Coronavirus: NHL players disagree on timing, format of playoffs

Omnisport

A quartet of veteran NHL players pushed back against the idea of starting the Stanley Cup playoffs immediately when play is allowed to resume following the coronavirus hiatus.

Pacific Division captains Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings, Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks – along with Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury – were on the conference call.

On Thursday, Metropolitan Division stars – notably Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin – said that they would prefer to skip the rest of the regular season when play continues, but not everyone in the league is onboard.

"You want to play a few games just to get into the thick of things," Kopitar said on Friday. "I don't think starting the playoffs right away would be the best idea."

Fleury added that jumping directing back into crucial games could be particularly difficult for fellow goaltenders.

"The biggest thing as a goaltender is timing," he said. "Whatever you do even in the summer to train and practice, when you get to camp you see NHL shots and the speed of the game – that's something you have to catch up on. I think it would be nice to have a few [games] to get back into it."

Another topic of discussion around the league has been alternative playoff formats, regardless of when they start.

Some, including New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban, have advocated for a 31-team playoff format, giving the entire league the chance to hoist the Stanley Cup.

Getzlaf, who won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007, would like to see a format that is as close to normal as possible.

"Getting back on the ice would be a great thing – to be able to finish out this season properly and make sure we protect the integrity of the game," Getzlaf said.

"You can't just throw out some weird playoff format and play for the Stanley Cup ... there is history there that we have to take into consideration as well."

Getzlaf, whose Ducks are 11 points back of a wildcard slot in the Western Conference, joked that he, Couture and Kopitar, whose teams have also struggled this season, would not have to worry much about the playoff format. Fleury's Golden Knights lead the Pacific Division with 86 points.

There may be plenty of time for the NHL to decide on how it wants the rest of this season to play out, as its coronavirus hiatus continues without an end in sight.

The league announced on Thursday that it had extended its self-quarantine policy to combat the spread of COVID-19, asking players and other personnel to stay away from team facilities at least through April 7.

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