NHL Handicapping: Covid Concerns

by Sean Murphy

We've seen a number of teams sidelined for extended periods in the early stages of this unique 2021 NHL season. We're beginning to gain a better understanding of what to expect from these teams following the long layoffs. Here's a quick breakdown.

Dallas Stars

This was a unique situation as the Stars weren't able to start the season on time due to Covid protocols. Somewhat surprisingly, Dallas came roaring out of the gates, scoring 19 goals in four consecutive wins. Again, that situation was a little different as it came at the onset of the season, unlike those other squads that have had to abruptly stop playing.

Carolina Hurricanes

The 'Canes were able to start the season on time, going 2-1 over their first three games before postponing their next three contests. When they returned to the ice, they enjoyed success similar to that of the Stars, reeling off four straight wins, albeit scoring just 11 goals in the process.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Knights were forced to postpone three straight games in late January-early February. When they got back in action they also thrived, securing three straight wins, scoring a whopping 14 goals along the way.

Buffalo Sabres

Here's where things look a little different but perhaps it's not difficult to understand why. The Sabres missed six straight games, sitting idle for the first two weeks of February. Not surprisingly, they've been sluggish since returning to play, dropping consecutive games against the Islanders while scoring only one goal.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avs got back to game action after a five-game absence on Sunday in Las Vegas, and proceeded to drop a 1-0 decision. They did manage to follow that up with a 3-2 victory against the Knights on Tuesday.

New Jersey Devils

The jury is still out on the Devils as they've played just once following an extended six-game absence due to Covid protocols. That one game went well as they skated to a 5-2 win over the Rangers on Tuesday night. We'll see how they fare as the rest of the week unfolds as they'll play three games in four nights from Thursday-Sunday - a tough stretch at the best of times.

Minnesota Wild

Like the Sabres, the Wild were sidelined for six consecutive games and when they returned to the ice they were blanked by a 4-0 score in Los Angeles on Tuesday. 

Based on the data we have to work from so far this season, the key takeaway is the longer the layoff the more difficult it is for teams to get going again - not exactly a groundbreaking discovery, but worth noting nonetheless. There have been four teams that have missed five games or more and three of them managed to score a goal or less in their first game back on the ice. Note that the Flyers have just started practicing again with their tally of games missed due to Covid protocols standing at four games and counting. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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