Matt Grzelcyk

NHL not planning to quarantine players for training camps

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Jason Spezza‘s confidence in the NHL returning has not been shaken by word of 11 fellow players testing positive for the coronavirus.

Given his involvement in NHL Players’ Association talks, the veteran Toronto forward knew from doctors’ input there would be positive test results in hockey just as there have been in other sports as group workouts ramp up across North America.

Those very well may continue to happen with training camps scheduled to open July 10, yet deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed Thursday the league and NHLPA are not considering putting teams in quarantined ”bubbles” for those mandatory sessions. Instead, players are being instructed to stay home when not at the rink, with the hope that frequent testing and health protocols will prevent any outbreaks before, hopefully, games resume in two ”hub” cities in late July.

”I’m pretty confident that once we get into hub cities, we’ll be able to do a good job of keeping it out,” Spezza said. ”I think getting there is going to be the challenge, and that’s where it takes a little bit of discipline for us as players to make sure we don’t kind of derail the plans.”

The league and players are still working to finalize a return-to-play agreement that would entail a 24-team playoff to award the Stanley Cup. It’s understood that players, coaches and staff would be quarantined from the general public for the duration of the playoffs and tested regularly.

Until arriving in one of those cities as early as July 23 or 24, players and their families are still out in the real world and face the risk of exposure.

”You have a whole bunch of people in close proximity to each other for prolonged periods of time, they may be traveling together exposed to other individuals that you don’t know who they’ve been exposed to,” Atrium Health medical director of infection prevention Katie Passaretti said. ”Any time you’re bringing groups together and then sending them back out into the world, there’s potential for further spread if one of those individuals was asymptotically infected or early in the stages of symptomatic infection.”

The U.S. recorded 34,500 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, just shy of the peak of infections set in late April.

”There’s lots of people everywhere testing positive,” said Spezza, who’s in his 17th NHL season. ”Us as players, we realize there’s going to be some risk of a positive test, especially in the phases that we’re in right now.”

Voluntary workouts of up to six players on the ice at a time were able to begin June 8, with that limit increased to 12 this week amid stringent safety protocols. In other sports, Major League Baseball closed its training facilities in Florida and Arizona, and the NFLPA told its members to stop private workouts in light of rising coronavirus numbers in some places.

The Tampa Bay Lightning closed their facilities last week after three players and additional staff tested positive. The NHL announced 11 positives among more than 200 players tested.

”It’s definitely eye-opening to hear, but at the same time, looking back going into it, you certainly expect that to pop up,” Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk said. ”You see more and more cases popping up across the league and that’s to be expected, as well. But at the same time, it’s still a little nerve-wrecking.”

Two weeks away from the scheduled start of camps and less than a month from when games might begin, some players still have questions.

”Obviously health and safety is the biggest,” Montreal goaltender Carey Price said. ”Being able to come to a situation where you don’t have to worry about contracting COVID-19 is huge. To ‘bubble’ the players and feel safe in your work environment is going to be probably the most paramount.”

Players are expected to be tested daily once competition starts, and they will be isolated with each other. Even with frequent testing during camps, it seems to be incumbent on players, coaches, staff and those around them to be particularly vigilant away from hockey.

”As everything around us starts opening up, we almost have to tighten up because we’re going back to play,” Spezza said. ”We have to be probably a little more careful as we get closer to training camp here.”

One concern is for coaches and executives in the older age range that makes them more vulnerable to the virus. The Canadiens said 60-year-old coach Claude Julien intends on being behind the bench because ”he has full confidence in the league’s ability to set in place the security measures necessary to ensure the safety of it all.”

Training camp, when upwards of 30 players will be together, is the first test of those procedures.

”I think everybody’s doing the best possible job they can to put everyone in the best position to stay healthy, and that’s the No. 1 priority is health and safety of the players and everyone else involved,” Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray said. ”Nothing is going to be perfect.”

Looking at the 2019-20 Boston Bruins

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Boston Bruins.

Boston Bruins

Record: 44-14-12 (70 games), first in the Atlantic Division, first in the Eastern Conference
Leading scorer: David Pastrnak — 95 points (48 goals and 47 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves:

• Acquired Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks for David Backes, Axel Andersson, 2020 first-round pick
• Traded Danton Heinen to the Anaheim Ducks for Nick Ritchie

Season Overview: 

There isn’t much to complain about this season if you’re a fan of the Bruins. Not only did they have the best record in the Atlantic Division, they were also the top team in the Eastern Conference and they were the only squad to hit the 100-point mark at the COVID-19 pause.

After losing in the Stanley Cup Final last year, it appeared as though they’d be back there in 2020. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but this edition of the Bruins was impressive.

It’s easy to see why Boston was so good this year. Sure, most fans feel like they’re still missing a second-line forward to complete their team, but you know you’re in good shape when that’s all you’re really missing on your roster.

In goal, they arguably have the best one-two punch in the league with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Is that a luxury they’ll be able to afford next year? Probably not. But they were both rock-solid throughout the season. Rask went into the pause with a 26-8-6 record, a 2.12 goals-against-average and a .929 save percentage. As for Halak, he had an 18-6-6 record, a 2.39 goals-against-average and a .919 save percentage. Impressive.

The defence is balanced. They have Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk. Each one of those five has played at least 61 of the team’s 70 games this season. The group might not be together next year, as Krug is scheduled to become a free agent, but they were impressive heading into the pause.

And, of course, up front they had some of the elite offensive talent in the NHL. Pastrnak finds himself in third in league scoring with 95 points. He’s also tied for first in goals, with 48. He’s emerged as one of the premiere forwards in the NHL and he’s signed to a very reasonable contract of $6.6666 million per year for three more years.

Pastrnak was a big part of the Bruins’ success, but he had help. Brad Marchand has 87 points in 70 games at the pause and Patrice Bergeron is up to 31 goals and 56 points in 61 contests.

How far can the Bruins go? Maybe we’ll find out, maybe we won’t. But there’s no denying this was an elite team in 2019-20.

Highlight of the Season So Far:

There were many highlights for the Bruins this season, but putting up eight goals on your biggest rivals’ rink has to be right up there.

On Nov. 26, Boston beat Montreal, 8-1, at the Bell Center. Pastrnak had a hat trick, Marchand had three points and Bergeron didn’t even play.

MORE:
Bruins’ biggest surprises, disappointments
What is the Bruins’ long-term outlook?

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Bruins end Flyers’ winning streak at 9 games

The Bruins brought the Flyers’ winning streak to an end at nine games on Tuesday, winning 2-0. With this win, the Bruins reached the 100-point mark before any other NHL team. This also represents three 100+ point seasons in as many years for underrated Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.

Rask looks sharp as Bruins end Flyers’ streak

If you want to chalk the Bruins’ win up to one factor, it would be brilliant goaltending by Tuukka Rask. The Bruins (and Flyers, in another way) leaned especially hard on Rask through the first 40 minutes, as Philly couldn’t score despite a 24-14 shots on goal advantage over the first and second periods.

Rask ultimately ended up making 35 saves for his fifth shutout of 2019-20. That’s quite a way for Rask to celebrate his 33rd birthday.

The Flyers have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and not just during this winning streak that just ended. Via Natural Stat Trick, Philly’s 12.35 shooting percentage topped all NHL teams over the past 25 games (coming into Tuesday). Of course, the Flyers haven’t had to shoot against Rask during that run.

Matt Grzelcyk scored the opening goal late in the second period, while Patrice Bergeron beat Carter Hart for the 2-0 insurance marker in the third.

This represents the Flyers’ first loss since Feb. 15. The Flyers had a chance to move ahead of the Capitals for the Metropolitan Division lead, but that will need to wait. (Washington’s at 90 points in 69 games played, while Philly sits at 89 in 69.)

It’s looking increasingly likely that the Bruins will hold off the Lightning for the Atlantic title, and probably the Presidents’ Trophy with that.

Really, the bigger challenge might come down to finding the right balance between keeping Rask and other veterans hot versus keeping key players rested.

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.

WATCH LIVE: Flyers host Bruins on NBCSN

Flyers Bruins Livestream
Getty

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins have been the NHL’s two best teams over the past 25 games and they meet on Tuesday night on NBCSN.

The Flyers enter the game riding a league-best nine-game winning streak and are looking to take over first place in the Metropolitan Division. Starting goalie Carter Hart also looks to continue his nearly unbeatable play on home ice.

Boston, meanwhile, is starting to run away with the top spot in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference playoff races. Winger David Pastrnak is also not only emerging as a potential MVP candidate, he is closing in on the 50-goal mark and is in a back-and-forth race with Alex Ovechkin for the goal scoring title.

Pre-game coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN while puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET from Philadelphia.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

 

WHAT: Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers
WHERE: Wells Fargo Center
WHEN: Tuesday, March 10, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Bruins-Flyers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS

Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Nick RitchieDavid KrejciOndrej Kase
Sean KuralyCharlie CoyleJake DeBrusk
Joakim NordstromPar LindholmChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk – Jeremy Lauzon
John MooreConnor Clifton

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

FLYERS

Claude GirouxSean CouturierJakub Voracek
Joel FarabeeKevin HayesTravis Konecny
Scott LaughtonDerek GrantTyler Pitlick
Michael RafflNate Thompson – Aube-Kubel

Nate Provorov – Matt Niskanen
Travis SanheimJustin Braun
Robert HaggShayne Gostisbehere

Starting goalie: Carter Hart

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.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins visit Red Wings on NBC

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After beating Buffalo on Thursday to snap a nine-game losing streak, the Red Wings lost 2-0 at Columbus on Friday. Detroit was outshot 44-16 against Columbus, the second time in the past three games that the Red Wings have been held to just 16 shots. They have now been shut out in three of their last four games.

The Red Wings, perennial contenders during their recent 25-season playoff streak, are headed towards missing the postseason for the fourth straight year. They are currently in their longest playoff drought since 1979 to 1983, when they missed the postseason in five straight seasons.

The Bruins have won six straight games, outscoring their opponents 21-7. It is their third winning streak of at least six games this season. They have the best defense in the NHL this season, allowing 2.38 goals/game. They have allowed two or fewer goals in each of their last six games during this current winning streak.

David Pastrnak has 38 goals this season (3rd in NHL). However, Pastrnak has just one goal in his last six games as he looks to become the first Bruin to score 40 goals in a season since Glen Murray in 2002-03 (44 goals). Pastrnak, who held a four-goal lead over Auston Matthews as the top scorer in the league on January 12, now sits two goals behind both Matthews and Alex Ovechkin (40 goals).

With Tuukka Rask playing against Arizona on Saturday, Jaroslav Halak is set to start against Detroit. Halak has been excellent as Rask’s backup, going 14-6-6 with a 2.36 GAA and .921 SV% this season.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET ON NBC]

WHAT: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings
WHERE: Little Caesars Arena
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 9, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Bruins-Red Wings stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS
Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciKarson Kuhlman
Sean KuralyCharlie CoyleAnders Bjork
Anton BlidhPar LindholmChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt GrzelcykJohn Moore

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

RED WINGS
Justin AbdelkaderDylan LarkinRobby Fabbri
Tyler BertuzziValtteri FilppulaBrendan Perlini
Taro Hirose – Andreas AthanasiouLuke Glendening
Adam ErneChristoffer EhnGivani Smith

Patrik NemethAlex Biega
Madison BoweyFilip Hronek
Trevor Daley – Gustav Lindstrom

Starting goalie: Jonathan Bernier

Mike Emrick and Brian Boucher will call the matchup from Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich. Kathryn Tappen hosts studio coverage with Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.