The Stanley Cup Finals this year have even casual hockey fans excited about the outcome. Tempers have flared between the two teams competing for the cup, and TV audiences have been large--the largest in years in Canada. It all comes down to Game 7 on Wednesday night in Vancouver. The series has been so tight that predicting the outcome is nearly impossible.
Well, not for everyone.
EA Sports, the video game manufacturer that makes NHL 11 for the Xbox and PlayStation video game consoles, ran a simulation of the Stanley Cup playoffs and picked the Vancouver Canucks to beat the Boston Bruins in seven games to win the NHL championship.
The company ran the simulation on May 31, after accurately predicting earlier playoff series in 13 out of the 14 matchups. The simulation had Boston winning the first game in overtime 2-1, Vancouver 4-2 in the Game 2, Boston 3-2 in Game 3, Boston 3-2 in Game 4, Boston 3-2 in overtime in Game 6, and Vancouver winning Game 7 and the Stanley Cup 3-1.
The actual series has proved more lopsided than the simulation. The Canucks edged Boston 1-0 in Game 1 and bested Boston in overtime 3-2 in Game 2, then they were blasted by the Bruins 8-1 in Game 3 and defeated 4-0 again in Game 4. Another tight contest in Game 5 resulted in a 1-0 Vancouver win. Thus far, the home team has won every game in the series. If this rule holds, the Canucks will take home Lord Stanley's cup on Wednesday.
Two unforeseen factors may be directing this series: The emotion the Bruins are showing, spurred mainly by a series-ending cheap hit on Bruins winger Nathan Horton in Game 3 (who incidentally scores the game-winning goal in Game 6 in the simulation) and inflammatory comments made by Canucks, including derogatory statements about Boston goalie Tim Thomas made by Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo; and Luongo's seemingly erratic play, shutting out Boston in two games yet letting them score a total of 15 goals in three other games.
Players don't always play in adherence to their statistics, which is what powers the bulk of the NHL 11 program. As EA Sport asserts on its webpage discussing the simulation, A simulation, however, is just a simulation. Although its accuracy warrants some attention, no one has ever been crowned champion based on a computer's predictions.
Sports simulation website Whatifsports.com predicts the Bruins winning in seven games.