|Platforms||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360|
|Genre||Blades of Steel 2011|
|Buy from Amazon|
As sports games trend towards delivering a true-to-life experience to
players, the systems and stats behind the play system are becoming
increasingly complex. The result, I've found, is a genre that is taking
more control out of the player's hand and giving it to the CPU in order
to keep a Cowboys/Steelers matchup in Madden from turning into an 79-3
blowout, a rather common outcome when I was playing NFL '95 on the
Genesis. I can appreciate the effort to mimic the pro league norm, but I can't
help but feel a bit cheated when I can do everything right in NBA Live
and not go 82-0 on the season.
Oddly enough, this devotion to believability and authenticity has driven me away from the sports game genre in recent years, though I still take time to play EA's NHL series now and then. Still, I've found that I'm more interested in the peripheral modes and features than I am in the standard game options. Running simulations of season and playoff matches has become commonplace, and it is quite impressive to see just how believable the outcomes are, barring the last season sim I completed that resulted in the Columbus Blue Jackets winning the Stanley Cup with a 16-2 record in the playoffs. That's a little much to expect from a team that has only one winning season in its existence.
We're now almost a quarter of the way through the 2010-2011 NHL Season, and I've been waiting to run a simulation for the site since NHL 11 came out in September. Unfortunately for me, it took EA nearly two months to release a roster update that actually reflected accurate rosters for the season. Then it took them another week to fix it. Anyway, it's time to place some bets, people: here are your 100% guaranteed* results for the 2010-2011 NHL Season.
* results guaranteed to be incorrect
2010-2011 Season Standings
Playoff teams in bold underline
# Team W-L-OTL points
1 Detroit 49-28-5 103
2 Vancouver 46-28-8 99
3 San Jose 46-30-6 98
4 Anaheim 44-31-7 95
5 Minnesota 44-31-7 95
6 Los Angeles 41-31-10 92
7 Columbus 42-33-7 91
8 Calgary 42-35-5 89
9 Nashville 42-37-3 87
10 Colorado 38-34-10 86
11 St. Louis 38-34-10 86
12 Phoenix 39-36-7 85
13 Chicago 40-38-4 84
14 Edmonton 30-41-11 71
15 Dallas 24-48-10 58
# Team W-L-OTL points
1 Pittsburgh 50-31-1 101
2 Atlanta 44-30-8 96
3 New Jersey 45-32-5 95
4 Carolina 44-31-7 95
5 Florida 44-31-7 95
6 New York (Islanders) 42-31-9 93
7 Washington 42-32-8 92
8 New York (Rangers) 40-31-11 91
9 Philadelphia 42-35-5 89
10 Buffalo 42-36-4 88
11 Boston 39-35-8 86
12 Montreal 39-36-7 85
13 Toronto 39-37-6 84
14 Tampa Bay 37-39-6 80
15 Ottawa 36-40-6 78
Let's add a few points of context, shall we?
- The Stanley Cup finalists from 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 will dominate their respective conferences, with the Detroit Red Wings leading the league in points and the Pittsburgh Penguins taking second place.
- The Chicago Blackhawks, fresh off a Stanley Cup Championship, will post one of the worst records in the league and miss the 2011 playoffs altogether. Their opponents in last year's finals, the Philadelphia Flyers, won't fare much better.
- The Southeast division, which has been the league's weakest for as long as anyone can remember, will produce four playoff contenders. Shockingly, the resurgent Tampa Bay Lightning will be the only team left out, and the Washington Capitals will be the bottom team of the four.
- The Buffalo Sabres will plummet to 10th place in the Eastern Conference after last year's strong performance...but they'll still be the 3rd seed in the playoffs for being the strongest team in the Northwest Division, drawing much ire from the 8th place New York Rangers and 9th place Philadelphia Flyers. That also means that five of the six teams in the Eastern conference basement will come from a traditionally strong division that produced four playoff entrants last season (Buffalo, Boston, Ottawa, Montreal).
- Dallas has struggled in recent years, but their 58 point showing this year will be the worst of their sixteen season existence. Last year's playoff underdogs will also disappoint: the Phoenix Coyotes put up an exciting, respectable fight against the Red Wings in the quarterfinals last year, but we'll see no such heroics from them this time around. Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens that shocked the world by elminating the superstar-laden Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins in the first two rounds will get no chance to upset in this year's playoffs.
- Here's a bit of trivia: other than joining the NHL at the beginning of this decade and drawing shameful attendance, what do the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Atlanta Thrashers have in common? They've each appeared in the playoffs only once before, and neither of them won a single game. Wouldn't it be crazy if they met up in the Stanley Cup Finals? I suppose anything can happen...
2010-2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Bracket template stolen from Wikipedia
...okay then. Anything just happened.
- The first round of the playoffs will start with a bang in the east with a Winter Classic rematch between rivals Pittsburgh and Washington, which goes to seven games before Crosby's Pens take down Ovechkin and the Caps for the second time in three years. Carolina is going to sweep New Jersey, ensuring Ilya Kovalchuk's playoff production continues to stay under the radar in his first full year as a Devil. Meanwhile, in the west, it'll be upset city: the bottom four seeds each take down their top-four opponents, including Calgary's sweep of Detroit that nobody could have predicted.
- Round 2's only real shootout is going to be a barn-burner between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Los Angeles Kings, stretching to a full seven games while the other series end in five (or four, as Pittsburgh sweeps Florida).
- Round 3 shall see Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four years, though they'll go belly up against an Atlanta Thrashers team that enters the round with an impressive 8-2 record. Meanwhile, Calgary's blazing 8-1 performance in the first two rounds will be snuffed out on their home ice by the Columbus team just coming off a tough series.
- And finally, the Stanley Cup Finals will feature two teams that, prior to 2011, had never won a single playoff game. The seven game series between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Atlanta Thrashers will feature plenty of juicy storylines to follow and some highlight reel heroics. In the end, it will the the Atlanta Thrashers hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2011, proving that it was the right move to unload salary-devouring superstar Ilya Kovalchuk onto the Devils at last season's trade deadline and use the freed cap space to acquire four key players from Chicago's 2010 Cup-winning team.
Unfortunately, nobody will bother to watch this thrilling Stanley Cup Finals matchup between two of the NHL markets with the poorest attendance records and TV ratings. Such a shame.
2010-2011 Award Winners
Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy for most goals on the season
Marián Gáborík, New York Rangers (55)
Runners-up: Kovalchuk (47), Crosby (43)
Art Ross Trophy for most total points on the season
Marián Gáborík, New York Rangers (97)
Runners-up: Kopitar (95), Semin (93)
Frank J. Selke Trophy for the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game
Drew Miller, Detroit Red Wings (30G, 24A, +27, 8 GWG, 111 hits)
Pavel Datsyuk's 3-year streak will finally be broken by his own teammate.
James Norris Memorial Trophy for the best all-around defenseman
Ed Jovanovski, Phoenix Coyotes (10G, 53A, +19, 5PPG, 208hits, 55TK)
Other defensemen will have better stats in every category, some better overall. Stats don't tell the whole story, though, especially when it comes to defense. Jovanovski's intangibles will make the difference here.
NHL Plus-Minus Award for the player with the highest +/- statistic (minimum 60 games played)
Marc Savard, Boston Bruins +41
Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins +41
Nathan Horton, Boston Bruins +41
The Bruins' top line will prove to be the most effective in the league at generating offense while stopping the opposition during the 5-on-5.
Vezina Trophy for the league's top goaltender
Tomáš Vokoun (2.37 GAA, .924 SV%, 38 Wins)
Vokoun's GAA and Save Percentage will top all starting goaltenders while facing more shots than most.
Hart Memorial Trophy for the player adjudged most valuable to his team during the regular season
Tomáš Vokoun, Florida Panthers
Vokoun's top-notch goaltending will be the primary reason for Florida's playoff berth.
Conn Smythe Trophy for the player adjudged most valuable to his team during the Stanley Cup Playoffs
Chris Mason, Atlanta Thrashers (24GP, 3.02GAA, .910 SV%, 1SO)
The goaltending duel between Steve Mason and Chris Mason (no relation) will end with Chris hoisting the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe. Steve will have the superior stats through the playoffs, but Chris will make the important saves to keep his Thrashers alive in the finals.
Calder Memorial Trophy for the league's most outstanding rookie player
Sergei Bobrovsky, Philadelphia Flyers (63GP, 3.14 GAA, .902 SV%, 29W/32L, , 2SO)
The only rookie goaltender to start, Bobrovsky's forthcoming stats are hardly outstanding for an experienced netminder. That said, it'll be a solid rookie showing that gives the Flyers peace of mind about the kid's future and the possibility of finally having a franchise goaltender.
Other noteworthy individual stats:
- Rising star Anze Kopitar of Los Angeles will snag the Assist lead with 61, while his teammate Drew Doughty and Paul Stastny of the Avalanche will tie for second with 60.
- Speaking of Doughty, his third year in the league will see him lead all defensemen in scoring with 70 points (10G, 60A).
- Ovechkin's 39 goals in 82 games will be the worst of his career thus far. Most NHL players would stomp on a man's throat with their skates for such a number.
- Shutout champion of the year will be -- who else? -- Marty Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils with 9. Columbus' Steve Mason and San Jose's Antti Niemi follow with 8 and 7, respectively.
- Other top goaltenders will include Chicago's Cristobal Huet (.923 SV%), Niemi (2.42 GAA) and Montreal's Carey Price (.922 SV%, 2.48 GAA).
- Jimmy Howard will ride Detroit's dominant wave to 40 wins, topping all goaltenders.
- Niemi, Howard, and Jaroslav Halak of the St. Louis Blues will be the only goaltenders to record points this season, with an assist each.
- P.K. Subban, in his first full season with the Montreal Canadiens, will lead rookie scoring with an impressive 45 points (5G, 40A). 2010 draft stars Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin won't crack the top ten.
- The Columbus duo of Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger will lead the league with 15 playoff goals apiece. Umberger's 14 assists will be one more than Nash for the points lead.
So there you have it, everybody. If you took the names out of the equation, the numbers certainly aren't out of the question. But even with the impeccable accuracy of video game pre-enactments these days, I'll be betting my life savings on the Atlanta Thrashers toppling the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Stanley Cup Finals with a bit of hesitance. Only a bit, though: it's not like the Thrashers won that seventh game with a score of 18-0 like I would have in NHL '94. That would just be ridiculous.