1st Round Playoff Predictions After a 68-Game Regular Season

In the first part of this series, I posited that the NHL’s regular season should be truncated to 68 games. Why 68? It’s the number of games that every team had played when the season was paused. Chopping the season there provides a level playing field (or rink, if you will) for playoff contention. No need for “play-in” games. When hockey resumes, whenever that may be, the NHL can proceed directly to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

68-Game NHL Season: The Playoffs

In the second part, I looked at the Eastern Conference and which teams would qualify for the playoffs after a 68-game season, as well as the 1st round matchups. The third part took a similar look at the Western Conference Playoff picture.

Related: NHL’s Playoff Format Needs Restructuring

To wrap up this series, I’ll take a closer look at those 1st round matchups for both conferences and wrap things up by awarding a few trophies, also based on a 68-game regular season, and I’ll have a few parting words to end this four-part series.

Eastern Conference 1st Round Playoff Matchups 

Boston Bruins vs. New York Islanders 

Bruins: 98 points (1st Atlantic & 1st Eastern Conference)

Islanders: 80 points (2nd wild card)

Head-to-Head in 2019-20 (3 scheduled games)

  • Dec. 19, 2019: NYI 3 – BOS 2 (SO) In the shootout, New York’s Jordan Eberle beat Tuukka Rask with a wrist shot, Boston’s Charlie Coyle hit the crossbar, Matthew Barzal scored for the Islanders, David Pastrnak brought Boston back to within a goal, but Varlamov stopped Brad Marchant to seal the Islanders’ win.
  • Jan. 11, 2020: BOS 3 – NYI 2 (OT) In another extended game, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron scored in overtime on a power play.
Boston Bruins Tuukka Rask New York Islanders Anthony Beauvillier
Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask stops a shot on goal by New York Islanders’ Anthony Beauvillier (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Late Season Acquisitions and Team Injuries

In the days leading up to the trade deadline, Boston added a couple of players and cleared some cap space. In separate deals with the Anaheim Ducks, the Bruins added Ondrej Tase and Nick Ritchie. Going the other way were David Backes (with Boston retaining 25% of his salary), prospect Alex Anderson, and a 1st round draft pick, as well as depth forward Danton Heinen (in the Ritchie trade).

It was a busy trade deadline for the Islanders. In-bound were Andy Greene, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and AHL defenseman Jordan Schmaltz. Outbound were mostly picks.

The Bruins are expected to be at full strength for the playoffs. Leading up to the NHL’s pause, Boston had about a half-dozen players bouncing on and off the day-to-day list, but the injured reserve (IR) list was empty.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau New York Islanders
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, New York Islanders (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

Defenseman Johnny Boychuk should be back in the lineup for the Islanders whenever NHL play resumes; Boychuk averaged over 17 minutes per game with 11 points and 14 penalty minutes. However, shutdown defenseman Adam Pelech’s Achilles tendon injury will keep him on the shelf (unless the playoffs go way into the fall).

Predicting This Matchup (aka Wild Guessing)

While two of the three games between these two teams went beyond regulation time, the teams are not evenly matched. The Bruins’ 100-point season (trimmed to 98 points for a 68-game regular season) was tops in the NHL. The Islanders barely squeak into the final wild-card spot after 68 games. In other scenarios for the 2019-20 season, the Islanders don’t even make the playoffs. I expect a sweep would be more likely than an upset.

Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes 

Capitals: 89 points (1st Metropolitan)

Hurricanes: 81 points (1st wild card)

Head-to-Head in 2019-20 (4 scheduled games)

  • Oct. 5, 2019: CAR 3 – WAS 2 (OT) Jake Gardiner scored just over four minutes into overtime; James Reimer made 33 saves for the Hurricanes.
  • Dec. 31, 2019: CAR 6 – WAS 4 Warren Foegle had a pair of goals and an assist for the Hurricanes. Alex Ovechkin scored his 24th goal of the season.
Washington Capitals Garnet Hathaway Carolina Hurricanes Jake Gardiner
Washington Capitals’ Garnet Hathaway works the puck against Carolina Hurricanes’ Jake Gardiner (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
  • Jan 3, 2020: WAS 4 – CAR 3 Less than a week later, the Caps turned it around, despite being outshot 41-29.
  • Jan. 13, 2020: WAS 2 – CAR 0 A pair of Ovechkin goals and 23 saves by Ilya Samsonov gave the Capitals a season series split and five of a possible eight points.

Late Season Acquisitions and Team Injuries

In the days before the 2020 trade deadline, Washington added Brenden Dillon from the San Jose Sharks. The veteran defenseman cost the Caps a 2nd round pick this year and a conditional 3rd rounder in the 2021 Draft. A few days later, Caps general manager Brian MacLellan added another familiar name, Ilya Kovalchuk (again for a draft pick, this year’s 3rd rounder). In both deals, MacLellan arranged for the former teams to retain 50% of the players’ salaries.

Carolina’s GM Don Waddell went all-in at the trade deadline, according to Matt Cosman. With a couple of regular defensemen on IR, Waddell added Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen (who, interestingly, was himself injured at the time of the trade). Prospects and picks went the other way in the two trades. (Skjei’s price was a bit hefty – one of the Hurricanes’ two 1st round picks, whichever is lower, in this year’s draft.) Also joining the team was center Vincent Trocheck from the Florida Panthers. The Panthers biggest get in the deal was Erik Haula, but they also picked up youngsters Lucas Wallmark and Chase Priskie.

Dougie Hamilton and Vatanen are expected to be back when play (finally) resumes. (Ironically, Vatanen was picked up at the trade deadline primarily because Hamilton was injured at the time. Yet another plan disrupted by The Pause.) Brett Pesce, however, may still be on IR as late as early September.

Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes
Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Capitals likely will be at 100% when the NHL gets back to business. Key players listed as day-to-day in early February included center Evgeny Kuznetsov and goalie Ilya Samsonov. At the start of The Pause, Kuznetsov was 4th in scoring for the Caps, and Samsonov’s goals-against average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%) were far better than creasemate Braden Holtby’s numbers. Both will be available when the NHL returns.

Predicting This Matchup (aka Wild Guessing)

The regular season split and the eight points separating the two teams in the standings might indicate a close series. However, this is basically the same Caps team that already has a Stanley Cup, while the Hurricanes haven’t had much time to integrate their late-season acquisitions. Expect Washington to move to the next round.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 

Lightning: 91 points (2nd Atlantic)

Maple Leafs: 79 points (3rd Atlantic)

Head-to-Head in 2019-20 (4 scheduled games)

  • Oct. 10, 2019: TB 7 – TOR 3 Nikita Kucherov had a four-point night (two goals), and the Lightning smashed open a 3-3 game, scoring the last four of the night.
  • Feb. 25, 2020: TOR 4 – TB 3 The scorers scored for the Maple Leafs, with John Tavares netting numbers 25 and 26, and William Nylander hitting 28 on the season.
Tampa Bay Lightning Mikhail Sergachev Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner
Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Mikhail Sergachev trips up Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
  • Mar. 10, 2020 TOR 2 – TB 1 In their last game before The Pause, Toronto’s big guns lit it up one last time: Nylander scored his 31st and Auston Matthews netted number 47, both on power plays.
  • Mar. 25, 2020 (Postponed)

Late Season Acquisitions and Team Injuries

“Reckless” is the term Eugene Helfrick used to describe the Lightning’s trade deadline dealing. However, the acquisition of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow does have a bit of a silver lining: rather than being rentals, both players have another year on their contracts. And they’re both relatively inexpensive (not as important a point with next year’s salary cap expected to be $84 million). But remember that while their salaries are cheap, their prices were not.

Coleman’s salary of $1.8 million per year does not include the conditional 1st round pick and Nolan Foote (Tampa’s 1st rounder last summer). The price for Coleman (salary: $925,000) and a 3rd round pick was a 1st round pick this year (from Vancouver) and young Anthony Greco. Remember, too, that a month before the deadline, the Lightning signed D Zach Bogosian, who had been placed on waivers by the Sabres.

Peter Baracchini questions whether the lack of a major trade by Toronto was a wise decision … or not. In one move Toronto did make a month before the deadline, the Maple Leafs sent former backup goaltender Michael Hutchinson to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for – huh? – former Maple Leafs’ backup goaltender Calle Rosen. Okay, whatever.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos should be back on the ice when play resumes, as will D-men Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta. The dozen-or-so Lightning players who had been listed as day-to-day at some point since mid-February are all healthy.

Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Of all the Leafs’ injuries that piled up in late February and early March, only Andreas Johnsson might not be ready to go with the return of the NHL. Jake Muzzin’s broken finger should be as stable as his shiny new four-year contract. Oops! Let’s not forget that David Clarkson and Nathan Horton are still technically Maple Leafs, although they’ll never suit up again. 

Predicting This Matchup (aka Wild Guessing)

These are two incredibly talented teams, each with four top-40 players in points and/or goals. But goaltending is a different story. The Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevsky ranks top-15 in both goals-against average and in save percentage, while neither Frederik Andersen nor Jack Campbell (acquired in early February) crack the top-30 in either category. If the NHL schedules a full seven-game 1st round, well, remember Vasilevsky’s 21-game personal points streak? If it’s a very short series, he’ll need to shut down the Leafs’ big guns. But as Eugene Helfrick writes, he’ll have some help.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins 

Flyers: 89 points (2nd Metropolitan)

Penguins: 84 points (3rd Metropolitan)

Head-to-Head in 2019-20 (4 scheduled games)

  • Oct. 29, 2019: PIT 7 – PHI 1 Pittsburgh scored the first six goals of the game before the end of the 2nd period. The Dominiks (Kahun and Simon) dominated, each with a goal and a pair of assists. Oh, and that Sidney Crosby guy also added a goal and two assists.
  • Jan 21, 2020: PHI 3 – PIT 0 Brian Elliott stopped all 19 Penguins shots and the Flyers sent 30 the other way.
Brian Elliott Philadelphia Flyers
Brian Elliott, Philadelphia Flyers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)
  • Jan 31, 2020: PIT 4 – PHI 3 (OT) Crosby had a pair of assists in the 2nd period, then scored the game-winning goal less than a minute into overtime.
  • Mar 29, 2020: (Postponed)

Late Season Acquisitions and Team Injuries

Nate Thompson, acquired by the Flyers at the trade deadline, is a “home run” according to Johnny Berman. The hard-nosed center cost the Flyers a mere 5th round pick. In addition, he’s a rental, so there’s no worry about a salary cap hit next year. (Unless, of course, the Flyers want to try to keep him.)

Pittsburgh made a number of trades leading up to the trade deadline: Dumping salary (Erik Gudbranson to the Ducks); swapping players who perhaps needed a new environment to thrive (Alex Galchenyuk and some assets to the Minnesota Wild for Jason Zucker); adding even more leadership (Patrick Marleau from the San Jose Sharks for a 3rd round pick); sending a Dominik (Kahun) to the Buffalo Sabres to bring back a two-time Penguins Stanley Cup winner (Conor Sheary) and some depth at forward (Evan Rodrigues). The Penguins’ late-season trades are evaluated by Tyler Bowen. 

Max Nason reports that The Pause is actually good for the Flyers, and some key pieces should be ready to hit the ice when play resumes. However, Oskar Lindblom has a rare form of bone cancer and there’s no current expected return date. Nolan Patrick’s migraine disorder may be under control, but the question remains whether he’ll be NHL-ready after such a long layoff.

Related: Reliving the Flyers & Penguins 2012 Playoff Series

While the injury bug has been a problem for the Penguins all season, the team should be at full strength for their next match (whenever that might be). However, keep an eye on the status of Jake Guentzel, Dominik Simon, and Nick Bjugstad when games are once again scheduled.

Predicting This Matchup (aka Wild Guessing)

Both teams have outstanding offence and are reasonably stout defensively (tied for 6th in the Eastern Conference with 194 goals against after 68 games). Both teams have game-breakers and depth. Could this be a series whose result depends on the bounce of a puck or a blown penalty call? Hockey in Pennsylvania has a long history, and the one prediction I can make is this: It will continue into the second round of the playoffs, regardless of which team wins this matchup!

Western Conference 1st Round Playoff Matchups 

Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators 

Avalanche: 90 points (1st Central & 1st Western Conference)

Predators: 76 points (2nd wild card)

Head-to-Head in 2019-20 (4 scheduled games)

  • Nov. 7, 2019: COL 9 – NAS 4 Believe it or not, this game was close at one point. In fact, Nashville was leading 3-2 – until the Avalanche exploded for four goals in 2:01. Their 7th goal came a little more than two minutes later.
  • Feb. 29, 2020: COL 3 – NAS 2 The Avalanche’s Gabriel Landeskog opened the scoring almost halfway through the game and the team never relinquished the lead. It was a franchise-record 8th straight road win.
Colorado Avalanche Valeri Nichushkin Nashville Predators Rocco Grimaldi
Colorado Avalanche Valeri Nichushkin tries to keep the puck from Nashville Predators center Rocco Grimaldi (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
  • Mar. 19, 2020: (Postponed)
  • Mar. 29, 2020: (Postponed) 

Late Season Acquisitions and Team Injuries

As mentioned above, Toronto’s former backup goalie Michael Hutchinson came to the Avalanche shortly before the trade deadline in exchange for D Calle Rosen, who was a victim of the excellent play of Cale Makar and some good work by Ryan Graves. With Philip Grubauer coming back to the crease, Hutchinson will drop down the roster. The Ottawa Senators accepted a 4th round pick in exchange for forward Vladislav Namestnikov. The C/LW had 13 goals, 12 assists, and 25 PIMs in 56 games for Ottawa and the Rangers before the trade.

When the 2019-20 trade deadline arrived, Nashville GM David Poile knew his team was on the playoff bubble. (In fact, with this 68-game schedule, the Predators barely edged-out the Wild for the final wild card spot.) In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the character Polonius says “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” At the deadline, Poile might have paraphrased that as “Neither a buyer nor a seller be.” One minor trade of depth defensemen: Korbinian Holzer from the Anaheim Ducks for Matt Irwin and a 6th round pick in the 2022 draft. The Predators also picked up D Ben Harpur just before the trade deadline.

Avalanche leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon suffered a lower-body injury that the team reported could keep him out of the lineup for up to two weeks. Timing is everything – that injury occurred in Colorado’s second-last game before The Pause. Games lost: one. As far as Avalanche injuries, in general, are concerned, Nick Haydon writes that The Pause benefits the Avalanche.

Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

A number of Predators missed a game or two here and there in the final weeks before The Pause, but none of the injuries was serious and the team is expected to be at 100% strength when the NHL resumes games.

Predicting This Matchup (aka Wild Guessing)

The Avalanche finished far ahead of the Predators in the 68-game regular season and won both of the head-to-head games. Colorado’s leading scorer is center Nathan MacKinnon with 35 goals and 93 points; Nashville’s leading scorer is captain Roman Josi with 16 goals and 63 points (after 68-games). I’ll go with the flow and predict an Avalanche landslide in this 1st round matchup.

Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks 

Knights: 82 points (1st Pacific)

Canucks: 76 points (2nd wild card)

Head-to-Head in 2019-20 (4 scheduled games)

  • Dec. 15, 2019: VEG 6 – VAN 3 The Knights took the lead less than two-and-a-half minutes into the game and never looked back. Max Pacioretty had a pair of goals and a pair of assists; Mark Stone had the game-winner. Overall, the Knights had 46 shots on goal.
Vegas Golden Knights Marc-Andre Fleury Shea Theodore
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save with defenseman Shea Theodore defending. (AP Photo/David Becker)
  • Dec. 19, 2019: VAN 5 – VEG 4 (OT) Chris Tanev scored his second goal of the year 1:30 into overtime on a give-and-go with Bo Horvat. Elias Pettersson had a pair of goals for the Canucks.
  • Mar. 23, 2020: (Postponed)
  • Apr. 4, 2020: (Postponed)

Late Season Acquisitions and Team Injuries

Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon made four trades at the deadline, but nothing as significant as last year’s acquisition of Mark Stone. Let me hedge my bet on that. As important as Stone is to the Knights, in a playoff battle newly-acquired goalie Robin Lehner could be a difference-maker. The key piece headed to the Chicago Blackhawks in return was backup goalie Malcolm Subban. But it was actually a rather complicated three-way trade, which included Toronto. Alec Martinez arrived from the L.A. Kings for a pair of 2nd round draft picks. Forward Nick Cousins was picked up from the Montreal Canadiens for a 4th round pick. Speaking of 4th round picks, a conditional 4th-rounder was accepted from the Winnipeg Jets for C Cody Eakin in what was basically a salary dump. The Knights made the list of “Winners” in Larry Fisher’s Trade Deadline review.

A week before the trade deadline, the Canucks snagged Tyler Toffoli from the Kings. At the deadline, they also swapped goaltenders with the New Jersey Devils, sending Zane McIntyre to the East Coast in exchange for Louis Domingue. Domingue’s record in Jersey was 3-8-2, with a 3.79 GAA and an .882 save percentage.

The Pause should benefit the Golden Knights’ injury situation. Before the end of NHL play, Stone, Pacioretty, and Alex Tuch were all listed as day-to-day. Center Cody Glass may also make it back from knee surgery (depending on how long the Knights are playing).

Cody Glass Golden Vegas Knights
Cody Glass, Golden Vegas Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Canucks’ injury list should be significantly smaller after The Pause, although Michael Ferland and Josh Leivo may need more time. Landon Kapusianyk reports that goalie Jacob Markstrom would have missed the remainder of the regular season, which indicates he should be available when play resumes.

Predicting This Matchup (aka Wild Guessing)

The Old Prof’s preseason look at the Canucks seemed to say that just making the playoffs would be a success, and “I’m not so sure they can move past the first round.” Lucas Main’s preseason prediction for the Knights said the team “will look to challenge for the Stanley Cup.” Who am I to argue with the people who cover the teams? The Knights may not sweep, but they’ll likely move on to the 2nd round handily.

St. Louis Blues vs. Dallas Stars 

Blues: 90 points (2nd Central)

Stars: 82 points (3rd Central)

Head-to-Head in 2019-20 (5 scheduled games)

  • Oct. 5, 2019: STL 3 – DAL 2 Sammy Blais had the game-winning goal and an assist for the Blues.
  • Nov. 29, 2019: STL 3 – DAL 1 It was Ryan O’Reilly’s turn to score a game-winner and add an assist. Ivan Barbashev assisted on O’Reilly’s goal and added an empty-netter.
  • Feb. 8, 2020: DAL 3 – STL 2 (OT) A second goal by Roope Hintz ended the game 2:19 into overtime. Miro Heiskanen assisted on both Hintz goals. Colton Parayko scored twice for the Blues in the 1st period.
St. Louis Blues Mackenzie MacEachern Dallas Stars Nick Caamano
St. Louis Blues’ Mackenzie MacEachern reaches for the puck with Dallas Stars’ Nick Caamano (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
  • Feb. 21, 2020: STL 5 – DAL 1 Four Blues’ goals in under 25 minutes chased Ben Bishop from the Stars’ crease. Jake Allen’s shutout was wrecked late in the 3rd period. 
  • Feb. 29, 2020: STL 4 – DAL 3 (SO) O’Reilly scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Blues the win, their fourth of the five-game season series with Dallas.

Late Season Acquisitions and Team Injuries

The Blues didn’t wait for the trade deadline to try to fill the massive hole left by the loss of Jay Bouwmeester, who suffered a cardiac incident on the bench during a game Feb.11 against the Ducks. A week before the deadline, they swapped a 2nd round pick in the 2020 draft and a conditional 2021 4th rounder for Marco Scandella. The big defenseman had 12 points and 16 PIMs for the Canadiens at the time of the trade.

At the trade deadline, Dallas sent D Emil Djuse to the Panthers for a 6th round pick in this year’s draft. Djuse had been playing in the AHL since being signed as a free agent by the Stars a year ago.

The Blues should be in good health, with the exception of Bouwmeester, whose heart condition indicates that he is not likely to be playing anytime soon. (He’s expected to be out for the foreseeable future after having a defibrillator unplanted in his chest. Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo says his teammate is looking good these days.) The Blues should welcome back Vladimir Tarasenko, who required shoulder surgery following an injury in late October.

Marco Scandella St. Louis Blues
Marco Scandella, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Stars have one player on the shelf long-term, too. Just days before The Pause, C Martin Hanzal had back surgery that will keep him off the ice for perhaps another six months. Jace Mallory says the Stars can benefit from The Pause, nonetheless.

Predicting This Matchup (aka Wild Guessing)

This is a rematch of the 2019 Western Conference Final. The Blues needed seven games to finish off the Stars last spring. There’s also a good body of work to study this season – of all the 1st round series listed here, these are the only teams that met five times in the 68-game season. St. Louis won four of the five (one in a shootout) and Dallas’s win came in overtime. The Blues might lose a game in the series.

Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames 

Oilers: 80 points (2nd Pacific)

Flames: 77 points (3rd Pacific)

Head-to-Head in 2019-20 (5 scheduled games)

  • Dec. 27, 2019: CAL 5 – EDM 1 Andrew Mangiapane opened the scoring for the Flames and added two assists.
  • Jan. 11, 2020: CAL 4 – EDM 3 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice for the Oilers, but Elias Lindholm’s two goals for the Flames included the game-winner on a power play early in the 3rd period.
  • Jan. 29, 2020: CAL 4 – EDM 3 (SO) Mangiapane (2) and Lindholm (1) scored for the Flames in regulation time, but it was Sean Monahan in the shootout who sealed the win.
Mikko Koskinen , Logan Day, Andrew Mangiapane
Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen and Defenseman Logan Day sandwich Calgary Flames’ Andrew Mangiapane (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)
  • Feb. 1, 2020: EDM 8 – CAL 3 Seven Oilers scored (Connor McDavid twice) as Edmonton outshot the Flames 49-26. Leon Draisaitl had four assists. The teams combined for an even 100 penalty minutes. Mike Smith earned the win, despite being ejected from the game just before the end of the 2nd period after fighting with Flames’ goalie Cam Talbot.
  • Apr. 4, 2020: (Postponed)

Late Season Acquisitions and Team Injuries

The Oilers had a busy time as the trade deadline counted down, acquiring three players in separate trades. A pair of trades with GM Ken Holland’s former employer, the Detroit Red Wings, brought in experienced defenseman Mike Green and speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou (with minor league forward Ryan Kuffner). Here’s what went to the Wings in exchange: F Kyle Brodziak and a conditional draft pick (4th round 2020 or 3rd in 2021) for Green, veteran center Sam Gagne and 2nd round picks this year and next for the two forwards. Later, a 5th round draft pick in next year’s draft was exchanged for center Tyler Ennis from Ottawa. Greg Boysen has a report on the Oilers’ addition of Ennis. 

The Flames also had a busy day, bringing in a pair of defensemen and sending one packing. Erik Gustaffson, from the Chicago Blackhawks for a 3rd round pick, adds some offensive potential. Derek Forbort, from the Kings for a 4th rounder, is huge – and he can skate. Averaging just under 20 minutes per game with the Kings over five years, his hits outnumber his points 463 to 53. That should give some indication of his role with the Flames. Declan Schroeder analyzes the two additions to the Flames’ D-corps. Outbound was Brandon Davidson (a 6th round pick by the Oilers in 2010), who spent most of this past year in the AHL. In return, the Sharks promised “future considerations.”

Jim Parsons has an update on the Oilers injury status (which includes scary news on Colby Cave). Oscar Klefbom should be back when play resumes. Mike Green, acquired from the Red Wings just days before he sprained a knee, should be ready. James Neal’s ankle should also be good-to-go.

Colby Cave Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers Colby Cave is congratulated by the bench. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Flames look to be in good health when the NHL resumes play. The team was been nicked-up here and there prior to The Pause, but it’s probably a full bench when players again hit the ice. In mid-February, Lucas Anderson reported that the Flames D-corps needed help, but The Pause may have been all the help then team really needed.

Predicting This Matchup (aka Wild Guessing)

In Dec. 2017, my colleague Ryan Pike asked the question “When will the Battle of Alberta matter again?” The answer, according to this 68-game NHL schedule, is now. The two teams are separated by only three points in the standings. The regular-season head-to-head matchup saw each team win a blowout and two games ended 4-3 (one in a shootout). I flipped a coin, and it landed on its edge. I wouldn’t be surprised if this 1st round series goes to the final period of the final game. Or, hey, it could be a sweep because, after all, these are the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

The 68-Game 2019-2020 Regular Season: Handing out the Hardware 

In the second part of this series, I agreed with my colleague Domenic Lunardo that the Jack Adams Trophy should go to John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets, even though you don’t see his team on this page. Other than that award, in this section, I’ll be a bean counter and adjust statistics to a 68-game regular-season schedule.

The William M. Jennings Trophy (Fewest Goals Against)

The Jennings Trophy goes to the goalie or goalies that allowed the fewest goals. For an 82-game regular season, a goalie must have played a minimum of 25 games.

Related: NHL Awards History: Oldest & Youngest Winners

Prorated for a 68-game season, that works out to just under 21 games. It doesn’t matter in this case: Bruins goalies Rask and Jaroslav Halak share this award, regardless of whether the schedule is truncated or not.

Art Ross Trophy (Most Points)

Draisaitl of the Oilers wins this award with his 110 points outdistancing McDavid (95 points in a 68-game season), Pastrnak (93 points), and Artemi Panarin (93 points) of the New York Rangers.

Rocket Richard Trophy (Most Goals)

When NHL play hit The Pause, Pasternak and Ovechkin were tied in goals with 48, with Matthews hot on their heels at 47 goals. I this case, I’ve truncated the season to 68 games, not the players’ seasons. The Bruins and Maple Leafs each had two games cut, while Washington’s schedule is shortened by only one game.

Maurice Richard Trophy (Jvuollo/fi.wikipedia)

Each of the three top goal scorers tallied once in the games chopped from their teams’ regular seasons, so their relative positions are unchanged: Pasternak and Ovechkin share the award with 47 goals, Matthews finishes one goal behind.

One Additional Statistical Note

However, some players’ individual statistics were altered by the truncated season. Let’s not do that. Let them keep all of the points and goals scored during the NHL’s 2019-20 season, regardless of how many games each team played. In the span of a player’s career, the number of games in which he participates is what matters, not the number of games his team plays.

Let Ovechkin, Pasternak, and Matthews keep the goals cut from their individual statistics. Ovi and Pasta scored 48 goals during the 2019-20 season, not the 47 goals I used to award the Rocket Richard Trophy.

Let me also note that I’m in agreement with my colleague Kyle Gipe who wrote that “NHL Awards (and Voters) Needs Reevaluation.” 

Final thoughts on a 68-Game Regular Season 

I wish the coronavirus pandemic had never occurred and that no one had become ill and no one had died. I also wish the NHL’s 2019-20 season was a full (and uninterrupted) 82 games. This four-part series explored how the NHL can equitably terminate the 2019-20 regular season and move forward directly to the Stanley Cup Playoffs when hockey resumes in North America. I wish that the pandemic had never presented the opportunity for me to write these columns, and hope that we all stay healthy and safe, and that hockey can resume soon!