vs. 7. New York Islanders

The Capitals vs. former head coach Barry Trotz? Not bad.

4. Boston Bruins vs. 6. Carolina Hurricanes

Tough draw for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins, huh? Boston needs to hope that the Hurricanes got a little rusty after quickly sweeping the Rangers.

MORE:
• 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Return to Play: Final Round-robin standings

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The NHL round-robin schedule has wrapped up and know the final standings. The Flyers and Golden Knights went undefeated through three games and have clinched the top seeds in their respective conferences.

The Bruins may have been a 100-point, Presidents’ Trophy winning team during the regular season, but they went winless and will have to settled with the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Below is a look at the final NHL round-robin standings and the First Round matchups.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Final standings

Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3
: Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO) (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Lightning 3, Bruins 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flyers 3, Capitals 1 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Flyers 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Capitals 2, Bruins 1 (recap)

First Round matchups
• Flyers vs. Canadiens
• Capitals vs. Islanders
• Bruins vs. Hurricanes
• Lightning will play the winner of Toronto/Columbus series.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Final standings

Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Golden Knights 4, Stars 3 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche 4, Stars 0
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights 6, Blues 4 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights 4, Avalanche 3 (OT) (recap)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars 2, Blues 1 (SO)

First Round matchups
• Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks
• Avalanche vs. Coyotes
• Stars vs. Flames
• Blues vs. Canucks

MORE:
• 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule


Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Three of four East playoff matchups set after Capitals take third, Bruins land fourth

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After the Capitals beat the Bruins 2-1 to take the East’s third spot, three of that conference’s four playoff matchups are now set. The 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers proved to be unpredictable with the Flyers in first, Lightning in second, Capitals third, and Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins fourth.

This concludes the East portion of round-robin games. The West side is complete, too, after the Stars beat the Blues in a shootout. We’ll get a totally complete playoff picture league-wide after Game 5 of Maple Leafs – Blue Jackets.

Game 5: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 8 p.m. ET; livestream

T.J. Oshie opened the scoring, while Tom Wilson reminded people of amusing David Pastrnak tweets by nabbing the 2-0 goal that became the game-winner. Once again, the Bruins’ top line didn’t find the net, although David Pastrnak looked spry. It’s also fair to wonder about John Carlson‘s health heading into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three of four Eastern Conference matchups now set for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs

1. Philadelphia Flyers vs. 12. Montreal Canadiens

(Yes, that still feels weird on a few levels.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. winner of Blue Jackets/Maple Leafs Game 5

Who would you prefer to face if you were the Lightning?

3. Washington Capitals vs. 7. New York Islanders

The Capitals vs. former head coach Barry Trotz? Not bad.

4. Boston Bruins vs. 6. Carolina Hurricanes

Tough draw for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins, huh? Boston needs to hope that the Hurricanes got a little rusty after quickly sweeping the Rangers.

All West NHL matchups set for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs

1. Vegas Golden Knights vs. 12. Chicago Blackhawks

Robin Lehner against the team he briefly played for this season? Fun/awkward.

2. Colorado Avalanche vs. 11. Arizona Coyotes

Taylor Hall against Nathan MacKinnon and the rising Avs could make for good theater.

3. Dallas Stars vs. 8. Calgary Flames

Calgary could be a threat, although the Flames have been up-and-down.

4. St. Louis Blues vs. 7. Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks boast quite a bit of starpower for a lower seed (although the West presents multiple lower seeds that, while flawed, have some big names).

MORE:
• 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.