Amid the three main events of the 2021 NHL Offseason, the NHL released the 2021-22 regular season schedule on Thursday, July 22. Between Seattle, the NHL Draft, and Free Agency Frenzy, I have not had the chance to take a closer look at it like I usually do. Now that the frenzy has faded out and the New Jersey Devils added Dougie, it is a good time to look at what you and I can look forward to for this coming 82-game regular season (no times yet). And the preseason, which was revealed by the Devils before free agency began. Enough waiting, let’s get into it.
The 2021 Preseason Schedule
The Devils will be playing six games against three different opponents, all within the division. There are no split squad games or neutral site locations (yet). One additional wrinkle is that rookies will report to training camp on September 15, veterans will report on September 22, and the six-game schedule begins on the 29th. Expect the first few games to feature more non-veterans if only because they would have had an extra week of work.
- September 29 at Washington
- October 1 vs. Our Hated Rivals
- October 2 at New York Islanders (location is unknown)
- October 4 vs. Washington
- October 6 at Our Hated Rivals
- October 7 vs. New York Islanders
I am a little confused why the Devils opted for two back-to-back sets, but given that there will likely be little travel involved and a lot of players to go through, it is fine. I could see the first round of cuts coming after the October 2 game with an increasing number as October 7 approaches. Of note, it is not yet known where the road game against the Isles will be. I would not expect it to be the brand-new UBS Arena as that is under construction. The Isles’ first home game this season is on November 20. Will it be at Nassau? Will it be in Bridgeport, home of their AHL affiliate? Somewhere else? We do not know.
In terms of attendance, it’s preseason. The October 1 game may draw the most as its a rivalry game and on a Friday. But these are exhibition games. The Devils should draw fairly early on when the 2021-22 season begins, though.
The 2021-22 Regular Season Schedule by Day
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays have been popular days for Devils games over the last several seasons. It is no different for 2021-22. Here is a count by day of the week:
- Sundays - 10 games - 8 home games, 2 road games
- Mondays - 5 games - 2 home games, 3 road games
- Tuesdays - 18 games - 10 home games, 8 road games
- Wednesdays - 6 games - 3 home games, 3 road games
- Thursdays - 16 games - 8 home games, 8 road games
- Fridays - 9 games - 4 home games, 5 road games
- Saturdays - 18 games - 6 home games, 12 road games
It is fairly even in terms of road and home games except for the weekends. Expect to watch more of the Devils on TV (or your DVR or catch a next-day replay) on Saturdays. Plan to visit the Rock for Sunday games. As NBC is no longer the TV partner of the NHL, Wednesday games are back and on par with the number of Monday games. Still, if you want to make plans with the least impact on Devils games, then make them on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The 2021-22 Regular Season Schedule by Month
While it remains to be seen how good the 32 teams in the NHL will actually be once the games begin, this is a good way to see whether there are favorable and unfavorable stretches for a team. The schedule makers have been kind to the Devils with a home-heavy October to get them (hopefully) on the right foot. They were less kind to them in March and April. Also of note: February has a big break to likely be an Olympic break and April is a full month instead of just a handful of games.
- October - 7 games - 6 home, 1 road, 1 back-to-back set
- November - 14 games, 7 home, 7 road, 2 back-to-back sets
- December - 14 games - 6 home, 8 road, 3 back-to-back sets
- January - 14 games - 6 home, 8 road, 1 back-to-back set
- February - 4 games - 3 home, 1 road, 1 back-to-back set (1 more starts at the end of the month)
- March - 14 games - 6 home, 8 road, 4 back-to-back sets
- April - 15 games - 7 home, 8 road, 3 back-to-back sets
The last two months of the schedule are definite grinds with the number of games they have to play and a big jump in back-to-back sets. Such is the result of a four-game February. The Devils should at least be used to 15 back-to-back sets. (They had 16 scheduled in 2019-20.) By virtue of having multiple opponents within driving distance of the Rock, they tend to get more of them than most teams. What this tells me is that the Devils really should do their best to take care of business early on to minimize the impact of the schedule as it becomes a lot busier in 2022 with the exception of February. Having 6 out of their 7 to start at home with crowds excited for Dougie, The Big Deal, Nico, and more can only help the cause of starting off this season well.
The 2021-22 Regular Season Schedule of Back to Back Sets
I always find it interesting when and where the consecutive games are in the schedule. Here is the list of all 15 of them, which make up roughly 17% of the team’s season.
- October 30 at Pittsburgh & October 31 vs. Columbus
- November 5 at Los Angeles & November 6 at San Jose
- November 13 vs. Boston & November 14 at Our Hated Rivals
- December 2 at Minnesota & December 3 at Winnipeg
- December 10 vs. Nashville & December 11 at New York Islanders
- December 18 at Detroit & December 19 vs. Pittsburgh
- January 22 vs. Carolina & January 23 vs. Los Angeles
- February 24 vs. Pittsburgh & February 25 at Chicago
- February 28 vs. Vancouver & March 1 at Columbus
- March 15 at Vancouver & March 16 at Calgary
- March 22 vs. Our Hated Rivals & March 23 at Toronto
- March 26 at Washington & March 27 vs. Montreal
- April 2 vs. Florida & April 3 vs. New York Islanders
- April 23 vs. Carolina & April 24 vs. Detroit
- April 28 at Carolina & April 29 vs. Detroit
Curiously, these back-to-back sets include both games against the Kings and the Canucks, and all three against Detroit - including the final game of the season on April 29. Back-to-backs are featured within the division. Three out of four against Carolina are in these sets. Half of their games against Columbus, the Islanders, Our Hated Rivals, and Pittsburgh are in these too. Most of the sets include a home game, with three out of fifteen taking place at The Rock. Only three sets are entirely on the road and two are part of a larger trip.
The 2021-22 Regular Season Schedule in Terms of Trips & Homestands
That is also worth noting. This schedule is light on long homestands and road trips. From what I can tell, the Devils only have three runs of home games that lasts longer than three games. Their longest is the start of their season, from October 15 (vs. Chicago) to October 26 (vs. Calgary). That’s five games before the Devils have to leave the Rock for the first time since preseason. They have two runs each of four games: January 19 (vs. Arizona) to January 25 (vs. Dallas) and March 6 (vs. St. Louis) to March 12 (vs. Anaheim). They are six and seven days long, respectively. At least they will not be traveling, but it will be exhausting. Other than that, the Devils are home for one to three games at a time right until the season ender on April 29.
The good news is that the Devils only have one long road trip this season. From April 7 (at Ottawa) to April 18 (at Las Vegas), the Devils will be playing away from home for six straight games. None of them are in a back-to-back set but it will take them from Ottawa to Dallas to Arizona to Denver to Seattle and finally to Las Vegas. The miles will be racked up there. However, the schedule makers have been very kind to the Devils to not give them any runs away from home longer than three games. The annual California trip (November 2 to November 6) is just those three games in California. The Devils well go to Western Canada in March (March 15 to March 19) in a three-game in five night stretch. The games in Minnesota and Winnipeg in December are in a back-to-back, but they are not joined by any other visit. In the past, these trips to Western Canada or California would be joined by other places relatively nearby. Not this season. It may not be ideal to have a six-game road trip in the middle of what could be an important April for the Devils. But at least they do not need to be concerned about that for quite some time.
What does that mean for you, the fan? It means you will need to play a little closer to the schedule. The Devils are not going to be at the Rock for an extended period of time after October 26. But they will not be far away from the Rock for over a week until April 2022. So if you miss out on attending one night, you may not need to wait long for the next home game.
The 2021-22 Regular Season Schedule in Terms of Notable Opponents and Dates
One of the double-edged swords of the 2021 schedule was that it was kept entirely within division and so the Devils played their opponents eight times. It juiced up some games as familiarity bred contempt. However, others bred dissatisfaction as Washington swept the Devils, Our Hated Rivals easily took the season series and The Week of Hate, and Buffalo did better than expected. I can understand those who loved the extra rivalry games and those who were tired of it by March 2021. This season’s schedule cut down on a lot of the inter-division games. The Devils will play Carolina, Our Hated Rivals, the Islanders, Pittsburgh and Columbus four times. They will play Washington and Philadelphia just three times. This gave way for the home-and-home sets with the out of conference teams as well as three games against the other Eastern Conference division. It is your call if you like that or not. For your convenience, here are those inter-division games:
- Columbus - October 31 (H), January 6 (H), January 8 (A), March 1 (A)
- Carolina - January 22 (H), January 29 (A), April 23 (H), April 28 (A)
- New York Islanders - November 11 (H), December 11 (A), January 13 (A), April 3 (H)
- Our Hated Rivals - November 14 (A), March 4 (A), March 22 (H), April 5 (H)
- Philadelphia - November 28 (H), December 8 (H), December 14 (A)
- Pittsburgh - October 30 (A), December 19 (H), February 24 (H)
- Washington - October 21 (H), January 2 (A), March 26 (A)
It certainly is spaced out oddly. Dougie will not get to see his former team until late January in 2022. The Devils will be done with the Second Rate Rivals by December 14, 2021. There is a long gap between the first and second games against Our Hated Rivals. Ditto for the first and second games against Columbus - which has the third game follow right after the second one. Still, it is what it is.
Here are the notable games within the schedule:
- The Season Opener: October 15 vs. Chicago. Fun fact: the NHL’s season starts on October 12, so the Devils will start three days later.
- Welcome to Newark, Seattle: October 19, or the Devils’ second game of the season.
- Happy Halloween: On October 31, the Devils will get to face one of the teams that seemingly has had their number for years in Columbus. It is an appropriate opponent for the day. It is also on a Sunday. Perhaps this will be an afternoon game?
- Election Day: The Devils will have to submit their votes early as they will be in Anaheim on November 2. This one starts the three-games-in-five-days California road trip.
- Veterans Day: The Devils will be hosting the Islanders on November 11.
- The Champions: The Devils will visit the 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning on November 20. Their other match-ups are on January 10 (home) and January 27 (away), for what its worth.
- Black Friday: The Devils are off on Thanksgiving, but they will be in Nashville on Friday, November 26. Will the John Hynes-coached Predators be thinking about a sale then? Who knows?
- Hello, Belmont: The Devils will get to play at the UBS Arena for the first time when they visit the Islanders on December 11.
- Bernier’s Return: Jonathan Bernier has done what he could for a real bad Detroit team for the past three seasons. The Devils will visit Detroit on December 18. Maybe the fans will appreciate Bernier upon returning?
- New Year’s Eve: You can make attending a Devils home game part of your NYE celebrations. They will be hosting Connor McDavid and Edmonton that Friday.
- Dougie’s Return: The Devils’ first game in Carolina is their last game in January on the 29th. The response may be dependent on how each team is performing.
- Hello, Seattle: April 16 will be the date of the Devils’ first game at Seattle. This is a part of the team’s longest road trip of the season, which ends with...
- The Last Western Game: ...Las Vegas on April 18. The Devils’ final six games are in the Eastern Conference.
- The Last Road Game: April 28 at Carolina. This is hopefully meaningful for the Devils. It is also the start of the last back-to-back set, which ends with the final game.
- The Season Closer: April 29 vs. Detroit. Make it count, Devils.
I do apologize for this belated breakdown of the Devils’ 2021-22 preseason and regular season schedules. I am not surprised by the number of back-to-backs. I am raising an eyebrow with the distribution of inter-division games. I do appreciate the schedule starting with six home games and the team’s longest road trip being set towards the end of the season. The Devils would have to take care of business then.
Now that you read this breakdown, I want to know what you think. What do you think of the Devils’ 2021-22 schedule overall? What traits about this season’s schedule do you like and dislike? Which dates are you looking forward to? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils’ schedule for this coming season. Thank you for reading.