There’s nothing like going into another team’s house and beating them on their own ice, in front of their fans. But road trips are a double-edged sword. Sometimes you can see the sights that a new city has to offer, other times it’s just a blur of airports, hotel rooms, buses and hockey rinks. Thousands of miles away from your fans, friends and loved ones.
Some prolonged road trips are self inflicted. The New York Rangers started the 2013-14 season with a nine game road trip, as renovations to Madison Square Gardens were still being completed. The Rangers went 3-6-0 in a trip they’d probably rather forget, although it didn’t stop the team from finishing second in the Division.
In this short series, we’ll take a look at each team’s most challenging road trip, and try to find which team upset the hockey gods and drew the shortest straw. Today we’ll look at the Metropolitan division, and we’ll start alphabetically:
It’s good to get horrible road trips out of the way at the start of the season, and the Hurricanes are definitely doing that. The ‘Canes open the season at the Winnipeg Jets, then play the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers and finally the Detroit Red Wings before returning home. All within 12 days. After that the trips are much more manageable, although in March the team will visit the Flyers again, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils in a six day road trip.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Unlike Carolina, the Blue Jackets’ first three games are at home, but after that John Tortorella’s men (assuming he hasn’t been fired yet) have their first of two tricky road trips. Starting with the Dallas Stars on October 22nd, then onto the Staple Center to play the LA Kings three days later. After visiting Disney’s California Adventure on the 26th the team will play the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks on consecutive nights. The journeys calm down a bit until January when it’s up to the Ottawa Senators, down to New York’s Islanders, all the way over the Nashville Predators, back to New York to take on the Rangers. Finally it’s over to Pittsburgh before the relatively short trip back home.
New Jersey Devils
To get any points at the start of the season will be a tough ask for Devils, who start at the Florida Panthers before heading over to the Tampa Bay Lightning. After that, the Devils’ have a few four-game trips of varying difficulty. November’s west coast trip to Dallas, LA, Anaheim and San Jose is unlikely to yield many points. In January Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver will top up New Jersey’s points column, while it’s anyone’s guess how Minnesota will welcome the team.
New York Islanders
Early in the season, the Isles face the Devils, Rangers, Capitals and Rangers again in a low milage, but difficult road trip. That’s nothing compared to February has to offer. I don’t know what heinous crime GM Garth Snow committed*, but he has angered the scheduling gods. The Islanders adventure starts in Detroit on February 21st, then onto Montreal, Columbus, Dallas, Chicago, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, before finally finishing in St. Louis on March 11th. A nine game road trip like that had the potential to end a season, especially with some of those opponents. In other news; the Islanders get to spend New Year in Edmonton. Slàinte Mhath!
New York Rangers
Whereas Bettman hates the Islanders (probably), the Rangers have been bestowed the gift of relatively easy road trips. The most difficult being the Rangers’ visit to both Florida teams, Detroit and Carolina. And there’s only two teams there that really pose a challenge. March’s three-game California visit has the potential to take a bite of New York’s playoff chances, but in the same trip last year the Rangers took three from a possible six points.
When the Flyers are knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, they won’t be able to blame their schedule. Like the New York Rangers, March will be the trickiest month, with a pair of four game trips. The first sees the Flyers play Washington, Buffalo, Toronto and Boston. The second takes the team to Winnipeg, Minnesota, Columbus and Pittsburgh. Some of those games will be tough, but nothing overly challenging. The Flyers’ wins on the road last season was .500 which slightly is below average for the NHL. Hopefully the addition of better depth players will keep the Flyers in contention.
With a .575 win percentage on the road last season, road trips don’t faze the Stanley Cup winners. The longest consecutive road trip is just five games, and takes the Pens to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and Philadelphia. The Jets, Oilers and Canucks are some of the worst teams at home, so a visiting team like Pittsburgh should comfortably take all the points here. Same with the Flames, although the Flyers might pose more of a challenge. The obligatory California Triple is in November, and while Anaheim and LA are strong at home, San Jose aren’t and the Pens should take at least 3 or 4 points here.
Carl’s Washington Capitals probably won’t enjoy quite the same level of success that the 2015/16 brought, but they’re still going to be a contender, and the team’s road trips won’t damage that. A nice Tour de Canada in October sees the Caps visit Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg, so expect eight points right there. After that it’s all three game trips until the end of the season when Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Columbus and Toronto will all host Washington, and likely donate at least eight points to the Stanley Cup campaign, if not more. The Caps were the second strongest team on the road last season, finishing with a dominating .692 win percentage.
That’s it for the Metropolitan Division, next time we’ll look at the Atlantic, followed by the Central and Pacific. Did your team get screwed over by the schedulers? Join in the conversation or let us know on twitter.
*Wait, it was probably telling fans at the in Barclays Center to watch the game on their cellphone because their view was obstructed. Yeah, that was it.