The NHL Playoffs are off and running. Thus far home-ice advantage seems to be working in favor of its owner. The higher seeded team earns the right to start the playoffs on their ice, in front of their fans in their building. It allows the home team to wake up in their beds, with their families; it allows players to follow their normal daily routines.
Not only is starting a series at home helpful for the players mentally, it provides several advantages for the team as a whole. Being on home ice helps the home teams control the line matchups thanks to having the last change before a faceoff, something that has proven to a huge advantage. For example, it allows teams like the Chicago Blackhawks to get star players like Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews on the ice in favorable situations.
The same can be said for every series. Having the ability to “sneak” a star player on the ice at the last second can cause major problems for the opposing team especially when a crucial faceoff needs to be won.
Matchups aside, playing on home ice gives an advantage in play. The home team knows the bounces, the ice surface and they have the crowd on their side.
This year the NHL Playoffs have been nothing short of excellent and entertaining TV. Entertainment aside, home ice advantage is showing to be a factor in that six out of the eight series the home team has won the opening game.
Chicago Blackhawks 1 vs. Minnesota Wild 8: Blackhawks are up 1-0 in the series
Anaheim Ducks 2 vs. Detroit Red Wings 7: Ducks are up 1-0 in the Series
Vancouver Canucks 3 vs. San Jose Sharks 6: Sharks are up 1-0 in the series (Game 1 won by the away team.)
St. Louis Blues 4 vs. Los Angeles Kings 5: Blues are up 2-0 in the series
Pittsburgh Penguins 1 vs. New York Islanders 8: Penguins are up 1-0 in the series
Montreal Canadiens 2 vs. Ottawa Senators 7: Senators are up 1-0 in the series (Game 1 won by the away team)
Washington Capitals 3 vs. New York Rangers 6: Capitals are up 1-0 in the series
Boston Bruins 4 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 5: Bruins are up 1-0 in the series.
In all there are eight match-ups in the first round of the NHL playoffs. In all but two series the home team has won the first game, allowing them to set the tone for the series. I will admit that some years home ice means nothing, but this year it seems to be a big advantage. As the Playoffs unfold and teams drop out, home ice will continue to be just as, if not more important.
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