This afternoon, the National Hockey League released the current regular season schedule for the 2021 season. All 31 teams have scheduled dates and match-ups. The NHL’s press release has highlights from the schedule. And the New Jersey Devils announced their full schedule in a more readable format. It confirms that the New Jersey Devils and the other seven teams in the East Division will play each other eight times. It also confirms that the season will begin on January 13 and end on May 8. The Devils will start on January 14 by hosting Boston. Their season will end on the road against the New York Islanders on May 8. The detailed schedule has more interesting details.
First and foremost, there are no times for any games right now. We have dates. We have road and home definitions. We do not have game times. Everything is currently “TBA.” I do not know if this is awaiting times from broadcasts. While teams like New Jersey will start the season without having fans in their arena, broadcasters and teams that are allowed to have fans in their arena may prefer to keep the traditional weeknight times. This makes me confused as to why they are TBA now. Perhaps there are broadcasters still working things out? I do not know.
Second, as with a lot of things in 2020, a lot of this is subject to change. Especially for those in the North Division. For example, Ontario has announced a four-week lockdown that has already led the Ontario Hockey League to delay the start of their season. They were planning on a start date on February 4, 2021, which is over four weeks away. The indefinite delay may put the whole league at risk. It remains to be seen how Toronto and Ottawa will be impacted. Their schedules may be shuffled around to allow games to at least be played there. Or the “neutral sites” may come into play. Locally, I have not heard of any incoming restrictions for New Jersey so the Devils should be able to get their games in similar to how the New York Red Bulls, New York Giants, New York Jets, and Rutgers have done in recent months. Still, other teams may see their schedules change on them on an as-needed basis.
Third, there are surprisingly not that many back-to-back sets of games for the Devils. Since the Devils have opponents close by and do not travel as much as other teams, they generally have more back-to-backs than most other teams in the league. Last season, the Devils were scheduled to have 16 of them. For 2021, I count just seven.
- January 30 & January 31 - at Buffalo for both games
- February 22 & February 23 - vs. Buffalo, vs. NY Islanders
- March 4 & March 5 - at Our Hated Rivals, vs. Our Hated Rivals
- March 25 & March 26 - at Washington for both games
- April 8 & April 9 - at Buffalo for both games
- April 17 & April 18 - at Our Hated Rivals, vs. Our Hated Rivals
- May 3 & May 4 - vs. Boston for both games
That is it. Granted, with everyone playing only within their division, teams like New Jersey do not need to go on long road trips across America or Canada where back-to-backs are built in. Likewise, they do not need to add them in to account for other teams traveling through the area. Still, the Devils are going to have just fewer than half of the number of back-to-backs than they did last season. I think that is to the Devils’ benefit. Plus, they have the convenience of not needing to travel in the middle of four of them since they are consecutive match-ups on the road or away from home. In fact, the set on February 22 and February 23 is the only one where the Devils will be facing different opponents on each night.
There are plenty of consecutive opponents on the schedule. But more of those games have a day off between the games than not.
Fourth, while travel is limited, there are some notable stretches of only road or only home games on the schedule. The Devils will be away from the Rock for five straight games from March 23 to March 30. They will visit Philly on the 23rd, then play Washington back to back on the 25th and 26th, and then play Boston on the 28th and 30th. The Devils do have two four-game road stretches (January 30 to February 4; February 11 to February 18) as well. The team’s longest homestand is five games long and it runs from February 20 to March 1. Then, they will host Buffalo on the 20th and 22nd, the Islanders on the 23rd, and Washington on the 27th and March 1st.
Fifth, there are no Devils games on Wednesday. There are also only four games on Mondays, too. For what it is worth, there are six games on Fridays and eight on Saturdays. This schedule is heavy on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday games.
Sixth, the last opponent in the East that the Devils will face is Washington and that is on February 27. By then, the Devils will have played Boston four times, Buffalo four times, Philadelphia four times, the Islanders three times, Pittsburgh three times, and Our Hated Rivals twice. No one ever said the schedule would be balanced. Curiously, Washington will be the first opponent on the schedule that the Devils will be done with. They play their last game against them on April 4. So all eight games against the Caps will be played within a period of a little more than a month. Again, no one ever said the schedule would be balanced.
Seventh, I would expect all teams to be incredibly unhappy with each their divisional opponents as they will be playing them all season long. Even with a day break between repeated match-ups, any issues from January could manifest into full on beefs by April and May. Any established rivalries will likely be juiced in this season. Some new ones may be created, too. Of note among the current rivalries, the Devils will play Our Hated Rivals in four consecutive games on April 13, 15, 17, and 18. It will be a Week of Hate. As far as I can tell, that is the most number of games in a row against the same opponent in the Devils’ schedule. Buffalo comes close with three straight from April 6 to April 9.
Now that the schedule is out, I would like to know what you think. What do you think of the 56-game schedule for the Devils? Is there any particular date (or days) you are looking forward to in this schedule? Do you think the Devils will be able to stick to this one? What kind of game times would you like to see anyway since they are currently TBA? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils’ and NHL schedule in the comments. Thank you for reading.