NHL Column: Home ice advantage important so far in playoffs

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois, right, works against Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly during the second period in Game 3 of an NHL first-round hockey playoff series in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois, right, works against Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly during the second period in Game 3 of an NHL first-round hockey playoff series in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are furiously rolling along with teams especially having success at home. Home ice advantage has appeared to be a key factor thus far in the opening round with teams compiling a combined record of 16-7 entering Tuesday.

In half of the playoff series, the home team has yet to lose through three games. In these series, the higher seed has won both of the first two games while the underdog has battled back to take Game 3 when getting their chance in front of their fans.

The New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild all rallied behind the energy of their home crowd to pull back into their respective series against higher ranked opponents. Playing in front of their fans provided them with the spark they needed.

Players often refer to the old adage, “It’s not a series until someone wins a road game,” and it is proving true in each of these matchups.

The expectation to win every game at home is partially unfair, as the ice is the same regardless of its location. The only fundamental difference in the game itself between playing home and away is getting the last change. This allows coaches to more easily set-up the line matchups they want on the ice. It mainly helps ensure they can smother the opponent's superstars and allows their own stars to flourish.

But when it comes down to it, this makes only a minimal impact. The reason players fight desperately to secure home ice advantage in the playoffs is to have the opportunity to play more games in front of their fans.

Often times, home ice proves to be insignificant, such as in the series between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals in which Columbus took a 2-0 series lead despite playing on the road. But if anything, this is more of a failure on Washington’s part. They squandered the advantage teams covet so heavily.

Playing at home certainly does not guarantee victory, even in front of the most deafening crowds. But it definitely injects a major boost in a team’s playing level. The roar of the crowd is like fuel for teams to keep pushing.

This is proven by the swing of the four series where the lead was cut to 2-1 but the home team won in Game 3. All of the momentum the higher seed had going into the game was vanquished by the change in setting. The altered scenery can completely flip the script.

Of the 16 teams in the NHL playoffs, only five have lost at home and only two had lost more than once entering Tuesday. Teams have been taking care of business in front of the home faithful. As series get deeper, the teams that find ways to win road games are the ones that will continue to advance.

To succeed in the NHL postseason, winning at home is essential, but winning on the road is what pushes teams over the edge in contention for the Stanley Cup.


Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at dylan.barrett@uconn.edu.