Penguins Update: The Back-to-Back Games Conspiracy – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: The Back-to-Back Games Conspiracy

During a recent lull at work, I decided to look up the Penguins’ schedule on line. As I gazed at the computer screen, I was struck by the yawning gaps in our upcoming slate.

After a grueling opening month that culminated in a torturous five-game western road trip, we’re off four out of five days next week, abruptly followed by yet another in a nearly endless string of back-to-back games—our sixth of the young season. The week of November 19 features more of the same.

Call me crazy, but couldn’t the NHL schedule-makers have evened things out a bit? I mean, with clusters of back-to-backs butted up against lulls you could literally drive a truck through, our schedule looks more like a third-grader’s botched science project than the work of trained professionals. How in the world are the Pens supposed to get in any kind of groove when they’re alternately overtaxed, then thrust into a veritable deep freeze?

It got me to thinking (always dangerous) about something PenguinPoop founder Phil Krundle alluded to shortly after opening night. Phil stopped just short of accusing the NHL of conspiring to unseat our two-time Cup champions. Or, at the very least, making it as difficult as possible for them to three-peat.

I decided to do some digging. In particular, I was anxious to discover if any recent Cup champions had to endure 19 back-to-backs…a ridiculously high volume in my mind. If no other team had, then a conspiracy involving the league office seemed plausible.

Combing the archives at hockeyreference.com, I compiled the instances of back-to-back games for the past five Stanley Cup champions—Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Detroit and, of course, our Penguins—dating back 11 years to the 2007-08 season. The results are displayed at the bottom of the article. No fair peeking.

Hoping to uncover a smoking gun, my study instead proved inconclusive. Much to my surprise, the 2007-08 Blackhawks faced even more back-to-backs than our present Penguins. Twenty be exact, or 40 games worth. Can you imagine?

Likewise, the Hawks slugged through 19 back-to-backs in ‘09-10, when they won the first of their three recent Cups. The powers that be did them no favors the following year, either, slating them for 18 back-to-backs. Maybe it’s no coincidence Chicago was ousted in the opening round of the playoffs that spring.

The absolute worst case of schedule abuse? Last season, Detroit played games on three consecutive days—a noon matinee game at home on March 26, followed by back-to-back road games against Carolina. Sheesh!

Los Angeles, on the other hand, appeared to receive kid-glove treatment. The Kings played only eight back-to-backs in ‘12-13, the year after their first Cup, a number mitigated somewhat by the abbreviated, post-lockout schedule. Following their second Cup in ‘13-14, the Kings faced only nine back-to-backs the next season.

A concession to the extreme travel miles logged by a left-coast team? Perhaps.

Our Penguins received a comparatively light load of back-to-backs last season after capturing the Cup. Too bad we didn’t curry the same favor this time around.

In conclusion, the Pens aren’t the only team to face a murderous schedule after hoisting the Stanley Cup. Do I think they got jobbed by the NHL schedule makers?


Instances of Back-to-Back Games
Season Penguins Blackhawks Kings Bruins Red Wings
2017-18* 19 17 14 14 10
2016-17 13 14 15 13 16
2015-16 17 13 12 11 17
2014-15 17 15 9 16 12
2013-14* 17 18 14 17 15
2012-13** 7 10 8 8 12
2011-12 15 17 15 13 14
2010-11 17 18 12 13 14
2009-10* 16 19 12 16 13
2008-09 12 16 14 15 16
2007-08 15 20 12 15 15
Total 165 177 137 151 154
* Olympic year     ** 48-game schedule due to lockout     Bold indicates Stanley Cup


*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
available at TriumphBooks.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com

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  1. November 4, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Great stuff Rick, Thanks for all of the research! I do (for real) believe that the scheduling of the most back to back games is probably to accommodate teams that are hosting the two time Stanley Cup champions. The Pens being the largest draw this year with McDavid number two, maybe Chicago #3. Even so, the Penguins got screwed.

    Your doing research of course as usual has led me to do research.

    I truly believe that early in the season, the back to back games are the hardest. Teams just aren’t in mid season shape yet. The Penguins had their first five back to backs in the first 4 weeks. All of the games the Penguins had to travel to the away teams home and play a rested team. Four of those five teams were rested for multiple days. Three of them 4 or more days.

    The next back to back the Penguins play the Predators in Nashville. The Preds will be on four days rest. That is the insane part.

    I realize Chicago has gotten the worst of the back to backs over the years, but not one of Chicago’s 17 back to back games this season will they play a team that is rested more than 1 night. Penguins in comparison 5 out of the first six games.

    The Penguins have 15 of the 19 games they are playing a rested team 11 of those on the road, Chicago has 11 of 17 playing a rested team with 8 on the road.

    Conspiracy or not, I think the NHL schedule making has taken at least 10 points off of the Penguins season ending point total. 10 points could easily be the difference between the Penguins making the playoffs or not.

  2. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    November 4, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    Thanks for the leg work. I must admit, I was starting to have doubts, I was starting to be drawn toward a conspiracy theorist thought. I am glad to see that at least from a scheduling perspective, there was no collusion.

    Just throwing this out there, not that the Pens have enough cap space room to do anything with it but Sprong and Simon both had great games again last night and Haggerty may be trying to make his mark, he has scored 4 goals in his first 2 games for WBS. 2 games is not much, especially at the AHL level, but I may keep an eye on him.

    Also Pedan and Bengtsson have had strong outings as well.

    If the Pens can open up some financial room, I would think that using all 23 roster spots would be the thing the Pens should do, given the number of back to back games they need to play.

    The Pens don’t have control over their schedule, but they can do something to make sure they can have the maximum number of fresh bodies for the back end of those games.


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