Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby prefers the NHL to give up the rest of the regular season and head straight for the playoffs if games resume this spring interrupted by the pandemic.
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is on the same page, saying he would even be willing to finish two goals before his ninth 50-goal season, tying the NHL record shared by Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy.
"Of course, you want to score 50, but right now, as everyone says, the most important thing is to stay safe and do this," Ovechkin said Thursday. "It sucks not to score 50 and not get another milestone, but you have to think about your family, people and fans to be safer."
The two rival Metropolitan Division stars shared their thoughts Thursday during a video conference hosted by the league.
"I mean, you're trying to get into as many games as you can, I think. But I wouldn't mind starting from the playoffs, "said Crosby, whose penguins were third in the division standings when the season was postponed on March 12.
Crosby recognized that the most regular games of the season in which he can squeeze would be better for the integrity of the playoffs. Ovechkin agreed when he appeared on the video call later.
"For me, of course, the more games we play, the better for our fans and the better for the teams fighting for the playoffs," said Ovechkin, whose capitals lead the division. "But I prefer to start the playoffs right away."
Ovechkin then smiled and said, "Sorry guys," referring to the other three players in the video call. Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno was not offended and said, "Don't excuse me. We are in a playoff spot."
The calls included representatives from each of the eight metropolitan teams. Similar calls will be made with players in the other three divisions until next week.
There is no timetable for when play will resume and it has not been determined whether the league will complete the regular season. There were 189 games left on the schedule when the game stopped, and both conferences featured hotly contested playoff races.
In the east, Carolina and Columbus were tied with 81 points in celebration of the conference's two wildcard spots, with the New York Islanders (80 points), New York Rangers (79) and Florida (78) all in contention.
The teams had also not played an equal series of games, as the islanders had played 68 against Colon's 70.
In the West, Winnipeg (80 points) and Nashville (78) celebrated the conference's two wildcard spots, with the Predators holding the lead over Vancouver despite being tied for points. Minnesota sat back one point.
With the season on hold, players were told to self-isolate until at least April 4. To date, three NHL players have tested positive for the virus, two with Ottawa and the third with Colorado.
Each of the eight players spoke Thursday from their respective homes, with New Jersey Devils defender P.K. Subban traveled to Los Angeles to be with his fiancé, retired Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn.
The discussion about whether to complete the regular season had at least one fun time to highlight the sibling rivalry between Carolina's Jordan Staal and his older brother Marc, who plays for the Rangers.
"Yeah, screw the Rangers," Jordan said with a laugh, noting that the Panthers have a slight lead in qualifying.
"But it is difficult," he added. "You can speculate and try to decide what's fair. But there will always be someone who is upset about it. Regardless of what we decide, let's hope it's the best thing in the game."
Marc Staal agreed with Crosby on one point, saying: "He wants to keep intact the integrity of what we are doing here."
Subban, whose Devils are last in the division, supported another scenario that would give 31 teams a chance to compete in a play-in tournament to determine playoff matchups.
"I like that, giving us a chance to make the playoffs and play meaningful hockey down the stretch," Subban said.
Foligno, the Blue Jackets captain, wondered if the NHL should consider the safety of the players, who might be playing well in the summer with little rest before opening the following season.
"There are many games in a year that we are not used to," Foligno said. "I'm not saying boys don't find a way to do it, because we hockey players will find a way." But you also have to think about the longevity of men's careers and their health. "