Sim City: Crosby Returns!
Sim City is a Score Buzz feature in which we aim to predict future outcomes of sporting events by using video games. "Why do this?" You may ask. Well, because video games are fun.
There is no current timetable for Sidney Crosby's long awaited return to the NHL from a concussion, but there's a prevailing feeling that it's not far off. Many folks in the media and armchair injury experts alike have pegged November 11 as the most logical return date for Crosby. For mostly arbitrary reasons, like the Penguins returning home from a mini West Coast road swing and a six-day layoff between games, this date has become the assumed return to the ice for Crosby.
We took it upon ourselves here at the Buzz to run Crosby through a simulated 2011-12 season using EA Sports' NHL 12 on the Xbox 360. Using our space daddy appointed return date of November 11, 2011, we set out to see how Crosby would make out in his effort to return from a nearly 10-month layoff from NHL action. For the sake of full disclosure, here's a few notes on how we set up our Peguins season:
- EA's latest roster update (10/31) and tuner set were used.
- All season and gameplay options were set to optimize realism. Difficulty was set to All-Star with "Hardcore" style, 20-minute periods and "authentic" after the whistle rules in place. Penalties were also slid to the highest setting.
- All Penguins games up to November 11, 2011 were simulated with Crosby out of the lineup. Suggested "Best Lines" were used, while injuries were left on; several players missed significant chunks of time.
Game 1: Virtual Crosby came out looking for contact, taking a goaltender interference penalty just three minutes into his first game of the season. In a 6-3 rout of the Dallas Stars, Crosby registered 3-assists in just under 20 minutes of ice-time.
Our mock Crosby would tally his first goal since December 28, 2010 in his second game back. 87 would go full Sega Gensis in his fourth game of the season, a drubbing of the hapless Florida Panthers, in which he piled up 4-points on a goal and 3-assists. There were no remnants of concussion cobwebs spinning in this disc drive; Crosby had 10-points through four games.
Evgeni Malkin pelted the Ottawa Senators for 4-goals and 2-assists and would take the NHL scoring lead on November 25 with 31-points.
December 1 marked the first time that Crosby and Alex Ovechkin met on the ice since last January's Winter Classic. Crosby's power play goal at 16:25 of the secod period would stand as the winner in a 3-0 shutout of the Washington Capitals. After 11 games Crosby would sit tied with Jordan Staal for second in team scoring with 17-points.
A robust Crosby and return from a 24-game layoff with post-concussion syndrome for James Neal helped the Penguins to a lead on the Rangers for first in the Atlantic Division (3rd in Eastern Conference) at the All-Star break. As for Crosby, he had 22-goals and 22-assists through 34 games played. Malkin held the team lead with 64-points.
The Penguins cruised to an Atlantic Division title, and finished second in the East with 109-points. The Washington Capitals won the Presidents' Trophy with 114-points.
How did our perfectly healthy and concussion symptom free Crosby fare?
67 GP, 42 goals, 42 assists, +/- 37, 38 PIM, 57.1 FO%, 302 shots and an average time on ice of 23:12.
A couple notes of interest:
- Crosby would finish with a point per game average of 1.25, the lowest of his career.
- His .62 goals per game average would be his lowest since the 2008-09 season.
- 23:12 ATOI is rather high, but not entirely implausible.
- Ovechkin led our simulated season in goal scoring with 53. Malkin finished second in league scoring with 109-points behind Henrik Sedin's 116.
- Only Brooks Orpik, Chris Kunitz and Jordan Staal played in all 82-games. Kris Letang, Tyler Kennedy, Pascal Dupuis, Neal and Zbynek Michalek all missed in excess of 20-games due to various injuries.
- Crosby's PIM total is abnormally low, but penalty numbers appeared low for most Penguins in this instance.
- Sid was boss on the draws. His F0% was up nearly 2% from both his 2009-10 and 2010-11 percentages.
Video game Crosby is doing just fine following the lengthy layoff. His decreased per game point and goal averages gave our experiment a little more authenticity, although, No. 87's high shot totals, wimpy PIM numbers and inflated ice-time forces us to take a hit in the realism department.
Where does our Crosby simulation experiment's results rank in comparison to your own expectations?