Friday September 16th, 2016

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey begins on Saturday, but rather than wait and see how things unfold, we’ve decided to jump right to the end and find out. 

In lieu of time travel, we used EA Sports’ NHL 17 and its highly convenient simulation options to determine what will absolutely, definitely happen in the tournament. 

You have henceforth been warned that the paragraphs below contain spoilers. If you don’t want to know who wins before the tournament starts, you should stop reading now and watch the actual games. 

And with that, here we go:

Round Robin

Each team played three games, with the top two from each group advancing to the playoffs. 

In Group A, Canada essentially breezed past the competition, shutting out Team Czech Republic 4-0 and then blanking Team USA 3-0. Europe put up a solid fight against the Canadians, but was ultimately defeated by a score of 4-3. 

Not only did Team USA lose to Canada, by the way, it lost to everyone it played. Despite a strong showing from goaltender Jonathan Quick over three games (2.29 GAA and .926 save percentage), Team Europe edged past the Americans 3-2 in regulation, while Czech Republic won via shootout by the same score.

The Czechs also advanced from Group A, mostly thanks to Team USA’s failings and Europe’s inconsistent play. Nonetheless, this was a welcome, if unexpected, development. 

NHL
Vladimir Tarasenko talks NHL 17 cover, Las Vegas and World Cup

Without question, North America was the most dominant team in Group B, and man, were they fun to watch. A high-octane offense propelled the upstart youths to the top of the class, and that was pretty much the theme throughout the tournament. 

In particular, the upstarts’ performance against Sweden was a dominating one: an 8-2 blowout against a team with a lot of defensive talent and goaltending to match. Unfazed, the North Americans shelled Henrik Lundqvist with three goals on 12 shots, then another five on 15 shots after Jakob Markstrom took over. 

The Swedes did not look very good at any point, but did manage to move on to the next round. Russia and Finland were essentially no-shows and, to say the least, both failed to live up to expectations in virtual Toronto. 

Playoff Round

The top teams from groups A and B faced off against the second-place squads from groups B and A, respectively. 

Behind John Gibson’s masterful 34-save performance and goals from Connor McDavid, Sean Monahan, and Vincent Trocheck, North America blanked the Czechs 3-0. Meanwhile, Carey Price recorded his third shutout of the tournament for Canada in a 2-0 victory over Sweden. 

Championship Round

The stage was set for an epic, star-studded finale featuring Team Canada and Team North America. The two teams played out a best-of-three series to determine the console version World Cup champion.

The North Americans took Game 1 in dramatic fashion, beating Canada 4-3 in overtime after trailing 2-0 early in the skirmish. Seth Jones notched the OT-winner as his team took a 1-0 series lead. 

Game 2 had a decidedly different outcome with a 5-1 victory for the Canadians. This of course was an extremely disappointing loss for pretty much every 3D-rendered hockey fan on the planet not of Canadian descent. Price turned aside 24 of 25 shots while Claude Giroux netted a pair of goals in the win. 

NHL
NHL 17 puts fans on ice, behind the bench, in the front office

It all came down to one final contest, and it was a great one—for about 55 minutes. As there are 60 minutes in regulation, this proved detrimental to one of the two teams that had worked so hard to get here. 

Jones, the overtime hero of Game 1, scored the opening goal of Game 3… for Team Canada in the first period. A beautiful rush by John Tavares was thwarted by Gibson, only for the rebound to ricochet right off of Jones and into the net. But the kids bounced back, tying the game on a deflection by Brandon Saad toward the end of the opening stanza. 

Gibson proved superhuman throughout the middle period and much of the third, but Canada found a way to breach the gates late in the game and, courtesy of goals by Jonathan Toews and Logan Couture, pulled ahead 3-1 within the final five minutes. 

A few minutes later, Sidney Crosby was at center ice, lifting the computerized World Cup trophy over his head in celebration.

So, there you have it. Team Canada is your winner.

Stats and Observations

The top-three scorers in the tournament were all from Team North America. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere led the field with 10 points, and McDavid actually outplayed Crosby, amassing eight points to Sid’s six. Johnny Gaudreau recorded seven. 

Between the pipes, Price was definitely the star of the show, posting a 6-1-0 record with three shutouts, a 1.27 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage. That’s absurd. He put up video game numbers in a video game

NHL
World Cup of Hockey could create schedule conflicts in Edmonton and elsewhere

Russia’s Alexander Ovechkin turned in a subpar showing with just two points in three games. We expected more from him than a goal and an assist. 

Patrick Kane racked up donuts in the stats column, a major disappointment, especially considering he’s coming off an Art Ross season. 

The Sedins (Daniel and Henrik) had just one point each. To put that into perspective, Marcus Kruger had as many points combined (two) in the tournament. That’s not supposed to happen.

As for the rookies, neither Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine recorded a point. That said, Matthews’s defensive play was impressive, and should not go unnoticed. 

Final Standings
GROUP A 
GROUP B
1.    CANADA (6-1-0) 1.    NORTH AMERICA (5-2-0)
2.    CZECH REPUBLIC (2-2-0) 2.    SWEDEN )2-2-0)
3.    EUROPE (1-2-0) 3.    RUSSIA (1-2-0)
4.    USA (0-2-1) 4.    FINLAND (0-3-0)

 

TOURNAMENT LEADERS
  Player Team G A Pts.
1. SHAYNE GOSTISBEHERE NA 3 7 10
2. CONNOR MCDAVID NA 5 3 8
3.  JOHNNY GAUDREAU NA 0 7 7
4. MARK SCHEIFELE NA 3 3 6
5. SIDNEY CROSBY CAN 0 6 6
6. TYLER SEGUIN CAN 0 6 6
7. NATHAN MACKINNON NA 3 2 5
8. SHEA WEBER CAN 0 5 5
9. TOMAS PLEKANEC CZE 2 3 5
10. STEVEN STAMKOS CAN 5 0 5

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