Earlier today, the National Hockey League released the full 2018-19 regular season schedule. This includes the New Jersey Devils. Their official website has the whole thing from their first game in Sweden against Edmonton all the way to their season closer in Sunrise on April 6. Tickets are not quite available - yet. Those will come out later in the Summer when preseason becomes closer and closer.
Since I’m admittedly late to this news, allow me to make it up to you with a quick schedule breakdown. Learn more about the 2018-19 schedule than you wanted to know! By the way, here’s last season’s breakdown by Gerard if you’d like some perspective.
I Hope You Like Matinees
There were very few pre-7 PM start times last season. I do not know if there was a large fan outcry for more home games to start before 7 PM ET. But if there was, the powers that be absolutely listened. The schedule makers decided to give the Devils plenty of games that start before the traditional 7 PM start time. Eight of their ten home games on Saturday will start at 1 PM ET. All four of their Sunday home games will start before 7 PM: two at 1 PM, one at 3 PM, and one at 6 PM. The Devils do have a Black Friday game against the Isles at 4 PM ET and their New Year Eve’s Game against Vancouver is at 1 PM ET. Even on the road, the Devils are visitors for three Saturday matinees: two at 1 PM and strangely one at 2 PM in Montreal. Three of their Sunday road games will also start before 7 PM ET: one at 5 PM, one at 4 PM, and one at 3 PM.
To put this all together, the Devils are playing 11 out of 18 of their Saturday games before 7 PM and 6 out of 10 of their Sunday games with another two around holidays. That’s nearly a quarter of their whole entire schedule. What’s more is that it’s mostly at the Rock; where just over a third of their home games (13 out of 41) will have a puck drop well before 7:08 PM ET. It all starts from their season opener in Sweden against Edmonton and runs all the way into Saturday, March 23 against Arizona.
Personally, I like matinee games. It’s easier for me to get to the game, I’m not staying up terribly late to write up a game, and there is usually time to get other things done after the game. Your mileage may vary. All the same, get ready for several noon-time arrivals to the Rock in 2018-19.
A Lighter Back to Back to Schedule
Last season, the Devils had 16 back-to-back sets. This season, they have 14. What’s more is that among these 28 games, there are no home-and-home sets and only nine of the 28 games involve teams in the Metropolitan Division. Here’s the full rundown, with teams in the Metropolitan highlighted in bold.
The Devils will deal with four of these in November, with one crossing over into December. That’s followed by three more starting in December; just one in January; two in February; and four in March. Without jumping ahead, March is shaping up to be a difficult month on paper like last season. One reason is because the Devils have four back-to-backs with six of those games being on the road. Still, it is a relief to not see a load of Metropolitan games in these or home-and-home sets against the same team. There are some really non-ideal pairings, such as the Vegas-Nashville back-to-back happens in the same week as that Anaheim-San Jose back-to-back. But there are fewer sets than last season and that is always a positive for a Devils franchise that tends to get a lot of them.
The 2018-19 Schedule by Home & Away and Division
Here’s a breakdown showing off the schedule by month for games against the various divisions plus how many total home and away games there are.
With the Devils starting in Sweden - which is technically a home game - the schedule makers gave the Devils a four game homestand to start the season, a road game against the Second Rate Rivals, and then four days off before two more home games. It’s a favorable start to the season which accounts for the Devils going across the Atlantic Ocean.
That said, November is when the grind of the schedule takes hold. Like last season, the road games picked up. Unlike last season, it’s more tilted in road games. This is also a crucial month as fourteen of the fifteen games can help decide playoff positioning by the end of next season. The points that are not earned in November will haunt a team in March. The month starts with the continuation of a long road trip - the longest for the Devils this season. On October 30, the Devils go to Tampa. Their next six games in November are all on the road, with only the last opponent not in the East (Winnipeg). There’s no break after that trip as the Devils return home two days later before a hectic month continues to the end. The longest break in November is just three days and it is towards the end of the month. Again, this will be a tough month.
December has the annual California road trip. Unlike last season, it will not be an six-game odyssey that takes them there. No, it’s just three road games in California ending with a back-to-back and then a return trip home three days later for a Vegas-home, Nashville-away back-to-back. That’s not much nicer. Once done with that, the schedule becomes more East-heavy with three matinee home games (and a trip to Boston) to close out 2018.
2019 will begin on the road again. This time, it will not just be Dallas and St. Louis. No, it’s Dallas, Arizona, Vegas, and Buffalo. At least they are not in a row. This month does contain a week-long break from January 20 through January 26. I presume this is their bye week. It’s a little lighter of a month, but it sets the stage for a very busy two months.
February is a home-driven month of 14 games like last season. It’s set up to begin in Montreal, followed by four straight home games, a three-game swing through St. Louis, Chicago, and Minnesota, and then five out of their next six games being at home. If the Devils turn out to be a strong home team, then this is the month where they should try to earn as much as they can. Like last season’s schedule, March edges on the road-side with a massive fifteen games.
And it will be massive. The month starts with one of the tougher-on-paper back-to-backs with Philly-home and Boston-away. After a home game against Columbus, the Devils embark on a six-game road trip. While the one from October 30 to November 11 is longer (seven games), this one is not easy. It starts with a back-to-back at Washington and at Our Hated Rivals. It continues with another back-to-back in Alberta. Then there’s a late game in Vancouver, which is thankfully on a Friday night. Lastly, there’s a matinee in Colorado to close it out. This is followed by four home games with very little rest after that trip.
The season ends with Our Hated Rivals on April’s Fools Day being the home closer and two road games in Carolina and Florida. Personally, I’m not a fan of Fan Appreciation Night being against Our Hated Rivals if only because a good chunk of the Rock will support the blue-shirted losers and hate on the Devils. As much as I always enjoy a crushing blow to the haters and losers (of which there are sadly many), I don’t want them winning gifts or anything like it. Also: a Monday night game? Since the Devils love to jack up the prices for these rivalry games, don’t be surprised if what should be a sellout is not. That what I have to say about that. Going back to the schedule at large, if last season was any guide, these games will all matter. So don’t discount those last two at all.
Again, this schedule is similarly set-up like last season. One thing of note, it appears that there’s no bias towards a Metropolitan opponent. Unless I miscounted, the Devils will play all seven other divisional teams just four times. There’s a balance. We’ll see if it helps or not.
The Schedule by Day
Now, here’s the same schedule by day.
If you’re looking to get the most out of your home game experience, then Saturday, Thursday (except November and December), and Tuesdays will be your go-to days. Some of the break down is weird. There are no home games on Thursdays in November or December. Likewise, there’s a big gap for Sunday home games while the Devils have three road games. Pay attention to what you try to get tickets for, and watch the times since a good chunk of those weekend dates are matinees.
Strangely, there must have been a push for more Monday and Saturday home games. Saturdays, I get. Those are weekend dates. Perfect days of the week to go out to a game and make the Devils a part of the weekend experience. Mondays? After just two last season, there are six. Uh, sure? I guess? In response, Thursdays went down from eleven to eight and Fridays became much smaller in going from seven to four. I’m not sure the switch-off will work out since Thursday and Friday nights are likely easier to sell than Mondays, but maybe the Saturdays will pick it up. Maybe the matinees will draw more than enough to make up a difference. Maybe.
This is the 2018-19 schedule for the New Jersey Devils regular season. There are some similarities in structure from a month-by-month standpoint to last season’s schedule. But there were some big changes from timing and day-by-day perspectives.
Now that you read this breakdown, I want to know what you think. What do you think of the Devils’ schedule overall? Do you like that there are so many more matinee games? What dates are you looking forward to? What would you do differently if you could make the schedule?