April 24, 2012
NHL Playoffs 2012: Why Home Ice Is No Longer an Advantage in the NHL Playoffs
These 2012 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs have been eventful and unusual for numerous reasons, but one strange trend seems to be the struggling of teams with home ice “advantage.” During the regular season, we saw 28 of the 30 NHL teams post a winning record on home ice. However, in the 2012 NHL playoffs, the teams playing in front of their home crowd have combined for a puzzling 16-28 record.
The numbers are perplexing. There have been more power play goals for teams on the road than for those teams at home, and 70 percent of teams have allowed more goals at home than they’ve scored there.
We even saw the Detroit Red Wings, one of the most dominant home teams in NHL history, fail to take advantage of their home crowd. Detroit, after winning an NHL record 23 straight games at home this season, dropped both of their home contests to the Nashville Predators.
It is difficult to determine why the road teams have played so well, winning 64 percent of the games through Monday. Even though the benefits of being home seem insignificant at times, they can definitely impact the outcome of a game.
The most obvious benefit to the home team is the ability to “match lines.” Before a face-off, the home team can wait for the visiting players to take the ice prior to deciding which line to put out against them. This tactic is vital when a team wants to ensure that a certain player is on the ice to shadow an opposing goal scorer. Also, the home team can try to create mismatches by sending out their scorers when the visiting squad has lined up with their third or fourth liners.
Also, the home team receives a face-off advantage because the visiting team’s center must be the first player to put his stick on the ice for the face-offs. This can give the home center a positional advantage in the face-off circle as they anticipate the referee dropping the puck.
So why have the teams in the white jerseys been playing so well on the road recently?
The main reason that teams at home really don’t seem to have much of an advantage anymore is because of the parity that the NHL has reached. Parity is essentially an equal playing field for all the teams. We’ve seen just how unpredictable the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs can with the early elimination of both the Vancouver Canucks and the Pittsburgh Penguins, two of the league’s top teams.
As fans, we’d like to think we can impact the game by supporting our team and cheering them on. But the reality is that come playoff time, regardless of seeding, most teams are just so evenly matched that slight advantages like the last change, faceoff positioning or even the support of the home town crowd are so minimal that they hardly affect the outcome of the games.
Typically, teams with the better records are rewarded for their success in the regular season with the home ice advantage, however the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs have not been kind to the home teams thus far.
Read more NHL news on BleacherReport.com
- NHL Power Rankings: Ranking All 30 Teams’ Home Ice Advantage
- 2012 Detroit Red Wings Will Ride Home-Ice Advantage to the Stanley Cup
- Philadelphia Flyers: Is Home Ice Really an Advantage?
- Chicago Blackhawks: Is Home-Ice Advantage a Curse?
- Detroit Red Wings: Home Ice Advantage Is Not Something to Be Taken Lightly