The National Hockey League announced the 2016-17 regular season schedule for all 30 teams today.
The Tampa Bay Lightning found out yesterday their home opener at Amalie Arena would be played Thursday, October 13 vs. Detroit. Today, the Bolts learned, as expected, that game against the Red Wings would be their season opener as well. The Lightning also close out the 2016-17 regular season at home on Sunday, April 9 vs. the Buffalo Sabres.
The Lightning will host Metropolitan Division opponents Washington, New Jersey, Carolina and Columbus twice. The Bolts will travel to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York Rangers and New York Islanders from the Metro twice.
The Bolts will play Atlantic Division rivals Detroit (3 home, 2 away) and Boston (2 home, 3 away) five times each.
Here are a few more notes that stood out following a quick perusal of the schedule:
- Tampa Bay’s longest road trip by distance will take place around the season’s midpoint from January 16-26 when the Bolts hit the West Coast with stops in Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose and Arizona before traveling to Chicago and finishing at Florida. That six-game road trip will cover 5,938 miles over 11 days.
- The Lightning have another 11-day road trip in late October-early November when they play six games away from Amalie Arena – at Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, New Jersey, Rangers and Islanders -- after opening the season with four home dates.
- The Bolts play the New York Rangers on the road on October 30 and then don’t see the Rangers again until March 6.
- Tampa Bay will play all three games against New Jersey (2 home, 1 away) within the first 12 games of the season. After November 5, the Lightning are finished with the Devils, at least during the regular season.
- Keeping in line with the schedule anomalies involving teams from the New York City metro area, the Lightning will play all three games against 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round opponent New York Islanders within a 14-day span starting November 1 and ending November 14.
- The Bolts will have four days off around Christmas. They got three during the 2015-16 season. Other extended breaks come during All-Star Weekend, when the Lightning will have four days between games (Jan. 27-30), and a season-long six-day break between games at Winnipeg on February 11 and at Dallas on February 18.
- The Lightning will play 16 sets of back-to-backs this season as opposed to 13 in 2015-16, partly because of a need to condense the schedule to accommodate the World Cup of Hockey being played September 17 to October 1. Three of the back-to-backs will be played at home while 11 will come on the road. Two of the back-to-backs will be split where the first game comes at home and the second is a road game.
- Of the 16 back-to-backs, three sets will be played consecutively from January 7-17. The Bolts play Philadelphia (Jan. 7) and Pittsburgh (Jan. 8) back-to-back on the road before returning home to play Buffalo (Jan. 12) and Columbus (Jan. 13). The Bolts then start their six-game West Coast road trip with back-to-backs at Los Angeles (Jan. 16) and Anaheim (Jan. 17).
- For the third year in a row, the Lightning will end a road trip of four games or more in Colorado. The Bolts are 1-1 in those road trip closers at Colorado, blanking the Avalanche 4-0 last season but falling 5-4 on the second half of a back-to-back in 2014-15.
- The Lightning schedule is backloaded with home games. From the beginning of February to the conclusion of the regular season, the Bolts play 18 games at home and just 13 on the road.
- Tampa Bay doesn’t play a Sunday home game until April 2 vs. Dallas. The Lightning conclude the regular season with home games on consecutive Sundays April 2 and April 9 (vs. Buffalo).
- The earliest home start time for the Lightning will be 5 p.m. for the regular season finale (April 9) versus Buffalo. Other than a 6 p.m. start on April 2 vs. Dallas, all other home games will be either a 7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. start. The Lightning play five day games, all starting at 1 p.m. (EST) and all on the road.