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Recap: Hurricanes Clinch Playoff Spot, First-Round Matchup with Capitals in Final Week of NHL 20 Season Simulation

Hurricanes extend winning streak to five games, finish the season in the Eastern Conference’s first wild card spot.

New Jersey Devils v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

We have arrived at the end of the 2019-20 NHL regular season simulation in NHL 20.

The Carolina Hurricanes have put themselves in position to clinch a playoff spot, thanks to an active three-game winning streak that started last week with an unbelievable comeback victory.

Here in part three, we will recap the final two games of the Hurricanes’ regular season and then breakdown the final playoff standings in both conferences. The postseason simulation starts next week and will be part four of this series.

For more information on how this series works, head over to part one.

April 3 vs. Blue Jackets

For the second year in a row, the Hurricanes had a chance to clinch a playoff spot in their home finale. This season, the Columbus Blue Jackets were the opponent.

Things were ugly in the first period.

Gustav Nyquist opened the scoring at 5:37 of the opening frame, cashing in on Columbus’ seventh shot of the game. A defensive breakdown saw Brady Skjei lose his man, Nyquist, which led to an easy backdoor tap-in.

Just under a minute later, Brock McGinn got the Hurricanes’ first shot of the game, but he got two minutes for cross-checking just nine seconds later.

On the ensuing power play, the Jackets struck again.

Off of an offensive zone face off win by Pierre-Luc Dubois, Seth Jones stepped up and fired a howitzer from the top of the point that beat Petr Mrazek clean to his blocker side. Seven minutes into the game, Columbus had a 2-0 lead and Carolina’s hopes of clinching a playoff spot in front of a sellout PNC Arena crowd started to dim.

With two minutes left in the period, the Canes forwards collided at the offensive blue line, and it led to a long 2-on-0 chance for the Jackets. Mrazek made an absolutely ginormous save with the outstretched glove, getting a piece of Nick Foligno’s shot.

That huge save kept the game at 2-0 through twenty minutes.

The Hurricanes responded with a 180-degree turn in the middle period, and their sustained offensive zone pressure led to a penalty at 4:36. Eight seconds into their power play, another penalty was called on Columbus, giving the Canes 112 seconds of 5-on-3 time.

This is where the game truly changed.

Early in the first leg of the power play, Ryan Dzingel cashed in on a cross-seam pass from Martin Necas and one-timed a shot by Elvis Merzlikins. The crowd erupted, and they knew they had a game on their hands - and more power play time with the 5-on-4.

Late in the 5-on-4 sequence, A failed clearing attempt from former Hurricane Riley Nash saw Jake Gardiner steal the puck and rifle it right back in the offensive zone. Nino Niederreiter corralled the puck behind the net, made a power move in front, and chipped it over the pad of Merzlikins to tie the game.

Just 26 seconds later, though, Columbus got a great bounce and regained the lead. A neutral zone clearing attempt by Ryan Murray hit off of the stanchion and ricocheted towards the top of the right circle in front of Mrazek. Dubois swooped in, grabbed the puck, and snuck it through Mrazek’s legs to put a quick stop to the momentum the Canes were building - at least for the moment.

Down by a goal once again, the Hurricanes mounted more chances as the period wore on, and they eventually broke through to re-tie the game.

McGinn jammed home a rebound from the top of the Columbus crease with just 3:31 left in the second period, making good for his early penalty that led to a goal against.

Speaking of making up for mistakes, Nash made up for his turnover on the penalty kill with a big power play goal early in the third. He took an offensive zone face off with just eight seconds left in the power play, and he drove right to the net to deflect a point shot and give his team a 4-3 lead.

The halfway point of the third period came and went with the Hurricanes not managing to mount much pressure. Columbus did an excellent job of locking down in the defensive zone - until the 11:10 mark.

Necas carried the puck blue line-to-blue line, finessing his way by multiple Columbus players and creating a controlled offensive zone entry. Vincent Trocheck dashed into the zone and won a race to the net before tapping in a gorgeous pass from Necas at the backdoor to extend his hot goal-scoring streak and tie the game at four.

The Hurricanes need a big play late in the tie game, and of course it was Sebastian Aho who came through.

Aho picked Jones’ pocket along the board in the Carolina zone and led a rush the other way. He dropped the puck to Justin Williams at the blue line before receiving the return pass and slide a wrist shot just under Merzlikins glove to give the Hurricanes their first lead of the night with 6:20 on the clock.

Rod Brind’Amour’s group shut everything down the rest of the way, and yet again, the Hurricanes clinched a playoff berth in game 81.

Williams had his handprint all over the place, racking up three assists in the win. Aho’s game-winning goal was his second point of the evening. Mrazek stopped 29 of 33.

April 4 @ Bruins

The Canes clinched a ticket to the big dance, but there was more for them to play for - seeding.

A win in Boston would have them finish in the Eastern Conference’s first wild card spot, ahead of the New York Islanders by way of tiebreaker.

This ended up being one of their easiest games of the season, as the Bruins practically slept their way through their season finale because they had nothing to play for. Their season was wrapped up in every way, and the Hurricanes were able to take care of their business, as well.

Gardiner opened the scoring with a wrist shot from the point that found its way through traffic and got by Jaroslav Halak. Just 16 seconds later, Gardiner sprung Trocheck for a breakaway chance, and he scored yet again to make it a 2-0 game.

Williams followed up his three-assist night with the final goal of the Hurricanes’ regular season at 13:38 of the second period. James Reimer didn’t see much action, but he was on his game with a twenty-save shutout.

The Canes’ 3-0 win extended their winning streak to five games, dating back to their miraculous comeback win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 28. That game ended up being the turning point for the team, which is now firing on all cylinders entering the postseason.

As play wrapped up across the league, Carolina knew who their first-round opponent would be.

The Metropolitan Division-winning Washington Capitals.

Of course.

End-of-Season Standings

Eastern Conference

  1. Boston Bruins - 114 points (A1)
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning - 106 points (A2)
  3. Washington Capitals - 105 points (M1)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers - 102 points (M2)
  5. Toronto Maple Leafs - 101 points (A3)
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins - 100 points (M3)
  7. Carolina Hurricanes - 98 points (WC1; won RW tiebreaker with NYI)
  8. New York Islanders - 98 points (WC2)

Just missed: New York Rangers (95 points), Florida Panthers (94 points)

Western Conference

  1. St. Louis Blues - 110 points (C1)
  2. Colorado Avalanche - 105 points (C2)
  3. Vegas Golden Knights - 101 points (P1)
  4. Edmonton Oilers - 100 points (P2)
  5. Dallas Stars - 94 points (C3)
  6. Arizona Coyotes - 92 points (P3)
  7. Winnipeg Jets - 91 points (WC1)
  8. Minnesota Wild - 90 points (WC2)

Just missed: Nashville Predators (90 points; lost RW tiebreaker with MIN), Vancouver Canucks (89 points), Calgary Flames (87 points)

Playoff Matchups

Eastern Conference

  • Boston Bruins (A1) vs. New York Islanders (WC2)
  • Washington Capitals (M1) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (WC1)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning (A2) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (A3)
  • Philadelphia Flyers (M2) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (M3)

Western Conference

  • St. Louis Blues (C1) vs. Minnesota Wild (WC2)
  • Vegas Golden Knights (P1) vs. Winnipeg Jets (WC1)
  • Colorado Avalanche (C2) vs. Dallas Stars (C3)
  • Edmonton Oilers (P2) vs. Arizona Coyotes (P3)

Simulation Notes

Best Simulation Teams (Points)

  • Toronto Maple Leafs (10-2-0, 20 points)
  • Buffalo Sabres (8-1-4, 20 points)
  • Arizona Coyotes (8-2-2, 18 points)

Worst Simulation Teams (Points)