Who would the Caps play in the first round based on NHL 20's final regular season standings?

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J.J. Regan
·5 min read
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The NHL's regular season was scheduled to end on Saturday meaning we should be gearing up right now for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Alas, the coronavirus has us all stuck at home yearning for the day when live sports can return. Until that time, we are left to wonder what if and that is exactly what I am looking to answer.

NBC Sports Washington simulated the Capitals' scheduled games on EA Sports' NHL 20. With the regular season now over, it's time to take it to the next level. It is time to answer the questions we had in the final stretch run of the season. Would the Caps have won the Metropolitan Division? Would Alex Ovechkin win yet another Rocket Richard Trophy? Would John Carlson reach 90 points? Who would the Caps meet in the playoffs?

The full season has been simmed, the stats have been tallied up and the standings are set. Here is how the 2019-20 regular season finished according to the simulation.

Metropolitan Division

  1. Washington (52-22-8, 112 points)

  2. Philadelphia (48-26-8, 104 points)

  3. Pittsburgh (47-29-6, 100 points)

  4. New York Islanders (44-28-10, 98 points)

  5. Columbus (38-27-17, 93 points)

  6. Carolina (42-33-7, 91 points)

  7. New York Rangers (41-35-6, 88 points)

  8. New Jersey (35-35-12, 82 points)

While it was Philadelphia who was red hot when the season paused, it was the Caps who finished strong with seven straight wins to close out the regular season thus pulling Washington well ahead of the Flyers for the division crown. The Islanders did enough to separate themselves from the middling Metro pack while Columbus and Carolina ultimately fell just short of the postseason.

Atlantic Division

  1. Boston (55-15-12, 122 points)

  2. Tampa Bay (49-26-7, 105 points)

  3. Florida (42-29-11, 95 points)

  4. Toronto (42-30-10, 94 points)

  5. Montreal (38-34-10, 86 points)

  6. Buffalo (35-39-8, 78 points)

  7. Ottawa (30-36-16, 76 points)

  8. Detroit (19-56-7, 45 points)

Toronto and Florida tried desperately not to earn the No. 3 seed, both losing several games they should have won. In the end, the Panthers edged out the Leafs.

Central Division

  1. St. Louis (47-25-10, 104 points)

  2. Colorado (46-26-10, 102 points)

  3. Dallas (43-30-9, 95 points)

  4. Minnesota (42-32-8, 92 points)(36 regulation wins)

  5. Winnipeg (43-33-6, 92 points)(35 regulation wins)

  6. Nashville (40-32-10, 90 points)

  7. Chicago (39-34-9, 87 points)

The top three played out as expected though the gap between St. Louis and Colorado was much smaller than I would have guessed. Of the last four teams, I was very surprised that it was Minnesota that came out on top.

Pacific Division

  1. Vegas (48-25-9, 105 points)

  2. Edmonton (44-27-11, 99 points)

  3. Calgary (42-32-8, 92 points)

  4. Arizona (40-33-9, 89 points)

  5. Vancouver (39-35-8, 86 points)

  6. San Jose (36-40-6, 78 points)

  7. Los Angeles (34-40-8, 76 points)

  8. Anaheim (33-40-9, 75 points)

Vegas finally did what every expected it too, take control of the division. The way Arizona and Vancouver finished the season was hugely disappointing.

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Capitals player stats

Nicklas Backstrom 19 goals, 50 assists, 69 points
Travis Boyd 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points
John Carlson 16 goals, 68 assists, 84 points
Brenden Dillon 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points
Nic Dowd 11 goals, 13 assists, 24 points
Lars Eller 21 goals, 28 assists, 49 points
Martin Fehervary 1 assist, 1 point
Radko Gudas 2 goals, 15 assists, 17 points
Carl Hagelin 10 goals, 21 assists, 31 points
Garnet Hathaway 10 goals, 10 assists, 20 points
Nick Jensen 1 goal, 13 assists, 14 points
Michal Kempny 3 goals, 16 assists, 19 points
Ilya Kovalchuk 5 goals, 7 assists, 12 points
Evgeny Kuznetsov 24 goals, 37 assists, 61 points
Brendan Leipsic 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points
Dmitry Orlov 5 goals, 29 assists, 34 points
T.J. Oshie 27 goals, 32 assists, 59 points
Alex Ovechkin 54 goals, 27 assists, 81 points
Richard Panik 11 goals, 18 assists, 29 points
Jonas Siegenthaler 2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points
Jakub Vrana 31 goals, 29 assists, 60 points
Tom Wilson 24 goals, 30 assists, 54 points

Dowd set a new career-high in goals, Hathaway and Orlov set career-highs in assists, Dowd, Hathaway and Orlov all set career-highs in points and Carlson, Eller, Siegenthaler and Wilson set career highs in all three categories.

Top goal scorers

  1. David Pastrnak 56

  2. Alex Ovechkin 54

  3. Auston Matthews 50

  4. Mika Zibanejad 45

  5. Leon Draisaitl 44

Ovechkin fell just short of a ninth Rocket Richard, but this total would give Ovechkin 712 career goals, moving him past Mike Gartner for seventh overall on the all-time goals list.

Points leaders

  1. Leon Draisaitl 123 points

  2. Connor McDavid 112 points

  3. David Pastrnak 108 points

  4. Artemi Panarin 103 points

  5. Nathan MacKinnon 103 points

No one was going to catch Draisaitl.

Top rookies

  1. Quinn Hughes 8 goals, 49 assists, 57 points

  2. Dominik Kubalik 33 goals, 19 assists, 52 points

  3. Cale Makar 12 goals, 39 assists, 51 points

  4. Victor Olofsson 25 goals, 26 assists, 51 points

  5. Adam Fox 8 goals, 37 assists, 45 points

Playoff matchups

M1 Washington vs. WC1 New York Islanders
M2 Philadelphia vs. M3 Pittsburgh

A1 Boston vs. WC2 Toronto
A2 Tampa Bay vs. A3 Florida

C1 St. Louis vs. WC1 Minnesota
C2 Colorado vs. C3 Dallas

P1 Vegas vs. WC2 Winnipeg
P2 Edmonton vs. P3 Calgary

This is a fascinating bracket. For the Caps, it's Washington vs. Barry Trotz in the first round. Flyers vs. Penguins, Lightning vs. Panthers and Oilers vs. Flames are all big rivalries that would have been incredible to watch in a seven-game series.

I also love how the Leafs just can't escape the Bruins. The year they finish outside the top three is the year Boston wins the division.

The postseason begins on Wednesday. Stick with NBC Sports Washington for your simulated Stanley Cup Playoff recaps!

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Who would the Caps play in the first round based on NHL 20's final regular season standings? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington