CHICAGO (CBS) — The Blackhawks were last in their Central Division with a few weeks left in the season before it was halted, but they were 12th in the Western Conference standings.
So when the NHL decided to expand the postseason from 16 to 24 teams to finish the unique 2020 season, they barely made it.
The ’Hawks will face Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-five game series at a date to be determined later. NHL players can start skating in small groups in early June, with training camps not beginning any earlier than July 1 – with the Stanley Cup Playoffs to face-off sometime in late summer until fall.
All games will be held in two hub cities to be determined later. Chicago is one of 10 cities in consideration.
Speaking to CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke, Mark Lazerus, senior writer at The Athletic, warned that the NHL players will be rusty.
“There’s so many reasons for chaos – I mean, if you ever watch hockey in October, it’s not very good – the scores are like 6 to 5; 6-4. They can’t play defense. Nobody can skate. So offense kind of takes over for the first couple of months of the season until everyone gets in the groove, and it’s going to be like that again,” he said. “They’re going to have a couple of weeks of training camp, and most of these guys haven’t been skating. If you’re in the NBA, you might have a half-court in your house. These guys don’t have hockey rinks in their houses.”
Lazerus added that the Blackhawks are not as good a team as the Edmonton Oilers, but did dominate them most of the time this year.
“Why the hell not, right?” Lazerus said.
Lazerus also emphasized that the NHL playoff plan will only go ahead if everything goes well – with enough cities to accommodate everyone and no second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that potentially could shut everything down again.
Lazerus added that said he was surprised that Chicago was chosen as a possible hub city – but he noted that when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chicago has a lot of tests available even though it also has a lot of cases. Chicago also has the ice and a state-of-the-art facility in the United Center.
“If Chicago’s looking better health-wise, then it’s an appealing option. I still I think it’s going to wind up being Las Vegas and probably a Canadian city – I know Vancouver’s involved, Edmonton’s involved – there’s a lot of cities that are making a push for this,” he said. “But Chicago, it’s an interesting, odd choice, because right now, it looks like a terrible idea, but who knows what it’s going to look like in three or four weeks?”