The Blues and the NHL released the regular season schedule today after finally hammering out the details regarding players being involved in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The league teased us all week with the possibility of the schedule but failed to take advantage of a few “off-days” in the sports on Wednesday and Thursday but we’re still glad to finally have it. Get those watch parties planned!
The new-look Western Conference has the Blues in a familiar spot, the Central Division, with a few changes. Gone are the hated Detroit Red Wings and the upstart Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blues are joined by former Northwest Division foes, the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild, and the Dallas Stars who used to play out West in the Pacific Division. Coming all the way over from the Eastern Conference, the Winnipeg Jets will bring new faces and some new blood to the West. With two 7-team divisions, the NHL has the Western Conference set up thusly:
Western Conference (7-Team Divisions)
Within Conference (Division): 29 games
* 5 games vs. five teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. two teams, 2 Home/3 Away vs. three teams) AND 4 games vs. one team (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 5 X 5 =25 games
* 1 X 4 = 4 games
Within Conference (Non-Division): 21 games
* 3 games vs. each team (2 Home/1 Away vs. four teams, 1 Home/2 Away vs. three teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 3 X 7 = 21 games
Non-Conference: 32 games
* 2 games vs. each team (1 Home/1 Away)
* 2 X 16 = 32 games
(Exception: one team from each division plays one less game inside Division and one more game inside Conference outside Division)
St. Louis starts the new season with a 5-game home stand on October 5 versus the Nashville Predators. With Detroit now in the East, Blues v. Preds stands as one of the best divisional rivalries in the West. St. Louis will finish the season with three 5-game home-stands, tied for the most in the league. Other early highlights of the schedule include the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks on October 9, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 9, and a New Year’s Eve tilt against now-divisional foe Minnesota. A personal treat will be seeing the New York Islanders come to town December 5.
The Winter Games will mean a 2 week stop in NHL action starting February 9. The Blues will actually have 18 days between games during the break. Whether the stoppage hinders the quality of play in the “second half” of the NHL season remains to be seen, but the Blues could have potentially 10 guys playing in Sochi, so it will be interesting to say the least, and Blues fans will be crossing our fingers for sure.
I’ve heard grumblings from fans about the Red Wings departure from the Central and the West. Blues-Wings has long been one of the best modern rivalries. Who can forget the old Norris Division battles? I’m confident the Blues will do just fine with tough teams like Chicago, Nashville, and Minnesota to deal with, but the NHL was kind enough to treat St. Louis to one more go-round with the Wings as they’ll close out the 2013-14 season at Scottrade against our Blues.
With just over 50 days or so to the opening of camp, Coach Hitchcock’s first full one with the Blues, I’m as excited as ever for the season to begin!
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!