Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Back to Back Game Scheduling

Oh my aching back-to-back
On Monday night, I watched one of the most enjoyable games I've seen all year. Kings in San Jose vs. Sharks. Flat out energy the whole game on both sides. Guys flying all over the ice. Lots of scoring, lots of hitting. Joe Corvo with a dynamite goal to keep it close, Jonathan Cheechoo with a hat trick. Joe Thornton demonstrating the ability to take over in an offensive zone. Kind of a foreshadowing of what we might see from Eric Staal in three or four years. Game ended 4-3 Sharks.

Last night I watched a bit of the Coyotes v. Kings game. Kings were a different team. Slow footed, seemingly disinterested. Kings ended up getting blown out in their own house 6-2. Hell, even Mike Ricci scored last night. What I saw was a team suffering from the effects of back-to-back game scheduling. The Kings were not the same team Tuesday. They obviously left a lot on the ice the night before.

Despite their enviable overall record, the Hurricanes are 3-7 this season on the second night of back-to-back games. Included in this record are some of the team's most lopsided losses- 9-0 at home vs. the Thrash, 5-2 at home vs. Tampa and 8-4 in Phoenix.

The 'Canes have four back-to-back series remaining on the schedule. The boys will be on the road for six of those eight games. A posting on Her Majesty's site dealing with the relative un-importance of a President's Cup race got me thinking. I care more about how the boys are playing and how healthy they are going into the playoffs than how many total W's they log. The 'Canes go into April with three Friday/Saturday back-to-backs on the schedule. Thrashers, Panthers, and Lightning make up the majority of the opponents. All should be pretty desperate around that time, unless they have been trumped by playoff formula math. The Craps are out of the race but playing with a ton of heart every night. We've got three in a row in one week vs. Tzar-Oh! (my dopey try at a nickname in the CCM contest) and the rest of Hanlon's boys.

Experts say the 'Canes have the league's easiest remaining schedule in the NHL, but the scheduling mix will still be challenging for a team trying to maintain an edge going into the playoffs.

No comments: