Given the amount of detail poured into EA Sports’ NHL 19, it’s understandable that people would see it as the go-to predictor for the outcome of the 2018/19 season. But, how does this year’s prediction from a simulation of Franchise Mode shape up to what we’re seeing play out in the NHL over a month into the season?
It was revealed that NHL 19 saw the Toronto Maple Leafs as the best bet in October to win the Stanley Cup, with John Tavares being the major factor behind the prediction of the simulation. The new Bud also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs. With eight goals and 17 points through the first 15 games, Tavares is certainly living up to the hype, but fans of the league see another Atlantic Division unit as the preferred candidate to win the NHL’s ultimate prize.
Eastern Conference rivals
Maple Leafs thrilled to top Lightning in 'measuring-stick game' https://t.co/hNT0Kk0vzj pic.twitter.com/ZbiU0yRJz6
— theScore NHL (@theScoreNHL) February 13, 2018
The Eastern Conference is undergoing a tectonic shift from the Metropolitan Division being the strongest in the entire league, to the Atlantic Division emerging with a stronger batch of teams headlining the standings. One of these teams is the team that NHL 19 suggests should be backed to win the Stanley Cup, another is the reemerged Boston Bruins who proved to be a strong team last season, and then there’s the people’s favourite for the Cup.
Before the start of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning were neck-and-neck with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the odds to win the Stanley Cup. After Toronto’s strong start, which saw them play many more games than the Bolts in the opening weeks of the season, the odds shifted towards the Maple Leafs with people trying to get in early.
At the 15-game mark for both teams, the Lightning started to squeak ahead of their Atlantic Division foes with an 11-3-1 record to Toronto’s 10-5-0 standing. Both saw 40 goals breach their net, but with 55 goals, Tampa Bay had outscored the Maple Leafs by four goals – which, in part, will be due to Auston Matthews’ shoulder injury. Now, still at long odds due to the Maple Leafs and pursuing Western Conference teams, the Bolts have become the go-to team for the use of free bets for November events whenever they step onto the ice and still as outright winners of the Stanley Cup.
Many bettors and experts are taking the NHL 19 prediction with more than a pinch of salt and see Tampa Bay as the preferred option. But, who may they have to combat in the finals?
Western Conference competitors
One of the problems with trusting an EA Sports game to predict a winner of a league is that their overall team ratings, particularly in the North American-based league games, are balanced to make them competitive and say that they’re the best in the world. But, when the Arizona Coyotes are 91 overall to Tampa Bay’s 93 overall, you know that something’s a bit off.
Regardless, the game does seem to follow the general logic of the Western Conference Finals predictions of many fans. The game sees the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks meet in the battle for a place in the finals, with Erik Karlsson and his new team coming out on top.
Both teams were contending at the top of their respective divisions a week into November and look to be the best bets to make it to the finals. However, in very recent seasons, both teams succumb to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the finals to miss out on their first chances to hoist the Stanley Cup.
While NHL 19 is the most realistic ice hockey game yet, its prediction for the Stanley Cup winner in 2019 will fall short if the Tampa Bay Lightning can live up to their potential. The first, potentially telling, meeting between the two is on the 13th of December, at the Amalie Arena.