Welcome to Simulating The Season. In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the NHL has put the 2019-20 campaign on hold without a clear timeline for a return to action. As such, with the help of EA Sports’ NHL 20, we’re attempting to figure out what the rest of the season would have looked like had it not been postponed. Keep in mind, this is not a perfect science and the simulation does not take into account real world circumstances, including current injuries.
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There are a few things that have been odd about our Simulating the Series so far, but maybe none odder than the stark contrast between the digital Dallas Stars and their real-life counterparts.
Prior to the NHL’s shutdown, the Stars were foundering, losers of six straight as a result of a popgun offense that had been shutout two times in the final three outings pre-postponement. In question was Dallas’ spot in the Central Division, there loomed large the possibility of the Stars slipping into a wild-card spot and it wasn’t all that far-fetched to imagine a scenario in which coach Rick Bowness’ team fell out of the playoff picture altogether.
Now, contrast that with the digital Stars, who are winners of five in a row and now find themselves with a record identical – iiiii-dentical – to the Colorado Avalanche. Yes, that’s right, at 42-25-8, the Stars and Avalanche are now primed to fight tooth and nail for second spot in the Central Division down the stretch, and it could very well turn out that Dallas overtakes Colorado and earns home-ice advantage in what is almost certain to be a first-round series between the two clubs.
Dallas’ continued excellence wasn’t the only story in Friday’s game. Making headlines elsewhere was a 13-goal battle in the second of our ‘Game of the Night’ streaming series. In the first outing of the double header, the Tampa Bay Lightning came from behind before Alex Killorn notched the overtime winner to secure the two points.
Here’s a look at Friday’s simulated action:
GAME OF THE NIGHT
Tampa Bay Lightning – 7 (OT)
Edmonton Oilers – 6
The fan-voted ‘Game of the Night’ delivered. Not only was it the highest scoring affair of the evening, but it featured a come-from-behind victory and 3-on-3 overtime action. For Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, it’s a night he’ll want to forget quickly, as he allowed six goals against on 38 shots, but there’s something to be said for Mike Smith’s performance in the seven-goal-against defeat. He was under pressure all night, seeing 64 shots come his way, and his 57-save performance was frankly the only reason Edmonton picked up a point.
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, EDM (2-1–3)
2. Nikita Kucherov, TBL (2-1–3)
3. Andreas Athanasiou, EDM (2-0–2)
Pittsburgh Penguins – 4
New York Rangers – 2
The first 40 minutes featured plenty of back-and-forth action – neither team could hold momentum for long. The Rangers led this one twice, but a three-goal third period put New York in a hole out of which they couldn’t dig themselves. A shaky Henrik Lundqvist didn’t matters. A late goal gave the Rangers some hope, but the Penguins, who were led by Bryan Rust and Evgeni Malkin, remained hot and pulled within one point of the Metropolitan Division’s second-place Philadelphia Flyers.
1. Bryan Rust, PIT (1-2–3)
2. Evgeni Malkin, PIT (1-1–2)
3. Ryan Lindgren, NYR (0-3–3)
Dallas Stars – 3
Philadelphia Flyers – 2
Dallas has generally been scoring its way to victory over the past week, but this one was more true to life than any simulated action yet as Stars netminder Ben Bishop stood on his head and stole one. Facing a whopping 37 shots on the evening, Bishop turned aside all but two and helped Dallas secure both points and move into a deadlock with the Colorado Avalanche for second spot in the Central Division. As for the Flyers, the loss saw them fail to keep up with the Metro-leading Washington Capitals and now the Penguins are breathing down Philadelphia’s neck.
1. Ben Bishop, DAL (35 saves)
2. Tyler Seguin, DAL (2-0–2)
3. Kevin Hayes, PHI (2-0–2)
Vancouver Canucks – 3
Anaheim Ducks – 2
With only a handful of points separating the Canucks from a divisional spot, wild-card berth and missing the post-season altogether, every point is critical right now for Vancouver. And with the pressure on, Elias Pettersson delivered. After opening the scoring in the first frame, Pettersson delivered again with less than three minutes remaining in the third and his second tally of the evening stood as the game-winning goal. Sonny Milano’s tally with the Ducks’ net empty came with nine seconds left, too late for Anaheim to make an honest effort at evening the score.
1. Elias Pettersson, VAN (2-0–2)
2. J.T. Miller, VAN (0-2–2)
3. Sonny Milano, ANA (1-0–1)
Ottawa Senators – 3
Washington Capitals – 0
The Caps must have been tired from the physical affair with Columbus on Thursday because Washington didn’t have much in the tank against the lowly Senators Friday night. In fact, the Capitals failed to put more than 10 shots on goal in any of the three periods and allowed a goal in the first minute of each stanza. Ilya Samsonov was otherwise good for the Capitals, but the young guns took center stage for Ottawa.
1. Marcus Hogberg, OTT (26 saves)
2. Rudolfs Balcers, OTT (1-0–1)
3. Jayce Hawrlyuk, OTT (1-0–1)
Winnipeg Jets – 5
Minnesota Wild – 2
What’s your game-day routine? Are you the fan who shows up prior to warmup, watches it all and is firmly planted in your seat by the time starting lineups are announced? Are you the on-time fan who shows up just as the puck is being dropped? Or are you the two-shifts-in arriver who either mistimed your travel or spent a few moments too long grabbing concessions? If you’re the latter, bad news! You missed a lot! There were four goals – three by Winnipeg, one by Minnesota – scored within the first four minutes of this one in a seven-goal first period. Yes, that means all the action was in the first frame. Big win for the Jets, who keep their hold on the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
1. Blake Wheeler, WPG (1-1–2)
2. Patrik Laine, WPG (1-1–2)
3. Laurent Brossoit, WPG (28 saves)
Detroit Red Wings – 4
Arizona Coyotes – 1
The Coyotes’ diminishing playoff hopes took a significant blow Friday evening when the offense failed to put more than a single tally past Jonathan Bernier. The Red Wings goaltender made 26 stops, and Frans Nielsen’s three-point effort sent Detroit to victory. The loss may have been the death knell for Arizona, as they’re now six points out of a playoff spot with seven games remaining.
1. Frans Nielsen, DET (1-2–3)
2. Jonathan Bernier, DET (26 saves)
3. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (1-0–1)
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