There is no doubt that when major events happen — though this one is kind of unprecedented — that sports play a major role in helping distract everyone from that particular crisis. Currently, we have really only one of the major sports, the NFL and its offseason moves, giving us something else to think about. However, for those of us who are hardcore NHL fans or even just hockey fans in general, we unfortunately haven’t had any real news to talk about since the league announced it would be “pausing” the season back on March 12. Well, we want hockey baby!
So while the league “paused” the season in hopes of resuming the season at some point in the future, why should we wait? Furthermore, while the NHL remains optimistic about resuming the 2019-2020 season, no one can really say for sure when or if that will happen. So, with no real answers on when or how the real NHL might come back, we here at Operation Sports decided to see what would happen if the NHL resumed play tomorrow and jumped right into the Stanley Cup Playoffs using the current standings. Our apologizes to fans of the current bubble teams who were battling for those final playoff spots. Perhaps, we will at a later time do a what-if simulation and see what would of happened if a team like the New York Rangers crept into the playoffs.
Our simulation will play out round by round over the next few weeks. To check out our results from the second round, view them here. Let’s take a look at how NHL 20 sees the action from the Conference Finals playing out.
- Period Length: 7 Minutes
- Difficulty: Superstar
- Gameplay: Full Sim
- Rosters: Current (injuries included)
- Line Combinations: Courtesy of dailyfaceoff.com (as of 3/19/20)
#1 St. Louis Blues Vs. #1 Las Vegas Golden Knights
Heading into the series, the number one overall seed out West, the St. Louis Blues, have played the most games (14) of any team in the playoffs. In the first round, the Blues trailed the Nashville Predators three games to one before eliminating the Predators in seven games. In round two, the Blues found themselves in the same situation, this time trailing the Dallas Stars three games to one before eliminating the Stars in seven. Through two rounds, the Blues as a team are ranked number seven in goals for per game (2.64) — the lowest ranked remaining team — and number two in goals against per game (2.14). On special teams, St. Louis is 4/50 on the power play (8%) and 36/41 on the penalty kill (87.8%). The Blues are 4-4 at home while sporting a 4-2 record away from the Enterprise Center.
Individually, goalie Jordan Binnington – 4 shutouts – is ranked first in save percentage (.932) – stopping 387/415 shots faced – and second in goals against average (2.17).
- Goals: Ryan O’Reilly 6
- Assists: Alex Pietrangelo 11* (leads playoffs)
- Points: Alex Pietrangelo 12
- +/-: Ryan O’Reilly +8
- PIM: Alex Pietrangelo 15
- Minutes: Alex Pietrangelo 347* (leads playoffs)
- Hits: Ryan O’Reilly 35* (leads playoffs)
The Las Vegas Golden Knights on the other hand have played the fewest games (9) of any remaining team in the playoffs. In the first round, the Golden Knights eliminated the Winnipeg Jets in five games. In round two, the Golden Knights eliminated the Edmonton Oilers, sweeping them in four games. Through two rounds, the Knights as a team are ranked number one in goals for per game (3.67) and number one in goals against per game (2.11) On special teams, the Golden Knights are 6/30 on the power play (20%) — best of remaining teams — and 14/16 on the penalty kill (87.5%). The Golden Knights are 4-1 at home while sporting a perfect 4-0 record on the road.
Individually, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury — 1 shutout — is ranked third in save percentage (.920) and first in goals against average (2.08).
- Goals: Max Pacioretty 7* (leads playoffs)
- Assists: William Karlsson 8
- Points: William Karlsson 12
- +/-: Shea Theodore +9
- PIM: Ryan Reaves 7
- Minutes: Nate Schmidt 225
- Hits: Brayden McNabb 20
- St. Louis Blues 2 v/s Las Vegas Golden Knights 3
- St. Louis Blues 4 v/s Las Vegas Golden Knights 3 OT
- St. Louis Blues 3 @ Las Vegas Golden Knights 1
- St. Louis Blues 3 @ Las Vegas Golden Knights 4
- St. Louis Blues 5 v/s Las Vegas Golden Knights 3
- St. Louis Blues 3 @ Las Vegas Golden Knights 0
(St. Louis Blues win the series 4-2)
The defending Stanley Cup champions, the St. Louis Blues, are on their way back to then Stanley Cup Finals. This was a hard hitting, physical series where multiple five-minute major penalties were handed out. Despite the Blues losing in Game 1, Brayden Schenn sent a clear message late in the game when he dropped the mitts with Golden Knights tough guy Ryan Reaves — Schenn also lit the lamp earlier in the game.
In Game 2, the Blues tied the series with a Colton Parayko overtime game winner. Goaltender Jordan Binnington stole the show in Game 3 making some huge saves in helping the Blues kill off all six shorthanded attempts against — Ryan O’Reilly also received a five-minute major for cross checking.
The Blues couldn’t pull out the win in Game 4. Just like in Game 1, a late fight would seemingly change the momentum heading into the next game — this time Oskar Sundqvist took on Ryan Reaves. Game 2 overtime hero Colton Parayko added two more goals in the Game 5 victory. Then, just like the previous three close out games in the prior rounds, Jordan Binnington collected his fifth shutout of the playoffs to send the Blues back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Out of superstition, Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo did not touch the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl — awarded to the Western Conference champions.
For the Golden Knights, the Game 1 victory was highlighted by a pair of Max Pacioretty goals. In the Game 2 pivot, Paul Stastny chipped in his own pair of goals in the losing effort. Depth center Nick Cousins scored the only goal for Vegas in Game 3. Game 4 saw the Knights score a goal with every line in the victory. Game 5 saw previous scorers Pacioretty and Cousins light the lamp again.
#2 Tampa Bay Lightning Vs. WC #2 Carolina Hurricanes
Heading into the series, the Tampa Bay Lightning have played 11 games through two rounds. In the first round, the Lightning knocked off the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games — never trailing in the series. In round two, the Lightning found themselves in the same situation quickly knocking off the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games. Through two rounds, the Lightning as a team are ranked second in goals for per game (3.27) and fourth in goals against per game (2.55). On special teams, Tampa Bay is 5/30 on the power play (16.7%) and 19/21 on the penalty kill (90.4%). The Lightning are 4-2 at home while sporting a 4-1 record away from Amalie Arena.
Individually, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy — 1 shutout — is ranked fourth in save percentage (.905) and fourth in goals against average (2.49) out of the remaining four goalies.
- Goals: Nikita Kucherov 7* (leads playoffs)
- Assists: Alex Killorn 6
- Points: Nikita Kucherov 13* (leads playoffs)
- +/-: Mikhail Sergachev +7
- PIM: Pat Maroon 10
- Hits: Erik Czarnik 20
The opposition, the Carolina Hurricanes, have also played 11 games heading into the Eastern Conference Finals. In the first round, the Hurricanes battled back from a three games to one deficit to upset and eliminate the Washington Capitals in seven games. In round two, the Hurricanes dominated and upset the Pittsburgh Penguins, sweeping them in four games. Through two rounds, the Hurricanes as a team are ranked number three in goals for per game (3.09) and number three in goals against per game (2.18) On special teams, the Hurricanes are 8/42 on the power play (19%) and 20/23 on the penalty kill (87%). The Hurricanes are 4-1 at home while sporting a 4-2 record on the road.
Individually, goalie Petr Mrazek — 2 shutouts — is ranked second in save percentage (.928) and second in goals against average (2.17).
- Goals: Nino Niederreiter 5
- Assists: Justin Willams 8
- Points: Justin Willams 12
- +/-: Morgan Geekie +8
- PIM: Joel Edmundson 8
- Hits: Joel Edmundson 20
- Tampa Bay Lightning 6 v/s Carolina Hurricanes 2
- Tampa Bay Lightning 2 v/s Carolina Hurricanes 5
- Tampa Bay Lightning 0 @ Carolina Hurricanes 4
- Tampa Bay Lightning 4 @ Carolina Hurricanes 5 OT
- Tampa Bay Lightning 4 v/s Carolina Hurricanes
- Tampa Bay Lightning 4 @ Carolina Hurricanes 1
- Tampa Bay Lightning 4 v/s Carolina Hurricanes 1
(Tampa Bay Lightning win the series 4-3)
The Lightning dominated Game 1, collecting six goals from six different skaters. Games 2, 3 and 4 — all losses for the Lightning — saw Yanni Gourde score twice along with Tyler Johnson, Barclay Goodrow, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point each scoring once. In Game 5, Tampa received goals from Pat Maroon, Kevin Shattenkirk, Blake Coleman, and Yanni Gourde. In Game 6, Killorn, Point, Kucherov, and Paquette tallied goals for Tampa. In the series finale, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn scored before a pair of goals from defenseman Zach Bogosian.
Out of superstition, Tampa’s Erik Czarnik — taking the place of injured captain Steven Stamkos — did not touch the Prince of Wales Trophy, awarded to the Eastern Conference champions.
For the Hurricanes, Carolina received huge performances from Sebastain Aho (3 goals, 3 assists) and Andrei Svechnikov (3 goals, 3 assists), Additionally, wingers Warren Foegele — overtime winner in Game 4 — and Teuvo Teravainen each collected two goals in the series. Jordan Staal, Brock McGinn, Nino Niederreiter, Martin Necas all also chipped in a goal. The Hurricanes points leader heading into the series, Justin Williams, did not score a single goal.