I've spent about 4 hours playing NHL 08 thus far, and the early reports are thus: NHL 08 is HARD. I've been playing the two NHL franchises annually for years, and owning at both of them from almost the get go. This year, the EA NHL title is showing a lot more challenge. Normally I lose my first game while adjusting to contol changes, win my second game, and am crushing the AI at pro level by 4 or 5 goals after only a few games. This year, I lost my first 2, and have only managed one win by more than 2 goals.
For one thing, the goaltending is a lot tougher. Almost all of the tricks that have worked in the past to result in sure goals are gone. You can still one-time your way past a goalie from the slot, but most of the time you cant do it standing still, it has to be on the rush, and the timing of the pass has to be near perfect
Secondly, superstars will score no matter what. The biggest names in the game are going to get on the board. In 5 games against the Ottawa Senators, I've only been able to keep Daniel Alfredsson from scoring once. I haven't had a chance to explore the player ratings much yet, but AI superstars and clutch 3rd liners can be counted on to try and keep your team close when they are down.
Also, while I like a lot of things, the dynasty mode roster editing should be smarter. I shouldnt have to scratch a guy to send him to the minors. It should automatically do that for me. It's good that there's a popup for when youre sending down a guy who has to pass through waivers, but in general this is the one area i can see so far that needs help.
Finally, this game is about defense. You have to be smart in your own end. Postional defense is far more successful than chasing the puck, just like in the NHL. If you get your dmen running around, you're going to wind up giving up quality opportunities.
Of course, all this difficulty is compounded by the fact that I'm using the Columbus Blue Jackets with their default roster and manual shot aim, while playing only the highest powered teams in the league. But even at that, I've never has as much challenge as I am with this version of the game. Way to go, EA.