Teams that face the most travel, back-to-back sets in 2014-15

23 Comments

Hockey fans love to brag about the toughness of players, so it only makes sense that there’s also a subset of fans who frequently bellow about which team faces the toughest schedule.

With the release of the 2014-15 schedules for all 30 teams, it’s likely that those arguments began to crop up on Sunday. Dirk Hoag’s annual “Super Schedule” post has been a godsend for such trivial – if entertaining – debates, so there were a few people who were quite excited when he put it up on Hockey HQ.

We can quibble about the impact of stronger divisional opponents on a team’s schedule and the timing of road/home stretches, yet people generally lean on two overarching standards: 1) how much travel a squad faces and/or 2) the number of back-to-back sets in a season.

As subjective as these debates can be, things get more black-and-white when you look at it from a numbers standpoint:

Travel

Click here for the full lists, but let’s break things down by the top five and bottom five in travel first:

Most travel

1. Arizona Coyotes – 49,818 miles
2. Dallas Stars – 48,216
3. Anaheim Ducks – 46,967
4. Edmonton Oilers – 45,597
5. San Jose Sharks – 45,318

(Vancouver’s just behind at 45,173.)

Least travel

1. Philadelphia Flyers – 31,272 miles
2. Pittsburgh Penguins – 32,444
3. New York Islanders – 33,214
4. Ottawa Senators – 33,421
5. New Jersey Devils – 33,597

Notes: The Toronto Maple Leafs (34,020) and Detroit Red Wings (34,179) have pretty light travel loads, too. In 2013-14, the Coyotes (then Phoenix) faced the second-largest amount of travel miles at 52,633, second only to the San Jose Sharks (57,612). As you may notice, no team will travel more than 50,000 miles this season. The New York Rangers and New York Islanders faced less than 30,000 miles last season.

Back-to-back games

Most back-to-back sets

1 (tied). Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets – 19 back-to-back sets
3 (tied). New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs – 18
5. Pittsburgh Penguins – 17

Five teams are tied for sixth with 16 back-to-back sets (Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins.)

Fewest back-to-back sets

1. (tied) Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings – nine
3. Calgary Flames – 10
4 (tied) – Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers – 11

Notes: Three teams (Tampa Bay, Vancouver and Detroit) are next in back-to-back sets with 12. In 2013-14, the New Jersey Devils (22) and Carolina Hurricanes (20) eclipsed the 20 back-to-back set mark. The Jets tied for the fewest back-to-back games with 10 last season, too.

***

If there’s one clear takeaway from comparing this season’s super schedule to the 2013-14, it’s that schedules are quite a bit more balanced this time around. After all, there’s no lockout or Olympic break to wrestle with this time around. Maybe Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said it the best/worst, though:

*Scratches head in confusion*

The Buzzer: Thornton moves up all-time scoring list; Kings snap six-game losing skid

Getty
1 Comment

Players of the Night:

Brian Elliott looked solid in Philadelphia’s overtime win over the Capitals, as he turned aside 27 of 28 shots. This was the first time in eight games that the Flyers netminder allowed fewer than three goals in a game, but he’s still been victorious in three of his last four outings.

• How about that goalie duel between Connor Hellebuyck and Anders Nilsson. The Jets won the game, but both goaltenders were fantastic during this all-Canadian matchup.

• Sticking with the goalie theme, Aaron Dell was fantastic between the pipes for in San Jose’s win against Anaheim. Even when starter Martin Jones comes back from a lower-body injury, Dell should continue to be a factor for the Sharks.

• Sharks forward Mikkel Boedker had a solid night at the office, as he racked up two goals and an assist against the Ducks. That’s impressive considering he only had 12 points on the season coming into tonight’s action.

• The Kings’ power play isn’t a player, but it came to play tonight against the Rangers. Los Angeles got three goals on the man-advantage from Jake Muzzin, Michael Amadio and Tanner Pearson. Those three power play markers helped them snap their six-game losing skid.

Highlights:

Poor Markus Granlund never saw Hellebuyck coming:

That’s a pretty sweet shot from Kevin Labanc:

Here are two pretty sweet backhand passes leading up to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare‘s goal:

Alex Ovechkin scored a power play from his favorite spot on the ice:

Non-called Penalty of the Night:

That’s a pretty dangerous hit by Dmitry Orlov on Claude Giroux. No boarding call?

Factoids:

That’s a lot of power play goals for Ovechkin:

Joe Thornton keeps movin’ on up:

The Rangers have received some balanced scoring this season:

The Golden Knights simply can’t be stopped. What a season they’re having:

Scores:

Flyers 2, Capitals 1 (OT)

Golden Knights 5, Hurricanes 1

Jets 1, Canucks 0

Sharks 6, Ducks 2

Kings 4, Rangers 2

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Fight Video: Kempe comes to Lewis’ defense by dropping gloves with Smith

MSG
2 Comments

It’s not every day that you see Los Angeles Kings forward Adrian Kempe drop the gloves, but he did so against the Rangers tonight.

Things got chippy at the end of the first period between the Rangers and Kings. As both teams were mixing it up, New York’s Brendan Smith shoved Trevor Lewis from behind. Kempe wasn’t impressed with Smith’s move, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Here’s Smith’s shove on Lewis:

And this is the fight between Smith and Kempe:

(h/t: hayyyshayyy on Twitter)

As you can tell from the above video, Smith is the more experienced fighter. Also, Kempe has great hair, but it’s clearly not practical when dropping the gloves.

Thanks to Smith, the Kings got a power play to start the second period. Defenseman Jake Muzzin cashed in on the man-advantage to cut Los Angeles’ deficit to 2-1.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Expansion Golden Knights are officially in first place (Update)

Getty
5 Comments

Just like we all predicted in September, the Vegas Golden Knights are sitting in first place in the NHL.

The Golden Knights’ 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes allowed them to collect their 65th and 66th points of the season, which moved them one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the league (both teams have played 46 games).

PHT’s Adam Gretz wrote a terrific piece about Golden Knights’ amazing first season to date.

It’s only fitting that Vegas got a good amount of production from some of their most pleasant surprises tonight. Jonathan Marchessault, Colin Miller and James Neal also found the back of the net.

As you’d expect, the Golden Knights’ Twitter account is having fun marking this occasion.

“Maybe a little unexpected, right?,” Marc-Andre Fleury said of his team’s success, per NHL.com. “It’s been a lot of fun. We started this team from scratch and chemistry was built very quick between us. Every night, all the guys bring their best effort. I’m proud of our team to be where we’re at right now.”

We’ve had over three months to come to grips with everything the Golden Knights have done, but it’s still amazing to see how some of the players on their roster have produced during Vegas’ inaugural season.

 

43 points in 43 games for Marchessault? 25 goals at the midway point of the season for William Karlsson? Nobody saw those things coming. What makes this even more impressive is that they’ve had to roll four goalies (Fleury, Oscar Dansk, Malcolm Subban and Maxime Lagace).

“Early on in the year, I think we surprised some teams. Now I think every team will get up to play us. It’s just something that will be another test for this group,” Miller told NHL.com.

Now the question is, how far can this pesky expansion team go?

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Struggling Lightning lose Ondrej Palat for indefinite period of time

Getty
2 Comments

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been going through a difficult stretch lately and things got a lot more difficult on Sunday. The team announced that Ondrej Palat is out indefinitely after taking a spear from Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon on Saturday night.

The Bolts, who are on an eight-game road trip, have confirmed that Palat will head back to Tampa on Monday for further testing. He’s accumulated eight goals and 30 points in 46 games this season.

Although the video isn’t the clearest, this is the play that led to the injury:

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the Lightning have been slumping badly of late. They’ve dropped three games in a row to Calgary, Vegas and Minnesota.

Their once giant lead atop the Atlantic Division has dwindled to three points over the Boston Bruins, who have a game in hand.

“We’re just out of synch, it’s unreal,” head coach Jon Cooper said, per The Tampa Times. “The guys didn’t forget how to play hockey in the last week and a half. We’re just out of synch. One guy zigs, the other guy zags. It’s crazy that in the last week and a half, we kind of lost our swag.”

The Bolts will continue their road trip in Chicago, Nashville and Philadelphia before the All-Star break. On top of their difficult schedule, they’ll also be without number one defenseman Victor Hedman for the next few weeks.

Their spot in the playoffs isn’t in any danger, but the number one seed in the league (Vegas is coming in a hurry) and top spot in the division is in doubt.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.