Tom Poti

On Schedule

Well it’s been a relatively slow week in Rangerland, so I figured I’d spend the time to take a look a the 2006-07 schedule that came out almost two weeks ago now.  Okay, so first question.  When was the last time the Rangers opened the regular season with a home game?  The correct answer of course would be the 1998-99 season when they hosted the Philadelphia Flyers.  A it happens, I was actually at that game…the Rangers were shut-out by the Flyers with a line-up that featured Wayne Gretzky (he’d retire the at the end of the season) and such leading lights as Brent Fedyk, Jan Mertzig, Peter Popovic and Harry York.  I’d love to do a segue into a “Where are they now?” story, but I think I’d be hard pressed to find any of these guys.

Meanwhile back to the story…

Since that 1998-99 season, the Rangers have opened the regular season with six straight games on the road.  Perhaps what is most surprising is that they have turned in a fairly respectable 3-2-1-0 record.  Also perhaps of interest is that three of those six games were against teams from the Southeastern division (like the Capitals of course)…for the record they beat Atlanta and split two games with the Hurricanes.

On paper it would seem New York drew a pretty favorable match-up for opening night.  The Capitals are a team that is perhaps rivaled only by the Penguins in terms of embracing a rebuilding process.  Aside from Alexander Ovechkin, they have (at least in fantasy hockey terms) few players worth worrying about.  The reality of course is somewhat different.  Last season the Rangers lost both games on the road to the Caps and then struggled to a 3-2 shootout win (anyone not remember Marek Malik’s circus-like shot to win the game?) and a come from behind 5-4 win that relied on a little bit of Jaromir Jagr magic in the third period.

So that’s the season opener, but how have the Rangers fared on their home opener?  To borrow a term from everyone’s favorite Kazakh Borat, it has not exactly been a “Great Success!”.  In the past ten home openers (dating back to 1995-96) has been a fairly unimpressive 3-4-2-1 and lost last year’s home opener to Les Habitants by a score of 4-3 in overtime.  For you trivia buffs out there, it was the first time that the Rangers had lost a game to the Canadiens in the extra period, since they began awarding the extra point.

Now that we’re finally past opening night, it’s time to look ahead on the schedule.  The next two games for the Rangers will be a home in home series against the Flyers.  The Rangers have gone 3-4-3-0 in their road openers over the past ten seasons, but were an impressive 4-2-2 against the Flyers last year, and went 3-1-0 at the Wachovia Center.  Curiously enough the eight games against the Flyers are pretty much spread out over the season, with 2 in October, 1 in December, 2 in January, 1 in February and 2 in March.  The same cannot however be said against some of the other Atlantic Division rivals…

The much anticipated return of Tom Poti will not occur until December 3rd  Okay I may have slightly overstated the level of interest that many Blueshirts fans will have in the former blueliner, but it is surprising to see that the Islanders and Rangers won’t meet until the 27th game of the year (for the Rangers.  NOTE: The Rangers and Islanders met for their first game on December 4th in 2003-04 but it was the Rangers 26th game), the latest in the season the teams have met since the 1994-95 lockout shortened season.  The two rivals play twice again in December (19th and 26th) and then in January, before playing three in March and their season finale in April.  Also of interest perhaps is that 3 of the first 4 games are on home ice for the Blueshirts…which of course means the opposite is true for the remaining four.

Like their schedule against the Islanders, the Rangers will play a relatively unbalanced schedule against the Penguins.  New York and Pittsburgh meet four times by December 7th (game #28) and then don’t meet again until March 1st (game #64) where they play four of their remaining 19 games against their division rivals.  This includes the season finale with a visit to Pittsburgh.  Again a piece of trivia…the last time the Rangers closed the season in Pittsburgh was in 1998-99 when they lost 2-1.

Finally, against the Devils, New York will play the first three games of the season series at home, the next four on the road, and then will close out the eight game set with a March 22nd match-up at home.

Interestingly enough there are only three Home and Home sets this year.   As previously mentioned, the Rangers will meet Philadelphia early in the season, but will also play a series against the Devils (February 20th and 22nd) and the Islanders (March 5th and 8th).  The longest road trip is just four games, occurring three times in the season.  The first trip sees the Rangers close out their first month with four games in six nights against the Pacific Division.  With the re-alignment of the schedule following the CBA agreement, this will be a great chance for those looking to do a road trip out west, the next time likely to be not until the 2009-2010 season.

The next four game road trip comes in the latter half of December around the Holiday break.  The Rangers start with their annual trip to Florida and Tampa, followed by visits to the Island and Ottawa.  Finally they close out March with a schedule that includes road games in Boston, Long Island, Montreal and Philadelphia…part of a final eight games that includes six road games.

Thirteen back to back games, including FIVE in the month of November alone.  In fact November has three straight back to back games, all but a game against New Jersey to be on the road.

And finally to give you an idea of how the schedule compares to other teams in the East…


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