After the 2019-20 season of the NHL ended prematurely, there were some doubts over when the new NHL season would begin. While the NHL and the National Hockey League Players Association managed to agree to a modified Stanley Cup playoff tournament which took place in August and September, most fans were unsure of when the NHL would return. Luckily, fans didn’t have to wait too long, and the NHL 2020-21 season began on January 13, 2021.
This new season was reduced to 56 from the regular number of 82 games, although the season is being condensed into a shorter space of time. This condensing of the league, despite the shorter number of games, has led to a lot of fixture congestion, with teams having to play games every other day or even on consecutive days.
New Schedule: New Format
For the fans, the new schedule is mostly a positive thing. Being able to watch their team play far more often than usual is great news for most fans, even if most can’t go and watch in person for now. Players have also expressed that the new schedule, which sees them staying in one city for two or three games, is a good thing. Players get to settle in a bit better and will be feeling more comfortable.
However, the new schedule isn’t all good news. For teams that are struggling, playing games every other night can quickly lead to negative spirals in form. Losing games when they’re scheduled a week apart is one thing, but when you get no break from losing, you can find yourself running out of morale and motivation fast.
A good example of a team struggling with the new schedule is the Chicago Blackhawks. In just thirteen days, the Hawks played seven games, winning just once while losing six times and allowing 4.6 goals per game. In less than a fortnight, the Blackhawks went from a team looking like making the playoffs to struggling at the bottom of their conference, outside the post-season cutoff.
While all teams are playing under the same conditions, it’s something not many sides will have ever dealt with before, and getting out of a losing run is harder than ever,
Upcoming NHL Picks
The hectic schedule continues into April, and as these NHL picks indicate, there are some excellent matches coming up in April. The Carolina Hurricanes play the Chicago Blackhawks on April 1 in what should be an excellent game. Will the Hawks be able to stop their poor run of form, or will the Hurricanes be too much for them? For this match, the odds are currently in Carolina’s favor, although a lot can change between now and the face-off.
Another team that’s been struggling for form due to the compressed schedule is the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have struggled with Carter Hart in goal as the young goalie has a 0.815 even-strength save percentage in March. Those are worse stats than any other goalie with at least four appearances. In April, the Flyers have a tough run of games, starting with the first-place Islanders. The NY Islanders should be the heavy favorites for this match-up, although the moneyline odds could change between now and April 3.