Using NHL 21 to see how the 2021 playoffs will unfold

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Now that the Leafs have wrapped up their regular season, the countdown is on for the beginning of their playoff series against the Canadiens that kicks off next Thursday. Under normal circumstances, Toronto would have had their postseason run begin around the same time as the other playoff-bound clubs but they will have to wait a week while the Bruins and Capitals start their playoff matchup in a few hours time.

So while we wait for the Leafs and Canadiens to renew their playoff rivalry after 42 years, let’s use NHL 21 to see who is going to emerge as the 2021 Stanley Cup champion! Or you can see me jinx the simulated winner and said team goes on to get swept out of the first round.

If this is your first time reading me using NHL 21 to predict the future, here are the previous entries in this ongoing series:

Mitch Marner career sim

William Nylander career sim

Auston Matthews career sim

Frederik Andersen career sim

What if Alexis Lafreniere was drafted by the Leafs?

This simulation will be done using ‘Playoff Mode’ and I had to do quite a bit of adjustment to make it as close to how the NHL will be implementing the matchups past the second round. Since there isn’t the option to have teams re-seeded, I set it up to have the North Division winner face the East Division winner while the Central Division winner faces the West Division winner. This isn’t a perfect solution but it is the best we can do given the circumstances.

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Here are the other rules I will be following:

  • I will not be interfering with the lines at any time throughout the simulation
  • The period length is set to 20 minutes, full-sim, and on the highest difficulty
  • Once the Cup winner is determined, that’s when the sim ends (obviously)
  • The active rosters as of May 5th were used

I will post pictures after each round to show you guys the updated bracket. And you can count on me to point out anything noteworthy that takes place during each series. So with all of that out of the way, here is where things stand heading into the first round:

First Round

There was a good mix of evenly matched teams and clubs that had a 3-1 edge after the first four games. The Edmonton Oilers were the only team to complete a sweep as they demolished the Jets (just like their real-life counterparts) with the total score being 14-5. Look away Golden Knights fans, but your team was on the receiving end of a major upset as the Wild cruised past them in five games. Four series needed a Game 7, and of course, the Leafs were in one of them and lost theirs to the Canadiens. Oh well, maybe next year will be the one!

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After the first round, Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL in scoring with 13 points in seven games played.

Second Round

This time around saw two (!!) sweeps as the Blues and Bruins handily defeated the Wild and Islanders, respectively. The Oilers and Canadiens went the distance where Montreal came out on top and got to continue their Cinderella run. Brad Marchand is putting on a show through the first two rounds as he tops the league with 22 points in only 11 games played.

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Third Round

Remarkably, both series needed a seventh game to determine who would advance to the Stanley Cup Finals with no team jumping out to a huge lead and the other clawing back to even things up. So what does EA Sports think will be competing for Lord Stanley’s trophy this summer? The Lighting and the Canadiens.

Steven Stamkos took over the playoff scoring leaderboard with 27 points in 19 games played.

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The Finals

For this round, I will be watching the games more closely to break down how each game goes and provide the score.

The first game was all Montreal as they dominated Tampa Bay to win 5-1. Game Two was much closer with the Lightning taking a 3-1 victory to tie the series. Both team’s starting netminders were the first star in the first two games so it’s clear early on that the goalies will be the difference makers.

We would see our first overtime session in Game 3 that only lasted roughly two minutes as Mikhail Sergachev reminded his old team what they gave up to acquire Jonathan Drouin by scoring from centre ice (I’m not kidding, the picture below is proof). Montreal responded well in Game 4 to even things up yet again after Tomas Tatar scored the winning tally midway through the third period.

The critical Game 5 would require overtime and it was Sergachev once again scoring the winner early on, this time from the point to beat Carey Price. With the Cup in the building and an opportunity to repeat, the Lighting blew it by allowing the Canadiens to easily beat them 4-1, which set up yet another Game 7 for Montreal.

Why don’t you take a guess who ended up winning that decisive game? Go on, I’ll give you a minute.

I think you have some idea where things are heading.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

That’s right. Your worst fears have become a reality. It’s as if the EA Sports sim gods just wanted to torment me with a cruel joke. The Leafs’ upcoming first-round opponent really does go on to win their 25th Stanley Cup in franchise history and play the maximum 28 games needed to achieve this feat.

If you are wondering, ‘Playoff Mode’ doesn’t show who won the Conn Smythe. If I were to make an educated guess, either Stamkos who led the NHL with 31 points or Montreal’s leading scorer, Tatar, took home the playoff MVP award.

This simulation was not kind to all of the teams with home-ice advantage in the first round with the Oilers being the highest-seeded club to advance past to the second round. Aside from the Leafs yet again doing anything of note in the postseason, fans of the Hurricanes, Golden Knights, and Avalanche will not be pleased with the final results.

I’m sure Habs fans that stumbled upon this article will be overjoyed by what transpired here. And while they were unable to be the first team since the Penguins to go back-to-back, the Lightning came pretty close to achieving it.

As I have mentioned in previous entries, the final results should be viewed as proof of what is going to occur over the next few weeks because it is a video game simulation at the end of the day. I’m sure you are not happy with how the Leafs did here (I know I am pissed off), but hopefully, you found this to be an entertaining read.

Now watch everything in this simulation gets replicated in real life and I get labelled by Montreal fans as the modern-day Nostradamus.