The Pittsburgh Penguins, recently purchased with some $900 million worth of Fenway Sports Group cash, sure are living the high life of late.
The Penguins have won seven in a row, a blistering run that started a few days before the NHL’s Board of Governors approved the sale to, as we say around the ol’ Jersey Street ballpark, Boston interests. Sidney Crosby and the distant sons of Les Binkley have hammered away on opponents to the tune of a 26-10 goal differential.
It’s as if the NHL’s other Black-and-Gold team has its very own Big Papi raking on the power play.
They, however, joined the COVID shutdown list with the rest of the NHL on Monday night. Tuesday home game against the Devils was postponed Monday afternoon, and a Thursday visit by the Flyers went when the NHL and NHLPA agreed to suspend all operations between Dec. 22-25, reopening all facilities on Dec. 26.
The Bruins and Penguins will drop the puck at 7 p.m. Dec. 27 on Causeway Street — unless, you know, COVID stuff happens. Rumor is, the Penguins might sleep in the in the team bus outside TD Garden Sunday night just to make sure they aren’t late to pick up the 2 points.
Meanwhile, things aren’t so great these days for the Bruins. They last played on Thursday, a 3-1 loss on Long Island. Because of increasing COVID cases, coach Bruce Cassidy had access to only 17 skaters, one fewer than the standard allotment, and his squad scuffled and shuffled along to its second straight loss.
Boston’s Black and Gold lads didn’t practice Friday. The next day, less than 48 hours after the loss in New York, the league finally did the right thing and told the team to stay home through the holiday break.
As of Monday afternoon,nine Bruins and two team staff members were believed to remain in COVID protocols. The team has been directed to test each player through Thursday.
“It hits everyone in the room, eventually,” said an executive of one team the NHL shut down this season. “Everybody’ll get it, to different degrees, and luckily, it seems no one gets too sick, because everyone’s been vaccinated right? Thing is, not everyone gets it at the same time, so it’s this constant, ‘OK, he’s good . . . this guy’s down . . . and now, wait, this guy isn’t looking too good.’ You get out of it, but man, it’s a haul.”
Provided the league doesn’t extend their internment, it appears the Bruins next will congregate in Brighton on the morning of the Penguins game. .
Pittsburgh will be back to work after five refreshing, revitalizing, days off skates and a large dose of Christmas good cheer.
The Bruins will be back to work, some of them after not practicing for 10 days. For others, the break will have been11, 12 days or more. Top-liners Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are in the latter group. Christmas cheer? Humbug.
Not ideal. In fact, not within any reasonable definition of being fair from a competitive standpoint.
After such a long layoff, the Bruins won’t have whatever little mojo they had going when last seen against the Islanders Dec. 16. From a strength and conditioning standpoint, given that their training facility Saturday was made off-limits by the league, they’ll also be more exposed to a greater chance of injury.
The fair, practical, and smart call by the league would be for the Pittsburgh game, along with the one two nights later in Ottawa, be postponed. It would allow the Bruins the entire week to practice, get their legs back, and return to normal programming with their Jan. 1 matinee here against the Sabres.
“It will be challenging,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said during his brief Zoom session Saturday night. “But again we just have to navigate as the league sets forth and move on from there . . . some guys took home gym equipment [Saturday] to do things at home, to be able to do what they can to stay in shape.”
Sweneey only in flashes hinted that he personally might not agree with, or like, all the protocols the league has implemented and the consequences his team has suffered. But he steadfastly maintained allegiance to the NHL’s black-and-silver shield, noting time and again that everything was being done with player health and safety in mind.
One of his predecessors, longtime GM Harry Sinden, would have lit up the night sky from Watertown to Walla Walla if asked about the prospect of playing next on Monday after his charges were assigned sick bay for a minimum 10 days.
Give ‘em hell Harry would have had the hair growing back on the head of Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, and Jeremy Jacobs sending temporary restraining orders to his fellow good pals among the Lords of the Boards.
“It does present some challenges,” he said. “Certainly.”
As of Saturday, the entire league should have been shut down, to preserve health and safety and attempt to maintain a competitive balance out of the holiday break.
Instead, some teams continue to play, stay in shape, while others just wait, take their temps, and try to envision the hellscape of a standing start coming their way Monday.
Is that any way to run a league? Nope. We give you the NHL, 2021-22.