Wish list for NHL ’22/EA hockey games on PS5, Xbox Series X

While the NBA2K series once again takes sweat to the next level on Playstation 5/various XBox naming conventions,* EA Sports’ NHL ’21 mainly stays in place. Actually, judging by the reverse retro jerseys hitting ‘NHL 21, and NHL ’94 Rewind, you could argue that EA Sports’ hockey focus is often in the past. But what about future games, particularly whenever the series jumps to the PS5/Xbox Series X/etc.?*

After getting in an unsettling number of reps with NHL ’21, let’s make a wish list for NHL ’22. Actually, let’s throw the net wider. Here’s a wish list for the first EA Sports NHL game capable of really yielding the power of next-gen consoles, NHL ’22 or later.

* – Seriously, those Xbox naming conventions are downright unwieldy. Get it together, Microsoft.

Want big changes for NHL ’22? Be careful what you wish for

Frankly, you don’t need to do much digging before you find complaints about gameplay in NHL ’21, and other recent editions. And many of those criticisms are valid. Offense really is too dependent upon cross-seam passes and/or one-timers. Artificial intelligence remains lacking in crucial areas, especially with teammates in the offensive zone.

Realistically, it would be better for EA Sports to make incremental progress in those areas, rather than throwing out all of their code altogether (so to speak).

Because making a new NHL game, engine and all, from scratch? That’s easier said than done.

EA Sports itself suffered through painful lessons with its NBA titles. For years, the NBA Live series sold reasonably well, even though NBA2K titles were more critically acclaimed. Maybe those review scores got to EA, as they tried to revamp their NBA games. Let’s just say it hasn’t gone well. There have been cancellations, “Starship Troopers”-sized bugs, and cancellations following embarrassments over bugs.

In a dream world, EA Sports could pump huge resources and staffers into revolutionizing NHL ’22, thus finding a perfect balance between simulation and fun. In reality, NHL ’21 and its ilk might be flawed, but there’s fun to be had.

No doubt, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Just note that this wish list aims to keep expectations at least somewhat reasonable.

Customization, and connections

  • If you search (gasp) other wish lists, you’ll notice themes (beyond the less constructive griping). One mostly reasonable idea is to add “roster sharing” for NHL ’22.

While a part of me fears that custom rosters and other sharing suites might open up the door for racist or profane names, these features are fairly common in sports games. Just about any time EA Sports announces player ratings, people gripe. (I, for one, remember the days when Eric Lindros was a star even into his Rangers days.) By allowing users to share custom rosters, you could limit at least some of that whining.

  • Bringing back “GM Connected Mode” might be asking a bit much, but people want it.

The idea of jamming servers with leagues of up to 31 people — hundreds, if not thousands of them — seems like it’s asking a lot. But it was in EA NHL games many moons ago, and people want it. And … let’s be honest, it would certainly be cool and ambitious.

If it’s in the game …

  • While NHL ’21 features a more nuanced Franchise Mode than ones from years ago, there are still some issues.

Maybe it would be too much to ask EA to allow conditional draft picks to be part of trades. But maybe they could allow no-trade clauses to be part of negotiations? Perhaps signing bonuses could make or break a deal, or make a team’s owner get impatient with losing?

In NHL ’21, EA Sports added some flavor to its trade deadline. It isn’t perfect, yet it’s an improvement. It would be great to see that bit of flair added to contract negotiations and other facets of running a team.

  • Adding real-life coaches would be nice.

Look, the truth is that NHL games don’t command the same budgets as a FIFA or Madden. So maybe it wouldn’t be feasible to add Joel Quenneville, and thus delight fans by rendering his mustache with glorious HDR.

(How many teraflops does it take to capture the art of the dive?)

  • More nuance in free agency? Basically, we need to recreate John Tavares and his Maple Leafs bedsheet.

You can get deep into the weeds talking about the smaller and biggers ways to make NHL ’22 and future titles more authentic. The above list seems like a good start, though.

[MORE: A review of Franchise Mode in EA Sports NHL ’21]

Smaller quibbles

OK, now for an airing of pettier grievances.

  • Honestly, I feel like I’ll be grumbling about this while unable to play NHL ’45 because of arthritis. But for real, can there just be standard icon-switching? NHL ’21 and earlier games produced workarounds, but they’re less solutions than paint over holes in the wall.
Ah, the luxury of picking the exact player you want, instead of the game guessing. NHL2K era screen via Gamespot
  • “Board play” has never really been good. The suction cup/magnetized inevitability is one of the most poorly instituted EA gameplay mechanics since the nightmare QB cones of vision from Madden days of yore. (Although at least you could choose which WR you wanted to pass to, albeit at your own risk if they’re outside of that vision cone.)
  • Yes, player ratings need freshening. In general, the game tends to be a bit too forgiving to bottom-pairing defensemen.

Granted, player ratings bring things back to be careful what you wish for. While the ideal is to truly capture the stardom of a Connor McDavid, it could also create grumbling. After all, if you wanted to bring your favorite team online, would you be happy facing a loaded Lightning squad, and so on?

Counterpoints like these remind you that EA Sports and other developers face challenges. Plenty of people have wish lists for NHL ’22, and they’d likely be very different from mine. What would be on yours?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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    NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

    “It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

    Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

    “It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

    The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

    Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

    John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

    “Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

    Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

    “That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

    Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

    Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

    The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

    “You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

    Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

    NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: At Vancouver on Tuesday night.

    Devils: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.