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Simulating the Season: Rangers continue push for playoff spot, Blue Jackets get breathing room in wild-card race

As our simulated season rolls on, the New York Rangers continued to make up ground in the wild-card race and the Columbus Blue Jackets increased their odds of hanging onto a playoff spot. Elsewhere, an unlikely hero led the Dallas Stars to victory.
NHL 20

NHL 20

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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For the better part of the past few months, the New York Rangers have been hanging around on the periphery of the Eastern Conference wild-card race. It's been a will-they or won't-they scenario, and with each passing game in our simulated season, it looks more and more as though it will be the former instead of the latter. And New York's potential to punch a ticket to the post-season increased with a clutch 1-0 win over the Calgary Flames in Monday's simulated action.

In what turned was an incredible goaltending duel between two keepers trying to ensure their teams end up playoff-bound, Henrik Lundqvist and David Rittich went head to head in a test of wills. In the end, after the two keepers had each posted 31 saves, it was the Flames' netminder who wound up breaking first. Anthony DeAngelo fired home the overtime winner, and an important overtime winner it was: with the victory, the Rangers vaulted the Carolina Hurricanes and moved into a tie – at least based on points and points alone – with the New York Islanders for the final wild-card spot.

In other action on a five-game night in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets picked up a big 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins that moved them four points clear of the next-best Eastern Conference wild-card club. The victory doesn't ensure Columbus is headed to the post-season, but it certainly gives them some breathing room with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Here's a look at Monday's simulated action:

STANDINGS

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Columbus Blue Jackets – 4
Boston Bruins – 1

The Bruins gave the Blue Jackets everything they had, but Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins was the story of the game. The rookie netminder allowed a goal on the first shot of the game, but he didn't budge after that, stopping the next 35 shots that came his way while Columbus’ offensive group secured the win.

Three Stars
1. Elvis Merzlikins, CBJ (35 saves)
2. Zachary Werenski, CBJ (1-2–3)
3. Andrew Peeke, CBJ (1-1–2)

Dallas Stars – 3
Arizona Coyotes – 2

The list of potential offensive heroes is a long one in Dallas. There's Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov or, heck, even Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg. But the actual overtime hero in this one? Stephen Johns, who rifled home the winner with little more than three minutes remaining and helped Dallas keep pace with the top dogs in the Central.

Three Stars
1. Stephen Johns, DAL (1-0–1)
2. Phil Kessel, ARI (1-0–1)
3. Andrej Sekera, DAL (0-2–2)

New York Rangers – 1 (OT)
Calgary Flames – 0

It was a goaltending duel between Henrik Lundqvist and David Rittich, as the two netminders went save-for-save through regulation and into overtime where Anthony DeAngelo rifled home the overtime winner. Sam Bennett was Calgary's best player, putting a whopping 11 shots on goal.

Three Stars
1. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (31 saves)
2. David Rittich, CGY (31 saves)
3. Anthony DeAngelo, NYR (1-0–1)

Washington Capitals – 5
Edmonton Oilers – 4

For the second time this season, Leon Draisaitl had a four-goal outing. But this time, it wasn’t enough, as a hat-trick by Richard Panik at the other end and a pair from John Carlson lifted the Capitals to victory. Kids, don’t watch this game if you want to be an NHL goalie – the shots were 23-20 for Washington, which is incredible given the score. Fans got their money’s worth with this one.

Three Stars
1. Leon Draisaitl, EDM (4-0–4)
2. Richard Panik, WSH (3-0–3)
3. John Carlson, WSH (2-1–3)

Florida Panthers – 5
Detroit Red Wings – 0

Jimmy Howard's pursuit of two consecutive wins continues. After a weekend win, the Red Wings netminder was pulled after allowing three goals in the first two minutes Monday. Detroit had just one shot in the third in a complete team effort for Florida. Mark it down as another victory for goaltender Chris Driedger, too.

Three Stars
1. Chris Dreidger, FLA (29 saves)
2. Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA (2-1–3)
3. Mackenzie Weegar, FLA (1-3–4)

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