The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs according to NHL 20 – Conference Finals
While there is still no news to report in the real-life sports world, we’ve reached the Conference Finals in our NHL 20 simulation. Missed anything from the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Don’t worry, I got you covered.
Click here to catch up on the first round.
Click here to catch up on the second round.
All caught up? Good, now let’s get into it.
Western Conference Finals
Dallas Stars (C3) vs. Winnipeg Jets (W1)
The Stars and Jets are proof that anything can happen once you get into the playoffs. Dallas outlasted the Colorado Avalanche in a seven-game series, then followed it up by beating the Nashville Predators in six games. Meanwhile, the Jets knocked off the top two teams in the Pacific Division to get here, first beating the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games, then the Edmonton Oilers in six.
We’ve seen throughout the playoffs that it’s important for star players to produce, and that exactly what Winnipeg’s top players have been doing. Mark Scheifele is leading the team with 21 points, followed by Blake Wheeler (19), Kyle Connor (17), Nikolaj Ehlers (16), and Patrik Laine (12). However, you can already tell that there’s a pretty big drop off between the star players and everyone else, and we’ve also seen that depth can be just as important. Unfortunately for the Jets, they lacked that depth throughout the lineup. Could Connor Hellebuyck bail out his team? After a strong regular season, things fell apart for him in the playoffs. A .901 Sv% and 3.07 GAA typically won’t get you far, but Jets coach Paul Maurice has stuck with Hellebuyck throughout the playoffs regardless.
As expected for Dallas, Tyler Seguin is leading not only the team, but the entire league in playoff scoring with 23 points. His 15 goals in the playoffs have him well in the lead, as Alex Ovechkin is in second with just nine goals. Bringing in Joe Pavelski is continuing to pay off for the Stars, as he now has 19 points throughout the playoffs, while Miro Heiskanen leads the team with 14 assists. In net, Ben Bishop hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been solid with a .915 Sv% and 2.70 GAA. The biggest advantage for the Stars came on special teams, as their top-ranked penalty kill unit has killed off 92.5% of their shorthanded opportunities, while their power play also ranks third in the league.
Result: Dallas wins series 4-2
Eastern Conference Finals
Washington Capitals (M1) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (A2)
While the Western Conference was a toss up, things in the East went a bit more according to plan. The Capitals entered the series with an 8-1 record, sweeping the Hurricanes in the first round and then only losing one game in the second round to the Flyers. It was a pretty similar story for the Lightning, who came in with an 8-3 record after one loss against the Leafs in the first round and two against the Bruins. The key for both teams has been goaltending, as Braden Holtby and Andrei Vasilevskiy have been two of the top goalies throughout the playoffs.
The Lightning continue to be the most surprising team throughout the playoffs in my opinion. Not because they’ve made it to the Conference Finals, but because of how they’ve made it this far. For a team that typically wins games by dominating offensively, the Lightning have made it this far by relying on their goaltending and solid defensive play. Would you have guessed that Alex Killorn would be the team’s leading scorer with 17 points throughout the playoffs? Or that Nikita Kucherov would only have 13 points, while Steven Stamkos had just 10 points in 17 games? That doesn’t sound like the Tampa team that we’ve watched for the last few seasons. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been lights out throughout the playoffs, but his numbers took a hit in this round, with his save percentage falling to .919 and goals against average inflating to 2.41.
The Capitals are in a similar situation. While nobody on the team has really carried the team offensively, they at least have their top players leading the way, with Evgeny Kuznetsov in first with 15 points and Alex Ovechkin right behind at 14. However, the Capitals have nine players with at least 10 points throughout the players, an example of how important depth can be, even on a team full of star talent. And their biggest star throughout the playoffs? Braden Holtby. A .942 Sv% ranks first among starting goalies, while his 1.95 GAA is second behind only Carter Hart of the Flyers. Considering that the Capitals are considering moving on from Holtby in real life, this playoff run is either making them reconsider that choice, or Holtby is going to get PAID by whoever he signs with in the offseason.
Result: Washington wins series 4-2
Stanley Cup Final results are coming out Thursday, see ya there.