Down the road, when we reflect on the 2019-20 season, there’s a fair chance our memory will drift more to the 15 per cent we lost rather than the 85 per cent we got. Much as is the case now, it’ll be tough to look past the unprecedented manner in which this regular season came to a close.
But before we get to the wild 24-team tournament that will hopefully be played out to decide a 2020 champion, and before normalcy is eventually restored and 2019-20 is remembered simply for the pandemic that halted it — it’s worth taking a moment to stop and look back at the historic performances we were granted the chance to see before the pause button was pressed.
We saw two rookie defenders dominate from the back end, continuing to usher in a new era of offensive blueliners. We saw Alex Ovechkin continue his pursuit of the league’s all-time goal-scoring summit, refusing to wilt even at age 34. We saw the game’s first-ever German scoring leader, the Bruins stuff their trophy case, and far, far more.
That said, let’s look back at the 2019-20 regular season, by the numbers:
0.72: While his overall total wasn’t enough to net him the Art Ross, Mika Zibanejad has a case to make that he was one of the most lethal goal-scorers in the game this season — with 41 tallies through just 57 games, the New York Rangers pivot paced all NHLers this season with a rate of 0.72 goals per game.
.930: After years of struggling in the cage, the Dallas Stars have seen one of their ‘tenders lead the league in save percentage for two straight years — Ben Bishop did it last year with a .934, while veteran Anton Khudobin led the way this time around with a .930. They’re the first team to claim this category for two consecutive years since Boston’s Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask did so in the late 2000s.
2: For the first time in modern NHL history, the league saw two defencemen rank first and second in rookie scoring by the season’s end, with Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes and Colorado’s Cale Makar holding that honour. The last time it happened was way back in 1944. Finishing as the rookie scoring leader with 53 points, Hughes became the first defender to do so since Brian Leetch in 1989.
3: Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 35 wins ranked tops in the NHL, making him the league’s wins leader for the third straight year. Only one other goaltender has led the wins category three or more times before turning 26 years old — Terry Sawchuk managed it five times in the early ’50s. In terms of earning the distinction not only three times but three times consecutively, Vasilevskiy becomes the first to do so since Martin Brodeur did it in the early 2000s.
5: For the fifth time in history (and second consecutive year), each of the league’s top four scorers all hailed from different countries — Germany’s Leon Draisaitl, Canada’s Connor McDavid, the Czech Republic’s David Pastrnak, and Russia’s Artemi Panarin. The last time this happened before these most recent two instances was 2005-06, and before that, back in 1998-99 and 1997-98.
7: For the seventh time in NHL history, the game’s top five snipers hailed from five different countries as well — Russia’s Ovechkin and the Czech Republic’s Pastrnak led the way, followed by the United States’ Auston Matthews, Germany’s Draisaitl, and Sweden’s Zibanejad. The 2019-20 season marks the first time in NHL history that a Canadian didn’t finish among the top eight goal-scorers (Nathan MacKinnon led all Canadian goal-scorers with 35, good for ninth-best league-wide).
9: He might’ve been tied atop the 2019-20 goal-scoring race by young Pastrnak, but no player has finished a campaign with a leading goals sum more time than Ovechkin, who did it for the record ninth time this season. In doing so, the Great Eight earned his 11th 40-goal campaign, and passed five Hall of Famers on his way to eighth-most all-time (706) — Luc Robitaille, Teemu Selanne, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Mark Messier. A decent list.
30: While it was blueliners Hughes and Makar who led the rookie scoring race, it was Chicago’s Dominik Kubalik who paced all newcomers in the goals department, posting 30 on the year. He’s the first Czech-born player to ever earn the rookie goal-scoring lead.
43: The 2019-20 season was shaping up to be the year of the comeback. Through 85 per cent of the campaign (1,082 of 1,271 games), the league saw teams trailing by multiple goals in the third period come back to win 43 times. That’s the second-most all-time through 1,082 games, the leading total sitting just a couple wins higher at 45.
125: Overall, though, the 2019-20 campaign did lead all other NHL seasons in terms of multi-goal comeback wins (through 1,082 games), with teams accomplishing that feat on 124 occasions.
207: The Oilers have now accounted for three of the past four Art Ross Trophy victors, with Draisaitl claiming this season’s award and McDavid owning two himself. The duo finished first and second in scoring overall this season, combining for a staggering 207 points for Edmonton. That makes them the seventh duo over the past 44 years to finish as the league’s top two scorers, and the first pair to win three scoring titles in four years since Pittsburgh’s Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
457: Parity continues to reign supreme in today’s game, evidenced by just how close so many of 2019-20’s matchups were. This year, 457 of those tilts were won by a team who trailed by at least one goal — that ties 2019-20 for the second-most comeback wins (through 1,082 games) in NHL history, along with last season and the 2005-06 season, fresh off the lockout. The past two Stanley Cup champions led the way, with the Capitals and Blues earning 21 comeback wins apiece.
Statistics courtesy of NHL.com and Sportsnet Stats.