Home Sweet Homer? The Return of Home Ice Advantage


If you go to your favorite interwebz search engine, you’ll be able to find all kinds of sappy, saccharine sayings about the joys of coming home.

Home sweet home.

Home is where the heart is.

There’s no place like home.

These are the things that end up on little flowery plaques hung in subtle spots in someone’s home.  Maybe it’s the home cooking, or the comforts of their locker room, or even the excitement of playing in front of their home fans, but for the most part, the home team has been dominant in these playoffs.

Now last year we saw an incredible road run by the Los Angeles Kings, and this was a culmination of years of results where Home Ice Advantage didn’t seem to mean as much in the NHL Playoffs.  The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup on the road in Vancouver, and won road games in every series on their march to the cup.  The Pittsburgh Penguins won a game 7 at Joe Louis Arena to take home the cup in 2009.  The Philadelphia Flyers advanced to the cup final in 2010 from a 7th seed.  The 2010 Montreal Canadiens won game 7s in Washington and again in Pittsburgh.  The value of home ice in the playoffs appeared to be dropping.

This year, things are changing, let’s take a look at the remaining 8 teams, and their home records.

We’ll start on the left coast of the US with the Kings and Sharks.  The Kings are doing a great job of defending their crown.  They are a perfect 6-0 at home.  Three of those 6 wins have been shutouts. The Sharks are also perfect at home, having swept the Canucks, and won both of their home games against the Kings.  Guess what teams didn’t win all their home games.  The Blues lost game 5 to the Kings, and we all know what happened to the ‘Nucks.

How about the Bruins and Rangers? The Bruins had trouble with the Leafs at the end.  The Bruins dropped two home tilts, games 2 and 5.  If it weren’t for a brilliant collapse in by the Leafs in the closing seconds of game 7, the Bruins would have been sent home permanently.  The Rangers were perfect at home against the Capitals and came back from the brink to force and win a game 7.  The second round has been a different story, however. The Rangers dropped game 3 to the Bruins to put themselves back on the precipice.  They won game 4, but they will have to win two road games, and 3 more in a row to get to the conference finals.

The Penguins and Senators are no different.  The Senators were perfect at home until last game against the Penguins, getting blown out 7-3 in game 4 to send them to the brink.  How they get there? They not only split the opening pair against their round 1 opponent, but eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in game 5, on the road.  The Penguins have only lost one home game, to the Islanders, in these playoffs, and eliminated the Isles on the road.  Now, they go back home to possibly put the finishing touches on a round 2 series victory.

That brings us back to the middle of America, with the Blackhawks and Red Wings.  The Blackhawks won their home games in their opening round against the out matched Wild.  The second round has been a different story, splitting the opening pair against the Wings.  That said, the pesky Wings have dropped only one home game, and that came against the Ducks.  They have pushed the heavily favored Hawks to the brink of elimination, and if they can win on the road, they can punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals.

What’s the moral of this story? A wise man, legendary Head Coach Scotty Bowman, once said that a team isn’t in trouble in the playoffs until they lose at home.  This season, it looks like that adage rings even more truly.  Maybe NHL teams should get a plaque that says that hung in their locker rooms.

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