Things that jump out
- Last year the NHL had all the teams end the season with a string of division games that set the stage for close finishes and exciting play. That is not the case this year, as just 4 of the Penguins last 20 games are against division opponents.
- So you'd think there'd be a huge chunk of divisional games somewhere in the middle, but there's not. Pittsburgh's longest streak of division games is just 3. By contrast, they'll host 3 straight western conference teams once over the course of the season. The idea to de-emphasize divisional matchups and let every team play every other team atleast once seems to have inserted some color and excitement in the schedule.
- Starting Sunday February 8th with the Red Wings coming to town, the Penguins are scheduled on Sundays six of the next seven weekends with matchups against Washington (twice), Dallas, Boston and Philadelphia. Any of those could be targets for nationally televised NBC broadcasts.
- The Penguins were lucky to play all but 5 games the Eastern time zone last season. That will not be the case this year. Throw out the Sweden trip and they're making west coast jogs to San Jose and Phoenix (in late October), Colorado (in January) and Dallas (in March). Nothing that will make the West coast teams cry, but the Pens will certainly earn some frequent flyer miles this season.
- Perhaps as a reward, there's a stretch of games starting March 8th (at the friendly confines of the Verizon Center in DC) to April 1st where the Pens play 10 out of 12 home games. The only other roadie during that time is the short trip over to Columbus.
- We touched on the European trip, last year we thought the NHL did Anaheim the injustice of making them play three more road games before going home, after they'd already been to England. That seemed excessive and perhaps took it's toll on them. This year the Penguins get almost a full week off after their Euro trip and then don't have an away game for another 10 days. Much more favorable, we'd say.
- The season finale is a game IN Montreal on Saturday night. You think the NHL is thinking that maybe it could be to decide the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference?
There will be plenty of time to pour over the schedule and offer oberservations, but that's what jumped out for the nowbeing.