We’re finally here, folks. It’s the last round of our 24 team playoff sim, with the winner to be decided.
I won’t waste any time getting right into this, so let’s go:
(Note I’ll be going on a game by game basis)
Stanley Cup Finals - #2 Philadelphia v #1 Colorado
Colorado were the “home” team in the first game, which doesn’t give them any advantage other than the last line change, but nevertheless it is a slight bonus.
There was no scoring in the first period, though both team took three penalties each. Both goaltenders, Carter Hart and Philipp Grubauer stood strong in their respective nets to deny either side on their three power play chances.
However, the power play dam would finally be broken as Jake Voracek took a holding penalty halfway through the period which saw Samuel Girard score from the point on a screened Carter Hart to give the Avs the lead.
This is how things would stand until the third period where with five minutes left to go, Joonas Donskoi sprung Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri on a two on one. Burakovsky drew the defender over to his side with his quickness, and slid the puck over to Kadri who beat Hart to seal Colorado’s victory.
Within five minutes, the Avalanche were ahead 2-0, thanks to two quick goals from Nazem Kadri (once at EV and once on the PP), and most of the way through the second period, that would be the score, until with four minutes left before the third period, Derek Grant brought the Flyers to within one, scoring on a one timer fed from Michael Raffl.
The Flyers held the momentum going into the third period, but unfortunately, less than a minute in, Matt Calvert would rain on the parade, making it 3-1 Colorado. However, determined not to let the goal get in the way of a comeback, Ivan Provorov scored on a feed from Claude Giroux to make things interesting.
Then, halfway through the period, Nic Aube-Kubel won a puck battle in the corner, pitching along the boards to James van Riemsdyk, who quickly spotted Travis Sanheim sneaking down towards the high slot. He found Sanheim with a pass and Travis rifled a shot past Grubauer to even the score. Despite a late power play, the game would remain tied at 3-3, and overtime was to be had.
Now, about overtime, have you noticed a theme of Colorado scoring very early in games and in periods?
Well, it only took them 26 seconds this time around before Gabriel Landeskog found the back of the net to give Colorado a 2-0 series lead. Disappointment for the Flyers who fought all the way back to even the score in this contest.
Now with the Flyers as the “home” team, they looked to right the ship and win a game in this series, risk Colorado going up 3-0.
With no scoring or any penalties in the first period, the second period remained a fierce deadlock as both sides were spurned by the determination to swing momentum in their favor. Fortunately for the Flyers, it broke their way.
Around four minutes into the period, while on the penalty kill, Derek Grant was able to skate the puck out of the zone while a Colorado player was without a stick. Sensing this, Shayne Gostisbehere jumped forward in the rush, and with a few seconds of even strength hockey, he managed to take a pass from Grant and score glove side on Grubauer. Then, at the eight minute mark, while on an extended offensive cycle, Michael Raffl tipped a Travis Sanheim shot that snuck past Grubauer to make the Flyers’ lead two.
The third period would be equally fortuitous for the Flyers, as both Derek Grant and Claude Giroux scored within seconds of each other to give the Flyers a 4-0 lead. That’s how the score would stay.
The Avalanche continued their streak of hot starts as they went up 1-0 within two minutes, thanks to Joonas Donskoi deflecting a shot from the point by Ian Cole. However, their lead would not last for long, as Ivan Provorov managed to beat Grubauer clean just a few minutes later, after some good work down low from Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny. Nearing the end of the period, the Flyers would be put on the power play when Nazem Kadri was called for boarding. With Travis Konecny wide open, Claude Giroux threaded the needle to find him, and he had a wide open net to shoot at. 2-1 Flyers.
However, yet again with under two minutes gone in the period, Joonas Donskoi would strike again for Colorado, scoring on a rebound left from a Cale Makar slapshot. This was one of three goals that came within minutes of each other in the early second period. Travis Sanheim scored on a point shot where Grubauer was screened to restore the Flyers’ lead, yet then, Mikko Rantanen would equalize on the power play to make the score 3-3 heading into the third period.
Six minutes into the third, it would be Shayne Gostisbehere who would give the Flyers the advantage, scoring on a wrist shot as he snuck into the high slot, taking on a pass from Jake Voracek. That is how the score would remain until the late minutes of the game, when both Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux would score empty net goals to even the series 2-2.
The series “shifts back” to Colorado now, as it’s a brand new series again, though, this game didn’t really reflect that until the very end.
Through the first two periods, there would be no scoring, though either team would take two penalties each. It would take all the way until the middle of the third period to have the deadlock broken. As Matt Calvert was skating the puck up and out of his own defensive zone, Matt Niskanen stopped him in his tracks and kept the puck in. He then fired the puck towards Grubauer, who made the quick reactionary save, but James van Riemsdyk was right on his doorstep to deposit the puck past him. Then, with only five minutes remaining in the game, on the power play, Claude Giroux passed the puck down low to Joel Farabee, who in turn backhanded a pass through the slot which found the stick of, yet again, James van Riemsdyk. It would be a 2-0 final score, and a banner night from JVR.
Can the Flyers clinch the Cup with a “home” advantage? If the second period had an answer for you, it’s no, unfortunately.
The Colorado Avalanche put two past Carter Hart in quick succession early on, first on an Andre Burakovsky breakaway, and just a minute and a half later, on the power play as Nathan MacKinnon scored on a tic-tac-toe passing play. However, with the period waining, the Flyers had a power play of their own, and Jake Voracek scored on a rebound left by Grubauer to make the score 2-1 with 20 minutes left to play.
Especially given this next sequence, we can be very thankful that we are “overpaying” for Kevin Hayes. Three minutes into the third period, he managed to steal the puck in the Flyers’ zone, laying off to Ivan Provorov, who then found Hayes again in the neutral zone. Hayes then beat Ryan Graves with a nifty move and beat Grubauer to even the score at 2-2. With the game still tied with three minutes left in regulation, Travis Konecny decided to take matters into his own hands, taking a wind around pass from Justin Braun from behind the net, and wrapping around to beat Grubauer at his near post, winning the game and the series for the Flyers.
Result: Philadelphia wins 4-2
Now, yes, I understand that as a Flyers blog and as a Flyers fan, it’s hypocritical to put my faith in this sim that the Flyers could actually win the Cup, but I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t somewhat believe that they could do it. With the way they had been playing, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and with this proposed playoff format, truly anything is possible. If it really was the Flyers and Avs playing for the Cup, I really think it would be 50-50 as to who would come away victorious. Yes, again, I’m biased but the Flyers really have a shot at this if the playoffs do happen this way. Would they win in 100 sims? Probably not, but they won in this one.
Now, with the sim in the books, let’s dish out some award
The Conn Symthe trophy, for the playoff MVP. Truthfully, if we’re taking into account every team, it would have to go to David Pastrnak. He had one of the best playoff runs for an individual player in recent history. His 35 total playoff points would put him in a tie for 8th all time with the likes of Mike Bossy (1981), Wayne Gretzky (1984), and Doug Gilmour (1993).
However, I think the Conn Smythe in this case goes to Claude Giroux. Giroux led the Flyers in playoff assists and overall points, and was one of the primary organizers of their potent offense. Throughout the sim, besides when goals were scored, he was easily the most noticeable player, contributed massively to the Flyers’ success.