Every NHL season presents a unique challenge, one that neither the players nor coaches can control: the schedule.
An NHL schedule is a sprawling six-month odyssey that stretches from the neon desert of Las Vegas to the frozen plains of Manitoba to the palm trees that border the Gulf of Mexico. It’s governed, in part, by the fickle timing of concerts, rodeos, and (as we all know) state fairs. What does this year’s schedule hold in store for the Carolina Hurricanes? Are there any advantages to be gleaned from it? What are the most anticipated matchups? How is the balance between home/road, east/west?
Let’s take some time to dig into all that.
Montreal Canadiens, October 3rd, Raleigh
The Canes host the Montreal Canadiens on opening night. In addition to the normal build-up you’d expect for a season opener, this one brings a few other storylines to the table.
For one, the Canadiens may come with a chip on their shoulder. They were the odd-team-out in last year’s Eastern Conference Wild-Card race, finishing three points behind the Canes and two points out of a playoff spot.
Also, there will be plenty of reminders that Sebastian Aho signed an offer sheet with the Canadiens, which was afterward matched by the Hurricanes. Finally, with Justin Williams not an option, opening night may see a new Canes Captain take the ice.
Washington Capitals, October 5th, Washington
The second game of the season ranks right up there with the first in terms of storylines. The Canes and Caps met in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and produced a seven-game thriller. Replays of Brock McGinn’s double-OT winner will be ubiquitous. While it’s only the second game of the season, expect the intensity to be dialed up in Washington.
Toronto Maple Leafs, December 23rd, Toronto
This is one to watch for the star power. The Canes will face off against John Tavares, Austin Matthews, and presumably Mitch Marner at 2:00 on a Monday, two days before Christmas. NHL rules dictate that there are no games or trades between Dec 24-26, and the Leafs annually play an afternoon game near the holiday, thus the unusual date and time. This one should be the first game back in Toronto for former Leaf Jake Gardiner.
Road Trips and Homestands
The Canes’ schedule is quite balanced between home and road games for most months. December and January are the exceptions. December will be spent mostly on the road (8 road games vs. 5 home games), while January will be almost entirely a home affair (9 home games vs. 2 road games).
The Canes have four road trips of four games or longer. Last year, the team only had two trips of four games or longer, with the longest a five-game stretch in February. All told, the Canes secured eleven out of a possible eighteen points in those nine road games. A similar record this year would go a long way to ensure a second consecutive playoff appearance for the Canes. The longest road-trip of the year (six games) starts February 29th in Montreal and ends March 12th in New Jersey.
Meanwhile at Home
The Canes’ homestands are generally short ones. In terms of anything over three games long, there’s a four-game span at the end of October through the first week of November. Then, from December 28th through February 2nd, the Canes play twelve out of fourteen games at home. There is a two-game road-trip right in the middle, along with a ten-day break centered around the all-star game. In 2018-19, the Canes took 22 points out of 32 on offer during homestands of four games or longer.
Similar to last season, it looks like January will be a make or break portion of the season for the Canes.
Division and Conference Games
Last year, the Canes made the playoffs in large part to their play against Western Conference teams. They went 19-8-3 against the West, earning 41 of their 99 points from those 30 games. In contrast, the Canes got precisely one point per game in their 28 Metropolitan Division games last year.
In a similar fashion to last year, the schedule frontloads the Western Conference games and stacks up several Eastern and Metro opponents in the final twenty games. However, this year the slate is even more skewed, with 18 of the final 20 games against Eastern Conference teams, as opposed to last year when 14 of the final 20 were Eastern teams.
With 15 of their first 35 games against Western Conference teams, the Canes have a chance to secure a solid position in the standings if they can replicate last year’s success against the West. If they do that, the January home-stand will present an opening to distance themselves from some of their Eastern Conference foes.
All in all, the Canes’ schedule presents some challenges but also quite a bit of possibility. A strong start in October, followed by productive road trips to California and Canada could put the Canes in the driver’s seat come January. From there, their young legs may again help them in the stretch run after the all-star break. I need not remind you that the Canes were red-hot last year from New Year’s eve on. A similar performance this year might not just lead to a Wild-Card berth but perhaps to a Division title.
Carolina Hurricanes 2019-2020 Season Schedule
|Sun.||10/6/2019||Tampa Bay||Carolina||5:00 PM|
|Fri.||10/11/2019||N.Y. Islanders||Carolina||7:30 PM|
|Tue.||10/15/2019||Carolina||Los Angeles||10:30 PM|
|Wed.||10/16/2019||Carolina||San Jose||10:30 PM|
|Sat.||11/2/2019||New Jersey||Carolina||7:00 PM|
|Thu.||11/7/2019||N.Y. Rangers||Carolina||7:00 PM|
|Wed.||11/27/2019||Carolina||N.Y. Rangers||7:00 PM|
|Sat.||11/30/2019||Carolina||Tampa Bay||7:00 PM|
|Thu.||12/5/2019||San Jose||Carolina||7:00 PM|
|Fri.||12/27/2019||Carolina||N.Y. Rangers||7:00 PM|
|Sun.||1/5/2020||Tampa Bay||Carolina||5:00 PM|
|Sat.||1/11/2020||Los Angeles||Carolina||7:00 PM|
|Sun.||1/19/2020||N.Y. Islanders||Carolina||5:00 PM|
|Tue.||2/4/2020||Carolina||St. Louis||8:00 PM|
|Fri.||2/14/2020||New Jersey||Carolina||7:30 PM|
|Fri.||2/21/2020||N.Y. Rangers||Carolina||7:30 PM|
|Sat.||3/7/2020||Carolina||N.Y. Islanders||1:00 PM|
|Thu.||3/12/2020||Carolina||New Jersey||7:00 PM|
|Thu.||3/19/2020||St. Louis||Carolina||7:00 PM|
|Sun.||3/22/2020||Carolina||N.Y. Islanders||5:00 PM|
|Sun.||3/29/2020||Carolina||New Jersey||3:00 PM|