The schedule is changing for the Pittsburgh Penguins – and the rest of the NHL.
The league’s Board of Governors approved a new scheduling matrix which ensures each team will play every other team at least once per season. The changes go into effect next season.
Each team will play the teams in its division six times (three at home and three on the road), for a total of 24 games (down from eight times this year). Each squad will continue to play 40 games inside its conference but outside its division (10 opponents) twice at home and twice on the road. That brings the in-conference total to 64 games and maintains the integrity of a conference-based playoff system.
The remaining 18 games in the 82-game schedule will involve each team playing each team in the other conference at least once, home or away, with the three remaining games being devoted to interconference “at-large” scheduling.
“It’ll be good for the fans. As a player, I don’t think it really changes for me, as far as who we are playing,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “But, it’s nice to go to new places and new buildings. That’s always fun.
“This may be just my point of view, but I don’t really worry much about who we are playing. We could play a team 16 times and, to me, you have to go out there and do the same thing,” he said. “Six games are probably good. When you have eight, especially if you play the same team three or four times in a month, it gets to be a lot, thinking as a fan.
“When you get in the routine of playing against the same teams in the same places, it seems to go quicker. When you go to new places, it’s almost like your first year again. That’ll be good for everyone, I think. It’s something everyone looks forward to, going to a new place.”
Maxime Talbot is happy about the schedule change.
“It’s good for hockey; it’s good for the fans. I am sure if I was in Calgary, I’d be anxious to see the Penguins coming more often,” he said. “That’s what the fans want to see – they want to see Sidney Crosby. On our side, we want to see Iginla or Luongo. We want to see these other great players and now we’ll have more chances to do that. So, it’s fun to play more games against the Western Conference.”
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is looking forward to the new format as well.
“It’s always the same. There are so many good teams and players around the league, it’s fun to be able to play against them too,” he said. “There are some nice cities and rinks that we don’t get to go to very often. These cities want to see Sidney play, too, so I am sure they are happy about it. They don’t usually cheer for us, but it’s good to be able to see everybody.”
The announcement of the schedule change comes just before the Penguins are slated to head to Western Canada for games in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
“It’s a great experience to see around the league and all the different rinks. We’re going to see Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. That will be fun,” Talbot said. “We are lucky to be here in Pittsburgh because we don’t travel at all. Everything is so close. For us, it won’t be a big issue. For teams like Dallas or Colorado or Minnesota, every road trip is huge. It’ll be an adjustment, but guys like to be on the road. It’s nice to be home, but when you’re on the road, you’re with the guys and it’s nice for team spirit.”
Any games against distant cities are usually scheduled together so teams can avoid multiple long trips.
“Usually, if we go play far, they will put a couple games together,” he said. “I don’t think it will be too bad.”
The new format represents a change from the matrix approved for the 2005-06 campaign and used in 2006-07 and this season. That format called for four games (40 total) against each non-division conference opponent, eight games (32 total) against each in-division opponent and 10 inter-conference games – one game at home against each of the five clubs from a designated division and one game on the road against all five clubs from a different division.
“I think the change is good for everyone,” Talbot said. “Everyone was wondering when that was going to come and we’re glad it will be in effect next season.”