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The 2012 playoffs might be the year of the road team

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The Los Angeles Kings have already broken the record for consecutive road playoff wins with 11 (nine this year and two in 2011). While Darryl Sutter’s bunch leads the pack, one might end up remembering the 2012 playoffs as the year of the road team.

Sam Carchidi points out that if the Kings win tonight, that would give road teams 46 victories in the 2012 playoffs, tying the all-time record most recently set in 1987.

So far, away squads are 45-36 in 81 games (there were 45 Eastern Conference contests and 35 in the West, plus one Stanley Cup final squabble).

Carchidi wonders if this shows that home ice advantage “means almost nothing.” Instead, I think that it comes down to a few factors.

1. Randomness – Sure, 81 games is a better sample size than we usually get, but in context it’s still the wackiness of the postseason.
2. Parity – As the salary cap evens things out more and more, there aren’t as many “juggernaut” teams. When everything is that close, then you can covert that “Any Given Sunday” cliche to any given playoff game – no matter what color sweater you’re wearing.
3. Limited actual advantages – Aside from mocking chants and undeniably electric atmospheres, home ice provides two main advantages: the last change and the faceoff edge. In the grand scheme of things, that can only mean so much.

Now, if this interesting wrinkle repeats itself in a serious way like this for a few years, we can all laugh off home ice. In the mean time, I’m going to look at it as a moderate advantage, but feel free to debate just how much it matters – if at all.

Wild must overcome Alex Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Bylsma believes league will look at Gudas’ hit on Catenacci

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Rugged Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas may get in trouble with the league once again.

At least, it will be that way if Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has his way regarding Gudas’ five-minute charging major hit on Daniel Catenacci.

“I think there’s no question it’s head hit,” Bylsma said, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. ” … I know the league will look at that hit and deal with it.”

As far as the injury portion of possible suspension considerations go:

Marcus Foligno‘s analysis of Gudas was … well just check it out.

The Flyers ended up winning 5-1. Gudas was a busy man overall, racking up 17 penalty minutes.

Fight video: Patrice Bergeron vs. Blake Wheeler (seriously)

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Regular Selke winner Patrice Bergeron can do it all on the ice, it seems. Apparently that means he’ll even drop the gloves.

That was the unlikely scene during Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Winnipeg Jets skirmish, as Bergeron fought fellow finesse forward Blake Wheeler.

Perhaps unusual feisty behavior was just in the air, as Tyler Myers squared off with Matt Beleskey.

(Not as unlikely, but still.)

Video: Dion Phaneuf’s assist is his first point with Senators

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Dion Phaneuf‘s first home game as a member of the Ottawa Senators is going more smoothly than his debut did on Wednesday.

Ottawa fell 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings last night, and they need another goal to tie up the Colorado Avalanche. Still, Phaneuf’s making a bigger impact on Thursday, collecting two assists … his first two points in a Sens’ sweater.

You can see his crowd-pleasing first helper above.

Here’s his second assist for good measure:

Update: The Avalanche held on, taking a 4-3 edge. Even so, Phaneuf’s getting a warm welcome in his new hockey city.