If you aren’t looking at each team’s schedule when you’re making your hockey betting picks, you aren’t tryin’ hard enough.
The National Hockey League season may be the most gruelling in North American professional sports. Hockey players may not have to play every day like they do in MLB, but their bodies take much more of a pounding than baseball players do. And unlike the NBA, you don’t see it often in hockey where coaches give their stars the night off for a “maintenance day.”
In this article, we’ve identified the one (or two) toughest spots on each NHL team’s schedule in 2018-19. Whether or not we bet against each of these teams in these situations will depend on how well the oddsmakers take these horrible spots into account when setting the line. But unless the bookies dramatically overcompensate, we definitely don’t see ourselves betting ON these teams in these situations.
Let’s get started.
1. Anaheim Ducks
March 15 at Colorado
Anaheim will be playing its seventh game in 11 days, and that fatigue could be exacerbated by playing in the high altitude of Denver.
This will also be the tail end of a back-to-back for the Ducks, their second set of B2Bs in 10 days. (Anaheim will also visit Washington Dec. 1 and the Islanders Jan. 20 in early starts as the 7th game in 12 days.)
2. Arizona Coyotes
Dec. 23 at San Jose
Arizona will come stumbling into San Jose to play its 8th game in 13 days and on the tail end of a back-to-back.
Factor in that the players will likely have their mind on getting back home for Christmas Eve the following day and having the next few days off, and it’s hard to imagine the Yotes bringing maximum intensity and focus in this one.
3. Boston Bruins
Jan. 17 vs. St. Louis
By comparison to other teams, Boston’s worst situational spot really isn’t that bad.
Their Jan. 17 home game against St. Louis will be their ninth game in 17 days, but six of those nine games will be at home. In fact, a visit to Chicago will be the furthest that the Bruins travel away from Beantown during this stretch.
4. Buffalo Sabres
Nov. 30 at Florida and March 31 at Columbus
It’s hard enough for the Sabres to be competitive without the schedule-maker being against them as well.
We had to circle both of these games on Buffalo’s calendar because they’re equally horrific scheduling spots: the Sabres’ sixth game in nine days, and their second set of back-to-backs in less than a week. In fact, the game against Columbus will be Buffalo’s fifth in a seven-day span.
5. Calgary Flames
Feb. 27 at New Jersey
There are a few brutal stretches on Calgary’s calendar (12 games in 25 days in October, 15 in the final 30 days of March), but none compare to what the Flames have to deal with in February.
Their Feb. 27 trip to the Meadowlands comes a night after visiting the Islanders and will conclude a 9-game-in-16-day segment that includes six games on the east coast.
6. Carolina Hurricanes
March 31 at Penguins
If Carolina’s finally going to make the playoffs again this season, the Canes had better get the heavy lifting out of the way early.
That’s because the final few weeks of their schedule is an absolute bitch. Not only does Carolina have no more than one day off between games in the final 19 days of the season, but the Canes’ slate also includes a pair of games versus the Penguins, Capitals and Flyers as well as showdowns with the Maple Leafs and Lightning.
Their toughest spot in that murderous stretch looks to be a Sunday afternoon visit to Pittsburgh, Carolina’s sixth game in nine days, although a trip to Toronto two days later also won’t be fun.
7. Chicago Blackhawks
Oct. 28 vs Edmonton and Dec. 21 at Colorado
Although the Hawks no longer are subjected to their lengthy circus trip every November, it still won’t take long for Joel Quenneville to see if his Blackhawks are in top game-shape.
Chicago will be subjected into a 6-in-9 and 7-in-11 in stretch in the first opening month of the season, concluding with a home game versus Edmonton that will be the Hawks’ second back-to-back in 8 days.
Another horrible spot for the Hawks will be their Dec. 21 visit to the Avalanche, which will finish an 8-in-13 stretch and comes on the heels of a trip to Dallas the previous night.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
March 16 at Boston
Columbus actually has things pretty good from a scheduling perspective… until the calendar turns into March.
Then things get a lot uglier for John Tortorella and company, who will play 16 games in a 30-day span.
The most intense part of the Jackets’ March schedule is in the first two weeks of the month, which includes three sets of back-to-backs. Two of those sets will involve travel in between games, including a March 16 trip to Boston that will be the Jackets’ second game against the Bruins in five days.
9. Colorado Avalanche
Feb. 23 at Nashville
The first three full weeks of February will be Colorado’s toughest stretch of the campaign, particularly a 15-day stretch in which the Avalanche will play nine times — five of those on the road.
That busy two weeks will conclude with a Saturday night visit to Nashville, always a tough place for visitors but even tougher following a game at Chicago the previous night.
10. Dallas Stars
Nov. 24 at Colorado and March 30 at Vancouver
We’ve circled a Saturday night trip to Colorado as one of Dallas’ toughest scheduling spots, but we really could have just highlighted the entire week of November 18-24.
The Stars are scheduled to play five games that week, sandwiching a trip to Pittsburgh between a pair of back-to-backs. Four of those five games are on the road, meaning that the Stars’ legs will probably feel like jello by the time they get to Denver.
A visit to Vancouver at the end of March will also be a tough spot, concluding a 10-game-in-17-day stretch in what looks like a classic letdown spot against a weak opponent.
11. Detroit Red Wings
Dec. 11 at Washington
It’s a good thing the Red Wings have the final two days of November off, because they’re going to need their rest.
Detroit opens December with seven games in 11 days, beginning with a back-to-back versus the Bruins and Avalanche. The Wings will also face the Leafs, Lightning, Islanders and Kings before traveling to Washington to take on the defending Stanley Cup champions on zero days’ rest.
12. Edmonton Oilers
April 2 at Colorado and April 6 at Calgary
The schedule-maker must really want to see Connor McDavid back in the playoffs. Edmonton might have the friendliest slate in the league, going the entire year without playing more than 14 games in a month.
Things do get a bit hairy for the Oilers at the end of the year, however. Edmonton will close the campaign with seven games in its last 12 days, including a visit to Colorado April 2 that will come on the heels of a trip to Vegas the previous night.
Edmonton also ends the season with a stop in Calgary, another high-altitude venue and the Oilers’ fourth game in six days.
13. Florida Panthers
January 15 at Montreal and March 30 at Boston
Florida made a late push for a playoff spot last season, and the Panthers’ schedule sets up well for another late-season surge in 2018.
But before the Cats play 11 of their first 12 February games at home, they’ll have to survive a gruelling January stretch in which they’ll play seven of eight games on the road.
Visiting Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Calgary for three games in four days will be tough enough, but we’re circling a Jan. 15 visit to Montreal as the toughest. Florida will have just played three games on Canada’s west coast, then head three time zones east for the game against the Habs before finally heading back home.
The Panthers will also play eight road games in a 10-game span in the second half of March, beginning with three games in California and ending with a four-in-six at Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Boston.
14. Los Angeles Kings
February 9 at Boston
The Kings always seem to have one hellish road trip per season, and 2018-19 is no exception.
LA will visit the Islanders, Rangers, Devils, Flyers, Bruins and Capitals in the first 11 days of February. While the trip to Washington will be LA’s final game of the trip, we actually see the game in Boston as being tougher because it’s a 10 a.m. start on their Pacific body clocks in addition to being a fourth in six and fifth in eight situation.
If there’s a silver lining for the Kings, it’s that the road trip will come right after their bye week, giving them plenty of rest that they’re going to need.
15. Minnesota Wild
January 23 at Colorado
Happy New Year? It won’t be for the Wild, which has 12 games slated in a 21-day stretch in January.
Seven of those contests will be on the road, while one of Minny’s home games might as well be a road contest since the Wild will be in Philadelphia the previous night.
To top it off, the Wild’s January 23 trip to Denver will be Minnesota’s last before the bye week. After playing four games in consecutive weeks, don’t be surprised to see the Wild mail this one in.
16. Montreal Canadiens
January 15 versus Panthers
With just four games scheduled in the first 12 days of the season, the Habs will ease into the campaign like an old man into a nice warm bath.
But when you have that much time off early in the year, you usually pay a price later, and the Canadiens will pay that price in the first two full weeks of January.
Montreal will play 6 games in 9 days from Jan. 7-15, concluding with a Tuesday home date against the Panthers. And although three of those games will be at home, none of them will be consecutively at the Bell Centre, meaning the Canadiens will have had to travel before every game — including two back-to-backs.
17. Nashville Predators
Jan. 13 at Carolina
Getting motivated to play in a small crowd in Raleigh can be challenging at the best of times.
So it’s hard to imagine a Sunday afternoon matinee to conclude a six-game road trip will bring the best out of the Predators, especially with Nashville possibly having an eye towards home games versus the Caps and Jets later in the week.
18. New Jersey Devils
Nov. 13 versus Penguins
After playing seven of their first eight games at home, the Devils have a hellish schedule awaiting them in November.
Beginning with an Oct. 30 visit to Tampa Bay, New Jersey will be traveling between games for the next three full weeks.
There’s only one back-to-back during that span (Nov. 5 at Pittsburgh and Nov. 6 at Ottawa), and a visit to Winnipeg will be New Jersey’s only game out of the eastern time zone. But we’re not sure how much focus the Devils will have for their Nov. 13 home game against the Penguins, following a seven-game road trip and with a visit to Philly on deck two days later.
19. New York Islanders
January 15 versus St. Louis
The Islanders have an extremely busy March (16 games in 30 days) and will play eight of their 11 October games on the road. But we think their toughest stretch may take place in mid-January, when New York plays seven times in 11 days, finishing with a 5-in-7.
Although back-to-backs versus the Rangers/Lightning and Devils/Capitals will be tough, we’ve circled the game in between as the spot where the Isles may be distracted the most.
Hosting the Blues will be New York’s only non-conference clash during that 11-day run, and the Isles will probably put more emphasis on games versus the neighboring Rangers and Devils, along with a clash against coach Barry Trotz’s former Washington team.
20. New York Rangers
March 16 at Minnesota
The Broadway Blueshirts will have a busy start to the month of March, slated to play nine games in the first 16 days.
If you include a Feb. 27 trip to Tampa Bay two days before March begins, New York won’t have more than a day between games for nearly three weeks, and the Rangers will play seven of 10 on the road.
The final of those road contests will be a Saturday night affair in Minnesota, roughly 21 hours after their game the previous night in Calgary will have ended.
21. Ottawa Senators
Dec. 28 at Islanders
The Senators were tied with Pittsburgh for the most sets of back-to-backs in the NHL last year (19), and Ottawa ranks behind only Carolina and Florida in that department this season with 16 back-to-backs.
Four of those B2B sets will take place in a three-week span from Dec. 8-29, which will be a challenge in itself to deal with.
But with all of those back-to-backs also comes a few times in the season where the Sens will have several consecutive days off, including a 5-day break over Christmas. That should make it hard for Ottawa to rev up the engine again when it visits the Islanders in its first game back from the break.
22. Philadelphia Flyers
March 24 at Washington
What’s scarier than Philly’s new mascot, Gritty? The Flyers’ schedule in mid-March, right when teams are starting to feel the wear and tear of a long season.
Philadelphia will play seven games in an 11-day span from March 14-24, including a pair of back-to-backs. Even though all but one of those games will be close to home against Eastern Conference competition, the Fly Guys will have to be worn out by the time they visit Washington for an early afternoon start.
23. Pittsburgh Penguins
December 20 vs Minnesota
Before the Penguins get to enjoy their Christmas break, they’ll be subjected to playing 11 games in an 18-day stretch.
Back-to-back home games versus the hard-playing Bruins and Kings won’t be a picnic, but we think the Pens’ Thursday night home game versus the Wild will be the trickiest to navigate.
Minny has given the Penguins a tough time in recent years, and it’s hard to imagine Pittsburgh will be excited to play this non-conference opponent one night after a visit to the rival Capitals.
24. San Jose Sharks
October 8 at Islanders
Arguably the toughest game on San Jose’s schedule will come just six days into the campaign as the Sharks open a four-game eastern road trip with this visit to Brooklyn.
We think it’ll be tough because it’s a 1 p.m. eastern start on Columbus Day, equating to a 10 a.m. start on the Sharks’ western time zone body clocks. On the bright side, it’s good preparation for another 1 p.m. eastern start six days later in New Jersey.
25. St. Louis Blues
March 12 vs Arizona
The Blues will essentially hit the road for the first half of March, playing at home just twice in the first 18 days of the month.
Sandwiched in between a three-game western road trip and a three-game trek through Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Buffalo will be a Tuesday night home clash against the Coyotes, not exactly the kind of team the Blues are likely to get revved up for.
With St. Louis players busy getting reacquainted with family and friends after being gone for so long, don’t be surprised if we don’t see their best effort in this spot.
26. Tampa Bay Lightning
December 6 vs Boston
After playing just once in the opening week of the season and just seven games in the first three weeks, the Lightning will get busy in a hurry.
From Oct. 30-Dec.10, Tampa Bay will have two days between games just once, which is going to make it virtually impossible to work on anything in practice.
Towards the end of this murderous six-week stretch is a home game against the Bruins, who will be licking their chops in their first chance to avenge last year’s playoff loss to the Bolts. And while Tampa will be worn down from the busy slate, Boston will be playing just its second game in five days.
27. Toronto Maple Leafs
February 19 vs. St. Louis
Toronto’s six-game road trip in mid-February will be a doozie, starting in Montreal and New York, then heading south for visits to Denver, Vegas and Glendale before hitting St. Louis on the way back home.
That latter stop in Missouri looks like a classic letdown spot as the Leafs look forward to getting home, especially since the defending cup champion Capitals will be paying a visit two days later.
That game against Washington won’t be an easy spot for the Leafs, either, but at least the Capitals will be worn out themselves, visiting Toronto after four straight games on the west coast.
28. Vancouver Canucks
Feb. 14 at Los Angeles and Feb. 16 at San Jose
The Canucks will get a rude awakening following the all-star break.
Vancouver will play 10 games in 15 days from Feb. 2-16, and eight of them will be on the road. Beginning with a Feb. 7 visit to Chicago, Vancouver will be in a 4-in-6 spot three times in a nine-day span.
The worst spots look to be a visit to the Kings one night after a game in Anaheim, and then a stop at San Jose two days later to conclude the busy stretch.
29. Vegas Golden Knights
Oct. 13 at Philadelphia and Nov. 24 at San Jose
The Knights’ early schedule last year was so soft that conspiracy theories abounded about the NHL wanting to make it easy for the expansion team to get off to a great start.
But the Golden Knights won’t have it so easy at the start of 2018-19. After opening at home to Philly, Vegas will play five road games in a span of eight days, concluding with an early start in Philadelphia two days after back-to-back games in Washington and Pittsburgh.
If that’s not bad enough, Vegas will have to play five games in one week towards the end of November. After visiting the Oilers and Flames on back-to-back nights in Alberta, the Knights will visit Arizona two days later, then head home for another back-to-back set versus the Flames and Sharks. That latter game against San Jose will not only be the Knights’ fifth game in seven days, but also their sixth in nine and seventh in 11.
30. Washington Capitals
Jan. 6 at Detroit and Feb. 24 versus the Rangers
Three games in four days is tough enough. But when those three games come in less than a 96-hour span — and all on the road — that’s asking a lot.
That’s the challenge the Capitals will face when they visit Detroit Jan. 6 for a 5 p.m. eastern start, less than 48 hours after completing a back-to-back in St. Louis and Dallas.
Washington will also be subjected to three games in less than four days the following month, when they host the Rangers for a 12:30 p.m. Sunday matinee. Making things worse, the Caps will have finished off a six-game road trip (which includes three games in California) the previous afternoon in Ottawa.
31. Winnipeg Jets
Nov. 9 versus Colorado
Is it possible for a team named the Jets to suffer from jet-lag? We’ll see on Nov. 9, when Winnipeg plays its first game following a two-game trip to Finland to play the Panthers in the NHL Global Series.
Honestly, jet-lag will probably be the least of Winnipeg’s concerns in this one. A bigger issue will be all the time off the Jets will have between games, with their home game versus the Avalanche coming more than a week after they finish off their Finnish adventure.
Last year when the Avalanche and Senators made the same trip, they had “just” five days between games.
See any other tough spots in the NHL schedule?
Let us know in the comments area below!