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How Ending the Regular Season Affects the Record Book

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How ending the regular season means some milestones will not be met, and some lows will be entered in the Washington Capitals record book.

Washington Capitals v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

With the NHL announcing on Tuesday its plans to restart the 2019-20 season, the regular season portion of the season will be considered completed, and the league will proceed to a 24-team championship tournament. Ending the regular season short of the complete 82-game schedule has its consequences, though. Not least of those are the milestones and records players will be denied reaching (or lows avoiding), at least for the moment. For the Washington Capitals, what players and fans are being denied is significant. Here is a sampling.

Alex Ovechkin:

  • Ninth 50-goal season. Alex Ovechkin will finish the regular season with 48 goals, tying Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak for the league lead. While this will be Ovechkin’s ninth Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal-scorer (the first time he will share the Trophy), he will be denied his ninth 50-goal season. Had he reached that milestone, he would have tied Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky for most in league history. One might also remember that he suffered an abbreviated season in 2012-2013, one in which he posted 32 goals in 48 games. At that rate of goal production, he would have finished an 82-game schedule with 55 goals. But for these two seasons shortened by factors outside the players’ control, Ovechkin might have finished this season all alone as the all-time leader in 50-goal seasons.
  • Twelfth 70-point season. Ovechkin finishes the regular season with 67 points. With three more points he would have posted his 12th career 70-point season. That would have tied him 14th place in league history, joining the likes of Mario Lemieux, Bryan Trottier, Adam Oates, and others. He already holds the record for career 70-point seasons with the Capitals (11).
  • Twenty assists. It might not seem like much of a milestone, but Ovechkin will finish the season with 19 assists, the first time in his career he will have fallen short of 20 assists for a season. In doing so, he joins Joe Malone, Howie Morenz, Ron Sedlbauer, and Rick Nash as players to finish a season with at least 40 goals and fewer than 20 assists. He joins Sedlbauer and Nash as the only ones to do so while playing in at least 65 games.
  • Three game-winning goals. Ovechkin finishes the season with three game-winning goals, tying a career low (2011-2012).

Nicklas Backstrom:

  • Tenth 50-assist season. Nicklas Backstrom will finish the season with 42 assists in 61 games. At that rate, he would have had nine more assists in the Caps’ final 13 regular season games, giving him 51 assists and his tenth career 50-assist season. In doing so, he would have become the 17th player in NHL history with at least ten 50-assist seasons and tying San Jose’s Joe Thornton as tops among active players. Backstrom already holds the franchise record with nine 50-assist seasons.
  • Eleventh 60-point season. Backstrom has never failed to reach 60 points in a full season’s worth of games. He had 48 points in 48 games in the abbreviated 2012-2013 season, and he had 44 points in 42 games in which he lost almost half the season to injury (concussion). This season, he has 54 points in 61 games. At that rate, he would have had 12 points in the last 13 games, giving him 66 points and his 11th 60-point season. That would have allowed him to jump into the top-30 all time in career 60-point seasons (tied for 30th with eight other players). His ten 60-point seasons ranks second on the Capitals’ all-time list (Ovechkin: 14).
  • No game-winning goals. Backstrom has 12 goals this season, none of them game-winners. This is the first regular season of his career in which he finished without one.
  • Two power play goals. Backstrom finishes the regular season with a career-low two power play goals.

John Carlson:

  • Eighty-point season. John Carlson is having a career season. He already has a personal best of 75 points in 69 games for the Caps. At that rate of scoring, he would have posted another 14 points in the remaining 13 games of the regular season, giving him a total of 89. That would have made him the 20th defenseman in league history to record at least one 80-point season and the second to do it for the Caps (Larry Murphy had 81 points in 1986-1987). He would have been only the fourth defenseman to do it in the last 24 years (Brian Leetch and Ray Bourque did it in 1995-1996). Nicklas Lidstrom (80 points in 2005-2006), Erik Karlsson (82 points in 2015-2016), and Brent Burns (83 points in 2018-2019) are the other three.
  • Ninety-point season. At Carlson’s scoring pace, he would be within a whisker of 90 points for the season. Had he reached that mark, Carlson would have been only the ninth defenseman in league history to do it at least once and the first since Bourque posted 91 points in 1993-1994.
  • Sixteen goals. Carlson will have to settle for tying his career best in goals with 15. He had 15 goals in 2017-2018.

Tom Wilson:

  • Twenty-two goals. Tom Wilson set a personal best of 22 goals last season. He will fall one short of that this season with 21.
  • Fifty points. Wilson already established a personal best of 44 points this season. However, at his season scoring pace, he would have posted an additional eight points, giving him 52 for the season and his first career 50-point season.
  • 100 PIMs. Wilson would have been a shoo-in to make it seven-for-seven in 100 penalty minute seasons. He fell short with 93 PIMs in 68 games this year.
  • Time on ice. Wilson needed perhaps half a dozen shifts to establish a personal best in minutes played (1247 in 2017-2018). He fell five minutes short (1242).
  • Hits. Wilson needed one credited hit to break his tie at 253 hits (he posted it in 2015-2016).

Braden Holtby:

  • Thirty-five shutouts. Holtby has been stuck since last season in a tie with Olaf Kolzig for the all-time franchise record for shutouts (35). Unless he re-signs with the Capitals (he is an unrestricted free agent after this season), he will remain tied with Kolzig.
  • Thirty wins. Holtby came into this season with five straight 30-win seasons. With 13 games left on the regular season schedule, he had 25 wins. At his participation rate over the first 69 games (47 starts), he could have gotten as many as nine more starts. At his win rate (25 wins in 47 starts), he would be right up against 30 wins for a sixth straight and sixth time overall. Six 30-win seasons would put him in the top-20 all-time (tied for 20th with six other goalies) and would break a tie with Olaf Kolzig for most in team history (each has five 30-win seasons).

Team:

  • Fifty wins. The Caps came into this season with five 50-win seasons in team history. With nine wins in their last 13 games (they had 41 when the season was suspended), they would have done it for a sixth time.
  • Twenty percent power play. Washington entered the 2019-2020 season with seven straight seasons with a power play of 20 percent or higher. That streak ends with a power play at 19.4 percent).
  • One-goal wins. The Caps finish this regular season with 18 one-goal wins, ending their chance to become the 12th team in franchise history to post 20 one-goal wins.

One hopes that the league can launch its postseason plan safely and effectively. To do that, the regular season was sacrificed, the third time in 16 seasons that a full regular season was not completed. It is a small price to pay in the context of the league, it’s players, its staff, its arena partners, and fans. It is a smaller price to pay in the larger context of the crisis that necessitated this action.

But for those who follow the history of teams with interest, such actions do have consequences for that history, and the Capitals are no exception.