Saturday, December 29, 2012

NHL 13: The Return of the Dead Puck Era

Note: I meant to publish this back in November but I have had to deal with some family issues so it never happened. I am putting it out now because I still think it is worthwhile.


Back in the early 1990s up until the 2004 lockout the NHL went through a period of decreased offensive output known as the dead puck era. This time was epitomized by the play of the New Jersey Devils trapping their way to three Stanley Cups. The Devils would choke teams into submission and win games 1-0 or 2-1. Not to take away anything from Devils fans but this was dull unwatchable hockey for everyone else.

This year EA has managed to bring back the slog of those years with NHL 13. I have given them time to make a patch and put in multiple tuner sets to adjust the goalies but this is clearly the game they want us to play. A game where in our October playoff run our last three games ended up 2-1 in 4 overtimes (OT), 1-0 (3OT), and 2-1 (2OT). We got the banner but honestly we were wrung out and it was absolutely zero fun. I would say nearly all of those goals scored in the last three games (by both teams) were cheap rebound goals off of weak wrist shots from bad angles. Real chances including cross creases, solo shots from inside the hash marks, and shots off of nice passing plays in general were shut down like pregame warm up shots.

It is to the point where we crack jokes when we score a goal that looks like an actual hockey goal every two or three games. It it always something along the lines of, "Someone call EA they need to patch that out because it looks like hockey". I get that they don't want automatic goals but the percentages of high quality scoring chances that get stopped are not even close to realistic. The fantastic site had a really great post on NHL shooting percentages from particular zones on the ice. As you can see from the plot  shots from below the hashmarks range from 15-35% effective. I haven't run the numbers but I would venture a guess that shots from those areas in NHL 13 are roughly 10% or less effective outside of breakaways. I would happily take good shots from that close in going in at 15-35%. Even worse in NHL 13 it seems to be random what goes in. Last night we had two shots from outside the hashmarks at 45 degree angles go in opposite side. Given that the goalie regularly stuffs 2-1s with perfect passes I have to call those both weak goals. This leads to the impression that scoring and winning is random.

So can teams be good at this game? Sure better teams find a way to win and we have been ranked as high as in the top 100 at times but our method is by playing crazy suffocating defense, letting super goalie clean up most of our mistakes, throwing tons of shots on goal hoping for rebound goals, and springing people for breakaways. I have heard it said the word fun doesn't mean anything and it is lazy to use it. However, in this case, what EA has given us is not fun.

What does this mean for me? I think I am close to being done with NHL 13. I am not sure if I am going back to 12 or just playing other games but as of right now the game feels more like work than entertainment at this point. The joy of setting up beautiful passing plays to score goals just doesn't exist anymore. We don't pass on a two on none anymore because the higher percentage play is shooting it yourself. That, in a nutshell, is an all encompassing  indictment of how NHL 13 has failed us.


That was how I was feeling back in November. We are actually thinking about starting up again and our plan going forward is to never play with fewer than 4 players and always use a human goalie. That should fix most of the issues we have with the game.