That mythical perfect March Madness bracket is virtually impossible to achieve, and yet for some reason most of us fill one out anyway. The Stanley Cup Playoffs may not have 68 teams in them with a one-and-done system, but predicting each series in the spring is still highly fickle business.
Even for a computer.
It didn't look like the folks at EA SPORTS were going to have that problem for a while, but eventually the dream had to end. Using their EA SPORTS NHL '11 simulation engine, the video game makers followed up their 8-for-8 first round by nearly tabbing another perfect set, and had Detroit pulled off the incredible Thursday night, they would have had just that. But San Jose's gutsy performance in Game 7 threw a wrench in the mix and gave EA SPORTS its first miss of the postseason.
EA SPORTS West Conf. Finals predictions
West: (1) Vancouver vs. San Jose (2)
Game 1: San Jose 5 @ Vancouver 2
Game 2: San Jose 3 @ Vancouver 4 [OT]
Game 3: Vancouver 3 @ San Jose 2 [OT]
Game 4: Vancouver 2 @ San Jose 4
Game 5: San Jose 1 @ Vancouver 4
Game 6: Vancouver 3 @ San Jose 2
Vancouver wins series 4-2
Fortunately, however, this is no suicide pool, and Simulation Engine is getting a mulligan and a clean slate for the conference finals, particularly after EA SPORTS nearly made good on its prediction of three lower seeds advancing through the second round.
The third round doesn't provide the same kind of daring prognostication, but since EA SPORTS has gone 11-1 so far, questioning the simulation seems foolish, and if EA SPORTS has its druthers, Vancouver and Boston will be meeting to determine who will lift the Stanley Cup in 2011. The Canucks may be facing a San Jose team with an enormous emotional lift after holding off a potentially historic comeback, but according to the computers, Vancouver will overcome a home loss to the Sharks in Game 1 with two straight overtime victories and an eventual Western Conference title in six games.
According to EA SPORTS, the East will be decided in similar fashion, and be a closer series than some might expect, not because of its length but because of its scores. While the Bruins are pegged to grab the Prince of Wales Trophy in six games, two of their wins are slated to come in overtime, with Tampa Bay flashing some sudden-death heroics of its own to stay alive with an overtime win in Game 5 at TD Garden.
EA SPORTS will continue to run simulations after each round of the playoffs, but in addition fans are invited to make their own predictions in the EA SPORTS NHL 2011 Playoff Bracket Contest at www.facebook.com/EASPORTSNHL. Participating fans can accrue points for correct predictions with the ultimate prize at the end of Stanley Cup Final of two tickets to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa on the line.
Second Round fan voting opens today at http://www.facebook.com/EASPORTSNHL. Start dates for the Stanley Cup Final voting will be announced at the end of the Conference Finals.
It is really special. I had a lot of friends and family here tonight, and for my first [NHL] game in here it was great. I played here as an elementary-school player in the city championships and this was my first time back. It was a lot of fun..
— Toronto native Brandon Pirri after scoring 2 goals for Panthers in win at Maple Leafs on Thursday