EA Sports NHL 21: Stanley Cup Playoffs Simulation

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are about to be back in full force as we will have a slightly different format from the usual. You’ll have full divisional playoff matchups in the first two rounds as the top four from each division battle it out before one emerges for the two semifinal matchups where they will be re-seeded.

We are primed to get an unusual Stanley Cup Final matchup with the re-seeding of the conference final matchups — it should be a wild ride.

Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning 2020 Stanley Cup
Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning hoists the 2020 Stanley Cup. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Let’s see how EA Sports’ NHL 21 has it playing out in this year’s simulation.

MassMutual East Division – First Round

No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 4 New York Islanders

Series Results: PIT, 4-2

The Penguins dropped the first two games of the series, but rally behind three goals and four assists from Sidney Crosby to avenge their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff loss to the Islanders. Another note was that the Islanders’ goal-scoring issues continued as they scored just 13 in the series to the Pens’ 20.

No. 2 Washington Capitals vs. No. 3 Boston Bruins

Series Results: WSH, 4-3

The Capitals took down the Bruins in a thrilling seven-game series that featured the Caps’ power play clicking at a 32 percent clip. They also got five goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov and three from Alexander Ovechkin.

Evgeny Kuznetsov Washington Capitals
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Capitals have Cup pedigree and a lot of talent who have played a lot of hockey together, they match-up well with the Penguins.

Scotia North Division – First Round

No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 4 Montreal Canadiens

Series Results: TOR, 4-3

This one has been 42 years in the making. The first series from the Scotia North Division sees a near upset as the Maple Leafs take down the Canadiens in seven. Montreal won the first two games of this series, but couldn’t pull off the upset. The Canadiens would be kicking themselves for losing the series while holding Auston Matthews to just two goals.

No. 2 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 3 Winnipeg Jets

Series Results: WPG, 4-3

Our first upset of the simulation has the Jets taking down the Oilers for another disappointing season with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl led the Oilers with nine points, while McDavid had seven. Andrew Copp led the Jets with five goals, while Connor Hellebuyck struggled with a .887 save percentage (SV%).

Andrew Copp Winnipeg Jets
Andrew Copp, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

How far can the Jets go? If Hellebuyck can get hot, they could pull off a major upset over the Maple Leafs.

Discover Central Division – First Round

No. 1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 4 Nashville Predators

Series Results: NSH, 4-1

A semi-shocking result, but in reality, the Predators have been playing well going into the playoffs. The simulation says they will continue that as they dismantle the Hurricanes and take them down in five, resulting in a disappointing season end for a team that was one of the best in the league.

Viktor Arvidsson Nashville Predators
Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Viktor Arvidsson came to play for the Predators, scoring four goals in five games.

No. 2 Florida Panthers vs. No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning

Series Results: FLA, 4-3

Another semi-shocking result as the defending champion Lightning go down against their in-state counterpart the Panthers. The Panthers nearly blew a 3-0 lead, but held on in a thrilling seven-game series.

Honda West Division – First Round

No. 1 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 4 St. Louis Blues

Series Results: STL, 4-2

A massive upset as the Avalanche, who won the Presidents’ Trophy, fall in six games to the Blues. Jordan Binnington led the way for St. Louis with a .927 SV% — can he take them on another deep run? We shall see with this year’s simulation.

No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 3 Minnesota Wild

Series Results: MIN, 4-1

Another upset as the Wild take down the Golden Knights. This could happen in real life as Minnesota has played Vegas well with a 5-1-2 record. Kirill Kaprizov, Ryan Hartman and Mats Zuccarello scored six points each in this series. Offense was the king of this series. Both Wild goaltenders had sub-.900 SV% over the five games.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Can the likely Calder Trophy winner Kaprizov lead the Wild to the semifinals of the playoffs? Time will tell.

First Round Stat Leaders

MassMutual East Division

Forwards:

  • Nicklas Backstrom (WSH) – 1 goal, 9 assists, 10 points
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH) – 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points
  • Alex Ovechkin (WSH) – 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points

Defenseman:

  • John Carlson (WSH) – 1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points
  • Kris Letang (PIT) – 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points
  • Dmitry Orlov (WSH) – 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points

Goaltenders:

  • Tristan Jarry (PIT) – 4-1-1 record, .926 SV%
  • Vitek Vanecek (WSH) – 4-3-0 record, .912 SV%

Scotia North Division

Forwards:

  • Leon Draisaitl (EDM) – 4 goals, 5 assists, 9 points
  • Cole Caufield (MTL) – 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points
  • Kailer Yamamoto (EDM) – 1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points

Defenseman:

  • Josh Morrissey (WPG) – 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points
  • Jake Muzzin (TOR) – 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points
  • Dmitry Kulikov (EDM) – 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points

Goaltenders:

  • Frederik Andersen (TOR) – 4-2-1 record, .911 SV%
  • Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) – 4-3-0 record, .887 SV%

Discover Central Division

Forwards:

  • Nikita Kucherov (TBL) – 5 goals, 2 assists, 7 points
  • Steven Stamkos (TBL) – 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points
  • Brayden Point (TBL) – 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points

Defenseman:

  • Victor Hedman (TBL) – 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points
  • Dougie Hamilton (CAR) – 0 goals, 7 assists, 7 points
  • Brett Pesce (CAR) – 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points

Goaltenders:

  • Juuse Saros (NSH) – 4-1-0 record, .896 SV%
  • Sergei Bobrovsky (FLA) – 4-3-0 record, .906 SV%

Honda West Division

Forwards:

  • William Karlsson (VGK) – 3 goals, 6 assists, 9 points
  • Jonathan Marchessault (VGK) – 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points
  • Max Pacioretty (VGK) – 5 goals, 2 assists, 7 points

Defenseman:

  • Alex Pietrangelo (VGK) – 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points
  • Cale Makar (COL) – 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points
  • Matt Dumba (MIN) – 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points

Goaltenders:

  • Jordan Binnington (STL) – 4-2-0 record, .927 SV%
  • Kaapo Kahkonen (MIN) – 4-1-0 record, .878 SV%

*Note: For the goaltender stats, I picked the goaltenders with the teams that are moving on, while for the forwards and defenseman stats, I went with the straight-up leaders.

MassMutual East Division – Second Round

No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 2 Washington Capitals

Series Results: PIT, 4-3

The Penguins nearly blew a three-game lead in this series, but they survived a feisty Game 7 with the Capitals. Three goals and three assists in this series for Crosby, while Jarry’s dominance in net continued.

Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The first team to reach the Stanley Cup Playoff Semifinals in this simulation is a team that won the entire thing in 2016 and 2017.

Scotia North Division – Second Round

No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 3 Winnipeg Jets

Series Results: WPG, 4-1

The Maple Leafs played with fire in their first-round series with the Canadiens and won, but this time the Jets took advantage and took them down in seven. Hellebuyck bounced back in this series, raising his SV% to .912 for the first 13 games of the playoffs.

Discover Central Division – Second Round

No. 2 Florida Panthers vs. No. 4 Nashville Predators

Series Results: NSH, 4-1

This was a dominant defensive effort from the Predators to take down the Panthers, becoming the first four-seed to reach the semifinals. Nick Cousins scored three goals in 13 games for the Predators.

Nick Cousins Nashville Predators
Nick Cousins, Nashville Predators (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Saros picked his game up from the first round to the second round, raising his SV% to .915.

Honda West Division – Second Round

No. 3 Minnesota Wild vs. No. 4 St. Louis Blues

Series Results: STL, 4-1

The Blues are making a run once again, as they down the Wild in five games. Binnington continues his dominance and Vladimir Tarasenko wakes up and gets his playoff goal total up to six.

Second Round Stat Leaders (Stats Compiled Throughout First Two Rounds)

MassMutual East Division

Forwards:

  • Evgeni Malkin (PIT) – 5 goals, 13 assists, 18 points
  • Sidney Crosby (PIT) – 7 goals, 7 assists, 14 points
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH) – 7 goals, 7 assists, 14 points

Defenseman:

  • John Carlson (WSH) – 2 goals, 11 assists, 13 points
  • Dmitry Orlov (WSH) – 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points
  • Justin Schultz (WSH) – 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points

Goaltenders:

  • Tristan Jarry (PIT) – 8-4-1 record, .928 SV%

Scotia North Division

Forwards:

  • Blake Wheeler (WPG) – 6 goals, 6 assists, 12 points
  • Andrew Copp (WPG) – 6 goals, 5 assists, 11 points
  • Nikolaj Ehlers (WPG) – 2 goals, 9 assists, 11 points

Defenseman:

  • Josh Morrissey (WPG) – 2 goals, 8 assists, 10 points
  • Morgan Rielly (TOR) – 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points
  • Neal Pionk (WPG) – 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points

Goaltenders:

  • Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) – 8-4-0 record, .912 SV%

Discover Central Division

Forwards:

  • Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA) – 1 goal, 9 assists, 10 points
  • Alexander Wennberg (FLA) – 1 goal, 9 assists, 10 points
  • Aleksander Barkov (FLA) – 3 goals, 6 assists, 9 points

Defenseman:

  • Mattias Ekholm (NSH) – 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points
  • Ryan Ellis (NSH) – 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points
  • Matt Benning (NSH) – 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points

Goaltenders:

  • Juuse Saros (NSH) – 8-2-0 record, .915 SV%

Honda West Division

Forwards:

  • Kirill Kaprizov (MIN) – 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points
  • Mats Zuccarello (MIN) – 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points
  • Jaden Schwartz (STL) – 0 goals, 9 assists, 9 points

Defenseman:

  • Jared Spurgeon (MIN) – 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points
  • Matt Dumba (MIN) – 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points
  • Ryan Suter (MIN) – 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points

Goaltenders:

  • Jordan Binnington (STL) – 8-3-0 record, .926 SV%

*Note: The final four teams will be re-seeded, making for a potential Stanley Cup Final matchup like never before.

Stanley Cup Playoff Semifinal #1

Pittsburgh Penguins (77 points) vs. Winnipeg Jets (61 points)

Series Results: WPG, 4-3

An unreal run on the simulation by the Jets as they upset the Penguins in seven games. Also a crazy series for Kyle Connor as he tallied 13 points in the seven-game series. Even though this is a simulation, this would be this current Jets franchise’s first Cup chance in its history.

Kyle Connor Winnipeg Jets
Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Jets will need Connor, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler to show up in the final as they combined for 10 goals in this series. Hellebuyck carried a .934 SV% in this series — they will be hard to beat if he continues this.

Stanley Cup Playoff Semifinal #2

Nashville Predators (64 points) vs. St. Louis Blues (63 points)

Series Results: STL, 4-1

The Blues return to the Cup Final for the second time in three years as they dismantle their usual division rival in Nashville. Binnington has been off the charts for the Blues as he allowed just nine goals and had a .925 SV%.

Jordan Binnington St. Louis Blues
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

We have one of those unusual Cup Final matchups with two usual Discover Central Division teams with the Blues and Jets.

Stat Leaders Through Stanley Cup Playoff Semifinals

Forwards:

  • Kyle Connor (WPG) – 7 goals, 14 assists, 21 points
  • Blake Wheeler (WPG) – 11 goals, 10 assists, 21 points
  • Mark Scheifele (WPG) – 5 goals, 13 assists, 18 points

Defenseman:

  • Neal Pionk (WPG) – 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points
  • Justin Faulk (STL) – 2 goals, 7 assists, 9 points
  • Josh Morrissey (WPG) – 2 goals, 8 assists, 10 points

Goaltenders:

  • Jordan Binnington (STL) – 12-4-0 record, .926 SV%
  • Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) – 12-6-1 record, .919 SV%

Stanley Cup Final

St. Louis Blues vs. Winnipeg Jets

Game 1

Score: WPG 6, STL 3

The Jets jumped on the Blues with a 3-0 lead off the hop, and they kept their foot on the gas as they became the first team of the playoffs to solve Binnington. Tarasenko had a hat trick and scored all three for the Blues. It didn’t matter, though. Pierre-Luc Dubois had a goal and two assists in this game.

Game 2

Score: WPG 4, STL 1

Tarasenko once again scored the only goal for the Blues and it didn’t matter. Dubois stayed hot and scored two more goals in this one, while Hellebuyck had 31 saves on 32 shots. The Jets are two games away from winning the Cup with two games on home ice to come.

Game 3

Score: STL 4, WPG 2

The Blues get on the board with a victory in Game 3. They got three goals in the second period as they were tied 1-1 after the first period. Brayden Schenn, Sammy Blais, and Colton Parayko scored the goals in the second period.

Game 4

Score: WPG 6, STL 3

The Jets now take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series with a dominant 6-3 win in Game 4. The Jets’ top line was off the charts with a hat trick from Wheeler, five assists for Schiefele and a four-point night for Connor. They are now one game away from being the first Canadian team to take the Cup home since the Canadiens in 1993.

Game 5

Score: STL 3, WPG 1

The Blues live anther day as Binnington saves 23 of 24 shots. Faulk adds a goal to the mix as well as Mike Hoffman, and they make this interesting going into Game 6.

Game 6

Score: STL 2, WPG 1

The Blues survive another one as they overcame a 1-0 deficit with goals from Hoffman and Tarasenko to win Game 6. Binnington stood on his head with 36 saves on 37 shots. Hoffman came to play with a goal and an assist to go along with three hits. On to Game 7 we go.

Game 7

Score: WPG 4, STL 3

And the Jets have done it, they overcome the odds and make one of most incredible runs in NHL history. Wheeler tallies two goals and an assist to lead the Jets to the Cup victory.

The first Canadian team since 1993 to win it will be the Jets according to the simulation. What a wild run to upset the Oilers, Leafs, Penguins and Blues. They had the least amount of points going into the playoffs, yet they are the last team standing.

Stanley Cup Champs: Winnipeg Jets

Conn Smythe Winner: Blake Wheeler

Overall Scoring Leaders

Forwards:

  • Kyle Connor (WPG) – 9 goals, 20 assists, 29 points
  • Blake Wheeler (WPG) – 16 goals, 13 assists, 29 points
  • Mark Scheifele (WPG) – 7 goals, 21 assists, 28 points

Defenseman:

  • Neal Pionk (WPG) – 5 goals, 8 assists, 13 points
  • Justin Faulk (STL) – 5 goals, 8 assists, 13 points
  • Josh Morrissey (WPG) – 2 goals, 9 assists, 11 points

Goaltenders:

  • Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) – 16-9-1 record, .917 SV%
  • Jordan Binnington (STL) – 15-8-0 record, .914 SV%

Wrapping up the Simulation

What a wild simulation this was. Many of the favorites were upset early and the lowest regular-season point-getter wins the Cup. Let’s hope the playoffs live up to the craziness.


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