Why the Flyers had games postponed due to COVID but the Capitals didn't

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J.J. Regan
·4 min read
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Why Flyers had games postponed due to COVID but Caps didn't originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

In January came the stunning news that the Capitals would be without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov for at least four games after all four players were placed on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol-related absence list. That was four key players out of the Caps lineup, but the team had to push through.

In recent weeks, however, we have seen the league postpone multiple games due to COVID concerns including Tuesday's game between Washington and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Per a release from the league, the game was postponed, "as a result of a second Philadelphia Flyers Player entering the NHL's COVID Protocols earlier today."

On Sunday, Travis Sandheim was the only Flyers player on the protocol list. When the list was released on Tuesday, three Flyers were on it: Sandheim, Justin Braun and Claude Giroux.

Wait, let me get this straight. The Caps lost four key players to the protocol list and were forced to play and yet the NHL postponed Tuesday's game because Philadelphia was without just three?

Conspiracy!

Outrage!

Rabble, rabble, rabble!

Despite what you may think, this is not a conspiracy against the Caps. This is not the league thumbing its nose at Washington. The fact is that what led to Tuesday's postponement is actually completely different than what happened to Washington in January. The NHL was not being hypocritical at all and, in fact, made the right decision.

Let's be clear, Tuesday's game was not postponed because Philadelphia was missing three players. It was postponed because of the fear of an outbreak within the Flyers that could get worse and also spread to the Caps if the game was played.

To better understand what I mean, let's look at what happened between New Jersey and Buffalo.

The Devils and Sabres had a two-game series on Jan. 30 and 31. The first game was played and then, prior to the second on Jan. 31, Devils forward Kyle Palmieri was added to the protocol list after playing over 18 minutes the day before. Yet, the game on Jan. 31 was played as scheduled and soon after, both teams suffered large outbreaks of the coronavirus. Neither team has played since.

As of Tuesday, Buffalo still had nine players on the protocol list, not including head coach Ralph Krueger who has also tested positive, and all of its games are postponed up to Feb. 15. New Jersey still has 19 players on the protocol list and all of its games are postponed up to Feb. 16.

Once Palmieri was placed on the protocol list after playing on Jan. 30, the game on Jan. 31 should have never happened. It did and both teams have been dealing with the consequences ever since.

Braun played over 17 minutes in Sunday's game for the Flyers against the Caps and Giroux over 16 minutes.

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By postponing Tuesday's game, the league is showing that it has learned its lesson from New Jersey/Buffalo. It was being proactive in limiting whatever exposure could have taken place on Sunday and preventing any further outbreak that could happen as a result of both teams playing again on Tuesday.

This is an entirely different situation from what happened to Washington with its four players.

The Caps became aware that Samsonov tested positive for the coronavirus on Jan. 19 following a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in which Samsonov did not play. Through contact tracing, it was discovered the other three players had spent time with Samsonov in a hotel room in violation of the league's safety protocols and they were added to the protocol list. As the team's next game was not until Jan. 22, through testing the league could be reasonably sure that exposure of the virus was limited to just those four players. With no risk of a further outbreak, there was no reason to postpone any Caps games.

None of the games the league has postponed this season have been just to help a team out because it is missing players. For those who think the NHL was punishing the Caps by forcing them to play, that's just not the case.

The bottom line is that Tuesday's game was not postponed because three Flyers players are on the protocol list and the NHL decided to do them a favor. The game was postponed as a precaution to prevent an outbreak between Washington and Philadelphia similar to what happened to New Jersey and Buffalo.

It's not hypocritical. It's smart and it was the right decision.