With the hockey world going into lockdown in March, right as the playoffs were about to kick off, I turned to EA Sports NHL 20 for my hockey fix. Using Sportlogiq data, I decided to rework the overall system and assign new attributes to every NHL player based on their real-life performance. In Part 4 of this 5 part series, I will use the updated overalls I created to run a playoff simulation on NHL 20. If you want to see the method I used to create these new overalls, check out Part 1 here. For the results of this mad experiment, check out Part 2 for goaltenders and Part 3 for skaters.
Now that all the hard work creating, tweaking, and inputting the new ratings in the game is finally done, it’s time to have some fun. What better to do than a playoff simulation in NHL 20? Try out and see how these new overalls and attributes translate to the game and impact the results.
Obviously, the announced 24-team playoff format is not something that can really be perfectly replicated in NHL 20, given how unusual it. To approximate it as best I could, I created two different saves. First, I had seeds 5-12 in each conference battle it out in the best-of-5 play-in round.
Each winning team would then transfer to Save 2, where they would be re-seeded and matched up with the top 4 in each conference, where they would then play out the usual best-of-7 format.
Unfortunately, this means that player’s statistics in the play-in round won’t count to their final total you’ll see in the screenshots. Essentially, it means winning your play-in series gets you a spot in Round 1 of the regular playoffs. With that said, let’s get this show on the road.
All screenshots were taken from NHL 20 on PS4
Play-In Round Results
- Minnesota (10) beats Vancouver (7) in 3 games
- Arizona (11) beats Nashville (6) in 5 games
- Montreal (12) beats Pittsburgh (5) in 4 games
We have 3 cinderella stories to keep an eye on from Round 1, with 3 teams beating the odds among our 8 matchups.
Montreal and Arizona rode some stellar goaltending to pull off some major upsets. Carey Price held Crosby and co. to 2.11 goals against with a .931 save percentage. Darcy Kuemper was even better, giving up under 2 goals a game to the Preds with a .941 save percentage. Montreal also had the help of Phillip Danault, whose +3 in overall helped him get league-leading marks in goals (4) and points (7) despite the series ending one game early.
Minnesota was locked in a more high-offense series and manage to outscore the dynamic Canucks, with Zach Parise, Mats Zuccarello, and Mikko Koivu all featuring among the league’s leading scorers. Neither team’s goalie showed up among the league leaders.
Oh, and the Leafs finally win a playoff series, sweeping Columbus. And they don’t even need to face Boston in the next round! They only need to face the…
Tampa Bay Lightning. Oh well.
Play-In Round League Leaders
Round 1 Results
- Arizona (11) beats St. Louis (1) in 6 games
- Edmonton (5) beats Dallas (4) in 5 games
- Carolina (6) beats Philadelphia (4) in 5 games
- New York Islanders (7) beat Washington (3) in 7 games
Arizona continues their surprising run by knocking out the reigning Stanley Cup champions St. Louis Blues in 6 games. Darcy Kuemper fell off, but Phil Kessel and Nick Schmaltz took over. 6 assists for Schmaltz and 6 goals for Phil the Thrill powers the ‘Yotes on to round 2.
For the Islanders, Mat Barzal took full advantage of his new 99 speed and 94 passing to lead all Round 1 players with 7 assists, a mark matched only by teammate Josh Bailey, as well as Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei. Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson took advantage on the finishing side with 5 goals each, trailing only Kessel.
Alex Ovechkin continued to do Ovechkin things, shrugging off the 4 point drop in overall to score 9 points and fire 30 shots, both league-bests. It wasn’t enough to keep the Caps in the running, however. Braden Holtby’s -2 overall sure didn’t help as he struggled against the suddenly high-octane Islanders offense.
In net, Mikko Koskinen stole the show and showed off some improved attributes, like a 95 Glove Low and 91 Angles, with a .937 save % and 1.97 GAA. Both marks are league-bests among players with more than 1 game played. I’m not sure how or why Mike Smith saw some action over Koskinen, playing 26 minutes and allowing one goal.
And Tampa beats the Leafs in 7, leaving Toronto one game short of the conference semi-finals once again.
Round 1 League Leaders
Round 2 Results
- Arizona (11) beats Edmonton (5) in 7 games
- New York Islanders (7) beat Tampa Bay (2) in 7 games
The playoffs seriously heat up in the second round, with 3 of the 4 series going the distance. Kessel and Schmaltz continue their red-hot play, both more than doubling their Round 1 totals and outdueling Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Taylor Hall also joins the party with 5 goals and 11 points.
The two Oilers superstars were flanked by youngster Kailer Yamamoto, who put his +3 overall (from 79 to 82) to good use. Draisaitl had 17 points, 3 more than anyone else, while McDavid and Yamamoto both scored 13. Their defense and goaltending ultimately sank them. Koskinen’s stellar first-round numbers dropped hard and his GAA ballooned to nearly 3.00.
The ‘Yotes continue their improbable run through some of the toughest opponents in the Western Conference. Next round doesn’t get any easier for Arizona with a matchup against the Avalanche, who dispatched the Golden Knights in just 5 games.
Over in the East, the juggernaut Lightning ultimately falls in 7 to the Islanders. Tampa’s big guns were pretty quiet by their standards, with no Lightning players showing up among the league leaders in points despite going to 7 games in both rounds. This sets up an Islanders-Bruins matchup, as two of the best defenses in the NHL will go head-to-head to represent the East in the Finals.
Round 2 League Leaders
Round 3 Results
- Arizona (11) beats Colorado (2) in 7 games
The Cinderella run continues! The Coyotes nearly blew a 3-1 series lead against Colorado but rallied to win Game 7 on the road. Phil Kessel continues his blistering pace with 20 points in 20 games through 3 rounds, including 12 goals. And Nick Schmaltz continues to feed him with a league-best 14 assists, really showing off his new 92 Passing attribute.
Another improbable name joins the scoring craze in Arizona: Vinnie Hinostroza, who matches Taylor Hall’s 16 points. Kessel, Schmaltz, Hall, and Hinostroza are doing their best to prove that speed kills, as they all have Speed attributes of at least 95.
In the East, Boston continues its strong run. 92 overall Tuukka Rask, the league’s top-rated goalie in these updated rosters, is making a strong MVP case with a .921 save % and 2.43 GAA in 18 starts. Offensively, Brad Marchand is putting in some serious work, with 10 goals and 43 hits, both top-3 in the league.
The stage is set for the Stanley Cup Final. A fired-up Phil the Thrill will lead the Coyotes against the team that originally drafted him back in 2006. Can the ‘Yotes ride the wave of momentum to the first title in franchise history, or will the magic run out and the higher seed will prevail, giving Boston a 7th title and first since 2010?
Round 3 League Leaders
Stanley Cup Final
It all comes down to this. The underdog with blazing speed and red-hot offense against the elite defense of the Presidents’ Trophy winners. David vs Goliath. And it’s actually David who draws first blood.
Game 1 goes to overtime and Brad Richardson plays hero, scoring the game-winning goal in extra time to give the ‘Yotes a 3-2 win and an early 1-0 series advantage.
Game 2 was a tight, low-scoring affair, a style that suits Boston perfectly, but it’s Arizona that comes out on top. The underdogs have now taken the first two games on the road. This time, it’s captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson who nets the GWG in a 2-1 decision. The series now shifts to the desert and the Coyotes bring a ton of momentum with them.
That momentum quickly grinds to a halt though. The Bruins show why they were the #1 seed in the NHL and answer with back-to-back 4-1 wins in Arizona to even the series at two wins apiece.
Back in Boston, Game 5 was once again a low-scoring duel. Brad Marchand scored a goal in the first and the Bruins essentially parked the bus for the rest of the game to win 1-0, placing the Coyotes’ backs against the wall.
Game 6 was the highest-scoring game so far. It was a back and forth game, with both teams holding the lead at least once. The score was tied 3-3 deep into the third period. Then, with just 2:05 left in the game, Charlie Coyle scores the most important goal of his career to give Boston a 4-3 lead.
The Bruins then did what they do best and shut down Arizona’s last-ditch effort to keep their Stanley Cup bid alive. Charlie Coyle’s goal was his 4th game-winner of the playoffs, tying teammates Brad Marchand for the league lead. So, here are your 2019-20 Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins!
Final Playoff Stats
What about the conn smythe?
I’ll be completely honest here. I thought that, in Playoff Mode, you would be able to see the Conn Smythe winner after simulating all the games, the same way you can in Franchise Mode. Turns out, that’s not possible. He could only be seen during the Stanley Cup celebration animation, which I skipped and planned to take screenshots after the fact in a different save.
Looking at the stats, however, I think it’s pretty clear that Tuukka Rask deserves the honor. His .926 save % and 2.23 GAA both led goalies who played the majority of their team’s games. He also posted a pair of shutouts, including a scintillating performance in Boston’s 1-0 Game 5 win. Offensively, the scoring load was shared throughout the lineup, with 5 players scoring between 15 and 18 points. Honestly, Phil Kessel was probably the runner up for me. He carried the Coyotes on this run with 14 goals and 24 points, both league-highs.
This series has been tons of fun to make and we’re coming close to the end. There is still one more part to go, however! Make sure to stay tuned for Part 5 of this series, where I lay out a few ideas on how the overall system could be reimagined for future titles. Thank you for reading, the support and feedback on this series has been amazing so far!