BRIGHTON, Mass – The NHL has carefully laid out their plans for the Hub cities in Toronto and Edmonton and spent the last few days describing everything in detail from the in-game experience on television to the expected quality of the ice.
The visual mock-ups make it look like the Stanley Cup playoffs playing out in Times Square and the NHL has already proclaimed "there are no concerns about ice conditions" despite the playoff games being played out in the late summer heat. But the NHL players themselves still have their doubts, including a candid guy in Brad Marchand who's always been unafraid to criticize the ice quality even at his home TD Garden rink during the playoffs.
He didn't hold back on Saturday morning about what he thinks awaits the NHL as the entire team gets ready to load up for Toronto on Sunday.
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"I think it's going to be really sloppy hockey, to be honest with you," said Marchand. "We've been off for four or five months, whatever it's been, and it takes more than a couple of weeks to get it all back and be at the top of your game. And the ice conditions are not going to be good. So I just don't think it's going to be great hockey.
"But we'll all be on the same playing field and we'll have had the same amount of time to get ready. We're just going to have to battle it out, regardless of the situation. It's still going to be intense and hard-fought, and there are going to be some nice plays. But it's going to be a little choppy, especially to start [at the beginning of August.]"
Clearly, the NHL hopes that empty arenas with the lack of body heat and humidity from arena doors opening and closing will keep the ice sheet as pristine as could be for the 2-3 games expected to be played on it every day. The NHL will hold morning skates at different arenas to likewise prevent the ice from getting too chopped up with all the activity.
There is little doubt that things could be a little rough around the edges when the qualifying round games start taking place on Aug. 1, and it's still in question just how much intensity will be brought to the round-robin games amongst the top seeds without much on the line. But, as Marchand alluded to, everybody hopes the Stanley Cup playoff level is close to what it would normally be once the usual four rounds of postseason series get going in Toronto and Edmonton a little less than two weeks into the month of August.