Source: NHL's Expanded Pandemic Playoff Format Not Likely To Stay
The NHL's return ushered in a unique playoff format, but "don't expect the magic of this qualifying round format to be replicated anytime soon," according to a source cited by Scott Burnside of THE ATHLETIC. Hockey returned "in a tidal wave" in this unique season. But NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has "long been an opponent of expanding from the normal 16-team playoff grid." A source said that the players in general "aren't clamoring to add more games, especially at the end of a grueling 82-game regular season." But as the NHL "grapples with a flat salary cap for the foreseeable future and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic remains unknown in terms of the economics of the game," it stands to reason that the "idea of adding a play-in element will at least get some airing moving forward." It would have to be a "compelling argument and even then it looks like expanding the playoffs beyond this summer's experiment is still a long-shot." The 16-team Stanley Cup Playoffs officially begin today at 3:00pm ET with Blue Jackets-Lightning in Scotiabank Arena (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/10).
ZERO POSITIVE CASES: ESPN.com's Kaplan & Wyshynski wrote there have been "many extraordinary aspects" to the NHL's return, but "perhaps most notable of all about the restart: How much COVID-19 hasn't impacted it." The first week of testing in Phase 4 produced "zero positive tests." But Bettman said, "We still have a way to go to feel any sort of gratification." Kaplan & Wyshynski write the NHL "did get some lucky bounces." Early on in negotiations with players, the NHL "agreed to have training camps in teams' playing cities," and in the final week of camp, the league said that there were "zero positive confirmed cases." That "feels like somewhat of a miracle." Players and coaches have "spoken glowingly about the protocols put in place." Inside the bubble, the "processes have been smooth, and those inside the restricted zone feel safe." Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said, "It has turned into a routine ... It's been handled very well. Very safe. And very fortunate, compared to what's happening with some other people in the world." Capitals RW Tom Wilson said that testing protocols have "met his expectations." Wilson: "Maybe exceeded them. I think we're pretty lucky -- it's felt pretty normal, pretty seamless" (ESPN.com, 8/10).