Jake Walman testing positive for coronavirus at the end of the season caught the Saint-Louis Blues off guard.
“Everyone was a little shocked because he was vaccinated,” said Blues top scorer David Perron.
Walman was retested and sent to quarantine with COVID-19, his teammate Nathan Walker also tested positive, and then Perron joined them on the NHL protocol list – missing all four games of a first-round sweep by the Colorado.
The Blues weren’t alone as the virus wreaked havoc in the first round of the playoffs despite a high vaccination rate around the NHL: Washington was hampered in the home stretch and in its first two playoff games without Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov available. The Capitals lasted a game longer than St. Louis, but were ousted by Boston earlier this week.
“It’s unfortunate and it shows that [vaccination is] not perfect, ”Perron said on Tuesday. “It’s a tough rebound for the three guys who got it.”
Since the start of the playoffs on May 15, only the Blues and Capitals have players on the league’s protocol list: Perron, Walker, Walman, Kuznetsov and Samsonov. St. Louis was not a game for Presidents Trophy-winning Colorado without several key players, including some injured, and Washington was defeated by the Bruins in five games after things went wrong.
While Perron said he had symptoms for a few days, Kuznetsov’s situation was a bit of a scraper. He and Samsonov missed several weeks earlier in the season with symptomatic COVID-19, but he said he was fine this time around despite testing positive.
” The rules [say] if you have tested positive for COVID, they will retest the test and if it [came back] positive, you need to quarantine for 10 days, ”Kuznetsov said. “So you go for [a] a few physical days, then you can skate with the team after 14 days. “
While Kuznetsov and Samsonov were out for two weeks, the Capitals missed the opportunity to finish first in the Eastern Division. They skated just four days before joining the roster midway through the series amid other major absences and played three games before Washington ended the season.
Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly said he believes nine of the 12 U.S. playoff teams have met the 85% “fully immunized” threshold required for relaxed antivirus protocols, which began early in the playoffs. Eight of the remaining 10 are at this level; defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning are the only team to date to confirm their fully vaccinated status.
The Northern Division’s four playoff teams are currently unable to make it due to Canada’s plan to delay second doses of vaccine. That division fell to three after Winnipeg swept over Edmonton.
The NHL Players Association has advised players that getting the vaccine prevents death and hospitalization from COVID-19, not 100% protection against contracting the virus.
Perron thought his was a false positive before re-tests showed he had a rupture infection.
The NHL last week investigated test irregularities that led to multiple false positives for the Vegas Blues and Golden Knights and found it to be a lab error. Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said his team had nine false positives in one day.
“It wasn’t a pleasant experience,” DeBoer said. “Obviously, incredible worry and worry about what this means and what it’s going to look like for your team in the future. [so] we waited. I think once we heard that there were several teams in the same situation, I think we started to put two and two together and realize that it was probably one. lab error and that’s what it turned out to be.
Perron expressed frustration that the regular season schedule was shifted when teams had outbreaks and the Blues’ playoff series was not delayed for their cases.
“As a team we’re going all year clean, basically one of the only teams in the NHL, and we’ve been through games that have been called off and everything,” Perron said. “It’s disappointing to go through all the time and that’s where it ends.”
After 51 postponed regular season games, none have had to be postponed so far in the playoffs. The only potential fear was Game 2 between Colorado and St. Louis, which took place after a league investigation.
“You always worry about false positives, but it’s been a concern all year round and doesn’t really relate to vaccine status,” Daly said in an email. “I imagine the worry has diminished considerably in a more vaccinated environment.”
Perron’s last day of protocol was Game 4, when St. Louis was knocked out of the playoffs. Although he felt like he played the worst part, Perron understood the situation and just wished it had turned out differently so he could dress up.
“I was just hoping that at least the boys would get a win there because there’s a chance I might have been able to play” in Game 5, he said. “I just wanted to be there, find a way out and who knows what can happen.”