SPRINGFIELD, Mass – It was a tumultuous season for the American Hockey League. Due to travel restrictions and other COVID-19 related issues, the league decided to forgo their annual Calder Cup Playoffs. Instead, each division had the opportunity to elect to hold their own post-season play. Only the Pacific Division decided to opt-in, with the other divisions awarding the top teams in their respected division paced on points percentage.
This left many fans wondering, “what if?” Could their team have gone all the way to win the 2020-21 Calder Cup? Well, we here at The Sin Bin decided to try and answer this very question. Writers Zack Power, Andrew Rinaldi, Corey Swartz, Anthony Noffke, and AHL Editor Deana Weinheimer put their heads together using season trends, head-to-head stats, and more to hypothesize how the playoffs would have shaken out this year.
Due to the lack of clear-cut conferences this season, we came up with our own playoff seeding and format. We seeded the teams based on their points percentage at the end of the regular season for all divisions outside of the Pacific.
But EA Sports went their own way. No, they didn’t necessarily agree with our picks, but we had to finish what we started in light of curiosity.
If you missed our last article, we broke down how each team did virtually.
East Semi-Finals 1 (Hershey Bears vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms)
This was one of the series’ you could tell early on that this was going the distance. One thing that stuck differently was after the first four games; both teams led the playoffs with the most goals against. Hershey was riding 27, While Lehigh Valley had 30.
Hershey would make a comeback in the series after being down 2-1, marching their way to the Conference Finals but winning three straight games to take the series 4-2.
East Semi-Finals 2 (Belleville Senators vs. Manitoba Moose)
C.J Suess continued his run towards playoff MVP early in the second round. In game one against Belleville, Suess plotted three assists, improving his stats to five goals, nine assists, and 14 points.
Belleville threw the boomerang, losing games one and two. They came back, winning four straight games and silencing Suess.
After being down 2-0 and sliding back four straight marks, one of the biggest comebacks in the sim series, if not the biggest comeback.
West Semi-Finals 1 (Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Chicago Wolves)
One thing that continued to surprise me through the sim was how good Grand Rapids was playing. Taking games one and two, the Griffins had a GAA of 1.52, with their starter, Calvin Pickard, running a .940 SVS%.
But Chicago would come back and take game three. They would also plow through games five and six to take the series to a seventh game.
In game seven, Chicago had a 4-2 lead after 20. The Griffins scored three straight tallies in the second period and led 5-4 going into the third.
The Griffins would hang on, winning 8-7 over the Wolves.
West Semi-Finals 2 (San Diego Gulls vs. San Jose Barracuda)
While Pickard was the show in Michigan, Olle Eriksson Ek had a stellar record through his first seven games on the other side of the US. With a .941 SVS% and a 1.72 record, Olle backstopped his club through games one and two for a 2-0 record.
San Jose would, however, take one game in the best-of-seven but failed to finish. The Gulls moved on to the Western Finals.
AHL Playoff Simulation: NHL 21 Calder Cup Second Round Results
Moving on to the conference finals, the NHL 21 sim selects:
Eastern Conference Finals
Hershey Bears vs. Belleville Senators
Western Conference Finals
Grand Rapids Griffins vs. San Diego Gulls
Which two teams will move on in our sim to play for the Calder Cup Finals? Find out next week here at Field Pass Hockey.
For our writers’ bracket selection, check back tomorrow!
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