We've long expected the 2013 NHL schedule to include games only against Eastern Conference opponents, but we also have been going along with the assumption that we'd play an equal number of games against all of our Atlantic Division rivals.
Welp, no. Here's how the 48-game schedule will break down:
Each team plays: 4 games vs. two Divisional opponents (8); 5 games vs. two divisional opponents (10); 3 games vs 10 Conference rivals (30).— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 8, 2013
It's understandable why the NHL's doing it this way, since the alternative would have likely been seven games against each divisional opponent and just two games against each out-of-division opponent. And that would be less than ideal.
But also less than ideal? Some teams in the Atlantic are going to get the New York Islanders four times, and some teams are going to get them five times. Considering the rivalry situation, we can just about guarantee five games against the Stanley Cup Favorite Pittsburgh Penguins (what else is new), and given that the Rangers will probably get both NYC-area teams five times, we'll probably get the Devils five times as well.
That would be this breakdown:
* Flyers play Pens, Devils five times; Rangers, Isles four times.
* Rangers play Devils, Isles five times; Flyers, Pens four times.
* Devils play Flyers, Rangers five times; Isles, Pens four times.
* Pens play Flyers, Isles five times; Rangers, Devils four times.
* Isles play Rangers, Pens five times; Flyers, Devils four times.
And in that scenario, the Flyers probably have the roughest road. In a 48-game season, every single game is going to take on extra meaning, and the standings could be a whole lot tighter than usual. This schedule format could directly impact who wins the Atlantic Division and who makes it to the postseason.
Also, quickly of note from the Pittsburgh media today: