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.
• • •
What was once a comfortable lead atop the Atlantic Division for the Bruins has steadily evaporated, and after the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime victory Saturday night, Boston has only a slim two-point margin atop the division, conference and league. Clawing to within two points of the top spot wasn’t easy for the Lightning, however. The Calgary Flames made them fight for it.
In a back-and-forth affair Saturday in Calgary, the Flames and Lightning exchanged the lead three times in regulation before a winner was ultimately decided in an extra frame. The contest began with Mark Jankowski, who has been on fire of late, putting the Flames ahead early, but the Lightning managed to draw level and then pull ahead when Jan Rutta and Nikita Kucherov scored in quick succession before the end of the first. Tampa Bay clung to that lead through intermission, but Calgary took over with trio of markers spanning from late in the second frame into the third to take control. But that set the stage for Anthony Cirelli.
After Yanni Gourde scored midway through the third period, Cirelli stepped up and fired one home before the Flames had a chance to get settled. The game-tying goal, 90 seconds after Gourde’s lead-trimming marker, was enough to send the outing to overtime. And that’s where Cirelli lifted the Lightning to victory. With 1:44 left in the extra frame, Cirelli tucked one past David Rittich to give Tampa Bay its 47th win of the season.
Meanwhile, in our ‘Game of the Night’ in Nashville, the Predators appeared as though they were shot out of a cannon early and got a trio of goals before the midway mark of the first frame had passed. Despite seemingly having total control of the contest, though, the Flyers scratched and clawed their way back within one by the end of the middle frame. However, any attempt at a come-from-behind victory was snuffed out when a misplayed puck at the Nashville blueline resulted in a breakaway for Predators pivot Nick Bonino, who shook Philadelphia goaltender Carter Hart before lifting a backhand into a yawning cage.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s simulated action:
GAME OF THE NIGHT
Nashville Predators – 5
Philadelphia Flyers – 3
If you read above, you know the story here, but how about some praise for Carter Hart? The Flyers goaltender made 40 saves and a few huge ones to keep Philadelphia within striking distance after it appeared the Predators were going to run away with this one. Not the result the Flyers wanted, but solid work from their keeper.
1. Viktor Arvidsson, NSH (1-1–2)
2. Nick Bonino, NSH (1-1–2)
3. Claude Giroux, PHI (0-3–3)
Chicago Blackhawks – 9
Buffalo Sabres – 5
Uh, yeah. Goaltending was not on display Saturday in Buffalo. All four goaltenders who suited up saw action, but Malcolm Subban was the hero, not allowing a goal in 34 minutes of action. In fact, the Sabres put five past Corey Crawford in the first 10 minutes, but coach Jeremy Colliton decided to keep him in. Fortunately, Patrick Kane took over this one with five goals…on five shots. Despite the Sabres scoring five times, Jack Eichel somehow managed to leave without a single point for Buffalo.
1. Patrick Kane, CHI (5-0–5)
2. Dominik Kahun, BUF (2-0–2)
3. Alexander Nylander, CHI (1-2–3)
Colorado Avalanche – 4
Montreal Canadiens – 2
It was a matter of too little, too late for the Canadiens, who tried to get back in this one but couldn’t beat Philipp Grubauer despite pressuring the Avalanche netminder. The closest Montreal came to making a push in this one was in the late stages when Joel Armia scored less than a minute after Tyson Jost extended Colorado’s lead to 4-1. But Grubauer’s door-slamming play was the difference.
1. Ryan Graves, COL (1-1–2)
2. Philipp Grubauer, COL (28 saves)
3. Tyson Jost, COL (1-0–1)
Columbus Blue Jackets – 3
Toronto Maple Leafs – 2
It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blue Jackets after a tough loss in Washington a few nights ago. Joonas Korpisalo stood on his head for 55 minutes, but goals from Alex Kerfoot (who has scored in four of his past five games) and John Tavares made it close late. Emil Bemstrom had the difference-maker on his only shot of the game early in the third, so maybe coach John Tortorella will give him some more ice time on a battered squad.
1. Joonas Korpisalo, CBJ (47 saves)
2. Alex Kerfoot, TOR (1-1–2)
3. Emil Bemstrom, CBJ (1-0–1)
Los Angeles Kings – 6
Vancouver Canucks – 4
Get out the NHL Record Book and insert Martin Frk’s name beside “Fastest Goal From the Start of a Period,” because the Kings winger has managed to break the four-second mark held by James van Riemsdyk, Denis Savard and Claude Provost by scoring two seconds – two seconds! – into the third period of this one. The goal was Frk’s second of the night and he finished off the hat trick with a goal with less than eight minutes remaining. Both of Frk’s third period goals made the difference in what was a 4-4 game entering the final period.
1. Martin Frk, LAK (3-1–4)
2. Jeff Carter, LAK (1-1–2)
3. Drew Doughty, LAK (0-2–2)
Florida Panthers – 1
St. Louis Blues – 0
Mark Pysyk, superstar forward? A month after scoring a shocking hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pysyk, a natural defenseman, scored in his second consecutive game on just the third shot of the first period, and that was all it took. The goaltenders stood on their heads otherwise, with Samuel Montembeault earning his first shutout of the season. Jake Allen did everything he could, but the Blues just couldn’t buy a goal.
1. Mark Pysyk, FLA (1-0–1)
2. Samuel Montembeault, FLA (33 saves)
3. Jake Allen, STL (30 saves)
San Jose Sharks – 4
Boston Bruins – 2
The benefit of a couple master blasters on the blueline is that when the forwards aren’t clicking, the defenders can get the job done at the other end of the ice. And that was the case in this one as Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson led the way for the Sharks. Tied at two entering the third period, Burns scored minutes into the frame and Karlsson added the insurance marker minutes later. Meanwhile, Aaron Dell further cemented himself as the starter with a 31-save effort.
1. Brent Burns, SJS (2-1–3)
2. Erik Karlsson, SJS (1-1–2)
3. Aaron Dell, SJS (31 saves)
New Jersey Devils – 4
New York Islanders – 3
After yet another tough stretch, the Devils finally bailed out their goaltender. In this case, it was Cory Schneider, who had 11 stops on a penalty kill in the final two minutes. Two goals each from Nikita Gusev and Jack Hughes got the Devils fans in attendance going nuts, while a three-assist night out of Pavel Zacha will be a good confidence booster for the future.
1. Nikita Gusev, NJD (2-0–2)
2. Pavel Zacha, NJD (0-3–3)
3. Jack Hughes, NJD (2-0–2)
Tampa Bay Lightning – 5 (OT)
Calgary Flames – 4
The two points escaped the Flames, but the single by way of overtime did push Calgary ahead of Vancouver and into the third spot in the Pacific Division. It seems the Canucks and Flames are destined to do this dance for the remainder of the season, and the one point separating the two clubs stands to make next Friday’s clash between the teams a massive meeting.
1. Anthony Cirelli, TBL (2-0–2)
2. Mark Jankowski (2-0–2)
3. Mikhail Sergachev, TBL (0-2–2)
Carolina Hurricanes – 5
Ottawa Senators – 2
A three-goal outburst on a five-minute advantage after a hit from behind by Colin White put the Hurricanes ahead, and they didn’t look back. Bobby Ryan had both goals for the Senators, including a shorthanded tally on that same five-minute penalty. Craig Anderson did everything in his power to dampen the Carolina attack and was nearly perfect at full strength, but it wasn’t enough as the Sens spent a significant portion of the game chasing the action.
1. Sebastian Aho, CAR (2-1–3)
2. Bobby Ryan, OTT (2-0–2)
3. Martin Necas, CAR (1-2–3)
Vegas Golden Knights – 5
Detroit Red Wings – 3
With the Edmonton Oilers hot on their heels, the Golden Knights can’t afford to drop any gimme games, but the dreadful Red Wings put a scare into the Pacific Division leaders Saturday. Not only did Detroit claw back from a two-goal deficit in the second frame to draw this one level, but it wasn’t until more than four minutes into the third that Vegas finally got the go-ahead goal. Alex Tuch was responsible for that one, and his pair in the final period was enough to give the Golden Knights some breathing room atop the Pacific.
1. Mark Stone, VGK (1-2–3)
2. Alex Tuch, VGK (2-0–2)
3. Jonathan Marchessault, VGK (0-3–3)
Want more in-depth features and analysis? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.