Home-ice advantage may not seem as important in the NHL
as it is in sports like the NBA or college football, but you’d be mistaken to
disrespect the value come playoff time. But just how important is it and how
does it affect your NHL picks?
As the seven-game series progress – as well as the
playoffs themselves – home-ice advantage becomes crucial in the later stages.
While most people’s lasting memory from the playoffs last
season might be the Boston Bruins going on the road to win Game 7 of the
Stanley Cup Finals, history shows that home-ice advantage in Game 7’s typically
leads to more success than failure.
Home-ice seems less important in the Eastern Conference
as the top five seeds all have winning road record. In the West, teams like St.
Louis, Vancouver Canucks, Chicago and Detroit are so dominant at home that they will
definitely prefer to have that edge.
Here’s a look at which teams will need their home-ice
advantage and which can survive without it as the 2012 postseason approaches:
Must have: Detroit
Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals
The Detroit Red Wings are in a major slump right now, so
it might not matter anyways. The reality is that they actually do need their
home-ice advantage quite a bit or they’re not going to last long in the
Sure, they’re a veteran team that’s done it before. But
the truth is that their regular season splits between home and away are so
drastic that it’s likely they won’t last too long unless they can play at Joe
Louis Arena as much as possible. Most people remember their 23-game home
winning streak this season but take a look at the numbers: 29-5-2 at home,
16-20-3 on the road. They need their home ice.
Along the same lines, the Chicago Blackhawks are an
experienced team that has the pedigree but they play much better at the United
Center than away. It mostly has to do with their goaltenders Corey Crawford and
Ray Emery, who are a combined 26-7-5 at home compared to 16-18-3 on the road.
They’re save percentage goes from .911 at home to .896 on the road. To win the
Cup, they’ll have to thrive at home and find a way to steal whatever they can
on the road.
Lastly, the Washington Capitals might not even make the
playoffs but if they do, they’ll need to rely heavily on their home-ice advantage.
Even if they make the playoffs, it’s likely as an eight-seed, so they’re not
going to get many games at home but their 23-10-4 record at the Verizon Center
is third-best in the East. If they’re going to have any hope of making a Cup
run (remember those preseason goals?) they’ll have to work miracles on their
home ice and steal more than a few away games.
Not so important:
Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers
While the Vancouver Canucks might have the most road
wins, the Philadelphia Flyers have the best road winning percentage. It’s
actually quite bizarre as the Flyers score much more at home (3.46) than away
(2.79) and they don’t give up that much more on the road (2.78) compared to at
home (2.61). Even so, they love playing away and do such a good job of it that
it shouldn’t matter as much if they have home-ice advantage in a playoff series
Only three teams in the Western Conference have a road
record above .500, so it speaks volumes that the Canucks are 24-16 away from home
on the season. They have no problem going on the road and getting the job done
and that’s going to be massive come playoff time even though they should have
home-ice advantage against most teams.
The New York Rangers have been the best team in the East for most
of the season and truth be told, they’ve been good at home and on the road this
season. Even so, they’re stumbling a bit down the stretch and they don’t want
to lose their important home-ice edge. The Rangers are not a very experienced
playoff team and they had a very disappointing performance last year. They
would love to have that extra game at home in all of their East series –
especially if they have to run into the big boys like Philadelphia or
Pittsburgh – but their lead has shrunk over the last month. It’s going to be a
big psychological blow to the Rangers if they lose their top seed and home-ice
advantage – even if they are capable of winning on the road.