A look back at the biggest games and emerging story lines of the NHL weekend.
Theme of the Week: Welcome to Mumpsville, Population Everyone
A mysterious outbreak of the mumps continues to wreak havoc across the league, and the list of victims now includes the NHL’s best player. The Penguins kept Sidney Crosby out of a pair of weekend games as a precaution, citing concerns that he may have come down with the viral disease.
Those concerns were confirmed on Sunday, when the team announced that Crosby had indeed been diagnosed with the mumps. He’ll be sitting out again for tonight’s game against the Lightning, although he could return as early as next week. The situation represents an odd reversal for the Penguins, who initially insisted that their captain didn’t have the condition despite his alarming appearance at Friday’s morning skate. Needless to say, that turned out to be wrong, and now some are questioning why the team exposed Crosby to teammates and media.
The illness has been making its way around the league, starting with the diagnosis of Anaheim’s Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin in early November. The total number of players affected now stands at more than a dozen, with the list of affected teams including the Ducks, Wild, Rangers and Devils, and now the Penguins. According to one report, a look back at the schedule reveals that the disease could have started with the Ducks and then been passed from team to team.
While the illness is more typically associated with school-age children, it can infect adults as well, and it can spread easily within an NHL rink or dressing room. That’s led to teams around the league taking precautions in an attempt to prevent further cases, with the league head office and the NHLPA also becoming involved. But it hasn’t been enough to stem the outbreak, with New York’s Derick Brassard the latest to fall victim.
And the story won’t be going away anytime soon; according to a CDC expert, it would take as long as 50 days from the last reported case before we could sound the all-clear.
Cup Watch: The League’s Five Best
The five teams that seem most likely to earn the league’s top prize: the Stanley Cup.
5. New York Islanders (20-10-0, plus-9 goals differential) They’ve cooled off lately, but a Saturday-night win over the seemingly unstoppable Blackhawks was enough to at least earn them consideration for a spot. Also, they get bonus points for being the only team left that is yet to feed at the loser-point trough.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (19-6-4, plus-25) They’ve cooled off, too, which is probably to be expected with Crosby out and other key players injured, but they’ve managed to maintain a slight lead in the Metro.