Saturday, December 27, 2014

California: The NHL's Triangle of Death

So far this season, teams are 9-19-2 this season against California's three teams when visiting in sequential order.

California: The NHL's Triangle of Death

Dwight King #74 of the Los Angeles Kings takes a stick in the face from Hampus Linholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks during the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series at Dodger Stadium on January 25, 2014, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Dwight King #74 of the Los Angeles Kings takes a stick in the face from Hampus Linholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks during the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series at Dodger Stadium on January 25, 2014, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Other than a quick jaunt to Florida, there is no departure in the NHL from the monotony of the East Coast’s cold, harsh winter like a swing through sunny Southern California.

With gentle breezes blowing off the Pacific Ocean and warm temperatures, a trip to Orange County or Los Angeles is the perfect rejuvenator for a hockey team.

Or, well, at least it used to be.

“It used to be a vacation,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said this month. “Back in the day, when San Jose was young and Anaheim was young, teams couldn’t wait to go to California. I don’t think they’re feeling that much right now.”

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The Flyers used to have a field day. They have a winning all-time record in each city: Anaheim (6-4-2), Los Angeles (40-21-9) and San Jose (7-6-2). They were beaten in San Jose just once in the Sharks’ first 9 seasons in the Bay Area (1991-2000).

Over the last handful of years, California has turned into the NHL’s triangle of death.

Perhaps, having all eyes focused on Dodger Stadium last Saturday for the outdoor Stadium Series between the Ducks and Kings was a fitting reminder that hockey’s most untraditional outpost is now the center of the hockey universe. Anaheim (2007) and Los Angeles (2012) have both won Stanley Cups in the last decade.

For further reminder, take a look at the NHL’s overall standings today: all three California-based teams are located in the Top 10. Los Angeles has slipped recently, but three weeks ago, all three were in the Top 6.

“You’re playing against three big teams that skate well,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “It will be hard hockey. I mean, you’ve really got to grind it out against these teams and really give it your best because they are big and talented.”

The NHL’s new, balanced schedule - meaning every team stops in every city at least once this season - has a few quirks. Sometimes, that lends itself to geographical sequences, with visiting teams facing all three California teams in consecutive games. All but three Eastern Conference teams (Pittsburgh, Montreal and Florida) will do so this season.

What are the Flyers getting themselves into when the puck drops in Anaheim tonight at 10 o’clock?

So far, 10 teams have already cycled through California. Their combined record against the Ducks, Sharks and Kings is just 9-19-2. Only the Devils (2-1-0) were able to skate through California’s gauntlet with a winning record.

Two teams (Ottawa and Tampa Bay) went winless in California, but the good news for the Flyers is no team went home completely empty-handed and pointless.

The nine teams were outscored by a margin of 102-58 in those 27 games (Ducks 37-16; Kings 28-19; Sharks 37-23).

Never has any geographically sequential trip - aside from maybe Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver in the Oilers’ dynasty days - has been so grueling, so tough.

Is it possible, though, that the Flyers are catching all three California teams at maybe their most vulnerable all season? The Ducks have lost two out of three home games after opening the season 20-0-2 at Honda Center. The Kings are just 3-6-1 in their last 10. And the Sharks have been shutout in two straight, the latter being an incredible, 59-save performance on Wednesday night by Edmonton’s Ben Scrivens.

Plus, the Flyers are one of three teams in this scheduling quirk to not have to face any of the California teams in a back-to-back situation, which is favorable.

The next five days will tell - and tell a lot about the Flyers.

“It’s a big road trip,” Berube said. “I think we’re going to see what we’re all about here.”

THE SCHEDULE
at Anaheim - Thursday, 10 o’clock - Comcast SportsNet
at Los Angeles - Saturday, 4 o’clock - Comcast SportsNet
at San Jose - Monday, 10:30 p.m. - The Comcast Network (TCN)

HOW THEY’VE FARED

BOSTON (1-2-0)
Jan. 7 - @ Anaheim - 5-4 L
Jan. 9 - @ Los Angeles - 4-2 L
Jan. 11 - @ San Jose - 1-0 W

CALGARY (1-2-0)
Oct. 16 - @ Anaheim - 3-2 L
Oct. 19 - @ San Jose - 6-3 L
Oct. 21 - @ Los Angeles - 3-2 W

BUFFALO (1-2-0)
Nov. 5 - @ San Jose - 5-4 W (SO)
Nov. 7 - @ Los Angeles - 2-0 L
Nov. 8 - @ Anaheim - 6-2 L

DETROIT (1-2-0)
Jan. 9 - @ San Jose - 4-1 L
Jan. 11 - @ Los Angeles - 3-1 W
Jan. 12 - @ Anaheim - 1-0 L

NEW JERSEY (2-1-0)
Nov. 20 - @ Anaheim - 4-3 W (OT)
Nov. 21 - @ Los Angeles - 2-1 W (OT)
Nov. 23 - @ San Jose - 2-1 L

N.Y. ISLANDERS (1-2-0)
Dec. 7 - @ Los Angeles - 3-0 L
Dec. 9 - @ Anaheim - 5-2 L
Dec. 10 - @ San Jose - 3-2 W (SO)

N.Y. RANGERS (1-2-0)
Oct. 7 - @ Los Angeles - 3-1 W
Oct. 8 - @ San Jose - 9-2 L
Oct. 10 - @ Anaheim - 6-0 L

OTTAWA (0-2-1)
Oct. 9 - @ Los Angeles - 4-3 L (OT)
Oct. 12 - @ San Jose - 3-2 L
Oct. 13 - @ Anaheim - 4-1 L

TAMPA BAY (0-2-1)
Nov. 19 - @ Los Angeles - 5-2 L
Nov. 21 - @ San Jose - 5-1 L
Nov. 22 - @ Anaheim - 1-0 L (OT)

VANCOUVER (1-2-0)
Nov. 7 - @ San Jose - 4-2 W
Nov. 9 - @ Los Angeles - 5-1 L
Nov. 10 - @ Anaheim - 3-1 L

YET TO PLAY: Chicago (Feb. 1-5), Columbus (Feb. 3-7), Toronto (March 10-13), Washington (March 18-22), Carolina (March 1-4).

EAST SCHEDULE OUT OF SEQUENCE: Pittsburgh, Florida, Montreal.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

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Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Staff Writer
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