Analysis: Some Schedule Thoughts
With the NHL officially (and finally) releasing this season’s schedule, there’s a lot to digest. After looking over the 48-game slate, I have a few thoughts on where the Devils benefit and where they might struggle. Here are my thoughts:
- Don’t skip the opener: The Devils will need to be on their game right off the bat, with a six-game January bookended by a split home-and-home with the Islanders. In between, the Devils host the Flyers and Caps, then travel to Montreal and Boston. They do catch a bit of a break in that the Caps and Habs will both be breaking in new coaches and likely new systems, as well. Still, the Caps have a lot of offensive firepower and their best player (Alex Ovechkin) and top goalie have been playing during the entire lockout.The Bruins will be an intense test early in the season and three division games in your first six won’t be easy, although it seems to be par for the course in this shortened season.
- A.B.C.: If the first six-game stretch is tough, the final six games are brutal. Starting on April 18, the Devils will play six times in nine days. During that stretch, they’ll have games against the Flyers, Panthers and Penguins and play two at MSG against the Rangers. The Devils will likely be fighting for their playoff lives in those final days against two of the top teams in the conference, but also against two teams they’ll be competing with for a postseason spot (Flyers & Panthers).
- Shorter isn’t always better: Make no mistake, February will be a grind. The Devils plays 14 times in 28 days, with four sets of back-to-back games. For the most part, they’ll play a game every other day, save for a two-day break on the 13th and 14th and another on the 19th and 20th. They do get a bit of a break at the end of the month, with only one game (lone trip to Winnipeg) between Feb. 24 and March 2. It’s also the month Adam Henrique is slated to return to the lineup and Pete DeBoer will have to be careful not to overdo it as he gets back to full strength. Managing goalie starts between Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg will also be incredibly crucial this month. In a shortened schedule, the season could be over before the halfway point if the Devils falter in February.
- No Wild’n Out This Year: One of the kinks of this schedule is no games between conferences, meaning there will be no Zach Parise reunion this year. While It would have been interesting to hear the reception Parise would have have gotten at the Prudential Center this season, Devils fans will have to wait another year to give him the Jersey salute.
- Division of labor: The other kink in the schedule is the break in divisional games. The Devils will play five games against the Flyers and Islanders, but only have to play the Penguins and Rangers (arguably the two best teams in the conference) four times. It may not seem like much, but those extra two games could mean the world. Also, it’s entirely possible (and likely) the Devils, Isles and Flyers will all be fighting for the East’s final three playoff spots.
- W NNNNN B C: The Devils will be on NBC/NBC Sports Network a grand total of
eightnine times, including a whopping six times in April (which happens to be almost half of their 13-game slate that month). The opponents are pretty standard. They’ll face Sabres and Bruins once each and then the Flyers, Penguins and Rangers two times apiece. In fact, the Devils will be on some form of national TV three times in that final six-game stretch.