Its unfortunate we wont watch the Minnesota Wild with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, or have the chance to see Jaromir Jagr in a Dallas Stars sweater, but the luxury of an intra-conference schedule is the absence of red-eye flights and extended travel. The Flyers will venture outside the Eastern Time Zone only twice -- when they travel to Winnipeg on Feb. 12 and again on April 6.
After thoroughly reviewing the 48-game set, it appears the schedule seems to work out favorably for the Flyers. Here are some observations:
Six of eight & 12 of 18 on the road to begin the season
This was expected once I saw how many dates at the Wells Fargo Center were already booked. You might think this is a back-breaker, especially with how vital it is to get off to a good start, but I personally like it better this way. It gives teammates a chance to catch up, bond and reconnect after the extended offseason, not to mention it also serves as a nice getaway from home life that has consumed many players over the lockout.
Under Peter Laviolette, the Flyers also seem to perform well on the road. Last season, the Flyers' best month was December, when they finished with a 9-3-1 mark, but 10 of those 13 games were away from home. The flip side is the Flyers benefit with 18 of the final 30 at home.
Tougher teams at home, easier teams on the road
Of the Flyers' 24 home opponents, the average point total from last season is 93.5, with 16 playoff teams from a year ago.
Of the 24 road opponents, that average is 91.25, with just 11 of the 24 games against playoff teams.
They have to play five games against two Eastern Conference teams -- the Penguins and Devils -- with four against the Rangers and Islanders. Theyre fortunate to have Pittsburgh for three games at the Wells Fargo Center, while they make three trips to the Prudential Center against a Devils team that may not live up to its 102-point season from 2011-12 following the departure of Parise.
Unfortunately, the Flyers have their unfair share of games on back-to-back nights. Within the Atlantic Division, the Rangers and Islanders have the fewest with six, followed by the Penguins with seven. The Flyers have nine back-to-backs within the abbreviated schedule, and the Devils have the most in the Atlantic, with 10.
No Love in February
The most difficult month of the schedule is February, when the Flyers play 15 games in 28 days. Their toughest stretch all season comes in mid-February when they play seven games over an 11-day span from Feb. 11-21.
This could be a brutal stretch, especially with the first six on the road. The toughest stretch for the Sixers was also a seven-games-in-11-days stretch during their 66-game sprint last season, but remember they had a handful of back-to-back-to-backs. A bizarre setup when you consider the schedule-makers gave the Flyers 14 games during the 31 days of March.
April provides a break
In April, the Flyers have only two games against the Big 3 (Rangers, Penguins & Bruins), and theyre both at home. In fact, in a strange scheduling quirk, the Flyers do not play Pittsburgh at all in their final 17 games.
Of the seven road games in April, the Flyers play just one against a playoff team from last season -- their season finale in Ottawa.
Historically, the Flyers have started fast under Laviolette.
Heres the Flyers' record in their first 48 games over the past five years:
2011-12: 29-14-5, 63 pts (Laviolette)
2010-11: 31-12-5, 67 pts (Laviolette)
2009-10: 24-21-3, 51 pts (StevensLaviolette)
2008-09: 26-13-9, 61 pts (Stevens)
2007-08: 27-16-5, 59 pts (Stevens)
Prediction for 2012-13
Flyers: 30-14-4, 64 pts (2nd in Atlantic, 4th in Eastern Conference)
E-mail John Boruk at firstname.lastname@example.org