We are onto round two of the Stanley Cup playoffs in this Carolina Hurricanes NHL 20 season simulation.
In the first round, the Hurricanes ousted the Washington Capitals for a second straight year - this time in six games. Their next opponent is a tough customer in the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are fresh off of a game-seven overtime victory over Sidney Crosby and their intrastate rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
For more information on how this series works, please refer to part one.
Here’s how games one and two between the Hurricanes and Flyers went down, according to NHL 20’s simulation engine.
Game one at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia saw fireworks fly early.
Just over seven minutes into the first period, Joel Edmundson delivered a massive hit on Derek Grant and quickly had Scott Laughton in his face. They dropped the gloves along the penalty box glass and threw a few brief punches before ultimately getting separated by officials.
The Flyers came out of that bout with a shot of energy in front of their home crowd. The orange and black recorded each of the next seven shots on goal, but Petr Mrazek was up to the task and held Philly off of the scoreboard through the first 15 minutes of the game.
Carolina had recorded just five shots on young Carter Hart as the first period reached its final minute, but they were gifted a great opportunity with 54 seconds left in the frame when Michael Raffl got whistled for hooking Martin Necas.
It didn’t take long for the Hurricanes to capitalize on their first power play of the series. Sebastian Aho won the face off back to Andrei Svechnikov, who cheated in and sold that he was looking for a shot before sliding a pass back to the middle of the point to Dougie Hamilton for a one-time rocket. His shot beat Hart clean to the glove side and the Hurricanes escaped a far-from-perfect first period with a one-goal lead.
Carolina’s lackluster opening frame didn’t carry over into the second period. In the opening minutes of the second, the Canes were efficiently rolling four lines and pinning the Flyers in their own zone for long periods of time. Their best chance of that stretch came from Jordan Martinook, who received a centering pass from Brock McGinn and got robbed by the outstretched blocker of Hart.
Philly survived Carolina’s opening push, and they built their game in the second half of the period. Trade deadline acquisition Justin Braun came up with a huge shot block on a great chance for Nino Niederreiter before recovering the puck and breaking it out to his forwards. On that rush, Kevin Hayes drove to the net and put a pass from Travis Konecny over Mrazek’s right pad to tie the game.
The remainder of the second period saw stingy play from both sides, combining for just two shots on goal in the last six minutes of play.
Tied at a goal apiece on the road in game one, the third period period game plan for the Hurricanes was easy - win the period, win the game, eliminate home-ice advantage.
On the first shift of the period, Jordan Staal’s line pinned the Flyers in their own end, grinding them down and wearing them out in the process. Justin Williams corralled a loose puck behind the net, won a board battle to gain space, and sauced a pass to the mid slot where Staal was unmarked. The captain put a quick one-time hit through the legs of Hart to make it a 2-1 game.
Rod Brind’Amour’s group was air-tight on defense through the first half of the period, making Mrazek’s job pretty easy. A Jake Gardiner tripping penalty gave the Flyers a real chance to build momentum, though.
Sean Couturier rifled a shot off of the crossbar in the first twenty seconds of the man advantage, and that missed opportunity ended up being felt in a big way later in the night.
The Flyers ended up not scoring on the power play, which meant the game stayed at 2-1 through the middle portion of the third period and set the table for an intense finish.
Philly called their timeout with just over two minutes left in the game, and after winning the ensuing offensive zone face off, they pulled Hart for a sixth attacker. The Flyers maintained offensive zone possession leading into the game’s final minute, but they were lacking in actual scoring chances, thanks in large part to some stellar work from Carolina’s blue line cornerstones of Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin.
Slavin eventually stole the puck along the boards and quickly chipped it up and out of the zone. Teuvo Teravainen came on the ice as the puck was sent out, and he darted right by a tired group of Flyers players, won the race to the puck, and deposited an empty-net goal to seal the deal in game one.
The Hurricanes saw their play fluctuate throughout game one, but they got the bounces they needed in a hostile environment to wipe out the Flyers’ home-ice advantage.
Mrazek stopped 29 of 30 shots, continuing his great play in this postseason. The offensive charge was led by Aho’s line, which combined for eleven shots on goal and two of the team’s three tallies. Slavin and Hamilton were phenomenal, each logging more than 28 minutes of time and showing up on the scoresheet.
The Canes and Flyers ran it back for game two in the City of Brotherly Love, a game which Philadelphia absolutely had to win.
There was a very clear sense of urgency from the opening face off, led by Claude Giroux. Giroux had a game-breaking first period, starting with the game’s first goal at 6:29 when he went blue line-to-blue line with the puck before executing a slick give-and-go play with Jakub Voracek and finishing with a cheeky chip shot over Mrazek’s pad.
Giroux led his team to another goal eight minutes later. Ivan Provorov chipped the puck into the Canes’ zone, where Philly’s captain put on a show retrieving the puck, winning a board battle, and working it out to the blue line. Travis Sanheim got the pass and stepped into a howitzer of a slap shot that hit Brock McGinn’s hand in the slot and ricocheted to Konecny at the backdoor for an easy tap-in goal.
Unfortunately for Carolina, the goal wasn’t the only costly outcome of that sequence. McGinn immediately went to the locker room in a great deal of pain. He did not return. There will be an update on his status ahead of game three back in Raleigh.
The Hurricanes fought back in the second period, cutting the lead in half by way of a Gardiner wrist shot that was tipped by Necas and found its way past Hart.
That was the lone goal of the period, which set the table for another tight third period.
Matt Niskanen beat Mrazek early in the third period to extend his team’s lead to two goals. After that, the Flyers parked the bus and gave no quarter to the many waves of attempted offense from the Hurricanes. The Canes couldn’t pull themselves back into the game, which ended at the same score as game one. This time around, it was Philadelphia coming out victorious.
Hart was very good when needed in game two. The young backstop saved 23 shots and allowed his only blemish on a tipped point shot through traffic.
The story of this game was Giroux, who had a vintage “captain” game when his team needed it. He led the way in every sense, skating a team-high among forwards of 22:43. He had a goal and an assist on his stat line.
The Hurricanes couldn’t get much going in game two, but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort. Their energy and desperation was present, but they were dealt one of Philly’s best complete efforts of their season.
Games three and four will be at PNC Arena in Raleigh. The Flyers will look to return the favor after the Hurricanes split games on their home ice. The Hurricanes will look to put the Flyers on the ropes.
We have another great series on our hands.