After the Colorado Avalanche closed out their first-round series with the Arizona Coyotes in five games on Wednesday, their schedule looked clear for most of the next week. But on Friday, the NHL cut that vacation short, moving up the start of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Dallas Stars to Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET.
The NHL had a gap in its broadcast schedule on Saturday night, which didn't have a game on the docket because of how quickly some of the quarterfinal round's series wrapped up. Dallas vs. Colorado was the only second-round series locked in as of Friday morning in either conference. The NHL wanted to keep the momentum of the postseason going, according to an NHL source, so it moved up the start to fill that gap.
Colorado coach Jared Bednar said the team was informed about the schedule change early Friday morning.
"I like starting as soon as possible, to be honest with you," Bednar said. "I think time generally seems to move pretty slowly here in the bubble, which we found in the first couple of weeks when we were playing every third day. Once we got into the series with Arizona, time seemed to move a little quicker. With no travel and the convenience of getting to the rink, game day is great. There's a focus there on what you need to do, and the days in between games give you enough time to rest.
"We're liking the fact that we don't have too much time off between games. I'm sure Dallas is the same way. Just keep playing. It's what we're all here to do: to play hockey games, not necessarily to practice or have days off."
The Stars have a quicker turnaround, having won their tough six-game series against Calgary on Thursday night. Dallas had a mandatory day off on Friday, as its players were scheduled to get some recreation time at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.
"We're going to go to the football stadium here. We need to get everybody out of the hotel. We need a mental break," Dallas coach Rick Bowness said after the win over Calgary. "Just to get outside, get some sun, get some fresh air."
The timing of the other series in the Western Conference will be determined by the outcome of Game 6 between the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks on Friday night. If the Canucks eliminate the Blues in Edmonton, Game 1 of their second-round series will begin on Sunday. If there's a Game 7 on Sunday between Vancouver and St. Louis, then Game 1 of the Golden Knights' second-round series will be played on Tuesday -- meaning that Vegas will have had a full week between its elimination of Chicago and its next game.
"You're never going to complain about time off in the playoffs, because you know once it starts that it's going to come really quickly. We've already been put on notice about having one, maybe two back-to-backs per round. We'll take the rest and use it in the best way we can. We've got some bumps and bruises, like everyone does," Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said.
Life inside the bubble was put under the microscope on Thursday when Bowness lamented the difficulty of having to live in an NHL "hub" because of COVID-19 concerns.
"Give the league a lot of credit," he said. "They've done the best job they can. Everyone is handling it as best they can. But it's tough. This bubble living is not what you think it is. Until you're living it day to day, you don't understand what everyone is going through."
DeBoer said he read Bowness' comments.
"You have good days and bad days. It's definitely not normal life. At the same time, we try to remind ourselves every day to embrace it. It's an opportunity of a lifetime," he said. "Even on the worst day in here, there's all the hockey you can watch and all the beer you can drink, so it's not a bad day."
The NHL's Eastern Conference schedule is waiting on the result of the No. 1-seeded Philadelphia Flyers' series against the No. 12-seeded Montreal Canadiens. Game 6 is Friday night in Toronto. The Boston Bruins, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning have already advanced.