In normal times, the Stanley Cup playoffs would have started Wednesday night.
The Bruins, who led the NHL in points (a nice round 100) when the COVID-19 pandemic halted the season March 12, would have begun their journey against one of the Eastern Conference wild-card teams. They were in line to play the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley would have called the game on NESN. Edwards, forever excitable and always willing to share a soliloquy, might have compared the Blue Jackets to the redcoats. Brickley would have chuckled, then, as always, astutely broken down the action.
The soundtrack to the beginning of another hopeful Bruins postseason would have been familiar fun.
Yes, of course, Edwards thinks about what might have been.
“I thought they were poised to make a run at it,’’ Edwards said. “Of course, the motto in the postseason is, ‘Be prepared to be surprised.’ But this team has demonstrated it can win games in many, many different ways.
“Tuukka [Rask] or Jaro [Halak] can stand on their heads and steal a game, the defense is robust and deep, they are getting secondary scoring, Charlie Coyle is playing the best hockey of his life. And the core players are all hitting their notes.”
But Edwards is blunt when it comes to assessing whether the NHL will return this season. He believes that the season will not resume, and the Bruins’ opportunity to win their first Stanley Cup since 2011 will not come this year.
“I hesitate to talk in the present tense,’’ he said, “because I think this season is gone.”
Edwards said he and his family have many friends who work in medicine, including a nurse at Mass. General and a friend from high school whose daughter is a doctor in New York.
Conversations with them quickly made him realize that the season probably was over.
“The more you talk to people who are in the hot spots or close to the hot spots,’’ Edwards said, “the more you realize how vicious and unpredictable this virus is, because of the contagion factor before you start showing symptoms. I quickly got pessimistic about the resumption of the season.
“If you watch the replays of the 2011 games on NESN, you notice and remember the atmosphere at TD Garden, and how much inadvertent expectoration there is, and how much saliva and beer there is everywhere, you realize how much of a bomb that could be.
“It’s going to be a long time before we can get people together like that again.”
Edwards said it would be foolhardy for the NHL to try to cram in the playoffs during the summer, for logistical reasons, but also for the sake of the players’ health.
“Say the Stanley Cup Final ends on Labor Day,’’ he said. “Do you go right back into action in the first week of October and ask the star players, the finalists, to play 130 games in a calendar year? That’s just idiocy, because you’re putting at risk the greatest equity the owners have, which is the players.
“You don’t want to ruin a guy’s career because of one eight-week playoff run that is disjointed because of the pandemic. It’s a really problematic situation.”
Edwards said the concept of shortening playoff series would be a disadvantage to favored teams such as the Bruins that earned their high seeds over the long season.
“There would be low-quality games when the players return, because the first week or 10 days would be like training camp again,’’ he said. “And the first two games — the ones when everyone is rusty — would be played at the site of the higher seed. That’s not right.
“And you can’t shorten the series to five games, either. That’s not long enough. If the 2011 Cup Final ended in five games rather than seven, they would have had a parade in Vancouver rather than a riot.”
Edwards, that familiar optimist when all is right in the Bruins’ world, said the scary state of the real world at the moment does not mean he’s become a pessimist. He says he’s just being realistic.
“Unless some miraculous certain cure comes along and we can start getting people vaccinated immediately, I don’t see a legitimate playoff format for 2020,’’ he said.
“I seriously question whether the NFL can start on time, whether there will be a baseball season at all, whether the NBA can finish.
“I certainly hope that hockey can get back to something resembling normal soon, but for public safety and with our society at stake, I don’t think it’s worth experimenting with peoples’ lives.”