Bruins

Why aren't Bruins players back skating yet? Here's what's 'gummed things up'

Why aren't Bruins players back skating yet? Here's what's 'gummed things up'

While NBA players on teams like the Boston Celtics began getting back to work at their practice facilities this week, Bruins players and their brothers across the NHL are still in a bit of a holding pattern when it comes to getting back into playing shape.

Some like 43-year-old Bruins captain Zdeno Chara have already traveled back to the Boston area to get ready for small, informal practices that will happen when the league moves to Phase 2 of the return-to-play program. Some others undoubtedly have found smaller, local rinks to at least get back on the ice and begin skating again while also still practicing social distancing.

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But the NHL doesn’t want a staggered opening of NHL practice facilities when some teams skating together earlier than others could give them a potential competitive advantage when it does come time to return to play.

What’s holding up the NHL at this point with so many states around the United States beginning to open back up things like athletic practice facilities?

In a nutshell, the NHL won’t let Phase 2 begin until all 31 teams can safely and legally open up their practice facilities and there are still complications with the Canadian cities when it comes to practicing, or when it comes to foreign-born players not being allowed to head back to Canada from other places around the world.

Until that changes, the NHL will still be on pause with July 10 as the earliest date being looked at when NHL training camps could start in earnest with a goal of returning to play in the 24-team tournament in late July/early August. That all could and should change over the next week or two, but there are no concrete indications when exactly it is going to happen.

“We need to find out and find out very quickly. It’s early June and the NHL and NHLPA have indicated that they want to initiate Phase 2 in early June. That’s now. I think we’re going to learn a lot this week and drifting into next week,” said TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger during an NBC Sports Boston Zoom call with his Ray & Dregs Hockey Podcast partner -- TSN Hockey Analyst Ray Ferraro -- earlier this week. “You talk to people around the league and players are already beginning to return to their NHL cities, so as soon as it’s safe to initiate Phase 2 they are going to do that. The tricky part is that Canada, and the seven Canadian teams, are holding things up a little bit. And that’s not on the NHL.

“Health Canada and the provincial officials and the federal government here in Canada are being incredibly careful. I’m appreciative of that and so is Ray [Ferraro]. We both live in Canada. But it’s gummed things up a little bit, no question about that, in terms of the NHL moving things forward.”

Ferraro, the longtime NHLer with 18 years in the league, including a memorable stint with the Hartford Whalers at the beginning of his career, likened the current NHL stage to the very beginnings of building an entire house.

“What I got from when we talked to the commissioner [on the Ray & Dregs Hockey Podcast] is that they’ve got this plan, but now it’s like if you’re building a house and you’ve poured the foundation and put the studs up,” said Ferraro. “Now they’re trying to fill in everything else inside the studs. Each time you finish one thing there is something else that comes up. Even just in the conversation we had, you start running ahead on what you need to accomplish just to get [the NHL] back as safely as possible… never mind whether you like the format or whether the Bruins as the best team in the season are getting the short end of the stick, which they kind of are ... but that doesn’t even matter right now.

It’s about can you even execute an incredibly complicated and detailed plan? For me that’s what this is about first and foremost, is can you even execute it?

The United States recently signed an order that made professional athletes essential workers, which enables them to travel back into the country from other areas of the world in order to return to their NHL cities.

The COVID-19 restrictions in Canada could also eliminate Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton from consideration when it comes to the two designated hub cities that the NHL narrowed down to 10 candidates last week when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman discussed the league’s return-to-play plan.

The best guess is that the NHL’s Phase 2 should begin in the next two weeks with groups of six NHL players on the ice at the same time in informal, voluntary settings, but stay tuned on exactly when that might happen for the Bruins and the other 23 teams still alive in the NHL's postseason format.

NHL round robin, qualifying series schedule 2020: Dates, scores for every game

NHL round robin, qualifying series schedule 2020: Dates, scores for every game

The NHL is officially returning to play.

The league and NHLPA ratified the Return to Play Plan and a new CBA deal Friday, paving the way for the 2019-20 season to finish. The regular season is over, but the league is not yet jumping into the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

The top four teams in each conference will determine their seeding for the first round by playing a round robin format. The teams ranked No. 5 through No. 12 in each conference will square off in a qualifying round that will use a Best-of-5 series format. The four winners of the qualifying series in each conference will be matched up against the top four teams for the first round based on seeding.

These games will take place in two host cities. The Eastern Conference games will be played at Scotiabank Place in Toronto, and the Western Conference matchups will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Here's the schedule for every round robin game and qualifying round series. Check back to this article after each game for scores and updated schedules.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND ROBIN
Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1
Monday, Aug. 3:  Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Lightning vs. Bruins
Thursday, Aug. 6: Capitals vs. Flyers
Sunday, Aug. 8: Flyers vs. Lightning
Saturday, Aug. 9: Bruins vs. Capitals

QUALIFYING ROUND
(No. 5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (No. 12) Montreal Canadiens
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (OT)
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Canadiens vs. Penguins
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Penguins vs. Canadiens
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Penguins vs. Canadiens*
Game 5, Saturday, Aug. 8: Canadiens vs. Penguins*

(No. 6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (No. 11) New York Rangers
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1
Game 3, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers
Game 4, Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Game 5, Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

(No. 7) New York Islanders vs. (No. 10) Florida Panthers
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Panthers vs. Islanders
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Islanders vs. Panthers
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders vs. Panthers*
Game 5, Sunday, Aug. 9: Panthers vs. Islanders*

(No. 8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (No. 9) Columbus Blue Jackets
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs
Game 3, Thursday, Aug. 6: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets*
Game 5, Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND ROBIN
Sunday, Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1
Monday, Aug. 3: Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche vs. Stars
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights vs. Blues
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights vs. Avalanche
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars vs. Blues

QUALIFYING ROUND
(No. 5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (No. 12) Chicago Blackhawks
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks 6, Oilers 4
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Blackhawks vs. Oilers
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Oilers vs. Blackhawks
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Oilers vs. Blackhawks*
Game 5, Saturday, Aug. 8: Blackhawks vs. Oilers*

(No. 6) Nashville Predators vs. (No. 11) Arizona Coyotes
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Coyotes vs. Predators
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Predators vs. Coyotes
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes*
Game 5, Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators*

(No. 7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (No. 10) Minnesota Wild
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild 3, Canucks 0
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Wild vs. Canucks
Game 3, Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks vs. Wild
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks vs. Wild*
Game 5, Sunday, Aug. 9: Wild vs. Canucks*

(No. 8) Calgary Flames vs. (No. 9) Winnipeg Jets
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Flames 4, Jets 1
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Jets vs. Flames
Game 3, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames vs. Jets
Game 4, Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames vs. Jets*
Game 5, Saturday, Aug. 8: Jets vs. Flames*
*If necessary

Christmas in August: Thoughts on Bruins, Celtics after their return

Christmas in August: Thoughts on Bruins, Celtics after their return

Winter sports are back at a furious pace.

If you're like me and spent much of the weekend absorbing constant NHL and NBA, the "Bruins and Celtics games" part of your brain is probably close to overheating after running for the first time in a while.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat, which begins Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Here are some thoughts from the B's and C's returning.  

♦ The best way to spin the Bruins' loss to the Flyers is to say that they don't care about seeding and were just easing back in.

I'll doubt that logic and just say they were horrible. Maybe the only positive was that the Coyle line looked good. Especially thanks to the play of Anders Bjork, that third line was a primary reason the Bruins probably came out of the first period feeling like the better team.

The rest? Whoof. Jack Studnicka did not look ready for a top-6 role and David Krejci seemed less than inspired; those could be related. The Bergeron line wasn't good; that for sure can't be a thing in the playoffs given the uncertainty of the rest of the lineup. The best team in the regular season still has no idea what its lines are and that's a major concern for me. 

♦ I thought the Flyers game was the Bruins' best chance at two points in the round robin. We’ll see how the Lightning and Capitals look today; it's possible the B's could win the next two, but we shouldn't be expecting the top seed anymore. 

♦ Jaroslav Halak was was on a long list of players who did not have it Sunday.

If Tuukka Rask was in net — especially on that fourth goal — alarms would be sounding, but then again he wasn't available with only two more chances to get prepared for the playoffs. Perhaps we should be sounding alarms either way.

Hopefully the Bruins can give Rask the next two games, because whoever they get in the first round is gonna be in playoff form. The Bruins are far from it right now. 

♦ By the end of the night, the Canadiens will either be tied with the Penguins or up two games to none and on the verge of pulling a major upset. I'd welcome the matchup if I were the Bruins, but they wouldn't get it in the first round anyway if they miss out on the top seed. 

♦ Sunday's Celtics game was hilarious, as is the fact that I’m not freaking out more over blowing a TWENTY-FOUR POINT LEAD. Why? Because Jaylen Brown had that “I decide who wins this game” mentality in the second half.

Brilliant, and he’s one of three guys I trust to do that on this team. 

♦ At 1-1 since returning, I feel good about the Celtics. Not because I'm happy that Kemba has played well despite being on a minutes restriction. That is what it is. I wasn't worried about Tatum stinking Friday; that seemed like a weird one-game thing, and it was. 

I feel good because of Gordon Hayward. He’s not on that short list of closers I just referenced and I'm not sure we'll ever stop asking if he is "back," but he's averaging 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds through two games, both of which are well above his season averages.

I already think the Celtics are the team to beat in the East. If Kemba's knee is OK — which will remain an "if" every second of the postseason for me — and if Hayward plays like he's played, I'm even more convinced of it. 

♦ Overall, I think the NHL and NBA’s returns to play have been splendid. I got out when I could this weekend, but it was a lot of two-TV time with constant texting about which game to put on/which game was interesting gambling-wise. With no disrespect meant to other sports, these are leagues that had left so much unsettled, and it's finally happening in a way that grabs our attention all day.

What a beautiful thing. 

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