The NHL’s 2020-21 season has been nothing short of spectacular thus far. The defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning continue to prove their greatness, as they’re leading the league in +22 goal differential and tallying 19 points so far in 11 games played. Some things remain the same, while others change with the times.
NHL teams have been dealing with COVID-19 protocol issues as well, so mandatory rules are being changed.
Fans will notice a difference as the respective playing benches have the glass removed behind the players and coaches to have a consistent air flow, thus preventing viral transmission.
Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke about this.,
“With about 20 percent of our season played, we are mindful of the fact that we might be seeing a more aggressive transmission of the virus and will continue to make adjustments to our Protocols as we consult on a daily basis with and adhere to, the recommendations of our medical advisors,” stated Bettman.
Bettman continued: “It is important to note that, while we have seen almost 100 players enter our COVID Protocols, fewer than half have done so because of confirmed positive tests. We won’t hesitate to take additional measures as indicated by what we are learning and as directed by our medical advisers.”
Other changes are happening as well. For example, the NHL is asking teams to add air purifiers to the benches for better air flow among the close and congested area during games. Players and coaches are not permitted to be allowed in the arenas before the games until one hour and 45 minutes before the puck is dropped. The NHL must stay vigilant for the safety of the players in order for the season to continue as is and not needing a bubble scenario.
Still, teams have been impacted by Covid. The Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and other teams who faced off against them have had to deal with protocol headaches. This season is mostly back-to-back games, as the league wanted to limit as much exposure and travel for teams. The NHL will keep a close eye on the pace of players being affected along with any other protocols that need to be shifted.
Besides the Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche are looking to make a run for the Stanley Cup. Both teams have depth in their rosters, along with great goaltending.
Both teams boast star power as well. Toronto’s Auston Matthews is currently leading the league in goals with 11. Colorado has Nathan MacKinnon, who has a team leading 14 points and a more noteworthy 12 assists.
But the star-power isn’t limited to Toronto and Colorado. The Edmonton Oilers have a chance of having back-to-back Hart trophy winners, as reigning winner Leon Draisaitl has 25 points, eight goals and 17 assists. His teammate, Connor McDavid, leads all of the NHL with two more points than Draisaitl, with 27.
Here’s some dark horse teams to lookout for the reminder of the season to make their push for Lord Stanley: the Dallas Stars, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, and Chicago Blackhawks. These teams are showing a lot of upside and if each team can improve in the department of goaltending or defense, they could go far in the playoffs. But that’s neither here nor there. Much more hockey is yet to be played.