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Introducing The Yelnats Cup Playoffs & Bracket Challenge

So you won the Stanley Cup. Big whoop. One of these teams will walk away with the Yelnats Cup!  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
So you won the Stanley Cup. Big whoop. One of these teams will walk away with the Yelnats Cup! (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Hello Wilderness! It's starting to sink in: The playoff dance is starting and the Wild aren't invited. Well, who needs them when we now have the Yelnats Cup! ... I sense by your confused faces that you would like an explanation. The Yelnats Cup (or the reverse Stanley) is that second chance every team wants, it's the playoffs for all the non-playoff teams! Sure, there are huge rivalries made and cemeted in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but what about the rivalries between bottom feeders? This gives us some of us fans who haven't seen our team in the playoffs for a while a chance to keep cheering, even if we can't really see them play per se.

Wait a minute you syrupy moose, how does this work? Are you going to call up all the GMs of the non-playoff teams and get them together for this event? Umm... no.

Join me after the jump and find out! 

The way I will proceed here is I will use the PS3 version of NHL11 to make a playoff bracket with all of the non-playoff teams. Of course, there are only 7 teams per conference, so the  10th seed will play the 15th, 11th vs. 14th, 12th vs. 13th and the 9th seed of each conference will start the playoffs with a bye. Since we can't do a bye in the game, I will control the two #9 seeds against random teams in the first round (and by random, I mean the Canadiens and the Canucks, just to beat the snot out of them! ) to get them to the second round.

Every day, I will simulate one in-game day, so it'll be just like the real life playoffs. Every day, I'll post updates on HW of the action so far in the Yelnats playoffs, such as scores, individual player performances and the points leaders.

Here is the bracket:


#9: Dallas Stars (94 points)



#10 Calgary Flames (93 points)


#15 Edmonton Oilers (62 points)


#11 St-Louis Blues ( 87 points )


#14 Colorado Avalanche ( 68 points )


#12 Minnesota Wild ( 86 points )


#13 Columbus Blue Jackets ( 81 points )



#9 Carolina Hurricanes (91 points)



#10 Toronto Maple Leafs ( 85 points )


#15 Florida Panthers ( 72 points )


#11 New Jersey Devils ( 81 points )


#14 New York Islanders (73 points )


#12 Atlanta Thrashers ( 80 points )


#13 Ottawa Senators ( 74 points )


Now let's look at these matchups as if they were real life matchups and let's see who has the advantage in each of them:

Calgary vs. Edmonton: The battle of Alberta. No love lost here. This would be one of the more interesting matchups of the first round. Even though the Oilers are very weak, let's not forget that in the simulation, all teams start out fresh, without injuries, so Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky and all that, they're in, so it would be a very interesting matchup.

Forwards: Advantage Calgary: Of course despite the Oilers having all that young talent, Calgary has Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen, Alex Tanguay and Rene Bourque, which are all proven forwards. The young talent will be scary before long, but right now, they're still in the learning process.

Defense: Advantage Calgary: We all know defense isn't exactly the Oilers' strong point. Meanwhile, the Flames have Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich.

Goalie: Advantage Calgary: Miikka Kiprusoff. 'Nuff said.

Advantage: Calgary. I predict Calgary in 5 as the Oilers are simply weaker in every aspect, especially in-game.


St-Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche: This would be another one of those interesting matchups just because of THE trade. Erik Johnson would be motivated to try and prove his former GM wrong for trading him, same for Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart. While they don't necessarily have much of a rivalry, those three players alone would make this  matchup a headliner.

Forwards: Advantage St.-Louis: This is actually a close battle. Don't forget, no injuries, so guys like Peter Mueller,Tomas Fleischmann, David Perron, they're all in. I still have to go with St.-Louis, since Stewart has been an absolute beast for the Blues and they can count on Patrik Berglund, T.J. Oshie, Perron, Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen.

Defense: Advantage Colorado: In the game, Adam Foote is still playing and they have Erik Johnson and John-Michael Liles. St-Louis have Alex Pietrangelo and Barret Jackman... plus, Pietrangelo is rated horribly low in the game. They do have Carlo Colaiacovo and Shattenkirk though, so this would also prove a close enough battle.

Goalie: Advantage St.- Louis: Jaroslav Halak vs. Brian Elliott... yes, Halak wins this matchup.

Advantage: St-Louis. This would actually be a very exciting matchup, as they're tight in all aspects except in net. I predict St-Louis in 6.


Minnesota Wild vs. Columbus BJs : Now this is the one the Wilderness will have it's eyes on. If this were a real life matchup, Rick Nash would eliminate them in 4 games with 16 points, right Bryan? In all seriousness though, theres always been a small rivalry between the two newest team in the NHL and it could be a fun battle.

Forwards: Advantage Columbus: I have to go with Columbus in this regard, not only because we have no shooters on the team, but it's hard to argue against guys like Rick Nash, Antoine Vermette, Kristian Huselius, R.J. Umberger, Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek... why aren't these guys higher in the standings again?

Defense: Advantage Minnesota: Ahhh, that's probably why the BJs are in 13th. Defense. They don't have much in that regard. Meanwhile, Minnesota has Brent Burns, Greg Zanon, Marek Zidlicky, Cam Barker (yes, he's good in the game), and Nick Schultz. I have no idea who they'll pick as the 6th d-man, probably Clayton Stoner. Keep in mind I will not be touching any of the rosters at all.

Goalie: Advantage Minnesota: Niklas Backstrom vs. Steve Mason. Backstrom would probably win this matchup. He's also rated extremely high in the game (about time)

Advantage: Minnesota: I have to say, I was torn here. In real life, this could go either way if you ask me. No clear winner, but I'll take Minnesota in 6.


Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Florida Panthers: Well, to tell you the truth, I don't know quite as much about Eastern Conference rivalries, but my limited knowledge tells me this wouldn't exactly be the most epic of matchups. This doesn't necessarily mean that it's a meaningless battle however as both teams are itching for some playoff action and they would love to win the Yelnats Cup as a consolation for their long-time playoff-less streaks.

Forwards: Advantage Toronto. Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski vs. David Booth and Stephen Weiss. This is an interesting little battle, but it's the supporting cast that tips the balance in favor of Toronto.

Defense: Advantage Toronto: Guys like Dion Phaneuf (FANOOF), Luke Schenn and Mike Komisarek and gonna make this a rough and tumble battle whereas Florida has Dmitry Kulikov... and a bunch of other guys.

Goalie: Advantage Florida: Sorry Optimus Reim fans, but since this is a battle between game rosters, James Reimer will likely be riding shotgun to J-S Giguere. Tomas Vokoun trumps both of them in the game anyway. 

Advantage: Toronto. Florida's very clearly in a rebuilding phase as most of the name players are gone. Vokoun probably won't be able to win this matchup all by himself so Toronto in 6.


New Jersey Devils vs. New York Islanders: I think it's clear to everyone that the Devils should not be in this tournament. If not for that dismal start to the season, they'd be up with the big boys. Oh well! This is a matchup between division rivals, which could actually make it a bit interesting. I'm not fully aware of the level of hate there actually is between these teams though.

Forwards: Advantage Devils: Is there any doubt here? Don't forget, no injuries = healthy Zach Parise. Add Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac...The Islanders forwards are starting to make a name for themselves for sure, but you can't argue here.

Defense: Advantage Devils: Anton Volchenkov, Colin White, Bryce Salvador and Henrik Tallinder are a very solid top-4 (or at least I suppose that's the top 4), whereas the Isles pretty much just have Mark Streit, Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina.

Goalie: Advantage Devils: Thank Martin Brodeur's amazing in-game rating for this one. Besides, he's quite possibly the best goalie in NHL history, despite his rough season. Plus, for some reason, even though he's technically a part of the Islanders, Evgeni Nabokov isn't there. Maybe he's in the AHL affiliate.

Advantage Devils: I just don't see how they could lose this matchup, but of course anything can happen. I say Devils in 4.


Atlanta Thrashers vs. Ottawa Senators: The Thrashers started the season so well, even leading their division at one point, but they just ran out of gas. This kind of reminds me of the Wild's collapse. Anyhoo, I have no clue how these teams feel about each other, but there are some pretty interesting players in each team and potential future matchups, such as Atlanta vs. Carolina or Ottawa vs. Toronto.

Forwards: Advantage Ottawa: Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson should be beasts and they have a decent enough supporting cast in Peter Regin, Milan Michalek, Nick Foligno and Marek Svatos. The Thrashers aren't too bad in that aspect, but Ottawa wins this one on star power.

Defense: Advantage Atlanta: They have a very strong D-corps, including Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enström, Zach Bogosian and Johnny Oduya. However, Ottawa has a very strong one too, featuring the likes of Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips, Erik Karlsson and Filip Kuba. I'm leaning towards the Thrashers younger group of d-men though.

Goalies: Advantage.....: This proved to be too difficult a pick to make. Anderson/Leclaire vs. Mason/Pavelec. I have to admit, Pavelec seems like the best of the 4, but Anderson was a playoff hero last year and their combined ratings are nearly identical. I just couldn't choose.

Advantage: Ottawa: I think they win this one by Speeza and Alfredsson's star power. If they don't show up though, it'll be an uphill battle. Ottawa in 7.


There you have it! This was just a very quick analysis of the matchups, I'd appreciate knowing what you guys think of the matchups, your predictions and I'd love for the fans of all these teams to join us in the fun. All I want with this championship is to give us non-playoff teams' fans something to distract us while we wait for the draft and such and I'd love for this feature to bring the fanbases of each team closer together in good, clean fun!

I'll be doing daily updates, letting you know what's going on and such and I'll be doing the first simulations tomorrow night, at the same time as the real playoffs.

We'll also be making a bracket challenge for this one. Bracket HERE : Yelnats Cup Bracket Challenge

The rules will be the exact same as the HW Bracket Challenge, which you can view HERE

Keep in mind that in my analysis, I used the in-game rosters and ratings, last updated on April 1st.

Now what are you going to do for the next 2 months: Follow the fancy-pants NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, or follow the Yelnats Cup Playoffs here on HW.... or both? Yeah, both would be cool, I guess we can share! :)

History will be simulated.