NHL 20 Simulation: The Play-In Round

Updated: May 15, 2020 at 6:26 pm by Brock Seguin

With the NHL fully expecting to return and the uncertainty of what a 24-team playoff format might look like. I broke down the most logical layout yesterday and now I’m putting it through the EA Sports NHL 20 simulator.

Below you’ll find the simulation results for the best-of-3 “Play-In” Round which will give us our 16-team, best-of-7 format to be simulated on Saturday.

Western Conference

[No.5] Edmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks [No.12]




CHI 6 – 0 EDM

EDM 3 – 2 CHI

EDM 4 – 3 CHI (OT)

Leon Draisaitl recently said that the Covid-19 outbreak came at a bad time for the Edmonton Oilers, who were on a roll before the NHL season ground to a halt. Then they were forced into the “play-in” round because they trail the Dallas Stars in points-percentage by less than one win. When you combine that with them losing 6-0 to the No.12 team in the Western Conference in Game 1 of a best-of-3… the city of Edmonton would have been losing their minds.

Luckily for them, they have the best player on the planet, Connor McDavid, who went on to score four goals with two assists (six points) in the next two games of the series to lead the Oilers into the “first-round” of the playoffs. His partner in crime, the aforementioned Mr. Draisaitl, had just one goal in the series but it was the game-winner in overtime of Game 3 to clinch the series.

[No.6] Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes [No.11]




NSH 2 – 1 ARI

ARI 3 – 1 NSH

ARI 6 – 2 NSH

When you think of a Nashville/Arizona series, you probably think low-scoring. Both teams were in the bottom half of the NHL in goal-scoring this season, Nashville was 16th and Arizona 23rd, so a 2-1 final in Game 1 was awfully fitting.

In Game 2, the Coyotes bounced back thanks to a couple of goals from Conor Garland. Once Game 3 rolled around, the Arizona offence was firing on all cylinders, this time was ARI2 that did most of the damage. A decisive 6-2 win and 2-1 series lead and the 2020 NHL playoffs have it’s first upset. Phil Kessel tied with McDavid for most points in the round with six (4G / 2A).

This would be the second year in a row the Predators were unable to win a round and the Coyotes first series win since 2012.

[No.7] Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild [No.10]




VAN 4 – 2 MIN

VAN 3 – 0 MIN

The Minnesota Wild quietly put together a really nice 2020 season when many pundits expected them to be among the league’s worst.

This has the makings of a high-scoring series, with Vancouver eight in goals-for and 21st in goals-against. While Minnesota is 12th in goals-for and 24th in goals-against. Minnesota won the regular-season series 2-1, averaging 3.00 goals for and 3.00 goals against.

It was a different story in the simulation world. The goals were definitely there, but they were all from the Vancouver Canucks. The series opened with a hat-trick from Adam Gaudette and finished with a Jacob Markstrom shutout. The Wild were never really in it.

[No.8] Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets [No.9]




WPG 6 – 1 CGY

WPG 3 – 2 CGY

I pictured Calgary Flames fans laughing as they watched the Oilers lose 6-0 to the Blackhawks but the laughter didn’t last long. The Winnipeg Jets won the only meeting in the regular season and jumped on the Flames immediately in Game 1. Scoring from all four lines led to a commanding 6-1 win.

In Game 2, it was much closer but the Jets led the entire way. It was never in doubt and the Oilers faithful ultimately gets the last laugh in the 2020 Battle of Alberta.

Eastern Conference

[No.5] Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens [No.12]




MTL 4 – 3 PIT

PIT 3 – 1 MTL

PIT 3 – 0 MTL

Much like the No.12 seed Blackhawks, many don’t think the Montreal Canadiens should be a part of the playoffs with a .500 record. Like this guy on Twitter:

While I can’t say I disagree with him, I also get it from the NHL’s perspective. I imagine Bill, who is a Toronto Maple Leafs fan according to his bio, would have been one of very, very many angry Leafs fans when the Canadiens managed to steal Game 1 vs. the Penguins.

However, like McDavid, Sidney Crosby cranked things up with his back against the wall. After being held off of the scoresheet in Game 1, he had a point on every Penguins goal after that and help push Pittsburgh passed Carey Price and the Canadiens.

With Montreal out, the Maple Leafs faithful can now focus their attention on getting by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

[No.6] Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers [No.11]




CAR 5 – 1 NYR

NYR 3 – 0 CAR

NYR 5 – 4 CAR

This would be one of the more exciting “play-in” round series. While the “computers” suggest that the Hurricanes would be overwhelming favourites thanks to the large disparity in shot differential… the EA Sports computer thinks differently. And maybe they’re onto something. The Hurricanes were 0-4 against the Rangers this season, being outscored 17-to-9.

They flipped that narrative on its head in Game 1, whipping the Rangers 5-1 thanks to a strong performance from Andrei Svechnikov. In Game 2, however, Igor Shesterkin put together a 43-save shutout–the first of his career but the fifth time in 14 games he’s made 40-plus saves.

In Game 3, it looked like the Rangers were going to come up short again. Down 3-1 heading into their third but then their top-6 exploded. Artemi Panarin, @Mike Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich and Chris Kreider scored four unanswered for New York and capped off a 5-4 win and a 2-1 series win.

[No.7] New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers [No.10]




FLA 4 – 2 NYI

NYI 3 – 2 FLA

FLA 3 – 1 NYI

I’m not sure which series would have fewer viewers, this one or the Nashville/Arizona series but it was a tightly contested battle all throughout. Every game was a close, seesaw affair.

While the Islanders won the season series 3-0, holding the Panthers to just four goals in those games, it was Florida who emerged victorious from Game 1. A 4-2 win on the back of a strong game from Trade Deadline acquisition Lucas Wallmark (2 goals).

Game 2 it was NYI2 (Beauviller-Nelson-Bailey) that stole the show. Accounting for all three Islanders goals and tying the series up 1-1.

It Game 3, the Panthers clung to a 1-0 lead through two periods. Early in the third Mathew Barzal tied the game before Jonathan Huberdeau added a power-play goal and empty-netter to clinch the series for the Panthers.

[No.8] Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets [No.9]




CBJ 5 – 3 TOR

TOR 4 – 1 CBJ

TOR 4 – 2 CBJ

Many would expect the Maple Leafs to win this series, but everyone picked the Tampa Bay Lightning last year too… so maybe upsets are the Blue Jackets thing?

In Game 1, it certainly looked that way. The long Covid-19 layoff probably benefits the Blue Jackets more than any other team. When they return to the ice they will likely have Oliver Bjorkstrand, Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones and Ryan Murray back at the very least.

However, Toronto boasts one of the NHL’s best top-6s in the league and it showed in Games 2 and 3. Specifically the line of John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Kasperi Kapanen. Even with Auston Matthews having a quiet virtual series, there was enough fire-power on the roster to knock John Tortorella’s squad out early.

The “First’ Round Matchups

Western Conference

[No.1] St. Louis Blues vs. Arizona Coyotes [No.11]

[No.2] Vegas Golden Knights vs. Winnipeg Jets [No.9]

[No.3] Colorado Avalanche vs. Vancouver Canucks [No.7]

[No.4] Dallas Stars vs. Edmonton Oilers [No.5]

Eastern Conference

[No.1] Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers [No.11]

[No.2] Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers [No.10]

[No.3] Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs [No.8]

[No.4] Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins [No.5]

NHL, NHL Playoffs, NHL20