Travel is an issue in a shortened season, weighted against teams more for clubs in the Western Conference than in the Eastern. Increasing degree of difficulty are back-to-back sets. Taking it one step further is the number of second games in back-to-back sets where the opponent had not played the night before and is rested.
The NHL schedule release features Detroit, Chicago leading with 12 back-to-back sets, with Columbus (11), Anaheim, New Jeersey, Phildelphia, and St. Louis (10) close behind.
Every season I break down the schedule and identify how many second games of back-to-back sets are played versus a rested team that had not played the night before? I used the titles ‘Tired’ to identify teams playing versus a rested team on the second night of back-to-backs, and ‘Rested’ to identify teams facing a tired team playing their second game of back to back sets.
Leaders as the rested team in 2012-13 are the NHL Stanley Cup Champions, Los Angeles (11), with two other Western Conference teams tied for the second most, Vancouver and Calgary (10).
Red Wings travel schedule in the West was already a concern, but leading the NHL with 11 games as a tired team (23% of schedule) has to put them among the worst scheduling in the entire league. Second as tired teams: Columbus, San Jose, Chicago, and Toronto with 9 games.
Nowhere more is it evident of the scheduling disparity than Toronto, at both ends of the spectrum. They dress in a league low two games as a rested team, with the first against Buffalo on Jan 21 being the first match up featuring a rested/tired combination and another against the Flyers both at home at the Air Canada Centre.
Every single back-to-back set for the Leafs features an opponent that had not played the night before.
This is likely just karma for their distinct advantage over Ottawa with five of six games as a rested team, where the Senators played the night before.
San Jose with nine back to back sets also experiences every single set featuring a rested opponent in the second game of the sets.
The following table will outline the totals for every team, but for an entire team-by-team breakdown, including by dates
Winnipeg with the rested advantage and Ottawa as a tired team are great 2011-12 examples.
Winnipeg iced a rested lineup versus a team playing their second game on consecutive nights an NHL high 17 games, sporting a nifty 13-3-0-1 record, for 27 points.
On December 1, the Jets sat in 13th in the East with 24 points. By New Years, and they moved up to 7th overall sporting a slippery record of 19-14-5.
Six games (5-0-1) in December featured a tired team on the back end of games on consecutive nights, with a record of 5-0-1. Five of those games featured a team flying into Winnipeg an average of 547 miles, including the first four occurrences, all wins.
In fact, the Jets did not lose their first of these 17 games until the end of January, posting a record of 10-0-2 along the way. The Jets were only 8 points out of a playoff spot by season’s end, surely aided by 27 points in these games.
Oh, and in games where Winnipeg was the tired team, they sported an eye-opening 1-10-1 record for three points.
Divisional rivals square off six times a season, and five games feature a clear disproportionate amount in the Leafs favor – and a reason why I believe divisional realignment is a difficult issue.
The Calgary Flames played 15 games against a tired team, with divisional rivals Edmonton comprising three of those games. Half of the season series pitted the tired Oilers against the rested Flames. Six games featured a team that had played the Oilers the previous night and made the journey to nearby Calgary for the second night of back to back games.
The Oilers on the other hand, won only six of 14 games as a rested team, 11 with the Oilers as the home team. Nine of those games featured a team that played the Flames the previous night
This lockout shortened season will make these games more important, where every even a point could be the difference between a playoff spot, or tee time.