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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    Dion Phaneuf trade pays early dividends for Kings

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    Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

    If nothing else, Dion Phaneuf knows how to make a first impression.

    Think back to when Phaneuf burst onto the season as an NHL rookie. He scored 20 goals during his first season in 2005-06, which still stands as a career-high, and he enjoyed 50 and 60-point seasons in the next two years. During his first three seasons (2005-06 to 2007-08), Phaneuf collected 159 points, tying him with Brian Rafalski for sixth-most among defensemen. No other blueliner was even close to his 54 goals during that same span.

    Between that scoring prowess and such a tendency to throw hard hits that his last name became a Kronwallian verb, it seemed like Phaneuf was destined to be the next Scott Stevens or Chris Pronger, or maybe the next Rob Blake.

    … That’s not how things turned out, of course.

    Phaneuf’s been known as much for a shaky contract as anything else lately, which is part of the reason Blake was able to get the Ottawa Senators to eat 25 percent of his salary to make a trade happen.

    [Trade: Senators send Phaneuf to Kings.]

    At the time, it was a puzzling deal, with the main takeaway being that the Senators get to save money while the Kings hope to rejuvenate Phaneuf. So far, that rejuvenation has been remarkable, even if small sample size red flags pop out so much, they practically poke you in the eye.

    Still, it’s been a cool, under-the-radar story. Through four games, Phaneuf already has three goals for the Kings. All three have come on the power play; Phaneuf scored in his debut for L.A. and also found the net last night, helping them carve out a 4-3 win against the Jets.

    [A deeper look at debuts for Phaneuf, Marian Gaborik.]

    Let’s watch all three of his Kings goals.

    Phaneuf’s goal in his Kings debut is the anomaly, as he saw an opening for something of a backdoor goal, which isn’t really what you picture if you hear “Phaneuf power-play goal.”

    His past two goals have been to type, with slappers from both points getting the job done:

    Even skeptics would probably admit that Phaneuf can still fire the puck, so maybe the Kings will find a nice use for one of his enduring strengths.

    Again, there really couldn’t be enough signs that this is a brief surge of luck.

    Phaneuf has scored his three goals on 11 SOG, which translates to a 27.3 shooting percentage. He brought a 3.5 shooting percentage (in 53 games) with him from Ottawa, and his career average is 5.7 percent.

    (You can stretch this out further to absurd PDO numbers and others, if you want to go exploring.)

    The most interesting question will come down to how much value Phaneuf can bring to the Kings.

    So far, his possession numbers are shaky, much like they were in Ottawa. He’ll get a chance to improve over the long haul, especially if he remains tethered to a solid middle pairing blueliner like Alec Martinez. Phaneuf has spent more even-strength time with Martinez than he has with any other King, Jonathan Quick included, according to Natural Stat Trick.

    This brief but compelling surge is actually reminiscent of some other trades for the Kings. As you may recall, both Vincent Lecavalier and Jarome Iginla enjoyed brief-yet-notable surges in their swan songs in L.A.

    Of course, the stakes are higher with Phaneuf. Even at a discounted rate, his $5.25 million cap hit is frightening, especially when you realize that it runs through 2020-21.

    One must grade the trade with Marian Gaborik‘s also-challenging contract in mind, making this all a bit convoluted. If one were to wager, it seems most likely that this move will be remembered as a costly, creative, and somewhat confusing lateral move.

    But, hey, at least it the first chapter has been captivating.

    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.

     

    Jarome Iginla skates with AHL Providence, still wants to play

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    Jarome Iginla is still without a team but isn’t giving up hope just yet on one last ride in the NHL.

    The 40-year-old Iginla, who last played in 2016-17 with the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings, was spotted on the ice at Providence Bruins practice on Tuesday, but there’s nothing in the works as far as a deal anywhere, he told the Providence Journal’s Mark Divver.

    Iginla’s name popped up in contention for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team this fall, but a hip procedure cost him time on the ice and ultimately a place in GM Sean Burke’s final roster for PyeongChang. (The Canadians are doing just fine without him having reached the semifinals of the tournament.)

    Now living in the Boston area after buying a house last spring, Iginla, who played 78 games with the NHL Bruins during the 2013-14 season, was simply taking advantage of a favor from the team. He’s expected to skate with AHL Providence again on Thursday as he continues to see where his body is physically.

    Iginla — and for that matter, U.S. Olympian Brian Gionta, who’s also looking to continue playing — can sign with any NHL team, but to be eligible to play in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs a deal needs to be inked before the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline next Monday.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Fight Video: Nicolas Deslauriers lands several good shots on Brandon Manning

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    Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

    The Montreal Canadiens may have come out on the wrong end of Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime decision in Philadelphia, but Nicolas Deslauriers definitely won his fight against Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning.

    This was Deslauriers’ first game since signing a two-year, one-way contract extension worth $950, 000 per year. The 26-year-old has brought a physical presence to Montreal’s lineup, but he’s also chipped in with seven goals. On Tuesday, he made more of an impact with his knuckles than anything else.

    Take a look four yourself by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time these two players go head-to-head on the ice. They also fought when Deslauriers was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

    If you’re more interested in finding out what happened last night’s game, click here.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    PHT Morning Skate: Vegas might have best line in hockey; 3 things NHL should take from Olympics

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    • The rivalry between Canada’s women’s team and the United States women’s team doesn’t have the same bite it did a few years ago. (NBC Olympics)

    • American twin sisters Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson have been playing like they have something to prove. (The Ice Garden)

    • Former NHL goalie Jonas Hiller won’t play for team Switzerland anymore. (Swiss Hockey News)

    • There’s a group of Kenyan hockey players that want to take part in future Olympic Games. (ESPN)

    • The NHL can grow in popularity if they sample three things from the Olympics. (Vice Sports)

    Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

    • Trade rumors can weigh on a player as the trade deadline approaches. Just ask Tyler Johnson how that feels. (Tampa Times)

    • The Rangers will go through a hard time over the next little while, but it could all be worth it in the end. (NY Post)

    • Don’t expect the Golden Knights to make big moves before Monday’s trade deadline. (Knights on Ice)

    • Speaking of Vegas, they might have the best line in hockey. (TSN.ca)

    • Winnipeg has had a hard time trading for players with no-move clauses, but that’s nothing to be offended by. (Jets Nation)

    • Even though they won’t make the playoffs this year, the Panthers certainly have a bright future ahead. (Fan Rag Sports)

    • As bad as things are for the Montreal Canadiens, they’ll probably get a whole lot worse. (Rabid Habs)

    • The San Jose Sharks acquired veteran forward Eric Fehr from the Maple Leafs. (NHL.com/Sharks)

    • Is Blues forward Patrik Berglund still a useful player? (Blues Rants)

    • The World’s Longest Hockey Game raised over $1.2 million for cancer research this year. (Edmonton Journal)

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.