As the Sharks meet the St. Louis Blues with a berth in the Stanley Cup Final on the line, an interesting subplot is how the Western Conference Final pits the two finalists to be on the cover of EA Sports NHL 17 video game for next year against each other.
“There’s a report coming out that we’re a little bit behind,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, one of the finalists along with Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, recently told KNBR. “Silicon Valley has to start pulling some tricks (laughs).”
The winner of the NHL 17 Cover Vote, that ends during the Western Conference Final, on May 16, will be decided by a fan vote that combines votes in an online ballot with every social media mention of each player’s hashtag.
You can vote for #NHL17Pavelski here or with every mention of #NHL17Pavelski on twitter.
#NHL17Pavelski secured his place in the Final by defeating Edmonton Oilers phenom Connor McDavid in the second round of the fan vote and LA Kings center Anze Kopitar in the opening round. Tarasenko recently beat Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn and got his campaign started with a victory over Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.
While this final vote might seem like a case of fun and games, don’t be mistaken – this is serious business.
EA Sports' NHL video game series, like the Sharks franchise, is in its 25th year. In its early days, when its games were on Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo, the cover was often a generic hockey photo, often featuring a scene from the previous season’s Stanley Cup Final.
Since NHL 97, when Florida Panthers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck graced the cover, the front of the popular video game series has annually been an individual player. Early in this decade, covers have come to be decided by a fan vote.
All-Time NHL Video Game Covers (minus alternate covers that have appeared overseas or were replaced)
1997 - John Vanbiesbrouck, Florida Panthers
1998 - Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche
1999- Eric Lindros, Philadelphia Flyers
2000- Chris Pronger, St. Louis Blues
2001- Owen Nolan, San Jose Sharks
2002- Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins
2003- Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
2004- Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
2005- Markus Naslund, Vancouver Canucks
2006- Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning
2007- Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
2008 - Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
2009- Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames
2010- Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
2011- Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
2012- Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
2013- Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
2014- Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
2015- Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
2016 - Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
A quick look at this list shows that there are no misfits. This list, even more exclusive than All-Star teams, is a true representation of the best of the best.
For the Sharks, #NHL17Pavelski has been nothing short of the best in the first two rounds of the playoffs against the Predators and Kings.
Nine goals, a team lead, have tied a Sharks franchise record for goals in a playoff year.
Coincidentally, one of the players #NHL17Pavelski has tied is himself, after he also scored nine goals in the 2010 playoffs.
Of course, his Final opponent, Vladimir Tarasenko, has been no less important for the Blues. The young Russian has led St. Louis in scoring in each of the past two seasons, more than a combined 30 points better than any of his teammates.
But to make sure that the NHL cover vote is properly honored, here are a few stats of how #NHL17Pavelski and Tarasenko stack up against one another.
#NHL17Pavelski vs. Tarasenko 2016 Playoffs
#NHL17Pavelski - 13 points (9 goal, 4 assists)
Tarasenko-13 points (7 goals, 6 assists)
One category for #NHL17Pavelski, one for Tarasenko, a tie in the other. This is clearly pretty close.
But how about how they compare since the start of the 2012-13 season, when Tarasenko first entered the NHL.
#NHL17Pavelski vs. Tarasenko Since 2012-13
#NHL17Pavelski - 258 points (132 goals, 126 assists) +62
Tarasenko- 209 points (106 goals, 103 assists)+55
Advantage #NHL17Pavelski, across the board.
How about in games they have faced one another, both in the NHL regular season and when #NHL17Pavelski’s U.S. team took down Tarasenko’s Russian team in the 2014 Olympics.
#NHL17Pavelski vs. Tarasenko In Games Against Each Other
Pavelski- 8 wins, 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists)
Tarasenko 3 wins, 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists)
#NHL17Pavelski>Tarasenko, once again.
Although to be fair to Tarasenko, he does lead #NHL17Pavelski in total points scored in head-to-head games that his team lost, on the road, on Mondays, in years ending with an even number, in games played west of the Rocky Mountains.
So this is certainly something to think about.
All joking aside, Tarasenko is a fantastic talent, whose combination of speed, power and finesse have given the Blues the sort of dynamic offensive game-breaker they haven’t had since the days of Brett Hull.
To boot, Tarasenko is only 24-years-old. And as 40-goal scorer that only seems to get better every year, he should give the Sharks all they can handle in the Western Conference Final.
But for now…
#NHL17Pavelski #NHL17Pavelski #NHL17Pavelski #NHL17Pavelski #NHL17Pavelski #NHL17Pavelski #NHL17Pavelski #NHL17Pavelski #NHL17Pavelski
That’s one for every category #NHL17Pavelski leads Tarasenko in.
And that’s an extra one for getting him on the cover!