Alex Ovechkin is having a breakout....simulated season.
Live NHL hockey isn’t happening but ESPN and EA Sports have teamed up to do a weekly season simulation. As the simulation is reaching the mid-way point, there are some pretty unbelievable facts from the mock NHL season.
The simulation, up to this point, can be found here. Most of the teams have finished 35 games or more leading to the establishment of the conference pecking order.
The team “video game numbers” comes to mind for some of the statistics being produced by the season simulation. Sure, it’s not like the time we all created ourselves with a 99 rating and broke all of Wayne Gretzky’s scoring records in the first three games of the season, but some numbers are a bit outlandish.
With no further delay, here are 10 of the most unbelievable things from the ESPN NHL ’13 season simulation.
Season statistics can be found here.
Stephen Weiss and the Florida Panthers should be confused about their collapse in the computer world of hockey.
After securing the Southeast Division crown last season, the Florida Panthers could be considered a favorite to repeat the feat. Apparently, the Panthers are a bit overrated.
According to the simulation, Florida isn’t very good. They are 14th in the Eastern Conference with a 13-20-2 record and 29th in the NHL.
That’s a little bit harsh for a defending division champion.
When Tuukka Rask took over for Tim Thomas, the simulation didn't like the result.
Boston Bruins fans won’t be very happy if the real NHL season follows the simulation. There is worthy speculation of just what Tuukka Rask will do as the No. 1 goaltender in Boston. Will there be a drop off from Tim Thomas? How much of a drop-off?
The simulation says the drop-off is going to be noticeable. Noticeable to the tune of the B’s sitting in dead last in the NHL through 35 games.
Boston is 11-20-4 for 26 points. No number of injuries, suspensions or poor play would ever bring Boston to the cellar of the league in 2013.
Alex Ovechkin can score in any situation—just ask the season simulation.
Alex Ovechkin has been put under a microscope after back-to-back seasons of less than 90 points. He hasn’t scored over 35 goals the last two seasons. Ovi put up 50 or more in four of his first five seasons.
Washington Capitals fans are just waiting for Ovechkin to snap out of his funk. If the season simulation is any indication of a bounce-back year, this lockout is really hurting Ovi.
Through 37 games, Ovechkin has a league-leading 31 goals—nine goals more than second place Patrick Marleau. If the pace continues, No. 8 would break his previous career high (65 goals).
Nicklas Lidstrom retired and apparently so did the Red Wings.
The Western Conference playoff qualifiers could easily stack up the way the simulation says. Vancouver, Nashville and San Jose are the division leaders. Teams like Dallas, Chicago and Phoenix are playoff teams as well.
Looking further down the standings, there are some surprises—like the Detroit Red Wings. Losing the captain Nicklas Lidstrom is big void to fill, but it can be done. The Red Wings are a talented team that should be successful in this new phase of the franchise.
The simulation has Detroit at 13-18-4 (30 points) and tied for last in the Western Conference. That’s a stretch.
Evgeni Nabokov is leading the Islanders to the top of their division.
The New York Islanders have a talented group of young players. John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and even Matt Moulson could be considered the future of the Islanders franchise.
In goal, it’s Evgeni Nabokov and the one-and-only Rick DiPietro. Somehow, the Islanders have gone from finishing last in the Atlantic Division—the only team that didn’t make the playoffs from that division—to leading the Atlantic Division.
At 18-12-6, New York is just three points ahead of Philadelphia. Still, the Islanders leading the division next season at any point is a stretch.
Rangers coach John Tortorella wouldn't be smiling if the Eastern Conference standings were real.
Sticking with the Atlantic Division, the defending regular-season Eastern Conference Champion New York Rangers are struggling mightily.
Maybe the trade for Rick Nash threw off the balance in the locker room. Maybe coach John Tortorella had a rant and suspended the entire team for the first three months of the season.
Whatever the simulation is saying, the New York Rangers wouldn’t be in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.
Nabokov's nine shutouts is just an unbelievable number.
Evgeni Nabokov has found the fountain of youth and channeled his inner Martin Brodeur. The 37-year-old goaltender had a nine-shutout season with the San Jose Sharks back in 2003-04, but hasn’t put up those numbers since.
Don’t tell the season simulation that. So what if Nabokov has just five shutouts in the last two seasons.
According to the stats, Nabokov has nine shutouts in the first half of the season. How about that bounce-back season Islanders fans?
Improbable at best.
Antti Niemi is off to a hot start for the Sharks.
Another goaltender that seems to be having an improbable season is Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks goaltender has picked up 22 wins in just 35 games.
San Jose is 23-10-2 and leads the Pacific Division. The Sharks have the talent to start the season off on that pace but to think that Niemi will have 22 of 23 wins is hard to believe.
He’s a good goaltender and the Sharks are a good team, but this is a stretch.
The Blues are two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets in the West.
The St. Louis Blues are a franchise on the rise in the NHL. They have arguably the best goaltending tandem in the league and are full of young talent on offense and defense.
After a solid season last year, the Blues are apparently banking on their new-found reputation to get wins and that isn't working. The Blues are 15-16-4 for 34 points and sit tied for 10th in the Western Conference.
Columbus is two points ahead and the Dallas Stars are six points up in the final playoff spot.
That's right everybody, Tim Thomas is back—for the simulation.
The final unbelievable aspect of the season simulation is that Tim Thomas is playing for the Boston Bruins this season. Apparently the simulation didn’t get the memo.
It's unfortunate a simulation is the closest fans are getting to live NHL action this season.