Thoughts on phase 3 and phase 4 of NHL Return to Play

Late last night, the NHL and the NHLPA announced the full details of phases 3 and 4 of the Return to Play format. The details included deadlines to opt out of playing, mask requirements, and roster size. Some of the requirements were common sense. Others, not so much. As per usual, I have thoughts on how it impacts the NY Rangers.

  • First and foremost, giving players until tomorrow to opt out seems short sighted. What if something changes? The whole COVID-19 situation is a fluid situation and things change daily. Is a team really going to punish a player for opting out? What if ten players on one team test positive? That would certainly change my mind. Is a team going to get punished if a player opts out? Maybe more details are needed.
  • The other detail that irks me is not requiring coaches to weak masks on the bench. The mask muffles your voice a little bit, but it’s not profound enough to have a serious impact. The coaches should be wearing masks, if anything, to set the right precedent for the anti-mask clowns. Players should also have full face shields for this one, just as an extra precaution. It’ll look a little like college hockey, but at least everyone is being as safe as possible.
  • How the Rangers handle Kaapo Kakko is going to be interesting. Players with pre-existing conditions will get a pre-participation medical exam, and the team can determine if a player is unfit to play in a pandemic. The Rangers have already said they will clear Kakko to play. But that could change.
  • All of the dates, including the July 13 opening of camp, are subject to change. The entire situation is fluid, and the season can be cancelled at any moment. Two teams have already been forced to suspend operations, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if more teams need to. Makes you wonder what the cut-off will be.
  • The Rangers will be able to carry 30 skaters and as many goalies as possible. Their best chances of winning are dressing all three goalies, stacking them in the crease, and letting Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Adam Fox run wild.
  • In all seriousness, no limitation on the number of goalies benefits the Rangers more than any other team. They have three goalies capable of stealing a series. David Quinn will likely run with the hot hand. That could be any of them, and the speculation will run rampant run to the first lineup is announced.
  • As for the lines, the main question will be how the bottom-six look. It’s a safe guess that Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko will be on the third line. Guessing Phil Di Giuseppe will get the look on the third line with the kids, since Brendan Lemieux is suspended. That leaves some combination of Brett Howden, Julien Gauthier, Greg McKegg, and possibly Micheal Haley for the fourth line.
  • As for the blue line, that’s pretty much set, with Brendan Smith back on the blue line for the playoffs.
  • The wild card(s) here will be the prospects. Vitali Kravtsov is going to push for a spot. There’s a chance Yegor Rykov does as well. Libor Hajek’s name is in the mix, but it looks like he’s been passed on the depth charts already.
  • If all works out, we might be getting hockey soon.

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  • Teams need to set up their roster. You cannot have a team choose 30 players to go to camp, and then 8 days before your first game, have 3 decide they don’t want to play. Players have a choice and a deadline – make a decision.

    If players and coaches get tested very frequently, then I am okay with the coaches not wearing masks. In the NY area, we are much more accepting in the use of masks than elsewhere (see spikes in other states). I get it provides more protection, but then it only makes sense to have them worn at practice and in the locker rooms too. Me thinks it may be too much to ask.

    The league needs to set dates. You may not be happy with those dates, but a little structure is important to everyone.

    • They should wear a mask (and gloves) at all times when they are around the players and staff, it isn’t too much to ask of people who benefit from living in a civilized society. Following the basic protocols established by the CDC (before interference) has always been the best way to combat the spread of the virus — even more so than a short duration lock-down.

    • Actually there is not much in the way of choosing to get to 30 skaters. The Rangers only have 41 skaters on the 50 man roster to begin with. Andersson isn’t coming over and I doubt Reuanen will either. Crawley, Gropp, Ronning Leedahl, Elmer spent all or some of the year in Maine so seem irrelevant. That means the Rangers are picking 30 out of 34. And Fontaine, Haley were seriously hurt at the time the season ended so they may not be available either. Hardly anyone is getting cut, so the Rangers won’t end up shorthanded if three players don’t play.

  • “Their best chances of winning are dressing all three goalies, stacking them in the crease, and letting Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Adam Fox run wild.”

    ^ Dave.. I thought you would have been one of those fans who think that our top 6 can square off against any team. When things go south, Quinn will use Panarin and Zib on the same line. Though I would add ADA in that group as well. Imo he plays like a prime Dan Boyle, the guy dictates the tempo anytime he’s out there with the puck.

    The top 4 teams scare the sh** out of me. Washington might be the softer blow out of them all but with Wilson, Hathaway and Ovi, someone in blue will get hurt. Boston, Tampa and Philly have superior depth, 5v5 scoring, better center depth and overall better special teams. I rather see this team get a chance to draft at #1-2.

  • The NYR will learn an enormous amount about their team during the first series -regardless of protocols, use of masks or test results.

    They will find out if we are legit and where we need help. It seems obvious that our 3rd and 4th lines need a talent upgrade and our 3rd pair needs to step up or receive more sheltered minutes.

    Drop the puck and let’s see what we have against better opponents.

  • Dave, you misunderstand the goaltending situation. Shesterkin may very well be capable of winning the Cup with the current Ranger roster. Lundqvist (certainly) and Georgiev (very likely) are incapable of winning the Cup in 2020 with any of the current teams, much less the Rangers.

    Lundqvist and Georgiev serve as injury replacements and distractions. I think Quinn knows this – I certainly hope he does.

  • I think we’ll see some coaches and staff wearing masks despite the decision to not have to.

    Hard to believe the season can go forth and finish without a hitch…

    But you know me, I’ll stay hopeful.

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