The Matinee Myth

Tomorrow, the Devils will host the Philadelphia Flyers in a 1 PM matinee matchup at the Rock.  I realized this at the game on Friday and I started to worry.  A 1 PM game? That's not even a full 2 days rest!  And the Devils did so well.  Will they be motivated enough? Rested enough?  After all, the Devils have played some awful games in the afternoon.   Like how the Phoenix Coyotes rolled through the Devils on their first dollar hot dog game last season, 4-1, at the Rock.  I remember that game and it was pretty bad. I don't know about you, but I felt this way at first.

Well, today, I decided to challenge my own thought (and maybe yours!) and discovered that I was wrong.  So I went to NHL.com and pulled all at the results of all matinee games in the regular season that the Devils have played in from 2003-04 through last season.  I defined a matinee game as one with a start time from 12 PM EST through 5 PM EST.  Anything beyond that is, well, the evening.  These are the records, both overall and split up between home and away, of the Devils in those games.

Season Matinee GP Overall Home Away
2003-04 11 9-2-0 7-1-0 2-1-0

2005-06

10 7-2-1 3-0-0 4-2-1
2006-07 11 5-5-1 2-4-1 3-1-0
2007-08 11 8-2-1 6-1-0 2-1-1

In recent seasons, the Devils have been very good in the afternoon.  Only in one season, 2006-07, did they not achieve a winning record across all afternoon games.  And even in that season, they came away with half of all possible points.  In the other three seasons, the Devils have been getting results.  Yes, there have been some bad games like the Phoenix game; but seeing a tree doesn't mean the whole forest has been seen.  To be fair, I can't comment on how the Devils played in each of these 43 games.  I've only looked at results, which is the most important part of the game, what with it being a results-oriented business.  So perhaps the Devils have won some of these in spite of how they played; but I don't think that could be the case in all of the 29 afternoon wins the Devils have had since 2003-04.

According to the schedule at NHL.com, the Devils have 10 matinee games this season; and so far, the Devils have played two matinee games: a 3-2 overtime loss to the Flyers on October 25 (moved up to accomodate a Phillies World Series game) and a massive 7-3 win over the Lightning in Tampa Bay on November 23.  Better known as the One Where Zubrus Got 4 Goals, or the Night 2MA's Zubbie Counter Melted.  Picking up 3 out of a possible 4 points on the road isn't bad at all. It's a sign (further evidence?) that the Devils will continue to be successful in matinee games like they did in past seasons.

If we consider recent history with matinee games, from that game on and seasons past, the Devils should get something out of the game with Philly - likely a win.  However, sports has a way of taking recent trends, past history, &c. and throwing them out the window en route to a different result.  With the Flyers just killing it against Washington earlier today, I think any concerns about the game from Devils fans shouldn't be about the time of the game, but rather on the opponent.  Still, it's good to challenge our own thoughts and learn a little something about the team we support.  Should they get beat tomorrow, we can't say it's because of the 1 PM start time.

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