The 2016-17 NHL regular season is complete. It was a season of surprises all around. The Edmonton Oilers came within three points of winning the Pacific Division after years of futility. The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. The Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs after finishing last in the NHL the season prior. With a season full of surprises, what will the playoffs hold?
While others are making their predictions based on how the teams performed during the season, this is all about how an NHL 17 simulation played out. With the latest roster update downloaded, I set all the playoff matchups to how they are in reality and let the simulation play out. So let’s take a look at who will win the 2017 Stanley Cup, according to good old video games.
1) Washington Capitals vs. WC2) Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs defied odds this season and actually made the playoffs despite having six or more rookies in the lineup at one time or another. Unfortunately, a loss in the final game of the season ensured they would face the President’s Trophy-winning Capitals.
Although they were heavy underdogs, the Maple Leafs actually jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. Two very offensive teams combined for 30 goals in the first four games. The Maple Leafs won by scoring at least four goals in a game. However, they did not manage to score more than three the rest of the series. Washington stormed back and finished off the Leafs in seven.
Result: Washington wins 4-3
2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 3) Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets can’t just catch a break. They have made the playoffs just twice in their history prior to this season. They were swept by the Red Wings in four games in 2009 and lost in six games to the Penguins in 2014. So, the Jackets have some work to do in order to overcome history. The fact that the Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup Champions doesn’t help either
Once again, this series had the lower-seeded team getting a 3-1 series lead. Columbus won both games in Pittsburgh and split their first two games at home. The Penguins came back and won Games 5, 6 and 7 to set up another series of Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby.
Result: Pittsburgh wins 4-3
1) Montreal Canadiens vs. WC1) New York Rangers
A lot has been said that no one wanted to finish first in the Atlantic Division as that would give you an opponent from the superior Metropolitan Division. While the Habs did end up with one more point than the Rangers, this is a series that no one would be surprised if the Rangers won.
The Rangers did just that as they jumped out to a 3-0 series lead. The Canadiens did win Games 4 and 5 to give fans a bit of hope, but lost 3-1 in Game 6 and were eliminated. This was one of the closest series of the first round as every game but the first and sixth was decided by one goal.
Result: New York wins 4-2
2) Ottawa Senators vs. 3) Boston Bruins
The Bruins only secured the third spot in the Atlantic because of a Toronto loss in Game 82 of the regular season, which gave them the more favorable matchup against the Senators. That being said, the Bruins went 0-3-1 against the Senators this season so whether it’s actually more favorable to them is arguable.
The teams split both of their home games as the series was tied 2-2 after four games. Boston would be the first team to win two games in a row as they would win Game 5 and eventually Game 6 to finish off the Senators.
Result: Boston wins 4-2
1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. WC2) Nashville Predators
Like the Blue Jackets, the Predators haven’t had much success against their opponent in past playoff appearances. The Blackhawks and Predators met in the first round in both 2010 and 2015. Chicago would eliminate Nashville in six games both times.
This series had a slight change to that pattern, but not in Nashville’s favor. The Blackhawks would in in five games with Nashville’s only win coming in Game 3. The series was a bit closer than it appeared as both games 2 and 4 went to overtime. Game 4 actually went two overtimes.
Result: Chicago wins 4-1
2) Minnesota Wild vs. 3) St. Louis Blues
It was a tale of two of opposing seasons between the Wild and Blues. The Wild were one of the NHL’s strongest teams in the first half of the season but fell off in the second half. The Blues were just the opposite. They didn’t become a powerhouse, but they did perform better after Mike Yeo took over. This should be an interesting matchup as Yeo is the former Wild head coach before Bruce Boudreau.
The Wild got off to the best start of any team in the first round, being the only team to sweep their opponent.
Result: Minnesota wins 4-0
1) Anaheim Ducks vs. WC1) Calgary Flames
By winning their final game of the season, the Ducks robbed fans of a Battle of Alberta in the first round by winning the Pacific Division crown. The second time in three years that they will open against a Canadian team, the Ducks will hope for the same result as they had against the Winnipeg Jets two years ago.
Things started out that way as they won both games at home to get a 2-0 lead in the series. However, they would not win another game as Calgary would win four games in a row to close out the series in six. They held the Ducks to one goal in Games 4, 5 and 6, doing their part to see a Battle of Alberta in the second round.
Result: Calgary wins 4-2
2) Edmonton Oilers vs. 3) San Jose Sharks
Oh, the difference a generational player can make. A full season of Connor McDavid did wonders for the Oilers and you have to wonder what the future holds for the team. The Oilers have come a long way to reach this point and this is just the beginning.
The beginning of the series looked like the playoff-experienced Sharks would show the Oilers how to play in the playoffs, winning both games in Edmonton. The Oilers eked out a 2-1 overtime in Game 3 before San Jose got an overtime win of their own in Game 4. After that game, the Oilers offense came alive. They scored no less than four goals in Games 5, 6 and 7. That was enough to come back and eliminate the Sharks.
Result: Edmonton wins 4-3
1) Washington Capitals vs. 2) Pittsburgh Penguins
Here we go again. The third time that Ovechkin and Crosby will face off in the playoffs. The past two times they have faced have not gone well for Ovechkin and his Capitals. The Capitals have had a history of, for the lack of a better word, choking in the playoffs and it just hasn’t been against the Pens. What would the Capitals do this time?
Well, it seems this the Caps had some anger to work out and they took it out on the Penguins. All it took for the Capitals to eliminate their opponent was five games. While Pittsburgh managed to hold Washington’s offense at bay for the first three games, Washington would win 5-2 and 6-3 and Games 4 & 5 respectively.
Result: Washington wins 4-1
3) Boston Bruins vs. WC1) New York Rangers
The last Atlantic Division team standing, Boston gets another tough match-up against the Rangers. An Original Six match-up, this would be the 10th time they would face each other in the playoffs. So far, Boston holds a 6-3 advantage in those series.
In another series that went seven games, the Rangers would have 3-1 series lead by the end of Game 4. Boston then came back, forced Game 7 and won the deciding game to eliminate the Rangers.
Result: Boston wins 4-3
1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. 2) Minnesota Wild
The Blackhawks defeated the Wild in three straight playoffs from 2013 to 2015. In those three series, Minnesota has only managed three wins. History definitely does not go towards the Wild here.
This was a fairly even series as the teams would split each other’s home games heading into Game 5. The Blackhawks won Game 65 to take a 3-2 series lead but the Wild would win Game 6 to send it to Game 7. Effectively, the Wild would have already matched their win output from two playoff series (the other series was a sweep) in one series. The Blackhawks would end the Wild’s season with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 7.
Result: Chicago wins 4-3
2) Edmonton Oilers vs. WC1) Calgary Flames
Here we go. The series we wanted in the first round would be given to us in the second round if this simulation becomes reality. Edmonton swept the season series but if this series goes anywhere close to the way the simulation did, we are in for a very entertaining series.
Again, both teams split their home games to be tied 2-2 going into Game 5. In Game 5, the Flames were defeated by one man. The Flames had two goals while McDavid scored three. That the Oilers scored two more in that game was not even needed. The Flames did not take to kindly to that as they came back in Game 6 and clobbered the Oilers 4-0. As if the series couldn’t end any other way, Game 7 went to overtime where Andrej Sekera of all people ended it and send the Flames packing.
Result: Edmonton wins 4-3
1) Washington Capitals vs. 3) Boston Bruins
Remember what I said about the Capitals having some anger to work out. Yeah, that’s still the case. The Bruins were swept by the Caps in the season series and were lucky to win Game 1 of the series. The Bruins never lead again in the series as Washington would eliminate in five games and finally climbed their way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Result: Washington wins 4-1
1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. 2) Edmonton Oilers
Let’s just say the Oilers had a good run. No one expected them to be as good as they were and I doubt that anyone expects them to make it this far in the playoffs. So the fact that the Blackhawks would sweep the Oilers should not be surprising. Patrick Kane would seal the deal in Game 4, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win.
Result: Chicago wins
Stanley Cup Final
Washington Capitals vs. Chicago Blackhawks
If this is how the actual Stanley Cup Final turn out, the television stations would be quite happy. Think about it. Nicklas Backstrom vs. Jonathan Toews. Alex Ovechkin vs. Patrick Kane. Braden Holtby vs. Corey Crawford. This is a money matchup if there ever was one.
The Blackhawks are a great team and a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Even they could not stop the mission the Capitals are on. Washington won 1-0 in Game 1, followed up by a 2-1 Blackhawks win in Game 2. The Capitals would win the next three games to finally win the Stanley Cup.
The Conn Smythe Trophy went to Ovechkin, who had the playoff lead in both goals (15) and points (26).
Will this simulation come anywhere close to what reality will end up being? We’ll have to wait and see.