For a goalie who had just faced 102 shots on goal, Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils was looking curiously rested in his postgame interview. In fact, he hadn't even broken a sweat during the game.
"There are games where you just have to give a lot of credit to your teammates. Tonight probably wasn't one of them," he said. "It's good, though. It helps the numbers, pads the stats. It's a goalie's dream."
It was all a dream, in a sense. Schneider's 98-save performance in New Jersey's 6-4 win over the Calgary Flames on March 19 existed only in pixels and lines of code.
The Devils are among over a dozen NHL teams that have used EA Sports' NHL 20 to continue bringing game action to hockey-starved fans during the league's COVID-19 shutdown. The game has been used to play out the season and playoffs, to keep players connected to fans, as a source for original content and, in many cases, as a means to raise money for those in need.
"In a way, it's been a lifeline for fans and for players," Devils team president Jake Reynolds told ESPN. "One of the most satisfying things has been getting a note from parents saying that these simulated games are the first sense of normalcy that their kids have had. To hear that is pretty powerful and pretty incredible."
The NHL and its teams have dabbled in the EA Sports series for years, including the league's Gaming World Championship tournament that's now in its third year. But they've never used the game in the way it's been used since the real games were paused on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.