The 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs begin Saturday in the bubble hub cities of Edmonton (Western Conference) and Toronto (Eastern Conference), and while Major League Baseball suddenly finds itself in the middle of a coronavirus nightmare with two games canceled/postponed Monday, the NHL has reported it administered nearly 4,300 tests last week to more than 800 players and not a single one came back positive.
"The NHL conducted Phase 3 (formal training camp) of its Return to Play on Saturday with no positive test results for COVID-19 among the 4,256 tests administered to more than 800 players during the period from July 18-25," the league said in a statement. "During the two-week period of Phase 3 there were a total of two positive tests (both occurred during the period from July 13-17) among the 6,874 total tests. All 24 teams entered the secure zone in Edmonton and Toronto yesterday for the beginning of Phase 4 and each of the 52 members of the 24 teams (Players and Club staff) will be tested on a daily basis. The NHL will continue to provide regular updates on the number of tests administered to players and the results of those tests. The league will not be providing information on the identity of the players or clubs."
The 24 teams in the postseason traveled to their hub cities Sunday. Each team gets one exhibition game this week before games begin Saturday. There will be daily testing for those living in the bubble, with a 24-hour turnaround on results. The NHL picked two Canadian cities as the hubs because that country has the virus much better under control than the USA does. Las Vegas had been long rumored to be one bubble city, but the virus spiked there.
"Edmonton's had 23 deaths for 1.3 million persons which is miniscule compared to some of the other markets," Oilers radio analyst Bob Stauffer said.
The league plans to be quite strict about living in the bubble.
"Leaving the bubble is just not something that we can tolerate," Commissioner Gary Bettman said.
However, there will be no official declarations of a player testing positive as the NHL will designate all injury or medical absences as a player being "unfit to play."
The Boston Bruins, who led the NHL with 100 regular-season points, are the +550 favorites on the William Hill moneyline odds to win the Stanley Cup. The top four teams in each conference by points percentage will play each other once to determine seeding. The other eight clubs in each conference play one another – No. 5 vs. No. 12 and so on – in a best-of-5 qualifying round series.
The biggest qualifying round favorite is the East No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins at -230 vs. the No. 12 Montreal Canadiens (+190).
WHICH 2020 FANTASY FOOTBALL SLEEPER SHOULD YOU SNATCH IN YOUR DRAFT? AND WHICH WR1 CANDIDATE CAN YOU WAIT ON UNTIL LATE? JOIN SPORTSLINE NOW TO GET 2020 FANTASY FOOTBALL CHEAT SHEETS FROM THE MODEL THAT WAS ALL OVER DERRICK HENRY'S HUGE SEASON, AND FIND OUT.