Since the NHL is planning to go straight to the playoffs, it’s handing out a handful of trophies for the regular season cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
Not long after unveiling a 24-team right to the playoffs format, the league on Thursday announced the winners of its regular-season awards. Play was halted March 12 with 189 regular-season games remaining.
Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Boston’s David Pastrnak share the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the top-goal scorer after tying with 48. Although Ovechkin was stopped short of a ninth 50-goal season, his ninth goal-scoring title extends his NHL record.
Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl won his first Art Ross Trophy for leading the league with 110 points, which he accomplished in 71 games. Oilers general manager Ken Holland praised Draisaitl for producing at that clip playing with and apart from captain Connor McDavid.
“It’s a credit to his commitment, his passion, the hard work he’s put in, the determination over the last three, four, five seasons,” Holland said. “He’s the player that has the most points in the league and he’s a 24-year-old player. He continues to take steps forward in his career. A tremendous accomplishment.”
Along with Pastrnak’s individual award, the Boston Bruins get the Presidents’ Trophy for leading the league standings with 100 points and goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak earn the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals.
The Bruins, who got to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year before losing to the St. Louis Blues, won’t get any of the usual benefits of the Presidents’ Trophy winner if the NHL resumes this summer in two host cities without fans.
They’re not even guaranteed the top seed in the Eastern Conference under this playoff format, which will make them play a three-game round-robin tournament against Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia to determine the order of the top four.
“It’s never a perfect scenario,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “It’s not going to be as set in stone as you would have after an 82-game regular season.”
Through 70 games, the Bruins had leads of eight points over the Lightning, 10 over the Capitals and 11 over the Flyers. Team president Cam Neely expressed his feelings about the format during calls with the NHL in recent weeks but acknowledged this is “uncharted times for everybody.”
“A little disappointed with what the team was able to accomplish the first 70 games and kind of the point spread we had between not only the teams in the league but the teams in our division or conference,” Neely said Wednesday. “To kind of have three games dictate where we fall in the conference standings is a little disappointing.”
Neely said in a statement Thursday, “Although the regular season did not end the way anyone hoped, we are honoured to win this award for the second time in seven years.”
Even though they’re playing each other for seeding, the top four teams in each conference get a bye into the round of 16 while the other teams play best-of-five series to qualify.
“By getting a bye, they’re going to be facing a team that just came out of a competitive series, and the concern was they needed to have some competition that might not put them at risk in terms of the playoffs but would give them an opportunity to play some real games,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “They needed some games that mattered to some extent in order to not be coming in against a team that just played a competitive series. The benefit and the curse of a bye, I suppose.”
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press