The date circled on calendars around the hockey world. Had the COVID-19 pandemic not paused the NHL’s 2019-20 season, it would have served as the last day of the regular season.
Of course, there’s still a possibility that the season will be played out; although as time continues to go on, how much of that will come to fruition is unknown and whether or not there will be a Stanley Cup champion named is TBD. Teams had anywhere from 11-14 games remaining with some of those games involving cross-continent travel.
For now, all we can do is hope hockey comes back and instead of this being thing’s we’ll miss if the NHL season is canceled — it turns into — things we can look forward to seeing now that hockey is back.
Auston Matthews scoring 50 (or more) goals
The Toronto Maple Leafs star scored his 47th goal of the season in the team’s last recorded game on March 10; a one-time power-play snipe that ended up being the game-winning goal.
With 12 games left on the Leafs’ schedule, it was a good bet Matthews would have become the first Toronto player since Dave Andreychuk potted 53 in 1993-94 to hit the mark — which is, by the way, before No. 34 was even born. Last season, John Tavares netted the same 47, which was the highest number since Andreychuk.
Expectations have always been high for the 2016 first-overall pick after scoring 40 in his rookie year when he won the Calder Memorial Trophy, and it looked like he was meeting them. He was even in line for the Rocket Richard Trophy, one spot behind the top guys.
Race for the Rocket Richard Trophy
Speaking of the Rocket Richard Trophy: what a race it would have been to the end. Of course, Capitals star winger Alex Ovechkin, who has captured the trophy a record eight times, was atop the leaderboard along with the Bruins’ David Pastrnak. Whether Ovi or Pasta would have clinched or someone like Mika Zibanejad jumped ahead is anyone’s guess; remember, Zibanejad scored five goals in a game less than a month ago.
Surely though, it would have been fun to watch.
Nothing and we mean nothing was decided in the playoff races when things came to a screeching halt.
Sure, there were teams that had solidified spots like the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues; however, neither team had officially locked up their division titles. The Lightning left 24 points on the table and only needed eight top catch the Bruins, while the Avalanche only sit two points back of the Blues for the Central title.
On the flip side, a battle was brewing among teams aiming for one of each conference’s final two wild-card spots.
The Hurricanes and Blue Jackets, tied at 81 points, held on to the last two Eastern Conference playoff spots, with three teams within striking distance. Out West, it looked like regulation wins would have played a key role as four teams were lining up for a battle for two tickets to the postseason. One of those teams, the Vancouver Canucks, who were technically on the outside looking in, was one point out of the third spot in the Pacific Divison.
The last ‘Battle of Alberta’
Which brings us to the biggest travesty if the regular season is canceled — missing out on the final installment of the ‘Battle of Alberta.’
Oh, what a grand game this would have been on the last day of the regular season: Calgary Flames vs. Edmonton Oilers. Two teams who hate each other facing off in a possible first-round playoff preview.
Who can forget the last meeting? It had it all.
Big saves. Fancy goals. Goalies pulled. Goalies fighting. Goalies going back in after being pulled. That game came after the third installment saw Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian settle their almost three-week-long dispute that bled over from match-up No. 2, the Flames winning in a shootout with Big Save Dave Rittich throw his stick up in celebration to which Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl called “just disrespectful.”
It would have been a magical night in Alberta that we are sad to have missed.
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