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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    Ducks’ Perry being evaluated at hospital for lower body injury

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    The injury woes for the Anaheim Ducks continued on Monday night.

    On the same night they got Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg back in the lineup, they lost forward Corey Perry to some sort of a lower body injury.

    Perry exited the game after playing just 3:49 in the first period.

    After the game Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said that Perry is being evaluated at a local hospital for the injury and that there was no other update at this time.

    According to Ducks beat writer Eric Stephens of the OC Register Perry did not suffer a skate cut.

    In 31 games this season Perry has scored six goals to go with 16 assists for the Ducks. The Ducks have been absolutely crushed by injuries this season, a development that has no doubt played a major role in their slow start.

    The Ducks were 3-2 winners on Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

    The Buzzer: Bernier shines for Avs, Rangers waste Pavelec’s great night

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    Player Of The Night: Jonathan Bernier, Colorado Avalanche

    After losing six out of their past seven games the Colorado Avalanche finally got back into the win column on Saturday night by crushing the Florida Panthers. They followed up that performance by marching into Pittsburgh and stealing two points from the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 2-1 win that was highlighted by a stellar showing from starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier.

    Bernier was the Avalanche’s best player on Monday night, turning aside 39 of the 40 shots he faced.

    It was not until the final 11 seconds, when the Avalanche were already holding a two-goal lead, that he finally surrendered a goal.

    It was probably Bernier’s best performance of the season and just the fifth time in 12 starts that he managed a save percentage higher than .900 in a game.

    Wasted Effort Of The Night: The New York Rangers

    Maybe “wasted” is too strong of a word considering the Rangers did get a point out of the night in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars, but let’s be honest be here. They did not even deserve that.

    The Rangers were thoroughly dominated by the Stars and only managed to get the game to overtime thanks to a stellar performance from goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

    Pavelec stopped 44 of the 45 shots he faced and almost single handedly got the Rangers to overtime.

    After the game Rangers coach Alain Vigneault had this to say about the game: “There are two positives, Pavs played unreal and because of his performance we were able to get a point. Other than that….we weren’t good.”

    That was it.

    Ducks Get Some Help Back In The Lineup

    The Anaheim Ducks got some much needed help back in their lineup on Monday night when Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg both returned to the lineup.

    Silfverberg made an immediate impact after missing the past five games. He scored his sixth goal of the season in the Ducks’ 3-2 win.

    Getzlaf did not factor into the scoring, but having him back in the lineup was still a huge lift for the Ducks. He played 20 minutes in the win.

    Highlight Of The Night

    The Winnipeg Jets have an outstanding offense. It was on display here with some nifty tic-tac-toe passing to take the lead against the Vancouver Canucks.

    Factoid Of The Night

    Brock Boeser scored another goal for the Canucks in their loss to the Winnipeg Jets. He is having a tremendous rookie season.

    Scores

    New York Islanders 3, Washington Capitals 1

    Dallas Stars 2, New York Rangers 1

    Colorado Avalanche 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

    Florida Panthers 2, Detroit Red Wings 1

    Winnipeg Jets 5, Vancouver Canucks 1

    Anaheim Ducks 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    The Panthers and Red Wings had a fight night (Videos)

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    The Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings seemed to be in a fighting mood on Monday night, dropping the gloves three times in the first two periods of their game in the Motor City.

    Things started early in the first period when Red Wings tough-guy Luke Witkowski, playing in his first game back since serving a 10-game suspension, dropped the gloves with Michael Haley of the Panthers.

    Have a look…

    The two would square off once again in the second period.

    Not long after the Witkowski-Haley rematch, Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad and Red Wings forward Luke Glendenning took part in a rather vicious fight that left Glendenning bloodied on his way to the penalty box.

    Given Ekblad’s history of concussions the Panthers can’t exactly be thrilled to see him taking part in a fight like that.

    Ekblad is not much of a fighter, with Monday’s fight being just the third of his NHL career. It is, oddly enough, his second fight of the season with the first one also coming against the Red Wings.

    Back in October he fought Justin Abdelkader.

    Big centers back: Getzlaf in for Ducks, Panthers regain Barkov

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    The Anaheim Ducks would probably qualify as unlucky so far in 2017-18 even beyond an extremely unfortunate bounce of a puck fracturing Ryan Getzlaf‘s cheekbone.

    That loss was especially severe with Ryan Kesler already recovering, as Getzlaf missed 19 games, last appearing in a contest on that painful night of Oct. 29. The Ducks get quite the treat, then, as both Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg are slated to return as they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

    Check out how much better everything fits together with the returns of Getzlaf and Silfverberg, not to mention the recent addition of Adam Henrique (line combos via the Ducks website):

    Rakell-Getzlaf-Perry
    Cogliano-Henrique-Silfverberg
    Blandisi-Vermette-Kase
    Wagner-Grant-Shaw

    The Ducks are still without Kesler, and Patrick Eaves is fighting a serious physical battle that puts hockey on the backburner, so there’s still some mystery to how the Ducks might look if they can get anywhere near full-strength this season.

    As is, they look a whole lot better going into Monday’s game, something the Florida Panthers could relate to.

    While Anaheim’s dealt with bad luck, you could chalk up Florida’s troubles to a mix of unforced errors (jettisoning depth, particularly to Vegas) and tough breaks of their own (Roberto Luongo‘s injury issues). Either way, management will look infinitely smarter when Aleksander Barkov is in the lineup than when he’s not, so the Panthers must be happy to welcome him back tonight.

    Interestingly, Left Wing Lock lists Barkov along with Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad, rather than Denis Malgin taking Bjugstad’s spot (Malgin received looks, at least, once Evgenii Dadonov suffered an injury).

    That would be quite the top-heavy approach for Florida, even if Malgin can mesh well with Vincent Trocheck.

    While the Panthers have floundered at times, the Ducks seemed like they were finally starting to crater under the pressure of all those injury losses, as Anaheim only boasts two wins (2-4-4) in its last 10 games.

    It’s true that the return of Barkov and Getzlaf would be important in just about any context for their teams, but each team likely feels especially relieved on Monday, as they can use all the help they can get.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.