There’s a lot of games in my backlog, but there’s not many I feel bad about. I understand that, as an adult, you simply can’t play every game. However, NHL 16 is a game I’ve let down…well more specifically, I’ve let down the Buffalo Sabres.
You see, when it comes to sports games, I try to be too clever. I have to be this managerial genius who takes a poor side and turns them into champions. However, my attempts to do this with the Buffalo Sabres on NHL 16 failed badly. I had an appalling season, turned on most of the team and only won 27 games.
I felt bad, but decided I’d give it a second season and made the Sabres a promise. I’d take them to the playoffs, at the very least. I completely overhauled the team and we actually got off to a decent start, with a record of 15 – 10 – 2. I got distracted by another game though and forgot about keeping my promise.
I’ve wanted to get a newer NHL game as I want to start my own expansion franchise, but before I can do that, I need to try and fulfill my promise to the Buffalo Sabres. After that, I can happily retire NHL 16 and move on. So, I loaded up my Be A GM mode to see where I’m up to. It’s December 2016 and I’ve played 27 games, so I’m around a third of the way through the season. I’ve still got 55 games left to go, plus any playoff games, if I qualify. It’s going to be a long road but I’m determined to get to the end of the season
First game back is against the Tampa Bay Lightning who are pretty good. I’m rusty – I haven’t played NHL properly in months and as a result we get battered 5-1. Our goalie Cameron Lack manages to keep us in the game until the third period, where we concede five unanswered goals. That third period makes me realize the size of the task at hand…I need to start winning soon, or I’ll leave it too late to make it to the playoffs.
After the Tampa Bay defeat, I’ve got three games on the road in Middle America against St Louis, Nashville and Chicago. I like the way the fixtures work on NHL 16 – these stretches away from home feel like road trips and I often use them to break down my sessions on NHL 16. For example, if Buffalo have two games at home then two games away in the New York area, then I will play those games and stop there. I won’t play a game after that stretch if it’s on the other side of the country as it feels unrealistic…I imagine a hockey team in real life would focus on a run of games then regroup afterwards. I’m the same, on NHL16 I like to focus on a few games at a time…as opposed to Pro Evolution Soccer where I just play until my eyes start to bleed.
The first game of our Midwestern loop against St Louis goes badly. We lose 3-0 and are awful throughout, conceding three soft goals. It’s such a bad performance that I forget to take any screenshots…in the space above this paragraph, just pretend you can see the St Louis Blues passing the puck around with ease as that’s basically what happened. I haven’t quite got the knack of playing defence back yet – I find that I really need to concentrate when I haven’t got the puck and it’s easy to miss a pass or cause a deflection that sets up the opposition for a goal.
The next game against Nashville is a heartbreaker – Buffalo fight valiantly and manage to stay in the game despite conceding in the first minute. It’s 4-4 in the last minute when I make a dreadful pass from the sideboards back to my defenceman at the blue line. Nashville steal the puck, race down to my goal and score the breakaway goal easily. The Nashville player is so far ahead of my defence that I can’t even foul him with a sliding trip.
So on to the final and hardest game of this loop in Chicago. I knew playing Chicago would be a struggle as the Blackhawks are superb on NHL 16. However, away from home and off form, I put in a good shift and push Chicago to the limit. Going into the third period, I’m trailing 3-1 and it looks like the game is slipping away from Buffalo.
This is until my much criticized 1st Line forwards step up and get some much needed goals. Basically, for those that don’t follow hockey, you have four forward lines each comprising of a Centre, a Left Wing and a Right Wing. The 1st and 2nd lines are the best lines, while the 3rd and 4th lines are more physical players whose role is to cover for the first two lines when they tire. I expect my 1st line to score and create all my goals – I’m really harsh on them when they miss a chance or misplace a pass. If the 3rd line score, I’m thrilled as I don’t expect much from them.
My first line (C – Ryan O’Reilly, LW Jordan Eberle and RW Jonathan Huberdeau) are great, but I expect too much of them. However, they delivered in that third period, with goals from O’Reilly and Huberdeau. At 3-3 and heading into sudden death overtime, I was thrilled and worried. Thrilled because Buffalo had made a comeback and worried because we were heading to a shootout and I am awful at them. Luckily for me, O’Reilly managed to score a last gasp winner in overtime to give Buffalo a 4-3 win. It’s a great result as Chicago are one of the top teams in the league and halts our own losing streak. Looking at our division, we’re doing OK, but we could have been top if we’d beaten Nashville….
So, that’s the end of this loop of Buffalo Sabres games. There is a three game stretch next time I get a chance to play NHL 16; two home games and a trip to New Jersey on Christmas Day await. Only 51 games of the season left to go…