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.
For the first time since the NHL's announcement that the season will be paused indefinitely, hockey fans will experience a Saturday evening without on-ice action. No midday games, no late-night puck and, maybe most jarring, no Hockey Night in Canada during what is generally the height of the season.
But never fear. The latest instalment of our Simulating the Season series, which we began Friday with a simulated version of action from the past two evenings around the league, will provide the hockey-obsessed with some alternate-reality NHL to think about. And on a day when 22 teams were supposed to be in action, there were a few notable moments in the simulated season.
Quite possibly the most intriguing was the continued climb of the Philadelphia Flyers, who have asserted themselves as a Stanley Cup contender by charging up the standings. A win over the Minnesota Wild further solidified Philadelphia in the second spot in the Metropolitan Division, where they continue to breathe down the collective necks of the Washington Capitals. Only one point continues to separate the two teams, and it's setting up for quite the race for top spot in the division.
In the Western Conference, the most notable news may have been the Winnipeg Jets' big win over the Calgary Flames, a victory powered by a four-goal first period in which Mark Scheifele dotted the scoresheet with three assists. While the win didn't move the Jets out of the wild-card race and into a more comfortable position in a divisional playoff spot, it did put Winnipeg two points clear of the Vancouver Canucks, three ahead of the Minnesota Wild and four up on the Nashville Predators. Breathing room.
Here's a look at Saturday's simulated action:
Toronto Maple Leafs – 4
Boston Bruins – 2
The Bruins’ slump continues with a poor effort from Jaroslav Halak, who allowed four goals on his first 11 shots against. Jake Muzzin’s best performance of the season – including the game-winning goal – helped seal the deal for Toronto to give them some breathing room in the playoff race.
1. Frederik Andersen, TOR (39 saves)
2. Jake Muzzin, TOR (1-2–3)
3. Zdeno Chara, BOS (1-0–1)
Los Angeles Kings – 3
Anaheim Ducks – 2
John Gibson, who stopped 32 of 35 shots, did everything he could to keep the Ducks in this one, but a pair against in the opening frame were the difference. Drew Doughty led the way for the Kings with a pair of assists, but Los Angeles' Adrian Kempe was all over the ice. His goal and four hits earned him second-star honors.
1. Drew Doughty, LAK (0-2–2)
2. Adrian Kempe, LAK (1-0–1)
3. Dustin Brown, LAK (1-0–1)
Pittsburgh Penguins – 7
Carolina Hurricanes – 0
That’s quite the way to bounce-back. The Penguins get goals from seven players. But the guy with most points? Somehow, Matt Murray, who registered three assists. A weird one indeed.
1. Matt Murray, PIT (35 saves, 0-3–3)
2. Bryan Rust, PIT (1-1–2)
3. Sidney Crosby, PIT (1-1–2)
New York Rangers – 5
Arizona Coyotes – 2
The Rangers' big guns were all over the ice as New York continued its pursuit of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Entering the evening four points back of the Columbus Blue Jackets and rival New York Islanders, the Rangers made up ground and drew level with the Hurricanes for the ninth spot in the conference.
1. Pavel Buchnevich, NYR (1-2–3)
2. Artemi Panarin, NYR (1-2–3)
3. Mika Zibanejad, NYR (1-1–2)
Columbus Blue Jackets – 3
Nashville Predators – 0
Another tough night for the Predators, but goaltender Juuse Saros made 33 saves in an attempt to keep Nashville in it. But Joonas Korpisalo simply out-duelled the Nashville keeper, pitching a 34-save shutout. The Blue Jackets are charging hard thanks to their three-game winning streak.
1. Joonas Korpisalo, CBJ (34 saves)
2. Cam Atkinson, CBJ (1-1–2)
3. Juuse Saros, NSH (31 saves)
Winnipeg Jets – 7
Calgary Flames – 4
Making the post-season is going to require quite the stretch run for the Jets, particularly as they entered their final dozen games of the season without an advantage in points percentage. Back-to-back wins in Alberta is going to go a long way in helping Winnipeg's cause. An offensive explosion through the first 40 minutes made all the difference, and Mark Scheifele put the offense on his back.
1. Mark Scheifele, WPG (1-3–4)
2. Sam Bennett, CGY (2-1–3)
3. Mark Jankowski (1-1–2)
Florida Panthers – 2
New Jersey Devils – 1
Mackenzie Blackwood continues to cement himself as the starter of the future with a 37-save performance. He also adds an assist. However, it's not enough for the low-scoring Devils. Newly acquired Panthers forward Erik Haula came through for Florida with a goal and an assist in the third.
1. Mackenzie Blackwood, NJD (37 saves)
2. Erik Haula, FLA (1-1–2)
3. Chris Dreidger, FLA (25 saves)
Dallas Stars – 4
San Jose Sharks – 2
Scoring woes begone. The Stars offense continues to come alive. Following a five-goal output the last time out, Dallas puts four past the woeful Sharks. Alexander Radulov leads the way, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin stay hot with a point each and Corey Perry musters a pair of assists. Given the Jets' win, it's a big two points for Dallas, who maintains their grasp on the third spot in the Central Division.
1. Alexander Radulov, DAL (2-0–2)
2. John Klingberg, DAL (0-3–3)
3. Ben Bishop, DAL (29 saves)
Philadelphia Flyers – 3
Minnesota Wild – 2
It was the Carter Hart Show in Philadelphia. The Flyers starter steals one for his white-hot team, posting 46 saves including a whopping 21 stops in the first period. The Flyers keep pace with the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals and continue to threaten for top spot.
1. Carter Hart, PHI (46 saves)
2. Travis Konecny, PHI (1-0–1)
3. Eric Staal, PHI (1-0–1)
Detroit Red Wings – 2
Tampa Bay Lightning – 1
Finally, Jimmy Howard notches his third win of the season, and it couldn’t come against a better team. Surprise goals from Patrick Nemeth and Alex Biega put the Red Wings ahead. A nice confidence-booster for the worst team in the NHL.
1. Jimmy Howard, DET (28 saves)
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL (26 saves)
3. Patrick Nemeth, DET (1-0–1)
Washington Capitals – 2
Chicago Blackhawks – 1
The Capitals need both goalies to pull their weight down the stretch and a 39-save performance Braden Holtby – giving him a 6-1-2 record in his past nine games – helps. Surprisingly, Alex Ovechkin failed to record a shot, but linemate Tom Wilson had a team-leading nine.
1. Braden Holtby, WSH (39 saves)
2. Malcolm Subban, CHI (33 saves)
3. Radko Gudas, WSH (1-0–1)
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