The Pittsburgh Penguins schedule could have a few more back-to-backs with angry division rivals and conference foes. The next NHL schedule is expected to be released next week, and at least one of the features that defined the 2020-21 pandemic season schedule will be incorporated into the new one.
Aug. 1, Correction: Due to schedule changes, including the insertion of an Olympic break, the new NHL schedules do not include as many of the series as NHL executives figured.
The feature that stuck will be more back-to-back home/road “series” that was a large part of last season, a high-level league source told National Hockey Now Sr. reporter Adrian Dater. The multi-game series will not be as prominent as the division-only COVID-schedule, because every team is expected to play at least once in the 2021-21 season. There will still be many instances in which teams play back-to-back games in the same city.
The two, three, and even four-game sets became a popular part of the 56-game, inter-division schedule forced by the COVID pandemic. Players enjoyed not having to run around as much and hopping on airplanes after every road game. It also greatly cut down on teams’ travel expenses and, frankly, cut down on carbon emissions from all that airplane fuel. CHN was the first to break the news of such an innovation last December.
The Penguins were one of many teams that expressed pleasure in the baseball-like series format. PHN asked winger Bryan Rust his thoughts on the calendar, and his quote was oft-repeated.
“I like it,” Rust said. “It’s like college hockey on steroids.”
He meant that in a good way.
“It takes a toll on your body. You know, it’s fun,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “I’d rather get dressed in the morning going to a game than a practice, that’s for sure.”
It is something that may become a permanent part of the NHL landscape beyond this coming season too. More Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals series? Yes, please. However, we may take a pass on too many games in a row against the New York Islanders on the Penguins schedule.