The NHL has a COVID-19 problem.Image: Getty ImagesThe NHL decided this season had to be quartered off in order to keep the players safe as could be, and more importantly their TV money as safe as it could be. What it didn’t realize is how thoroughly it would illustrate how this country compares to others when it comes to dealing with the COVID pandemic.Because Canada wouldn’t acquiesce to teams criss-crossing the border and back without following that country’s quarantine rules, the league has an all-Canadian division this season. And isn’t it strange how that’s the only one where every team has played its full schedule? Curious, no?The Colorado Avalanche became the fifth team currently to be put on pause yesterday, joining Buffalo, New Jersey, Vegas, and Minnesota. They’re the seventh team to have to sit out for a while thanks to COVID protocols, as Carolina and Dallas had to take a seat earlier in the year. The Avs spent the past week playing the WIld. The Wild just had five players go on the protocol list, and now the Avs have the same problems. This is exactly what happened with the Sabres and Devils. The NHL can claim it doesn’t have a team-to-team transmission problem all it likes. But the more it does, the more it sounds like Baghdad Bob. Which begs the question: How the NHL can keep going? Five teams is more than 20 percent of its American contingent. How many more will it take? The virus is clearly jumping from team to team. There may be just something about hockey that is causing it when none of the other sports had this problem to this extent. Or they were just better about keeping it quiet.And if it’s not, it’s at least forcing teams that run across opponents with positive tests to have to stop for a week. This is far worse than anything MLB or the NFL dealt with, and yet you haven’t heard a peep from the NHL offices about calling a halt to everything. G/O Media may get a commissionMeanwhile, in Canada, where governments and citizens have taken the virus more seriously and acted like adults, there has been no such problem. Hockey is full of Canadians acting smug about something or other, but this time they’re completely justified. But no. The league, like those before it, will continue to try and play whack-a-mole and hope that isolating that team or this team or those teams for a week will get a hold on all of it. And they’ll have no plan other than protocol theater, and pray that the more contagious strands of the virus don’t make their way to one team, from which it would assuredly leap to another and maybe another. There is no plan other than getting to the end of the season and talking about what a great job your protocols did, because stopping was never a consideration. Seen it before. Anyway, to things on the field or court of play. There was a tasty looking matchup in downtown LA last night, where the people’s favorite Nuggets were taking on the defending champ Lakers. And for a half, the Nuggets looked like real-ass contenders, with a 12-point lead at half.Then the Lakers decided to try. LA outscored Denver by 33 in the second half, holding the Nuggets to just 35 points in the 3rd and 4th for a 114-93 win. The Nugs were smothered into 15-for-44 shooting in the second half. Nikola Jokic was -17 in the second half. Jamal Murray was -27. They shot three free throws. Meanwhile LeBron sauntered to a triple-double, with eight assists in the half that saw the Nuggets brain jerked out through their nose. …And Ren said it with authority…Anyway, before hockey goes away, or should, we can still enjoy Auston Matthews finding the nitrous switch and making J.T. Miller question most of his decisions in life: .