2010-11 schedule analysis: Who has it the toughest, easiest?

West Coast hockey fans have a lot of beefs. They complain – justifiably or not – about “East Coast bias” and various other slights. People can debate day and night about that one, but there is one thing that you cannot deny: hockey teams in that region are forced to travel a considerable amount more. That really goes for the Western Conference, in general.

Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck put together another great “super schedule” for the 2010-11 season, with some fascinating information that could provide some insight regarding which teams face the toughest road ahead.

The first thing I want to spotlight is the teams who will travel the most in the league. Here are the 10 most sure-to-be-jet-lagged teams in the NHL, with their rank and the cumulative miles they plan on traveling according to Hoag’s numbers.

1. San Jose Sharks – 55,063 miles
2. Vancouver Canucks – 51,213
3. Minnesota Wild – 50,805
4. Edmonton Oilers – 50,309
5. Phoenix Coyotes – 50,080
6. Calgary Flames – 47,827
7. Anaheim Ducks – 45,868
8. Dallas Stars – 44,880
9. Colorado Avalanche – 44,190
10. Atlanta Thrashers – 44,079

The Sharks already will need to adjust to almost 9,000 extra miles of travel on top of the departure of Evgeni Nabokov and maybe other key figures. Who knows which factor will be a bigger problem for the Sharks? Three Atlantic teams (NYI, NJ and Philly) travel the least of any teams in the league, with the New Jersey Devils experiencing the shortest hockey commute (27,152 miles).

Aside from air travel, the other big scheduling woe that troubles many teams is back-to-back games. Here are the five teams who experience the most of those, also according to Hoag’s awesome spreadsheet.

1. Buffalo Sabres – 22
2. Carolina Hurricanes – 21
3. New Jersey Devils – 20
4. New York Islanders – 20
5. Minnesota Wild – 19

The Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks are tied for the least back-to-backs with 11 and it seems like the schedule makers even some of the tide by giving less to the more road-weary teams. That being said, if I were the GM for the Sabres, Canes or Devils, I’d make sure that my franchise goalie has a stable backup.

Overall, I’d say that the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals have the coziest schedules according to these two factors. The Flyers have the third lowest miles (29,716) and are middle-of-the-pack with 16 back-to-backs; the Caps have the sixth lowest miles total (31,858) and 15 back-to-backs. I think the Minnesota Wild might have it the worst, with the third most miles scheduled and 19 back-to-back games.

I guess it’s all about how you look at it, though. Ultimately, wins and losses come down to talent, skill and coaching. That being said, in a league with such a small margin of error, these factors could make a difference.

(Here’s a link to Dirk’s post one more time. Great stuff from On the Forecheck, as usual)

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    Who’s got the best/worst combined special teams?

    The Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, (8), of Russia, leaps in the air in celebration after scoring his 500th career NHL goal during the second period of a hockey game against the Ottawa Senators in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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    Recently, the Washington Capitals went five whole games without scoring a power-play goal.

    It was a real nightmare for those guys.

    Despite the fact Washington went 3-1-1 over those five games, one headline called it a “troubling power-play drought” — which tells you how few “troubling” things the Caps have had to deal with this season.

    Overall, special teams have been a boon for Washington, which ranks first on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill.

    Compare that to, say, Calgary, which ranks 29th and 29th, respectively. Now that’s troubling.

    Anyway, here’s how all 30 teams rank when their special teams are combined:

    Rankings

    Not surprisingly, there’s a strong correlation between good special teams and winning hockey games.

    In the left column, 12 of the 15 teams are currently in a playoff spot. New Jersey, Buffalo, and Montreal are the exceptions.

    On the right, only four teams — Colorado, Detroit, Nashville and the Rangers — are in a playoff spot.

    John Scott to return to Habs’ AHL team this weekend

    Pacific Division forward John Scott (28) is lifted up by teammates Mark Giordano (5), of the Calgary Flames, Joe Pavelski (8), and Brent Burns (88), of the San Jose Sharks after they defeated the Atlantic Division team 1-0 at an NHL hockey All-Star championship game, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Pacific Division won 1-0. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
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    John Scott’s had enough time off following his All-Star Game MVP award.

    Now, he wants to get back to work.

    Scott, who made major headlines at the end of January thanks to his unforgettable All-Star performance in Nashville, will return to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s this weekend, as the IceCaps play a pair of games against the Toronto Marlies.

    “It’ll be nice to [be] back playing hockey and doing my thing. I’m actually really excited for it,” Scott said, per ESPN. “This has been the longest break I’ve had, ever. But I play like 7-8 minutes, I won’t be too out of shape, I’ll be able to keep up.”

    Scott, 33, hasn’t played since his Pacific Division team won the annual ASG 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 31. Following that whirlwind weekend, the Montreal organization allowed him to take a leave to be with his wife, Danielle, who gave birth to twin girls on Feb. 5.

    Scott only appeared in four games for St. John’s prior to the All-Star Game, going pointless with six penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating.

    Related:

    The John Scott story, coming to a theater near you?

    Therrien on Habs recalling Scott: ‘You never know’

     

    Goalie nods: Budaj set to make Kings debut

    during a preseason game at Staples Center on September 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
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    Journeyman Peter Budaj looks as though he’ll make his first regular-season NHL appearance since April of 2014, when the Kings take on the Rangers at MSG.

    Recalled from AHL Ontario due to an injury to Jonathan Quick, Budaj gets the nod tonight after Quick’s backup, Jhonas Enroth, was beat for four goals on 29 shots in last night’s loss to the Islanders.

    Budaj, 33, has certainly earned another crack at the big leagues. After catching on with the Kings through a PTO in training camp, he’s been terrific in Ontario, going 26-9-3 with a 1.58 GAA and .935 save percentage. The Slovakian netminder also has eight shutouts this year.

    For the Rangers, Antti Raanta gets the start in goal, giving Henrik Lundqvist a night off.

    Elsewhere…

    Ben Scrivens, who appears to be the new No. 1 in Montreal, will go for his fourth straight win when the Habs visit Buffalo. Chad Johnson is in goal for the Sabres, who’ve really struggled of late.

    Marc-Andre Fleury goes for the Penguins, while it looks like Cam Ward is in for Carolina.

    — Really good matchup in Detroit as Semyon Varlamov goes up against Petr Mrazek who, according to Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, has “crashed Braden Holtby’s Vezina party.”

    — Battle of All-Star netminders in Tampa Bay, as Ben Bishop goes for the Bolts while Pekka Rinne starts for Nashville.

    The red-hot Brian Elliott will continue to roll as St. Louis’ No. 1 in Florida. The Panthers will go with their old reliable, Roberto Luongo.

    Now that Karri Ramo’s on IR, it’s Jonas Hiller time for the Flames. He’ll start tonight in Arizona, against Louis Domingue.

    Therrien refutes report that Price is likely done for the season

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    Contrary to a report by La Presse newspaper, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien says that Canadiens goalie Carey Price could still play again this season.

    “We know what’s going on with Carey,” Therrien told reporters today. “It takes more time, obviously, than we were expecting. Like I said, he’s working extremely hard and he’s put in a lot of hours to make sure that he’s going to make that comeback. The fact that he’s working extremely hard is not to make sure that he’s going to look good this summer on the beach; he wants to come back and play for the Montreal Canadiens.”

    That being said, Price does not appear close to a return. He’s yet to practice with teammates. He’s yet to even skate in goalie gear.

    The Habs have 27 games left to get back into a playoff spot. They close out the regular season on April 9, less than two months from today.

    Related: With Price possibly done for the season, Scrivens has Dubnyk-like opportunity