Could home ice advantage tilt things in the Boston Bruins’ favor?

When it comes to professional sports, it’s often difficult to accurately gauge the impact of home field advantage. That’s true to some extent with the NHL, but there are some tangible advantages to go with superficial or imaginary ones (such as loud fans cheering you on … and maybe intimidating officials into making calls they wouldn’t normally make?).

The biggest advantage is that the home coach receives the last line change. That might be exceedingly relevant in the face of Alex Burrows’ overtime game-winner in Game 2; as the Vancouver Province points out, Andrew Ference probably wouldn’t have been on the ice if Claude Julien was certain he would get the matchup he wanted. The Boston Bruins can get the matchups they want more often in Games 3 and 4, which might be a big difference-maker in a series that has been skin-tight so far.

Home team centers also have an advantage in the faceoff circle (and not just because coaches can pick and choose which centers face off against each other). The away center must place his stick on the ice first before the puck drops, giving the home center a slightly better chance to win. Take a quick look at how the major faceoff men on both teams have done in home and away games during the playoffs.

Boston’s faceoff guys (minimum 150 FO’s taken)

Patrice Bergeron at home: 130-62 (67.7 percent); away: 123-92 (57.2 percent)
David Krejci at home: 91-80 (53.2 percent); away: 75-75 (50 percent)
Chris Kelly at home: 48-53 (47.5 percent); away: 34-48 (41.5 percent)
Note: Of the Bruins who took at least 100 faceoffs in the playoffs, Rich Peverley is the only center with a better road winning percentage (54.2) than at home (52.5).

Vancouver’s faceoff guys (minimum 150 FO’s taken)

Ryan Kesler at home: 159-125 (56 percent); away: 117-104 (52.9 percent)
Henrik Sedin at home: 110-142 (43.6 percent); away: 78-84 (48.2 percent)
Maxim Lapierre at home: 53-62 (46.1 percent); away: 48-41 (53.9 percent)

As you can see, Boston centers see a dramatic improvement in their faceoff winning abilities … yet the Canucks are inexplicably better in the faceoff circle on the road. It’s probably worth mentioning that Vancouver has played five more home than road games so far, so that sample size difference might explain the discrepancy a bit.

Either way, home ice advantage might help the Bruins gain more puck control and thus alleviate some (but not all) of their decision-making ills.

Home and road records in regular season and playoffs

Boston in the regular season: Home: 22-13-6; Road: 24-12-5
Boston in the playoffs: Home: 7-3; Road: 5-5

Vancouver in the regular season: Home: 27-9-5; Road: 27-10-4
Vancouver in the playoffs: Home: 9-3; Road: 5-3

As you can see, both teams were pretty balanced at home and on the road in the regular season but have been significantly stronger at home in the postseason. (The Bruins came into the finals with a 5-3 road record while the Canucks came in 7-3 at home, obviously.)

It makes sense that each squad leans on the advantages of playing at home a bit more in the playoffs. With more concern for matchups (and time to break down video to exploit those matchups) in a best-of-seven series, the last change and faceoff advantages make a difference. Perhaps the teams are also a little less nervous about putting on a good show in front of their fans in the postseason as well, realizing that crowds are delighted by wins more than anything else during this time of year.

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So, will these advantages add up to a win or two for Boston in the next two contests? The games have been awfully close so far, but if the Bruins fall behind in Game 3, they might worry about their fans turning on them. Either way, you can find out what happens by watching the game tonight on Versus at 8 p.m. ET.

Video: Weise records Gordie Howe hat trick after spirited scrap with Hamonic

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Thursday’s game between the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers wasn’t even nine minutes old by the time Dale Weise had recorded the Gordie Howe hat trick.

Already with the opening goal and an assist on Radko Gudas‘ goal, giving Philly a 3-0 lead, Weise dropped the gloves with Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic for a spirited fight off a faceoff.

Not many, if any, positives for the Islanders after a disastrous start. Needing a win to close the gap on the Boston Bruins in the wild card race, New York fell behind 5-0 by the time the first period was over.

There is perhaps even more bad news for the Islanders: Hamonic wasn’t on the bench to begin the second period.

The Islanders have since provided an update: Hamonic will not return to this game due to an upper-body injury.

 

 

The Islanders are off to a disastrous start in Philly, Flyers chase Greiss

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Talk about the worst possible start for the New York Islanders.

Trailing the Boston Bruins by four points for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders lived through a nightmare to begin Thursday’s game, falling behind the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 4-0 — before the midway point of the first period.

Dale Weise started the scoring at 4:30 of the first period. By the 9:19 mark, the Flyers opened up a four-goal lead and had already chased Islanders starting goalieThomas Greiss, who allowed three goals on eight shots.

Jaroslav Halak was brought into the game and promptly surrendered a goal to Jordan Weal.

It continued to get worse for the Islanders, who finished the first period trailing by five goals. Shots? They were 19-10 in favor of Philly. Yup. It was bad.

With Josh Ho-Sang in the box serving a double-minor for high sticking, Wayne Simmonds gave Philly a 5-0 lead with his 30th goal of the year.

Shaping up to be a long night for the Islanders.

Karlsson’s ironman streak comes to an end as Sens visit Wild

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For the first time since the lockout-shortened season, the Ottawa Senators will not have star defenseman Erik Karlsson in their lineup.

With the Sens four points back of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead, Karlsson will not play tonight versus the Minnesota Wild, which ends his ironman streak at 324 consecutive games played.

Karlsson trails Brent Burns by only five points for the lead in that category among NHL defenseman. He also logs close to 27 minutes of ice time per game. Only three blue liners in the entire league — Dustin Byfuglien, Drew Doughty and Ryan Suter — play more on average per game.

The injury reportedly occurred when Karlsson blocked a shot against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. Trade deadline acquisition Jyrki Jokipakka is expected to make his debut for Ottawa, per the Citizen.

“If we miss him for a game or two, we’re not sure what’s going to happen,” forward Mark Stone told the Ottawa Citizen. “He’s the best defenceman in the world. If you take him out of your lineup, it’s obviously a huge blow.”

WATCH LIVE: Stars at Bruins

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The Boston Bruins hold the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and they will look to continue their push for the playoffs when they host the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

You can catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 p.m. ET) or online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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

McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins continue push for playoff spot against Stars

Stars go deeper than rock bottom in Ruff’s ‘worst game’ with team