2010 Stanley Cup finals: Why is home ice such a big advantage?

hawksfans2.jpgSo far, the Stanley Cup finals has been a “homer” series. That’s a term sports writers use when the home team wins every game. Chicago, in particular, was an amazing 7-1 on the road before the Cup finals. Conversely, the Flyers are a league-best 9-1 – including a seven game winning streak – at the Wachovia Center. Apparently, Philly’s home ice dominance trumped Chicago’s road savvy.

The question is: why, exactly, are these two teams playing so much better thanks to home cooking? Let me break down some of the possibilities, analyzing why some make sense and some fail.

Coincidence and context

This might be the top point, even if it’s the least satisfying. Every game is different and, after all, fans aren’t the ones who are skating so how much of an impact can home ice advantage really have? This is a small sample of games, so you cannot exactly draw too many conclusions from five games.

Also, think about one of those classic standbys: “the sense of urgency.” Philadelphia had a lot more to lose in Game 3 and Game 4, which showed in the considerable difference in effort between the two teams. Meanwhile, Chicago would have dropped three games in a row, so winning Game 5 was – on some level – more important for them than it was for the Flyers.

Michael Leighton at his best

Now, I’m not sure why, but Leighton is an incredible 6-0 so far at home. Is the former member of the Carolina Hurricanes sensitive to heckling? I’m not certain, but either way he’s been outstanding in Philly and ordinary-to-bad in Montreal or Chicago. Leighton is 6-0 with three shutouts, a 1.48 GAA and a 94.9 save percentage at the Wachovia Center.

Let’s take a look at some of the more “nuts and bolts” pluses of being the home team (plus more analysis) after the jump.

mohawkflyersfan.jpgThe final change

Home teams receive a chance to make the final line change, which might be a bigger factor now that Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks adjusted their combos so well. Chris Pronger is the biggest impact player in this series, so the fact that the Flyers can make sure he’s on the ice at the right times in Philly could be a big deal.

Players often say that it doesn’t matter who is on the ice, but I think matchups are very relevant. That being said, it’s still only a subtle tactical advantage – especially since splitting up Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews should keep one of both of them away from Pronger at least some of the time.

Faceoff advantages?

Aside from getting the last change, the other inherent advantage with playing at home is that the home team center benefits from a momentum advantage during faceoffs.

I studied the games and noticed that it probably didn’t make much of a mark on faceoffs won vs. lost. The Blackhawks won more than they lost in the circle in four out of five games in this series, although the one Flyers’ faceoff advantage did come when they were at home.

Rabid fans, conclusion

Perhaps the biggest advantage is the most obvious one, then: each city can pack in more than 20,000 screaming lunatics. While the larger crowds in Chicago helped them go a little louder than the gang in Philly, both produce ear-splitting noise that must fluster their opponents.

Overall, it seems as if the home ice disparity is a result of a combination of factors. Some of them seem pretty subjective (fans, context), some are minimal (faceoff advantages) and others could go either way (the final change). Either way, the teams seem – at times – to be so close that maybe a slight gust of wind can change the course of each contest.

For a least one more game, the Flyers hope that the home cooking trend continues – whether it’s justified by reason or not.

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    Julien explains comments about Lundqvist’s ‘acting’

    Claude Julien

    We’re now over two days removed from last Friday’s tilt between the Bruins and the Rangers, but the coaches from both teams seem unwilling to move on.

    Moments after that game, Claude Julien claimed that Henrik Lundqvist did some “acting” on the ice to sell a goalie interference call on Brad Marchand.

    On Saturday, Alain Vigneault fired back by saying that Julien needed to get his eyesight checked. Vigneault also compared Aaron Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton in the 2011 Stanley Cup final to Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan in Friday’s game.

    Now it was Julien’s turn to address the “issue” at hand.

    Julien clarified his original comment about Lundqvist and he also tackled some of Vigneault’s comments.

    “I think it’s pretty obvious what I said . . . I thought Lundqvist sold it,” said Julien. “Not for a second did I ever question Henrik Lundqvist as a person, or a goaltender or any of that. We all know how good he is as a goaltender, and I know he’s a good person. I’ve met him at the All-Star games and all that stuff.

    Julien on his eyesight: “As far as my eyes, I’m not the one that compared Beleskey’s hit to Aaron Rome’s [hit]. We’ll just leave it at that.”

    It’s time for both sides to move on.

    Good news: Colaiacovo traveling with Sabres

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    It was a scary sight.

    Carlo Colaiacovo fell to his hands and knees after taking a cross-check to the throat from Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson (above).

    Arvidsson received a five-minute major and a game misconduct, while Colaiacovo suffered a dented trachea on the play.

    After the game, both Dan Bylsma and Peter Laviolette agreed that there was no malicious intent on Arvidsson’s part.

    “I don’t think there was intent there to maliciously cross-check,” Bylsma said. “They kind of lose the puck, turn and his stick is right at that level and delivers a blow. When you look at it, it’s a pretty stiff cross-check to Carlo’s neck.”

    “It was tough for Arvidsson,” said Laviolette. “I don’t think he had any bad intentions. He just ran into somebody and the stick got caught a little bit high, but just a tough turn of events.”

    The Sabres defenseman left the game and was treated at a nearby hospital, but there is some good news to report.

    According to the Buffalo News, Colaiacovo was released from hospital and he was able to travel to Detroit with his teammates.

    It’s unclear how long he’ll be out.

    Start the Carr: Habs recall another player from the minors

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    There’s been a lot of movement between Montreal and Saint John’s lately and that continued on Sunday.

    This time, it’s forward Daniel Carr who’ll be getting a stint with the big club.

    Carr has no prior NHL experience.

    The 24-year-old spent four years at Union College before joining the Canadiens organization as an undrafted free agent.

    In his first season as a pro, Carr scored 24 goals (led the team) and 39 points in 76 AHL games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2014-15.

    This year, Carr has seven goals and 15 points in 20 games.

    Montreal is without forwards Torrey Mitchell, Brendan Gallagher and Alexander Semin.

    Campbell’s perfect snipe sinks Wings in OT


    Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.

    With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.

    It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.

    Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.

    The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.

    Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.

    They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.

    This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.