Due to the COVID pandemic, the National Hockey League has been postponing games since November 2021 through to January 2021. It is because of these postponements that the NHL has chosen to not send its players to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The NHL announced today that they have re-scheduled 98 games across all 32 teams. 95 of those 98 games will now take place within the dates of February 7 through February 22, which were originally blocked off for an Olympic break. The New Jersey Devils had six games postponed due to COVID and COVID-related issues. Two games were pulled in to help make the schedules work with the opposition. Therefore, there are eight new dates for eight games in the Devils’ season. All times are for the Eastern Time zone.
- January 31, 2022 - 7:30 PM - Devils at Toronto (originally scheduled for January 17)
- February 7, 2022 - 7 PM - Devils at Ottawa (originally scheduled for April 7)
- February 8, 2022 - 7 PM - Devils at Montreal (originally scheduled for January 15)
- February 10, 2022 - 8 PM - Devils at St. Louis (originally scheduled for December 27)
- February 13, 2022 - 1 PM - Devils vs. Pittsburgh (originally scheduled for February 24)
- February 15, 2022 - 7 PM - Devils vs. Tampa Bay (originally scheduled for January 10)
- February 24, 2022 - 7 PM - Devils at Pittsburgh (originally scheduled for December 21)
- April 7, 2022 - 7 PM - Devils vs. Montreal (originally scheduled for December 23)
That the NHL has been able to come up with an 82-game schedule for all 32 teams and still have the season end by April 29, 2022 is impressive on its own. To that end, I can understand those who think complaints (or compliments) about the schedule are not really meaningful. Still, here is my commentary on them.
First, the Devils’ February got a lot a busier. This was expected ever since the NHL pulled out of the Olympics, citing that the break would be used to make up games.
Second, the business is at the beginning of this new run of games. They will have a home-and-home with Toronto on January 31 and February 1 (originally scheduled for 2/1). They will have a road trip from February 7 through 10. That is three games in four nights plus a back-to-back in Ottawa and Montreal. While those two teams are arguably worse than the Devils, going on the road for consecutive games is not a simple task.
Third, there is still a substantial break after the game in St. Louis. After the St. Louis game, the Devils will just have two games to play between February 13 and February 24, which was when their schedule was going to resume anyway. They will have no games for eight days before playing a back-to-back set. The back-to-back part is not new. Instead of a back-to-back with Pittsburgh at home and Chicago on the road, it is now Pittsburgh on the road and Chicago on the road. Not ideal, but the original schedule was not favorable either. The Devils should be well-rested for those two games.
Fourth, I guess the April 7 date needed to be swapped. Was it forOttawa’s or Montreal’s benefit? Maybe both Canadian teams? Neither team has a replacement game around April 7 other than this one. Both teams are at home for a stretch (Ottawa from February 7 to 12 for four games, Montreal from February 8 to February 17 for five). Rather than making them travel, they opted for the opponents to come to them. It is what it is.
Fifth, I really hope the NHL is not forced to postpone many more games. While I understand that the Omicron variant of COVID is thought to have peaked by now, that does not preclude any other variants or other kinds of outbreaks. I can also understand that the NHL and the NHLPA are planning to reduce the amount of testing for asymptomatic players and staff after the All Star weekend (which is February 5). That should lead to fewer people being forced to sit despite not being actively ill. (It is also consistent with the NBA and NFL, if I am not mistaken) But if actively ill players and staff continue to show up, then the league’s hand will be forced again. At that point, the season may have to extend into May. All the same, the league has re-asserted its goal for 2021-22: play an 82-game regular season. The PA is on board. I would like to see it happen. Let us hope the pandemic effectively allows it.
Those are my thoughts on the new dates. I am happy that the new dates have been announced with some lead time for fans, broadcasters, and organizations to prepare for the new dates. How do you like these new dates for the Devils? Will you be able to attend the two re-scheduled home games? Or any of the road games? Please leave your answers and thoughts on the new schedule in the comments. Thank you for reading.