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Hiccups Around the NHL

For being in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s been pretty smooth sailing so far in the NHL. A few games have been postponed and there have been the usual injuries, sure. But overall, things have been going well so far. Well, this week things seemed to have shifted. In some ways, it’s like things are getting back to normal. While in other ways, it’s unexpected and disheartening. Here are the bummers of the week.

Bad News Buffalo

The universe has a way of righting itself and in the last couple of weeks, its target seems to have been the Buffalo Sabres. After getting off to a fantastic start, especially considering the moronic standoff against Jack Eichel, the Sabres have slid back into typical Sabre form. Last night’s shootout loss to Washington, Buffalo’s losing streak is at seven (7!).

They aren’t at the absolute bottom of the standings, thanks to Arizona performing as poorly as ever, but they have steadily fallen down the rankings. With only 20 points, only four teams are performing worse at the moment – Arizona, Montreal, Ottawa, and Long Island. Meanwhile, the brand new Seattle Kraken stand one point ahead. It’s not a good look for a team who seemed determined to prove they didn’t need Eichel to be successful.

Sabre fans may be optimistic that things will even out once again, but I’m not convinced. As much as I would like to see them play better if only for the poor fans’ sake, I don’t see them even getting close to making playoffs.

Bye, Ben Bishop

In the offseason, the Dallas Stars went out and signed Braden Holtby in anticipation of Ben Bishop continuing the recovery process following a torn meniscus surgery in October. Rather than the high-calibre tandem Dallas predicted in 2022, Holtby will remain the number one goalie for the Stars with Khudobin as his backup. Bishop announced yesterday that he will not be returning to professional hockey.

No matter how much he wanted to come back, his knee ultimately made the decision for him. He played one game with Dallas’ AHL affiliate the Texas Stars; it was a brutal 8-4 loss against the Chicago Wolves. He and GM Jim Nill both knew it was the end for Bishop’s career.

After three years at the University of Maine, Bishop played 11 seasons in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, LA Kings, and Dallas Stars. He played for Team USA in the 2010, 2013, and 2016 IIHF World Championships.

Olympics in Question

Hockey fans worldwide shared the excited anticipation of seeing the best of the best play in the 2022 Olympics after having to miss 2018 thanks to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Now hockey fans are sharing disappointment once again as it’s looking unlikely that the players will want to go to Beijing.

Robin Lehner was the first NHL player to respectfully decline Beijing last week, citing uncertainty surrounding COVID protocols and quarantines, and his mental health. Given the report of a potential five-week quarantine following a positive COVID test that came out yesterday, I can’t say I blame him. The NHLPA hasn’t stated one way or another yet, saying they’re “waiting on an awful lot of information to come from the IOC and Chinese.” There are some players who may not care about the risks and would want to play for their country no matter what (Alex Ovechkin comes to mind, with no concrete proof on my part). But I don’t personally see the majority still wanting to make the trek out to China.

Looking Up

Rather than leave you all on the negatives, let’s take a quick look at the good things happening in the NHL right now. After having several games postponed, the Islanders and Senators are back to their regularly scheduled games and no other teams have had a COVID outbreak warranting further postponements. Speaking of the Islanders, they finally won a game in their brand new UBS Arena, 4-2 against the Devils.

Lastly, Mia Wilson of Long Island won 3rd place in a national science fair with her design for clear corner boards on hockey rinks. The fifth-grader was 10 when she submitted the project and is now 11 with her eyes set on the 2021 science fair. You go, girl.

Here’s hoping next week has more bright spots than the last.

Image courtesy of SportsNet.

-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)

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Heidi Thomas

Washington Capitals fan, casual gamer, hiking enthusiast. Ask me about my Greyhound. I also wrote a book once.

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