Home Ice Is No Guarantee

The 2010 playoffs have shocked the NHL, and there are still two rounds remaining. The saying “anything can happen in playoffs” has certainly been proved once again this year, especially in the Eastern Conference.

All three division winners in the East were knocked out in the first round. Even with earning the home-ice advantage, they still were unable to win the series. In the first round, the home team lost more than half the time, posting a 23-26 record.

There was little improvement in the second round as the home team posted a 14-11 record. Why is home ice mean less in the playoffs? Or does it? Washington, New Jersey, and Buffalo all had 25 or more wins on home ice during the regular season, but couldn’t advance with home ice in the playoffs.

Is it better to be the underdog? By earning home ice advantage, the pressure is on that team immediately for a number of reasons. Obviously, the team has earned one of the top spots in the Conference, meaning that their expectations have been raised for the playoffs.

After winning the President’s Trophy, it looked like a safe bet for Washington to go to at least the second or third round, but it was not so.

By playing the first two games at home, all the visiting team has to do is win one of them and the home ice is swapped. With a split in the first two games, it becomes a best of five game series, but the other team has home ice for the rest of the series.

In order to take full advantage of home ice a team must win both of those games before heading to the opposing team’s arena. If you’re the away team, all you should be hoping for is a split. One win on the road will force the other team to have to do the same, if they wish to win the series.

In round two, San Jose used the home ice advantage to a perfection. The Sharks won the first two games at home, split two in Detroit, then brought it back for a series-clinching win in San Jose for game five.

What more could you ask from the Sharks in that series? All of their wins were by one goal, but they were able to maintain Detroit, with the exception of one game, and win the series in five games.

Having home ice advantage in the playoffs doesn’t mean much anymore. Here’s another way to look at it. Any game seven that occurs will come down to who wants it more, and where the game is played does not mean anything. Pittsburgh had that exact situation on Wednesday, but were beat by Montreal 5-2.

The Capitals posted 30-5-6 home record during the regular season, but went just 1-3 at home during the playoffs. Home ice victories are important, but aren’t the away victories superior? What do you think? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Kevin Freiheit
Kevin Freiheit
I founded Buffalo Hockey Central in 2008 and have poured hours and hours into this site. Luckily, we have a great team of writers and designers who have helped keep this up and running despite a ton of out-of-pocket costs. We do this because we enjoy it, and we're desperate to see the Sabres win the Cup someday, but they have to make the playoffs first.
[td_block_social_counter facebook="BuffaloHockeyCentral" twitter="BHCdotcom" custom_title="Follow BHC:" header_color="#002654" open_in_new_window="y"]