Your 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins Schedule

It’s officially official, the NHLPA ratified the new CBA late last night and the Pens will be in training camp before the end of the day today! What a relief! Look at all these exclamation points! And with the ratification, the schedules have gone up, and if I’m honest, things could be a lot worse. Here is the Pens schedule:

2013PensSched

After the break we’ll breakdown what it means and how it plays into the Pens’ favor.

First and foremost here are the crucial facts about the Pens schedule:

  • The Pens play back to back 14 times, that sounds to me like at least 7 starts for Tomas Vokoun. This is why that signing is going to be huge for the Pens, how many other teams can claim to have 2 legitimate starting goaltenders? Further, last year, even without the benefit of an effective backup netminder, the Pens went an impressive 16-8-2 in back to back situations. What can we expect this year when Fleury won’t have to go back-to-back?
  • One area where the Pens will see a relative increase in games is day games: last year the Pens played a total of 14 day games (that started before 7:00 PM), and this year, despite a 48 game regular season, they will play 9 day games. Even more impressive than their back-to-back record last year was their day game record, 9-3-2. As with last year most of the day games, NBC’s Game-of-the-Week, are against good teams, namely the Rangers, Flyers, Capitals, defending Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils, and the Boston Bruins, if they can replicate their record from last year, the Pens could find themselves in good position heading towards the playoffs.
  • The Pens will start the season with 7 out of 10 road games, which is a lot. They also finish the regular season with 7 of 12 road games. The saving grace is a nice looking 5 game home stand in late March and early April. Four of the teams they’ll play during the home stand (Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, the Islanders, and Buffalo) all missed the playoffs last year. I’m not interested in making predictions far into the future (normally), but this could be really illuminating for how the Pens will be seeded going into the playoffs (assuming they get there).
  • 6 of the first 10 games of the season are against division opponents, 1 each against the Flyers and Devils, and 2 each against the Rangers and Islanders. Overall each team will play 18 divisional games, 4 against 2 of the divisional opponents and 5 against the others. The Penguins actually get the most favorable matchup based off of last year’s record. The Pens play the Flyers (whom they went 2-3-1 against last year) and the Devils (whom they went 3-3 against) 4 times while they matchup against the Rangers and Islanders (both of whom they were 4-2 against last year) 5 times, thus they play the teams they beat more regularly last year more times this year.
  • The Pens get favorable, 2 home-1 away schedules against two of the other non-Atlantic Conference playoff teams from last year, Boston and Washington (realistically speaking the two best teams from outside of the Atlantic), while they play reigning Southeast Division champions Florida and the over-achieving Ottawa Senators twice on the road and once at home.
  • Because the PA and the Owners couldn’t be bothered to deal with conference realignment during the lockout, the Pens will still have to face off against the Winnipeg Jets on three occasions this year, and unfortunately 2 of those games are in Winnipeg, a lot of traveling given that otherwise the Pens wouldn’t even leave the Eastern Time zone otherwise. Everyone talks about how much more grueling the Western Conference schedule is because of the huge amounts of travel those teams need to partake in—that gap is going to be so much bigger this year, even with a short schedule. Given that the East won’t meet the West until the Cup finals, I wouldn’t be shocked to see travel play a very big role in determining the next Stanley Cup Champ.
  • Lastly, the Pens will not face off against the Carolina Hurricanes and Jordan Staal until February 28th, and 2 of those three matchups (including the first) will be in Carolina. In fact the Hurricanes will not play in Pittsburgh until the last game of the season, April 27th. If there is one thing I’m sure of, it is that Jordan will be welcomed back to Pittsburgh in a big way.

Overall this is really a generally good schedule for the Penguins, they get the big travel dates to Winnipeg out of the way by mid-February. They have fewer games against the Flyers than they do against the Islanders, which is always favorable, and they get more games at home against the best competition from outside of the division. Finally, they get quite a few games in situations that they’ve done favorable in in recent years: back-to-back and day games (even though day games suck to watch).

On the bad side is the first two games: Flyers and Rangers right off the bat. By no means will the Pens be buried after two games, but they’ll constantly be fighting an uphill battle if they can’t take one at the start of the season. Further, never have the first two games of a season been so important to the final playoff chase. But then again, I doubt the Pens will come out of the gate slow.

Hey, Go Hockey!

Also, the Pens have just announced that in addition to the normal NHL roster they’ve invited Eric Tangradi, Beau Bennett, Center Jayson Megna, and Defensemen Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait, and Simon Despres to training camp.

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