Ryan Miller, Tim Kennedy, Steve Ott

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

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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*

‘It’s embarrassing,’ says Gulutzan after lopsided loss to Oilers

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 21:  Head coach Glen Gulutzan of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on November 21, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Battle of Alberta was a tad lopsided Saturday.

The Edmonton Oilers scored early. They scored often. And despite holding a distinct advantage in shots on goal and puck possession, the rival Calgary Flames couldn’t get much going until the third period and by then the damage had been done.

The Oilers, tied in points with the San Jose Sharks, are one point back of the Anaheim Ducks for the Pacific Division lead after their 7-3 win over the Flames. Laurent Brossoit also collected his first career NHL victory.

This game wasn’t even six minutes old when Jordan Eberle scored to give Edmonton a three-goal lead. Chad Johnson was promptly pulled from the Calgary net, making one save on four shots faced.

The Flames were bad from the start. They didn’t get any better in the second period, falling behind five goals after 40 minutes and watching as the likes of Eberle and Connor McDavid piled on for a regular-season series sweep of Calgary.

Flames coach Glen Gulutzan had some strong words to describe the play of his team, which still holds down a wild card spot in the West.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said, per the Calgary Sun. “Our resolve to stick to it wasn’t there.”

“That’s a bunch of games in a row now where we’ve fallen behind and haven’t been able to get any push-back. And in our rink, it’s unacceptable,” added Mark Giordano.

The coach was utterly perplexed by his team’s breakdown on Edmonton’s third goal, which started off as a rush in the neutral zone and finished with Eberle, wide open down the right wing with a clear path to the net, beating Johnson on the shot.

“I don’t know what we were doing,” said Gulutzan. “I actually have no explanation for what our ‘D’ were doing on the third goal. It was a complete mistake.”

That should be concerning for the Flames.

They hold a playoff spot, but just barely with the Vancouver Canucks one point back and with two games in hand.

Talk about a Wild comeback for Minnesota

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The Minnesota Wild took back sole possession of the lead in the Central Division, thanks to a thrilling comeback win over the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

Minnesota trailed 3-1 early in the second period. Jason Zucker closed the deficit in the middle period, before they took the lead for good thanks to a frenzy of three goals from Erik Haula, Ryan Suter and Zucker in 1:59 late in regulation for a 5-3 victory.

“When we came in in between the second and third, knowing we were only down a goal, and knowing our history, we didn’t think we were out of it,” said coach Bruce Boudreau, per the Pioneer Press.

And so the Wild remain one of the hottest teams in the league, leading Chicago by two points.

While it’s a comeback for them, the Ducks don’t quite see it the same way.

“It’s not what they did, to be honest. We self-imploded. Gave up too many opportunities, left our goalie out to dry,” said Cam Fowler.

Additional bad news for the Ducks, however, was that goalie John Gibson left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury, and didn’t return.

 

Bust a move: Capitals win includes unlikely OT hero and dad’s dancing in Dallas

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The usual suspects contributed for the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Down a pair of goals entering the third period, Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie helped ignite the comeback on the power play.

But then an unlikely hero emerged.

Jay Beagle scored his 10th goal of the season and the overtime winner to give Washington a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. That aforementioned goal total matches his previous career high from two seasons ago.

He initially accomplished the feat over the course of 62 games. This time, he hits 10 goals in 46 games played.

Officials needed to review the play, although replays quickly showed the puck over the line from the Beagle shot in the slot.

The comeback win led to a memorable post-game celebration.

Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home.

The Capitals maintain their lead in the Metropolitan Division ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

This game versus the Stars included some feisty moments, particularly in the first period when tempers boiled over. Tom Wilson and Brett Ritchie dropped the gloves for a lengthy fight. Three seconds later, Daniel Winnik fought Antoine Roussel.

Ducks goalie Gibson leaves game versus Wild with upper-body injury

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Goaltender John Gibson #36 of the Anaheim Ducks in action during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Anaheim goaltender John Gibson has left Saturday’s game against Minnesota with an upper-body injury.

A short-angle shot from Mikko Koivu appeared to hit Gibson in the upper chest with 5:39 to play in the first period. The goaltender immediately went down on one knee and was quickly attended to by a trainer. Gibson gingerly skated to the bench and went straight to the locker room.

Anaheim announced that Gibson is doubtful to return.

Gibson is 7-1-1 with two shutouts in his past nine starts. He was replaced by Jonathan Bernier.

Gibson stopped four of five shots he faced while making his fourth straight start.