By Steven Lieberman
Observer Reporter 

NHL to suspend play until further notice, due to coronavirus

No longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time

 

March 19, 2020

Cal Petersen

The Los Angeles Kings hockey team was on a roll closing out the regular season, gaining momentum, beating playoff-caliber teams, had a win streak of seven games which was best in the Western Conference, and then on Wednesday, Rudy Gobert of the NBA's Utah Jazz was diagnosed with the coronavirus which started a ripple-effect throughout the sports world.

On Thursday, the NHL made a decision to suspend play until further notice, which came less than 24 hours after the NBA suspended its schedule. And now, MLB decided to cancel the rest of spring training and postpone the start of the regular season for at least two weeks.

"It now seems more likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "It is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time."

Bettman says the league will resume play "as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup."

Many NHL teams share their home arena with an NBA team, including the Kings at Staples Center.

"We want to keep playing games, obviously," Kings head coach Todd McLellan said. "We're on a roll and we're doing some good things as a team. We need this time to continue to get better and improve to set ourselves up for the following season. But will that happen? I think the health of our players, of our staff, of our organization, of our city takes precedence."


One Kings player comes to mind during this temporary stoppage...rising star, goalie Cal Petersen. He is the creme that is starting to rise to the top and has been an outstanding performer during the Kings win streak.

In his last five starts in goal, Petersen has a 4-1 record with a GAA of 2.64. It seemed that he was getting better with each start and hopefully he can maintain that level of play as the Kings continue to practice while the league is in suspension-mode.

Before the recent trade deadline, Jack Campbell, the other backup goalie to Jonathon Quick, was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, giving Petersen the opportunity he's been waiting for and he's been taking advantage of it.

Petersen, the 25-year-old, 182-pound native of Waterloo, Iowa was selected out of the University of Notre Dame by the Buffalo Sabres in the fifth round (129th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft. He signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Kings on July 1, 2017 and then on July 16, 2019 reached a deal, signing a three-year, $2.575M extension that takes him through the 2021-22 season.


He made his NHL debut in November 2018 and played 11 total games for the Kings last season, recording a 5-4-1 record, 2.60 GAA, and a .924 save percentage.

One thing that is really impressive about Petersen is his ability to move across the crease. When he is on his knees, he has a great ability to drive and slide to second opportunities. He's very good laterally and has the ability to establish his crease. When opponents think they've got him beat, he somehow manages to get a leg on the puck.

He's also been getting more experience handling all the traffic in front of the net.

"I've been working on getting a good read on the puck, even when there's traffic in front, and having the patience to wait for a clear opportunity to step away from traffic to be able to get a read on the shot, Petersen said. "That's really paid off. Battling in traffic is hard for any goalie, but the improvements I've been making have allowed me to be a lot more confident in those situations."

One of the key variables in the equation of the Kings success as of late is good defense, and that helps Petersen.

"It's definitely been a challenge with bigger, stronger guys (opponents) in front of me. I think I'm fortunate to have a very good defensive corps in front of me. That makes it easier on me, because I don't always have to physically battle with those players all the time, trying to get a visual attachment to the puck."


It also helps that he has good stamina.

"In the pro game, no team is ever out of it," Petersen said. "Regardless of the score, the guys on the other side are pressing just as hard. It's probably been the biggest thing for me-putting in a full, 60-minute effort-not being able to take a breather, but keep a mentality and focus throughout the game, because anything can happen. That's been my biggest challenge."

It also is helpful that he is mature way beyond his years and plays with an inherent veteran mentality. It didn't take Petersen long to develop and adapt to the level of play needed in the NHL. There's something special about him.

A lot of players are talented and skilled and do well in the AHL(the primary development league), but when they get up to the NHL everything is more intense. Some players have trouble handling that, but not Petersen. He seems to thrive on it.

 

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