By: Nathan Strauss | Follow him on Twitter @NathanPStrauss
The Bruins game on Saturday ended a hair shy of 10 pm. It was a grueling contest, which was to be expected against the Flyers, but a pair of Derek Forbort goals and some late heroics from David Pastrnak sealed the 5-2 win. By the time postgame media wrapped up and the team departed the Wells Fargo Center to the Philadelphia airport, it was nearing midnight. The Bruins returned home to Boston around 18 hours before puck drop against the surging Calgary Flames.
Now, ordinarily, there’s nothing wrong with a back-to-back on occasion. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a back-to-back that starts on the road and then results in the team returning home for the second game. The NHL season is a grueling, grind-it-out affair, and such scheduling is to be expected. However, something drew the ire of many Bruins fans, players, and media members alike: the Bruins did not play a single game during the week before the back-to-back.
Indeed, the Bruins went from playing three games in four days (and four games in six days) to having five full days off. This delay meant that going into the weekend’s back-to-back, the Bruins had played fewer games than any other team in the league – including the Ottawa Senators, who had a Covid outbreak postpone three of their games. Even though back-to-backs are a part of life, seeing the team be forced to play twice in 24 hours and travel simultaneously has made people understandably frustrated.
There is a litany of factors that go into scheduling. These factors can include travel, the amount of time between games, and availability of facilities – a significant factor for the Bruins, with TD Garden doubling as a basketball court and concert venue. However, when every other team in the league plays a game in those five days, it leads to an unbalanced schedule later in the season.
It’s also important to note that the amount of time between games impacts team performance. Last year, the Bruins were a .700 points per game team when playing on the second night of back-to-backs. When the Bruins had one day between games, they earned 1.46 points per contest, and with two days of rest between games, they collected 1.75 points per game. In mid-December, the Bruins will play six games in 10 days while starting that stretch at home and then embarking on a tour of Eastern Canada. Following tonight’s game, the Bruins will have played the second-most back-to-back games in the entire league (3), while Colorado has played zero, and divisional rivals Tampa Bay have played just one.
With the variance between how teams perform on the second night of back-to-backs, the NHL’s scheduling becomes even more asinine. Last year, Chicago played just six back-to-backs, while Buffalo played 14. If the NHL wants to inspire more parity, they should look to even out that disparity. Furthermore, limiting the maximum number of days between games to three or four would be a reasonable decision that would also help on the back end of the calendar. At the end of the day, you can only play the games in front of you…but it is hard to accept that when the next game can be almost a week away.