Simulating the Season: Capitals close in on clinching Metropolitan, Panthers, Maple Leafs deadlocked in Atlantic

0
4


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.

• • •

As the season draws closer to its conclusion, the Washington Capitals have moved into top spot in the hunt for the Presidents’ Trophy. Or, more accurately, they remain atop the standings.

As helpful reader Paul DeWeerd pointed out Thursday, a gaffe was made in our accounting of who was leading the league following Wednesday’s games. While the Tampa Bay Lightning had indeed pulled ahead of the Boston Bruins for top spot in the Atlantic Division, Washington actually owned the top record based on points percentage. But any possible confusion about that was cleared up Thursday when the Capitals held off the New York Rangers on the strength of a pair of Tom Wilson goals and an excellent shutout performance from goaltender Ilya Samsonov.

With the victory, the Capitals not only moved into top spot in the NHL, but also kept five points between themselves and the Philadelphia Flyers, who exited action Thursday with two points of their own.

Elsewhere, the Predators’ win vaulted Nashville into the second-wild card spot in the Western Conference. Wins by the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs kept the two Atlantic Division combatants in a sprint for the third spot in the Atlantic Division. The Boston Bruins also moved two points up on the Lightning with a blanking of the Ottawa Senators.

Unfortunately, this will be the penultimate installation of Simulating the Season. Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up the remainder of the regular season, get the post-season matchups and complete the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, crowning a winner in the series finale.

But for now, take a look at Thursday’s simulated action:

STANDINGS

Nashville Predators – 3
Los Angeles Kings – 2

Until the final minutes of this one, it appeared the Kings were going to at least force overtime and make things interesting, but Kyle Turris ensured that wouldn’t be the case. With 97 seconds remaining in the third period, Turris was able to rip one past Jonathan Quick and deliver Nashville the victory.

Three Stars
1. Kyle Turris, NSH (1-0–1)
2. Roman Josi, NSH (1-0–1)
3. Pekka Rinne, NSH (22 saves)

New Jersey Devils – 2
Minnesota Wild – 1

Given the Predators were able to get by their bottom-of-the-barrel opponent, the last thing the Wild could afford to do was lose to the Devils and drop valuable points in the Western Conference wild-card race with so little runway remaining. Alas, that’s precisely what Minnesota did. The teams were deadlocked for the majority of the third frame, but P.K. Subban’s blast with 1:15 remaining snuck by Devan Dubnyk and ended this one.

Three Stars
1. Mackenzie Blackwood, NJD (40 saves)
2. P.K. Subban, NJD (1-1–2)
3. Devan Dubnyk, MIN (23 saves)

Boston Bruins – 3
Ottawa Senators – 0

Fresh off of a shelling in his last start, Bruins netminder Jaroslav Halak earned redemption with a perfect effort against a stumbling Ottawa team. The Senators had early control of the game thanks to three consecutive power plays in the first five minutes, but Halak stood tall and held fast for the rest of the game. The Bruins kept the Sens to the perimeter near the end, limiting the number of shots to just three in the final period.

Three Stars
1. Charlie McAvoy, BOS (1-2–3)
2. Jaroslav Halak, BOS (27 saves)
3. David Pastrnak, BOS (1-1–2)

Florida Panthers – 5
Montreal Canadiens – 1

Will the Panthers lose again? The Sunrise uprising continues with a monster effort against Montreal, putting an end to the Habs’ already depleted playoff hopes with a three-goal first period. Cayden Primeau was good otherwise, making 44 saves in one of the best outings of his career, but the Canadiens failed to generate 10 shots in any of the three periods and looked lost from the get-go.

Three Stars
1. Mike Matheson, FLA (2-0–2)
2. Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA (0-2–2)
3. Erik Haula, FLA (1-1–2)

New York Islanders – 3
Buffalo Sabres – 2

Don’t count the Islanders out yet. With the teams around them in the standings moving up, the Islanders needed a big win on Thursday and got it thanks to a great showing out of recently promoted Andrew Ladd. Ladd, who spent most of the season in AHL Bridgeport, scored just his fifth goal since 2017-18 to push New York past a 2-2 deadlock late in the game and prevent overtime. That will surely offer the club some momentum down the stretch.

Three Stars
1. Jordan Eberle, NYI (1-1–2)
2. Andrew Ladd, NYI (1-0-1)
3. Leo Komarov, NYI (0-2–2)

Toronto Maple Leafs – 5
Carolina Hurricanes – 2

The Leafs finally got revenge after the memorable loss against emergency backup David Ayres, stockpiling four goals through 18 minutes to show they weren’t going to shrink in their fight for a playoff spot. But unlike recent games, which include a couple of third-period collapses, the Leafs held the fort defensively and got great goaltending out of Frederik Andersen for the first time in a few games.

Three Stars
1. Auston Matthews, TOR (2-1–3)
2. Mitch Marner, TOR (1–2–3)
3. John Tavares, TOR (0-2–2)

Washington Capitals – 2
New York Rangers – 0

Not much to report out of this one. Tom Wilson scored twice in the first period and the rest of the game went into total lockdown. Adam Fox dropped the gloves on two occasions and didn’t see much ice time in the third period, but the defense had no issue taking center stage on Thursday.

Three Stars
1. Ilya Samsonov, WSH (30 saves)
2. Tom Wilson, WSH (2-0–2)
3. Igor Shesterkin, NYR (29 saves)

Philadelphia Flyers – 7
Detroit Red Wings – 2

Another Red Wings loss. Sorry, Jimmy Howard, but you didn’t get much help tonight. The Flyers had 56 shots on net, including five in the first 45 seconds alone, and never looked back. Ivan Provorov recorded his first career NHL hat trick and Matt Niskanen’s great had a five-point night, the best single-game output of his career. Goaltender Carter Hart even came away with two assists.

Three Stars
1. Matt Niskanen, PHI (1-4–5)
2. Ivan Provorov, PHI (3-0–3)
3. Claude Giroux, PHI (1-2–3)

Want more in-depth features and analysis? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.