The beginning of the 2013-14 season for the Ducks looks like it's going to tell us a lot about how the rest of the year will go. Of course we're all excited for the opening game on Oct 2 in Colorado, part of a three game road trip, and the home opener Oct 10 versus the New York Rangers. There's even excitement over the second home game, as Bobby Ryan returns to Anaheim after two long weeks of being an Ottawa Senator. However, the end of October brings probably the toughest stretch of the season.
After their first five home games, the Ducks head out on their longest road trip of the season, an eight gamer that spans from Oct 22 through Nov 4. On the journey we'll see Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Columbus, Philly, Boston, Buffalo and the Rangers. The Montreal and Ottawa games are back to back, but otherwise there is a day between each game on that massive trip.
If I can put on my tin foil hat for a minute, that last game against the Rangers almost makes it seem like the League is trying to maximize the Ducks' travel. I know that's not the case and there are a million variables going into this schedule, but making a trip to New York and only hitting one of the three teams is borderline criminal. Not to mention that on the same trip that the Ducks visit Madison Square Garden, they go to Philadelphia. Makes sense, a quick train ride is no big deal, except they have to go to Boston and Buffalo in between those two games. So much for realignment cutting down on travel.
Speaking of realignment, there is a new breakdown of how many times each team plays each other. Each team will play every other team outside the conference twice (home and away), but inside the conference is more complicated. In the Ducks' case they'll play each team in the new Pacific Division five times, except they'll only play four versus Calgary. Among the other five division opponents, they'll have three home games against Edmonton and Phoenix, but only two home games against Los Angeles, San Jose and Vancouver. In the new Central Division they'll play each team three times, with the extra home games against Dallas, Minnesota and Winnipeg.
That means only one visit from Chicago and it's not on Black Friday as the recent tradition had dictated. Instead the 1pm game on Thanksgiving Friday will be against Calgary.
One thing realignment does give the Ducks is a few extra opportunities to play in the Eastern Time Zone and get on national television. No love from NBC proper, but the Ducks will appear on NBCSN five times: at New York, at Pittsburgh, at Los Angeles (Dodger Stadium), at Dallas and home to San Jose.
As expected the outdoor game will be the second half of a home and home series, with the Kings visiting Honda Center on Thursday Jan. 23 and the big one that Saturday.
If you're looking at the schedule in list mode, don't make the same mistake I did. There is not a stretch of 11 games in February all at home except one right in the middle, in Nashville. Technically that stretch exists, but after the Ducks visit Nashville on Feb 8, the Olympic break begins and the Ducks don't play again until Feb 28.
The Ducks will play eight of their last 11 games against divisional opponents, with the exceptions being Mar. 31 vs. Winnipeg and the final game of the season hosting Colorado, in a nice bit of symmetry, on April 13.