By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard
Hoisting Lord Stanley above ones head might possibly be the most rewarding moment in a hockey players career. Not just because it’s the pinnacle of the sport but because the NHL has the most grueling playoff system in professional sports. It’s grueling because it follows a grueling season (even a shortened one). How grueling is the NHL season? We took a closer look at this season and it may point to the best team in the NHL not winning the Stanley Cup.
We looked at 2 specific categories in this lockout shortened season. Back-to-back games and consecutive road games. The Edmonton Oilers led the league with a 9 game (17 day-ish) road trip. Nashville was second with a 7 game (14 day-ish) road trip. To add insult to injury for Nashville, the start of that road trip was the second half of back-to-back games. Neither Edmonton nor Nashville made the playoffs. 7 teams tied with a 6 game road trip (Columbus did it twice) and of those, 4 teams made the playoffs. One of those is the NHL’s best regular season team the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago and New Jersey tied for the most back-to-back games this season with 11. Anaheim and Detroit were second with 10 and 8 teams tied with 9. Of those 8 teams only 3 made the playoffs.
There are lot of variables out there that one can look at but when you see that the leagues best regular season team is at the top of these 2 categories you’d have to wonder if they have enough gas in the tank to win the Cup.
Another note, the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference did not play each other this year due to the short schedule. However the Western Conference does have 4 teams in the playoffs that play in the central time zone with Chicago being one of them. Every team in the Eastern Conference plays in the eastern time zone and no one travels south of Washington DC.
Add this together and it is more than likely that a team from the Eastern Conference will have an advantage when it comes to winning this years Stanley Cup.