Now that we know the NHL’s Return to Play format, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the 2019-20 regular season is considered over. That means all records and stats are final.
But what about those eight Qualifying Round series? That discussion is on-going, but if they were to count they would be considered playoff statistics.
That means we have a definitive answer to some regular season awards.
Handing out a few trophies
• Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak share the Rocket Richard Trophy with 48 goals. It’s the ninth win for the Capitals captain and first for the Bruins forward. This is the third time the award will be shared and first since Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby tied with 51 goals in 2009-10.
• Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl wins his first Art Ross Trophy with 110 points. He was the only player to reach the 100-point mark and finished 13 points ahead of teammate Connor McDavid, who hit his jersey number, 97. Draisaitl also led the league with 67 assists and in posts/crossbars hit with 14.
• The Bruins are the 2019-20 Presidents’ Trophy winners. They led the league with 100 points at the time of the March 12 pause and also own the best points percentage (.714) among all NHL teams. This is the third time they’ve won the award and first since the 2013-14 season.
• Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak will share the William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed since they both played at least 25 games. The tandem allowed 167 goals in 70 games played (2.39 goals allowed per game).
Other statistical notes
• Ovechkin will be denied a ninth 50-goal season. The Capitals had 13 games remaining on their schedule.
• McDavid will fall short of his fourth-straight 100-point season. Artemi Panarin (95), David Pastrnak (95), and Nathan MacKinnon (93) were all primed to hit 100 points for the first time in their careers.
• The Sabres will miss the playoffs for the ninth straight season. They played their last game on March 9, meaning it could be a very long off-season if we’re not seeing a 2020-21 season begin until November or December, at the earliest.
• Oh, what could have been for the Sabres. According to the NHL on NBC research team, if Buffalo had beat Montreal in regulation on March 12 (the day of the NHL pause), they would have jumped the Canadiens in terms of points percentage and would be set to play the Penguins.
Which non-playoff team’s future do you feel most confident about?
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: The Senators’ future could be real bright if they’re allowed the resources to develop their prospect pool and manage to keep them in Ottawa.
What the Senators have been able to do over the last few years is build up a prospect cupboard that could form an extremely talented core down the line. Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, and Colin White have established themselves as roster regulars under age 22. Drake Batherson, Erik Brannstrom, and Logan Brown were given decent looks this season, but there’s more coming.
Alex Formenton and Josh Norris were named to the AHL’s 2019-20 All-Rookie Team and were First (Norris) and Second (Formenton) Team All-Stars with Belleville. Vitaly Abramov also had a strong year with the Baby Sens, while Jacob Bernard-Docker could be an offensive weapon from the blue line in the future.
One of the Senators’ biggest areas of need will be in net. Filip Gustavsson and Marcus Hogberg look to be next after Craig Anderson‘s time comes to an end.
That’s a decent amount of names we could be seeing in Ottawa over the next few seasons. But wait — there could be more! GM Pierre Dorion has managed to stock pile up to nine picks in the opening three rounds of the 2020 draft. Not to mention four in the first two rounds in 2021. Some of those picks could be used in trades to bulk up the roster, of course, which shows the Senators are pointed in the right direction. They just have to follow the correct route.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: When in doubt, go with youth, so I lean toward the Devils.
First and foremost, they already have two really good young forwards in fellow first overall picks Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. The Devils recently extended Hischier to a reasonable deal, while they get to enjoy the luxury of Hughes having two more years on his rookie contract.
Such saving means that P.K. Subban‘s $9M price tag doesn’t hurt quite as much.
Beyond that, the Devils also have a lot of ammo to improve. They currently own three first-round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft, and at least two of those figure to be pretty good choices. The Devils could either add to their crop of prospects, move those picks in creative deals to get better sooner, or do a bit of both. New Jersey has cap space to either seek free agents or trades, too.
Now, the Devils have a lot of work to do, including deciding if Tom Fitzgerald gets to take “interim” off of his GM title. Goaltending and defense remain massive problems, and they sure could use more scoring depth, as well.
But at least the Devils have some building blocks in place. Also, the Senators have similar opportunities, yet they also have Eugene Melnyk as their owner. I’ll take the Devils in that duel, even if I can’t help but wonder about their ownership situation, too.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: The pause couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Kings, for two reasons. First, they had won seven games in a row – the league’s longest active winning streak. Second, the streak had pushed them down a couple spots in the lottery race. So they lost the chance to build even more momentum heading into the offseason, while also hurting their chances to win the No. 1 overall pick.
All that said, there should be serious optimism about the direction of the team. At the NHL level, there appear to be prime years left for Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and yes, perhaps even Jonathan Quick (from November on, he posted a 2.38 GAA and .916 SV%). Unheralded younger players like Alex Iafallo (17 goals, 43 points) and Matt Roy (team-leading +16) are becoming legitimate contributors. A big question was answered when oft-injured former first-rounder Gabe Vilardi finally made his NHL debut, and looked like he belonged scoring 7 points in 10 games. In small sample sizes each of the past two seasons, Cal Petersen has showed starter-level talent between the pipes.
With no key players on expiring contracts, GM Rob Blake has plenty of cap space (north of $23M) to work with this offseason. Could Los Angeles be a darkhorse destination for Taylor Hall?
But the biggest reason for confidence: the loaded prospect pool. The Kings have arguably the best non-NHL talent of any organization. They sent nine players to the 2020 World Juniors – most of any team – and from that group came the tournament’s leading goal and point scorer Samuel Fagemo, as well as Canada’s golden goal scorer Akil Thomas. Plus, with 6 picks in the first 3 rounds this year, things only stand to improve.
The big question for Kings fans: can enough of these prospects develop into quality NHL players while Kopitar and Doughty remain top-end talents? If so, LA may have what it takes to contend for a Cup once again.
Every Tuesday, PHT will remember a hockey video game (or games). Since we don’t have every console or cartridge, some posts will be recollections, not reviews. This week, we look back at hockey video games on the Nintendo 64.
I’d wager that there aren’t many people who immediately think of hockey video games for that console. Heck, I’d assume that most hockey fans who also play games probably think of SNES/Genesis titles, go back to “Ice Hockey” and “Blades of Steel,” or merely lean toward EA’s modern NHL series.
Even so, there were quite a few Nintendo 64 hockey video games, including ones so obscure they might not make it in this post. (If so, share away.) Let’s look back at the 64-bit console’s most noteworthy hockey video games, then.
Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey (and ’98)
Arcade-style sports games tend to age the best because they’re less ambitious about looking like the real thing, and also about simulating it. So, it’s no surprise that “Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey” seems like it would be pretty fun to play, even today.
Midway churned this one out, which helps to explain the “NBA Jam”-y ness of it all. Goalies could turn into brick walls. Nets caught on fire. You know, the good stuff.
You could see a lot of the DNA of “NHL Hitz” here, which is a series we’ll delve into down the line.
Here are some fun tidbits about the series (which included a sequel):
The title’s Wikipedia page alleges that it was the first-ever four-player Nintendo 64 game. As you may recall, the console shipped with four ports for controllers, making it thesleepover machine for nerds cool kids.
The series of three Gretzky-helmed titles began on the SNES.
Could there have been “Mortal Kombat”-style fatalies during fights? Allegedly.
Critics weren’t exactly enthused about the ’98 version getting repackaged as “Olympic Hockey ’98.” IGN even gave it a “zero.” Honestly, I do admire the lazy brashness of just changing trades to “defections,” though.
EA sports eventually brings a hockey title to Nintendo 64 with NHL ’99
As far as I can tell, the Nintendo 64 began a stretch where EA Sports titles were by no means guaranteed to appear on Nintendo consoles. (Or, in some cases, Nintendo fans would get warmed-over rehashes, or only one or two titles in a given series. The Nintendo Switch hasn’t received a modern title in the NHL series, for instance.)
While the Nintendo 64 ranked as a success by some measures, it also didn’t receive the same waves of titles as Sony’s Playstation. While Sony went with CDs, Nintendo stuck with cartridges. Such a decision made it tougher to pirate games for the Nintendo 64, yet it also made it far more expensive to manufacture games.
“Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey” released in 1996, while EA Sports’ first foray into hockey games for the Nintendo 64 didn’t happen until “NHL ’99” dropped in 1998.
“NHL ’99” featured Eric Lindros on the cover, and was generally well-received. That said, IGN’s Craig Harris noted that the game was farmed out to MBL Research, and was mostly based off of “NHL ’98” for the Playstation and PC.
So it seems like it was better than nothing, but Nintendo fans still got the short end of the (hockey) stick.
Other hockey video games on Nintendo 64
When it comes to two other series on the N64, I’d argue their greatest impacts came in entertaining covers.
The “Breakaway” series seemed … fine. Really, any hockey game that included icon passing gets bumped up a half-letter grade. But it’s not shocking that the series eventually fizzled out.
While plenty of people at least vaguely recall one of the “Breakaway” titles (the second one featured Steve Yzerman), I’d guess few knew that “Blades of Steel” made a comeback. Jaromir Jagr served as the cover star for both the ’99 and 2000 versions:
Overall, it’s pretty easy to see why the Nintendo 64 isn’t remembered for hockey video games. Even so, I can’t deny an urge to refresh my memories about “Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey,” — defections optional.
This week’s Hockey Happy Hour on NBCSN will again feature memorable “on this date” games in NHL playoff history.
On the way to a Stanley Cup victory, the Bruins defeated the rival Canadiens in overtime by a score of 4-3. On this day nine years ago, the win marked the first time that a team won a seven game playoff series despite being held scoreless on the power play.
Mike Emrick and Darren Pang had the call from TD Garden in Boston, Mass.
As part of the week-long NBC Sports From the Vault presentation on NBCSN, Tuesday’s coverage will feature classic NHL matchups beginning at 7 p.m. ET. Throughout the evening, all-time greats such as Bobby Orr, Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Wayne Gretzky, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Steve Yzerman will be showcased in historic NHL regular-season, All-Star and Stanley Cup Final matchups.
Monday, April 27 on NBCSN
• NHL Hat Trick Trivia hosted by P.K. Subban (Episode 3) – 5 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• Canadiens vs. Bruins (2011 Round 1, Game 7) – 5:30 p.m. ET (Live stream)
Tuesday, April 28 on NBCSN
• The Great One vs. The Great Eight Showcase – 5 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• Penguins vs. Capitals (2016 Round 2, Game 1) – 6 p.m ET (Live stream)
• Bruins vs. Flyers (1974 Stanley Cup Final, Game 6) – 7 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• Penguins vs. Capitals (Dec. 11, 2006) – 9:30 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• 1991 NHL All-Star Game – 12 a.m. ET (Live stream)
Wednesday, April 29 on NBCSN
• #HockeyAtHome: NHL Fathers and Sons – 5 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• Rangers vs. Senators (2017 Round 2, Game 2) – 5:30 p.m. ET (Live stream)
Thursday, April 30 on NBCSN
• NHL Player Gaming Challenge – 5 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• Wild vs. Avalanche (2014 Round 1, Game 7) – 6 p.m. ET (Live stream)
Sunday, May 3 on NBC
• USA vs. Canada (2010 Olympics Men’s Gold Medal game) – 3 p.m. ET
NHL HAT TRICK TRIVIA HOSTED BY P.K. SUBBAN – MONDAY, 5 P.M. ET ON NBCSN Two-time Olympic gold medalist Roberto Luongo will join the third episode of NHL Hat Trick Trivia Hosted by P.K. Subban. Hosted by the New Jersey Devils defenseman, the show features fans answering a trio of hockey trivia questions from their homes, along with appearances from NHL players and celebrities, for the chance to win NHL prizes. Additional guests on the episode include Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, actors Michael Keaton and Jay Baruchel as well as NHL referee Wes McCauley.
THE GREAT ONE VS. THE GREAT EIGHT SHOWCASE – TUESDAY, 5 P.M. ET ON NBCSN Wayne Gretzky faces off against Alex Ovechkin in an EA Sports NHL 20 series featuring themselves playing with the Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals, respectively. The virtual matchup raised over $40,000 for COVID-19 relief.
1991 NHL ALL-STAR GAME – TUESDAY, MIDNIGHT ET ON NBCSN The 1991 edition of the NHL All-Star Game featured hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, former Red Wings center Steve Yzerman and Vincent Damphousse of the Maple Leafs, who recorded four goals in the contest. The matchup was held two days following the beginning of Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War, and the patriotic presentation of the national anthem at Chicago Stadium is still remembered to this day.
#HOCKEYATHOME: NHL FATHERS AND SONS – WEDNESDAY, 5 P.M. ET ON NBCSN NBCSN will present a 30-minute program about NHL fathers and sons at 5 p.m. ET. The three father and son relationships featured in the program are:
NHL PLAYER GAMING CHALLENGE – THURSDAY, 5 P.M. ET ON NBCSN NBCSN will present the opening night of the NHL Player Gaming Challenge at 5 p.m. ET, featuring Calgary vs. Ottawa. The month-long initiative will pit NHL players from all 31 clubs facing off against each other in EA Sports NHL 20. The competition kicks off on Thursday with Matthew Tkachuk and Noah Hanifin representing the Flames against Brady Tkachuk of the Senators.
Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at email@example.com.
• ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski cites sources who say that the NHL is no longer considering using neutral sites like North Dakota to resume play. Wyshynski explains that a revised plan would involve regional NHL arenas used for the games, aligned by arenas instead of neutral sites. In this scenario, the Hurricanes’ arena would be for the Metro, Oilers for the Pacific, and Wild for Central. According to Wyshynski, there isn’t an Atlantic arena frontrunner just yet. (ESPN)
• Multiple NHL GMs discussed how they’ll be watching the remote NFL Draft closely. There’s also some interesting speculation about how the 2020 NHL Draft will look and feel. Senators GM Pierre Dorion believes that trades will still be doable, even with on-the-draft-floor moving and shaking unlikely. (The Canadian Press)
• Add Jimmy Howard to the list of NHL players who’ve made a big contribution to healthcare workers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Howard is donating $50K worth of N95 masks to the Detroit Medical Center. This includes multiple Red Wings helping out, as the list includes at least both Howard and Dylan Larkin. (NBC 25 News)
• In what sounds like a pitch for a sitcom, Keith, Matthew, and Brady Tkachuk are all living under one roof during the pandemic pause. That’s a lot of pesty behavior and antagonism in a small space. (KSDK)
• Breaking down the possible hiccups in the Blackhawks possibly bringing back Dustin Byfuglien. Even with those limitations in mind, a Byfuglien return would be fascinating. Especially since, if I remember correctly, Byfuglien didn’t solidify himself as a defenseman until he left Chicago. (NBC Sports Chicago)
• The Golden Knights signed Nic Roy to a two-year extension that carries a $750K AAV. Roy turned out to be a pretty nice find for the Golden Knights. Could Roy end up being even better than a solid depth player? (Golden Knights)
• Speaking of the Golden Knights, the Devils are interviewing former coach (still strange to type) Gerard Gallant for their head coaching position. Gallant would likely bring assistant Mike Kelly with him. (Sportsnet)
• Hayley Williams is instructing youth hockey players virtually — and from Russia. (WGRZ)