New York Rangers
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The NHL hasn’t finalized any details, but its determination to complete the regular season benefits the New York Rangers.

Frank Curto

The New York Rangers may have a chance to finish what they started.

A joint statement between the NHL and NHLPA on Wednesday indicated that both sides feel a completion of the regular season along with a full Stanley Cup Playoff remains a strong option.

“NEW YORK/TORONTO (April 29, 2020) – Following the NHL/NHLPA Return to Play Committee’s meeting today, and in line with guidance provided by medical experts and national and local authorities, the NHLPA and the NHL issued the following statement regarding the continuing pause in the 2019-20 season:

Despite numerous reports and speculation over the last several days, the NHL and the NHLPA have not made any decisions or set a timeline for possible return to play scenarios.

Given recent developments in some NHL Clubs’ local communities, we are now looking ahead to a Phase 2 of the transition period that would follow the currently recommended Phase 1 period of “self-quarantine” by Players and Hockey Staff.

The precise date of transition to Phase 2, during which play might return to small group activities in NHL Club training facilities, remains undetermined. However, provided that conditions continue to trend favorably — and, subject to potential competitive concerns as between disparately situated markets — we believe we may be able to move to Phase 2 at some point in the mid-to-late portion of May. Specific guidelines governing Player and Hockey Staff activity would be provided at that time.

In the meantime, we expect Players and Hockey Staff to continue to adhere to the recommended guidelines put in place when the season was paused on March 12.

The Return to Play Committee will continue to meet regularly.”

Obviously, it’s great to see that hockey could come back sometime in the summer, considering the fact that the Rangers are on the bubble when it comes to locking in a playoff spot.

The club is hoping that the NHL decides to complete the regular season and opt not to jump directly into the playoffs. When commissioner Gary Bettman ordered the pause, the NHL had 189 regular-season games remaining on its schedule.

Twelve of those matchups involved the Rangers.

As the statement indicates, Phase 1 is about to come to its conclusion. Phase 2 would allow teams, in small groups, to practice in some states. Obviously, the health of staff and the players is the most important.

Coming home

With the announcement, players should receive the official word to return to their home cities, which may be harder than just booking a flight.

For players like Mika Zibanejad, Henrik Lundqvist, and Kaapo Kakko, traveling back from Sweden and Finland would most certainly involve a 14-day quarantine period upon returning to New York.

The joint statement indicated that Phase 2 could start in mid-May. Players would thus have to begin the journey back to New York and begin quarantining within the next week.

Playoffs? Playoffs?

Here is where things could become odd for the Blueshirts, as there are two rumored scenarios to return to the ice.

The first, and least likely at this point, would be to do so without completing the regular season. The NHL would take the top six teams in each division, meaning a 24-team Stanley Cup Playoff.

The Metropolitan Division, where the Rangers play, would have Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Columbus, and the New York Islanders.

The Blueshirts would miss the cut by one point. Had the Rangers won their last game, a 3-2 overtime loss to Colorado, they would’ve been tied in points but actually ahead of the Islanders by having more regulation and overtime wins.

The club is obviously hoping for a different scenario when the season reopens.

Finish the regular season

A new situation is beginning to come out regarding the completion of the regular season, one where the NHL is willing to push back the start of the 2020-21 campaign until December if need be.

The NHL accepts the reality that should games resume, it will do so without fans for the foreseeable future. They realize that due to the areas where the outbreak is very large (such as New York), places like Madison Square Garden wouldn’t see a fan in the stands.

The ongoing theory is since this season is more or less lost for the fans and thus the revenue they’d bring in, it’s probably better not to rush into next season. The longer the league can put off starting the 2020-21 campaign, the better chance the fans have of attending those games.

This situation would almost guarantee that the league would be able to complete the regular season and hold a full four-round Stanley Cup Playoff. The Rangers would receive the chance to complete their season, which has 24 points on the table.

Everything is contingent on the recommendations of medical experts. The Rangers and the NHL must come up with a game plan that keeps all involved healthy and safe in order to make playing games worthwhile.

More questions

With the conversation of hockey returning, the league will continue looking for locations to host these games. Many states are still implementing a “stay-at-home” order.

How often will players and staff be tested? How will the quarantine work once players arrive to begin playing games? What happens if a player or staff member tests positive? Will Zamboni drivers need to be guaranteed with players in the so-called player bubble?

Is this all worth it?

Assuming everything works out and fans actually see the Rangers battle for the last few playoff spots, this could be a great summer.

David Quinn and his team started this season with a mission to be competitive and learn how to win games. Adversity is always a constant on every professional team, and there’s no better way to handle the adversity of a global pandemic than to regroup and complete the regular season while earning a chance to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

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