Thirty teams were boiled down to 16 by the regular season. The past two months of playoff hockey have now trimmed that number down to two. When the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings face off Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) the final series of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final will finally be under way.
While it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen during the course of the next two weeks, EA Sports once again has taken its best stab at it with its NHL 12 Simulation Engine.
According to the computers, it's the L.A. Kings who will hoist the Stanley Cup at long last this year.
No simulation is flawless, but in the past EA has come awfully close. Having correctly predicted a championship for the Chicago Blackhawks two years and a remarkable 13 of 15 series played in the 2011 postseason, EA has an impressive track record.
EA's NHL 12 simulation engine takes into account statistics, line combinations, injuries and hot streaks in an attempt to accurately anticipate the intangibles and variables that can occur. Because of that, the fact that the Kings are an astounding 12-2 this postseason is not lost on the computer. Despite an eight-day layoff before Game 1, the simulation doesn't see Los Angeles cooling off at all.
In fact, the NHL 12 Simulation Engine has the Kings doubling up the Devils in Game 1 on Wednesday with a 4-2 win, with Anze Kopitar getting the game-winner. That should come as little surprise given that the Kings are undefeated on the road this postseason. That streak, however, comes to an end in Game 2 on Saturday with Martin Brodeur bouncing back for a shutout in a series-evening 2-0 win for New Jersey.
When the series shifts to California, the Devils manage to take back home-ice advantage with a 2-1 win in Game 3, as Ilya Kovalchuk gets the game-winner to give New Jersey a 2-1 series edge. According to the simulation, that's the final time the Devils will win a game this season.
In Game 4, Jonathan Quick pitches a shutout of his own in a 2-0 win, squaring the series before the teams head back East for a pivotal Game 5.
Often in a series tied 2-2, Game 5 proves to be massively important. In EA's simulation, this Game 5 doesn't break that trend, and it doesn't end in 60 minutes, either. After both teams score twice in regulation, the Kings and Devils head to overtime to decide who will have a chance to close out the series in Game 6. Unfortunately for the home crowd, L.A.'s road dominance continues, as does the strong postseason of Dustin Brown, whose overtime-winner sends the Kings back to Staples Center with a chance to lift the Stanley Cup for the first time ever on their own ice.
In Game 6, they don't disappoint. Drew Doughty pots the game-winner and Quick keeps the Devils at bay in a 3-1 victory that ends the series and brings the Cup to Los Angeles for the first time in the franchise's 45-year history.
Quick, who records a shutout and allows just nine goals in six games, wins the Conn Smythe Trophy.