It seems like just yesterday the Stanley Cup was being awarded and the draft isn’t even upon us quite yet (that’s on Friday and Saturday) but puck fans can already start making their 2014-15 plans with the full release of the NHL’s schedule this afternoon. Somewhat shrewdly, the NHL has been releasing its schedule in drips and drabs, first finalizing the Winter Classic between – surprise, surprise – Chicago and Washington in the nation’s capital at a venue TBD. Then after each team released its preseason schedule earlier in the week, yesterday the NHL leaked the home openers. As Derek alluded to yesterday the Devils’ home opener on October 18 is the latest for any team although at least we only have four road games before that since the NHL season begins on the 8th.
Finally today the NHL released the complete schedule. What immediately stands out on the Devils’ schedule is once again we’re traveling a lot early with just eleven home games among our first thirty-four contests (although the first month is pretty much even, starting with six home and six road games). Particularly challenging is a fifteen out of twenty road/home split from early November to mid-December, including the Western Canada swing just before Thanksgiving. We also start out with the first four on the road, opening our season in Philly on the 9th of October, a day after the NHL season begins proper. Plus we have eighteen back-to-backs on the season, not much different than our twenty-two in an Olympic year last season. On the plus side, our West Coast swing is pretty well timed, just before the All-Star break with the three games spread out over a six-day stretch and with a lengthy break before it. Also a plus from a team perspective, given their usually spotty afternoon record – though maybe not so for fans with kids – is the utter lack of afternoon home games on the schedule. Among our 41 home games, an incredible 38 have a 7 PM start, with two 7:30 starts and one Sunday 5 PM showdown against the Flyers in March.
A negative from a fan perspective is there only being four games against the Rangers this year in the unbalanced schedule that sees some division foes play each other five times and others four, this is one year we only play the Ranger four. Not only that but two of the games aren’t till April and a late home-and-home just before the end of the season. We do get an early home game against them in October (on the 21th, right after our home opener), and they get a home game against us two days after Christmas, on a Saturday which will be a ridiculously hot ticket for a regular season game given that timing. We also play the Islanders just four times, with the first time being just after Thanksgiving at Nassau – a Saturday game on the 29th. Our last trip to the dump in Long Island before they move to Brooklyn next season is two weeks after that, on December 15. Incidentally, the two teams play another sneak preview game at the Barclays Center in the preseason on the 26th of September.
Among other things that stand out are a game ON St. Patrick’s Day against the Penguins, a season-long six-game homestand between the 17th and 27th of February (hopefully the weather doesn’t play havoc as much as it did last year) and the Stanley Cup Champion Kings don’t come in until late March, on Monday the 23rd. Plus the aformentioned back-to-back with the Rangers includes our final regular season home game. So perhaps the true Fan Appreciation Day game will be against the Habs the previous Friday, like the last time we closed the home schedule against the Rangers before our ill-fated playoff beatdown in 2008, Fan Appreciation day was the next-to-last home game.