2020 NHL Playoff Schedule: Stanley Cup Qualifying Schedule

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TORONTO – NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took a short break after watching the last exhibition games on Thursday to reflect on the importance of awarding the Stanley Cup in two months – everything should go according to plan.

The magnitude of the task it took to simply reach the point of resuming the game after a four-and-a-half-month hiatus certainly suggests that this year’s celebration has the potential to be a shared experience.

“It’s a very deep question, and I think the answer is that extraordinary times present extraordinary challenges. And it takes an extraordinary group of people with extraordinary effort to get the result you want, ”Bettman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

“If you look at the NHL family as a whole, starting with our fans, our players, our employees in the league office and our club, the focus, determination, desire and effort – provided that we let’s be able to achieve this goal – will have been the ultimate collaboration, ”he added. “I believe that whoever ends up hoisting the Stanley Cup will deserve it in a way we could not have imagined, and probably still not.

The first step towards closing the NHL’s most unique season begins on Saturday, with the start of the expanded playoffs to 24 teams in Toronto and Edmonton, Alta.

A nine-day list of potentially 52 games – based on the results of the best eight of five series – will start with the Carolina Hurricanes against the New York Rangers at noon (East) in Toronto. The top four teams from each conference, meanwhile, will play a round robin series to determine the standings for the first round which begins on August 11.

Rust will certainly play a role, given that the exhibition games of the past three days featured a mixture of sloppy and surreal.

The crisp can take a while to develop after months of no action, and ice conditions will need to be watched in the summer heat – even in empty arenas – with up to three games a day.

With players eager to beat their opponents after weeks of practice and scrum, New York rivals Johnny Boychuk and Brendan Lemieux have dropped the gloves for an old-school hockey brawl.

So much for self-isolation.

Also, be aware of what could impact teams quarantined in a “bubble” at the same hotels – while staying on different floors.

“The risk of weirdness is probably inevitable,” said New York Islanders veteran Cal Clutterbuck.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of headlongs, going right by, maybe just nodding if you run into someone,” he added, before laughing. “I’m sure it will be civil but strange, even if you never know.

Not much seems normal in the age of COVID-19.

Not the mostly empty streets of downtown Toronto, where the hustle and bustle of business crowds and tourists is reduced to a trickle.

The entrances to the Royal York Hotel, where some teams stay, have been fully fenced and covered with a black tarp emblazoned with the NHL and NHL playoff logos, with a noticeable security presence at every point. Entrance.

Although hockey was played inside Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, there was no sign of it outside the building.

Maple Leaf Square, usually packed with crowds of fans, was rather fenced in and the benches used by a handful of NHL and arena staff enjoying a late lunch.

Even the Hockey Hall of Fame was essentially empty. It has averaged around 100 visitors a day since opening two weeks ago, compared to the usual 1,000.

“It’s stable compared to a month ago,” cracked an employee of the Hall of Fame gift shop, pointing to the two customers inside.

For Maple Leafs and Oilers players, the ice advantage does not exist. They will change in the visitor’s locker room when called, and certainly will not sleep in their own bed.

“I think reality set in yesterday for good,” Oilers goaltender Mike Smith said on Monday, a day after the teams moved into their respective bubbles. “You bring your luggage to a hotel room after driving to the ice rink 10 minutes from your house. ”

In Toronto, the city in early August would be in turmoil if it weren’t for the coronavirus.

The Caribbean Carnival, which had lasted for two weeks, was supposed to open this weekend. The Toronto Blue Jays spend their entire season south of the border. And the Canadian National Exhibition, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, is about to open in a few weeks.

Chosen as one of the two poles of the NHL, it is a source of pride for Toronto Mayor John Tory, even if it means fans cannot attend.

“We see ourselves above the rest – like it or not – as the hockey capital of the world, and so that kind of reinforcement reinforces that,” Tory said. And he doesn’t mind that Edmonton is chosen to host the conference final and the Stanley Cup final, even if it means the Maple Leafs win their first championship since 1967 in Alberta.

Tory has already made the first plans for the Cup celebration.

“If it’s going to be a one-car parade with no spectators on Bay Street, we’ll have such a parade,” Tory said. “As long as the only car has the Stanley Cup in it, I don’t care beyond that.

Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault hopes the return of hockey can be a small step towards a return to normalcy.

Vigneault has good reason to be hopeful after spending part of the NHL break in his native Quebec. Her first stop was to visit her parents at a retirement home, where her 87-year-old mother is struggling with dementia.

The two stepped out onto their second-story balcony, from where he had a brief conversation.

“It was a cold day in May, but it was a good day for my mom. She recognized me, ”said Vigneault. “This moment was definitely the highlight of my 40s.

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