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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    Video: Pavelski gives Sharks the lead as they look to clinch berth in Stanley Cup Final

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    Perseverance paid off for the San Jose Sharks.

    Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, pushing home a loose puck on Brian Elliott after Joe Thornton was unable to convert on the breakaway seconds before.

    For Pavelski, that’s his league-leading 13th goal of these playoffs.

    The Sharks can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a win tonight.

    San Jose increased its lead to two goals, as Joel Ward capitalized early in the second period.

    Canucks trade Jared McCann to the Panthers for Erik Gudbranson

    ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Jared McCann #91 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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    The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers have made a trade — and it’s a big one.

    As per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the two main components are forward Jared McCann, who just completed his rookie season with the Canucks, and 24-year-old defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who has played five seasons with the Florida Panthers.

    Here are the details:

    McCann is the second draft selection of the Jim Benning-Trevor Linden era, taken 24th overall in 2014. As a 19-year-old rookie armed with a big-league wrist shot, he scored nine goals and 18 points while averaging 12:31 of ice time per game in 69 games.

    The Canucks had the option of sending McCann back to junior last season and not burning a year of his entry-level deal, but they chose to keep him in Vancouver for the entire year.

    One particular aspect of his development, particularly this off-season, was a need to get physically stronger, which was something that could be exposed at times in the defensive end against bigger forwards.

    Gudbranson, selected third overall in 2010 and signed to a one-year, $3.5 million extension earlier this month, certainly gives the Canucks size on the back end at six-foot-five-inches tall, a physical presence and a right shot on the blue line, but he has managed only 13 points as a single-season career best and that was in 2014-15.

    The Canucks also gave up two picks in this year’s draft.

     

    Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

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    It has been an Eastern Conference Final full of twists and turns in the plot.

    Exhibit A: The goaltending situation for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. 

    That began right away, in the first period of Game 1 when Ben Bishop was stretchered off the ice with a lower-body injury. Since then, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been The Guy for the Lightning, which will face the Penguins in a Game 7, winner-take-all contest, in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

    Of the many storylines heading into this contest, one that stands out is it’s expected to be a goaltending duel between the 21-year-old Vasilevskiy and the Matt Murray, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday.

    (Remember when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went with Marc-Andre Fleury to start over Murray in Game 5, only to switch back to Murray for a must-win Game 6? Another plot twist.)

    Bolts head coach Jon Cooper had previously left the door open to the possibility that Bishop could return in this series. On Wednesday, however, he told reporters he’ll meet with his staff but does not anticipate Bishop being in for Game 7.

    “I think Andrei is the big reason we’re in Game 7,” said Cooper.

    “He’s made big save after big save for us. The one thing that I do like that’s happened to him finally in this series is, you know, he finally started a playoff game and won, whereas his other playoff wins were always in relief, and he’s won in Pittsburgh. So you’ve got to like the kid feels pretty comfortable playing there, and we like that.”

    WATCH LIVE: Blues at Sharks – Game 6

    ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues, Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks, and Joe Thornton #19 argue with a referee during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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    The San Jose Sharks can make franchise history on home ice tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Win, and the Sharks clinch their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Lose, and it’s back to St. Louis for a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.

    You can catch tonight’s Game 6 on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

    Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

    On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

    The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

    Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday