Last year, the official EA Sports NHL 20 season simulation predicted that the Boston Bruins would hoist the Stanley Cup. The Boston Bruins had enjoyed a great deal of team success leading up to that prediction, so it was clear to many inside the NHL world, and even the casual hockey fan, that the the Bruins had strong Stanley Cup odds. In other words, it was not too outlandish to see the EA Sports 2020 simulation.
Despite a strong but pandemic-shortened regular season, the NHL restart bubble did not end up being kind to the Boston Bruins. The Bruins struggled immediately in the restart bubble and were eventually eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Operation Sports NHL 21 Simulation
Now, this brings us to our preseason simulation for the 2021 season. These predictions always tend to be a bit wacky, but nonetheless I thought it would be fun to take a look and see what plays out here. That being said, this year the NHL season will only consist of 56 games. However, in NHL 21, you can’t choose anything but the traditional 82 games.
This simulation was conducted on 1/10/21 and a few things of note:
- All games were simulated and the difficulty settings were all set on the highest level.
- The new 2021 NHL division format was used here with an all-Canadian division.
- A simulated schedule was used as I moved teams into their new 2021 divisions.
- Again, the season length was 82 games.
- The playoff format is unchanged from previous years.
At the unofficial halfway point of the NHL regular season — otherwise known as the the All-Star break that is still not included in the NHL series and just shows up as empty days on the calendar — there were some significant things that stood out. Most interesting to me was the fact that the Colorado Avalanche and the New York Islanders were tied for the worst team in the league with just 48 points. At the break, the New York Islanders sat with a record of 21-23-7. Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche were only able to put together a record of 19-27-3.
A Few Other Notable Midseason Accolades
- Boston Bruins forward — and pest — Brad Marchand was the NHL’s leader in goals with 31 in 50 games.
- Vancouver Canucks superstar Elias Pettersson’s 48 assists in 49 games were tops in the league.
- The star of the Edmonton Oilers, Connor McDavid, was the NHL’s leader in points with 63 in 50 games.
- Former Norris Trophy winner and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty’s 46 points in 50 games placed him one point ahead of Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar for the league lead.
- In the goaltending department, Ben Bishop (45 games) of the Dallas Stars and Jordan Binnington (41 games) of the St. Louis Blues shared the league lead in wins with 24.
- Rookie and 2020 first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere registered 33 points in 48 games for the New York Rangers.
- Minnesota Wild – 65 points
- Toronto Maple Leafs – 60 points
- Columbus Blue Jackets – 63 points
- Philadelphia Flyers – 58 points
End Of Regular Season Highlights
- Alexander Ovechkin once again captured the Rocket Richard Trophy, leading the NHL in goals and was the only player to score at least 50 fifty goals (52). The Great Eight also collected the Hart and Art Ross trophies.
- Elias Pettersson was able to maintain the league lead in assists all year, finishing with 68.
- The league’s top three point producers were: Alexander Ovechkin (102), Connor McDavid (101), and Patrick Kane (98).
- The top rookie scorer and Calder Trophy winner was New York Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere with 47 points.
- Florida Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky led the NHL in wins with 40 and took home the Vezina Trophy.
- The Minnesota Wild, despite leading the division at the All-Star break, missed the playoffs entirely.
- The Colorado Avalanche finished as the NHL’s worst team.
- Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings won his second Norris Trophy.
- Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues once again won the Selke Trophy.
- Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen took home the William M. Jennings Trophy.
- Arizona Coyotes
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Nashville Predators – most points in NHL
- Philadelphia Flyers
- The Nashville Predators defeated the Dallas Stars in seven games
- The Las Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Los Angeles Kings in six games
- The Winnipeg Jets defeated the Vancouver Canucks in five games
- The Calgary Flames defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games
- The Philadelphia Flyers swept the Chicago Blackhawks
- The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Washington Capitals in seven games
- The Ottawa Senators defeated the Arizona Coyotes in five games
- The Florida Panthers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets in seven games
- The Nashville Predators defeated the Florida Panthers in five games
- The Winnipeg Jets defeated the Calgary Flames in five games
- The Ottawa Senators defeated the Los Angeles Kings in seven games
- The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in five games
- The Winnipeg Jets defeated the Ottawa Senators in five games
- The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Nashville Predators in six games
Stanley Cup Finals
The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Winnipeg Jets in a winner-take-all Game 7
The newly formed duo of Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall carried the Sabres to the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup victory. Both Eichel and Hall recorded 25 points in 25 playoff games. The Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the playoffs, went to Buffalo’s Jack Eichel.
What are some of your predictions for the 2021 season? What teams and storylines are you going to be following?