Sunday, July 01, 2007

Canada Day Championships 2007

This year, I decided to expand the Canada Day Championships by making it bigger with more simulated preliminary games as well as an expanded tournament round. It was going to be interesting hoping that the teams would even themselves out and other teams that struggled with a one-and-done format would be able to survive with a best of 7. Also, I decided to include new traditions to this year's games as the tournament MVP would receive the Harper trophy. (Any guess who that is named for?)

On to the preliminary rounds, it would be that with the Eastern teams in one pool with the Western teams in the other. Each team played each other once in a home/away series. When those games were simulated, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary were tied for first place in points at eight. Could it be that the strength and depth of those rosters were going to simulate another year of an Eastern team dominance? Would Montreal make it a three-peat? Koivu stood atop all players in points with 13 (6-7), but the best goaltenders were the Jets Curtis Joseph and Miikka Kiprusoff with 1.99 and 2.31 GAA respectfully.

After the teams were re-seeded for tournament play, Montreal faced Winnipeg, Toronto played Edmonton, Vancouver fought Quebec, and Calgary against Ottawa. The tournament was simulated through three rounds and instead of an eastern finals championship, the result was Winnipeg and Vancouver locking in for their first Canada Day Cup championship. I suppose it was the strength of Luongo carrying the team and a surprising Tommi Santala producing points.

What could have been more dramatic than a Game 7 in Winnipeg? Nothing. In real life, one of the most undervalued hockey markets found themselves playing for the Cup. The first period was just a feeling out round where neither team scored. The second period included more action with Joel Perrault's goal shoveled in slowly between Luongo's legs. Steve Reinprecht's hard shot sent Luongo's water bottle flying scoring for the Jets which set them in good shape for the third. There was even a penalty shot awarded to Pittsburgh native Bill Thomas as he was hooked by Brent Sopel, but Thomas failed to convert on that giant opportunity.

Finding their backs to the wall, the Canucks had to come out scoring. Despite shot after shot, "CuJo" held things down to hold on to the shutout. Drastic times called for desperate measures as the Canucks were forced to pull their goaltender. Markus Naslund took matters into his own hand as the extra attacker, sailed into Jet ice and buried the puck in the net to cut the lead down to 2-1 in the last minute However, that was all the comeback the Canucks could muster as the Jets defense just cleared the zone time and time again.

It was interesting to see the simulated Shane Doan accept the Canada Day Cup trophy in a Jet uniform. If they only had this much effort in real life. Congratulations to the Winnipeg Jets!

As for the after-tournament selections, the Harper trophy went to Quebec's Alex Tanguay who piled up 33 points (15-18). I look forward to doing this again next year with EA Sports' NHL 2008.

Previous Canada Day Champions
2002: Toronto Maple Leafs
2003: Edmonton Oilers
2004: Quebec Nordiques
2005: Montreal Canadiens
2006: Montreal Canadiens

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