I happened to be looking at the Rangers’ February schedule in a calendar-grid format, and was shocked to see no back-to-back games. How could that be possible? With all the talk of the schedule this season having to be so compressed resulting in the necessity of more back-to-backs, how could the Rangers get away with none for a whole month?
I suspected some “preferential treatment” might be going on here, prompting me to work through the schedules of all the teams to see if the Rangers did indeed have fewer back-to-backs than the other teams. And, sure enough, I found they have a league low six, while Chicago and Detroit have a face a whooping twelve each!
It was also interesting to note that among the teams with only seven back-to-backs is Boston, also noteworthy for the fact that their last one is on April 10-11 while 28 of the other 29 teams have back-to-backs closer to the beginning of the playoffs than that. . .and 13 of them have two or more.
It could be argued it is the less complicated travel arrangements for Atlantic and Northeast Division teams that results in the schedule-makers needing to resort to back-to-back games less often with them than with teams such as Chicago and Detroit that have a lot more traveling to do. However, if this were indeed the case, then a team like the Vancouver Canucks–who arguably have the most traveling to do of all 30 teams–would be up at the high end of list with Chicago and Detroit. But that is not the case. Rather, the Canucks are right near the bottom end of the list, with only seven back-to-backs all season.
It should not be a surprise that “schedule manipulation” might be going on, given what has happened in the past. For example, back decades ago, the schedule would be arranged every year such that the Montreal Canadiens would, from early in the season, be a little ahead of the other teams in terms of “games played.” Why? To increase their chances of being in first place at the quarter-pole, and then at the halfway point. Of course, this scheduling was not giving them an unfair advantage over the other teams; if anything, having to play more games than the other teams in the early going would have been a disadvantage. But who’s to say schedule manipulation is not happening today for the very purpose of giving some teams an advantage, especially given the vast disparity in the number of back-to-back games among the 30 teams in this truncated NHL season?