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NHL, NHLPA finalize protocols for the 2020 postseason

NHL, NHLPA finalize protocols for the 2020 postseason

At long last, the NHL and NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) have agreed on the protocols under which the season can formally resume. The news was first reported Sunday by TSN's Bob McKenzie. The details of a new CBA that has been negotiated as part of the NHL and NHLPA's efforts to bring back hockey, however, is still being finalized. Hockey cannot resume until both the protocols for 2020 and the new CBA memorandum of understanding are ratified by the league's board of governors, the NHLPA's executive committee and a full membership vote by the players.

The full details of the protocols have not been formally released, but aspects have been leaked over the past week as both sides inched closer to an agreement. As expected, any player will have the option of opting out of Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (resumption of the season) without penalty, but the player must notify the team by July 7.

Teams will also be limited to 30 skaters in Phase 3 with an unlimited number of goalies. In Phase 4, that number goes down to 28 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies so presumably this should not be an issue for most teams. It does, however, allow two extra players in case a team is caught off guard by a player opting out.

In addition, Frank Seravalli reported players' families will be allowed to join the players for the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final which will take place in Edmonton. Elliotte Friedman also reported there will be significant punishments for individuals who try to leave the bubble.

The league formally paused its season on March 12. Since that time, the remainder of the regular season was canceled and the postseason re-structured to include 24 teams. Two round-robin tournaments will take place among the top four teams in the East and West to determine seeding while the remaining teams will all play a best-of-five play-in round. From there, the playoffs will begin with all four remaining rounds being a best-of-seven and with teams being reseeded after each round to determine matchups.

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Braden Holtby takes the blame for critical Game 1 mistakes

Braden Holtby takes the blame for critical Game 1 mistakes

Braden Holtby was the Capitals' best player in the round robin. On Wednesday, he committed two major mistakes that proved to be the difference in Washington's 4-2 Game 1 loss to the New York Islanders and he did not shy away from responsibility afterward.

Late in the second period, the Caps led 2-0 and looked to be in complete control. Then Jordan Eberle took a pass from Mathew Barzal, cut from left to right and fired what should have been a harmless wrister from the top of the faceoff circle. Instead of being an easy save, however, Holtby's body drifted to his right and the puck somehow avoided his raised glove and hit the back of the net.

"First goal obviously can't go in," Holtby said. "I haven't seen a replay of it yet. Can't really tell you too much. I just know it's a bad goal in a bad part of the game. That's on me. That changes the momentum of the game right there."

In the third period, after the Islanders rallied to tie the game at 2, Holtby took a cleared puck on a Caps' power play and tried to casually hand it off to Alex Ovechkin without realizing Brock Nelson charging in after them. Nelson would win possession and pass it off to Josh Bailey who scored the game-winning short-handed goal.

"Shorthanded goal was just more of a miscommunication," Holtby said. "I think I was kind of fighting for it in the sealing and I didn't realize that there wasn't much time there. I should've just held onto it. I thought we had more time. That one's something that we just - you don't want it to happen."

RELATED: OBSERVATIONS FROM GAME 1 OF CAPS VS. ISLANDERS

That's two major mistakes with one proving to be the turning point of the game while the other was the game-winning goal.

While Holtby was quick to put the blame on himself, head coach Todd Reirden said the loss was a collective effort.

“Like the rest of our players, I thought we had a good first half of the game and we needed more from everybody in the second half, not just [Holtby]," Reirden said,

It is interesting to wonder what would happen in Game 2 if Ilya Samsonov was healthy and with the team. Holtby was the team's No. 1 all season, but Samsonov played frequently and, for much of the season, outplayed Holtby. Would Reirden make the goalie change for Game 2 if that option was available?

With Samsonov injured, however, this question is purely hypothetical. With the team's two goalie choices behind Holtby being Vitek Vanecek and Pheonix Copley, a goalie switch for Game 2 is not even worth considering. The only solution is for Holtby and the team to forget about Game 2 and remember that it's a long series and Washington is by no means out of it.

"I think we have an experienced enough group to know that one game doesn't make a series," Hotlby said. "It's how you respond to it, it's how you do the little things, learn from the game that you just played and find ways to play them better. I think to push forward from a game like today is one that I want to make sure that I have my best game come next game and as a group, I think individually if we all expect more of ourselves then that's how we've won in the past and that's how we're gonna do it again. First game in the series doesn't say much about how it's gonna go. It's how you respond from here on out."

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The Capitals are not happy about Anders Lee's hit on Nicklas Backstrom

The Capitals are not happy about Anders Lee's hit on Nicklas Backstrom

John Carlson did not play at all in the round robin and finally returned to action on Wednesday in Game 1 against the New York Islanders. But just on his second shift Carlson, not someone known for fighting, dropped the gloves with Islanders captain Anders Lee. Why? Because Lee had just delivered a late hit to the chest to the unsuspecting Nicklas Backstrom and Carlson was not happy about it. Not one bit.

"It looked real dirty to me," Carlson said. "I think when a guy is kind of coming up and kind of looking back at the pass, I've heard it a lot over the years that they're trying to take that out of the game. More than anything, as a player that's been around, you kind of sense the impact. Nicky doesn't get hit very often, so that should tell you all you need to know. He's probably one of the most aware players in the league. That was my reaction to what happened."

The hit appeared to be to the chest of Backstrom, but the puck was long gone by that point so it was very clearly late. It also seemed to be made worse by the fact that Backstrom did not appear ready for the hit, perhaps because the puck was not close. An unprepared Backstrom was then dropped to the ice by the hit.

Backstrom played only 7:21 for the game and did not appear in the second or third period.

RELATED: BACKSTROM EXITS GAME 1

Carlson was not the only one who was upset following the game.

"It looked extremely late," T.J. Oshie said of the hit. "In the frame I saw, there wasn't even a puck, and it still looked late. It's hard seeing a leader and a player like Backy is not only for our team, but pretty good role model as far as in the NHL, go down like that on a late, cheap play. It's out of our hands."

Head coach Todd Reirden did not have an update after the game saying Backstrom was continued to be evaluated. But even if he did not have much to say on Backstrom's health, he had plenty to say about the hit itself.

“[Backstrom’s] continuing to get looked at," Reirden said. "Obviously, he couldn’t finish the game. It was a late hit on an unexpected player that was in a spot [where] he was extremely vulnerable. So those are some things we saw there. It’s as simple as that. Like I said, late hit, the player wasn’t expecting it and it’s predatory.”

Not surprisingly, the Islanders saw the hit differently.

"I tried to throw the breaks on a little bit there, but I caught him, the end result after that a penalty, a couple of fights."

"It was one of those plays if you come laterally, especially with congestion at the blue line and Anders was making a hockey play. Anders is a strong guy."

Perhaps the biggest difference of opinion between the two teams is what this means going forward. Clearly the Caps thought the hit was dirty and warrants supplementary discipline. The Islanders, however, think the matter is settled.

"It was settled and then the game continued on," Lee said.

"I think the hit was made, they responded, Wilson went after Lee, they fought and that's probably the end of it," Trotz said. "We'll see."

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