The comforts of home are nearly endless. The cooking is better, and the groove is always carved deep into your favourite chair.
Hockey isn’t any different, except for the use of skates, a puck, and the 18,000 or so people watching. Home ice is a warm and welcoming place, where everything seems easier because of its familiarity. This of course includes winning playoff hockey games.
The NHL is certainly no different from any of the other three major North American sports in terms of home ice/field/court advantage. It’s an advantage that’s been strong enough to make Daniel Sedin summon his inner Joe Namath.
Brad Marchand’s favourite play toy boldly predicted that Vancouver will win at home on Wednesday in Game 7. Hopefully he’s aware that home-ice advantage has been stretched to its logical extreme in this series.
Following last night’s 5-2 loss, Sedin told the Vancouver Sun he expects the trend that’s seen the home team win every game in this bizarre Stanley Cup Final to continue.
“We’re 3-3 and we won all three games at home and we have the fourth game at home. So we have the seventh game at home and we’ll take that. We are confident.”
While we thank Daniel for the gambling tip, and acknowledge that he may indeed be right, his assumption that home-ice advantage will continue is a dangerous one. The home team has outscored the road team 22-5 in this series, a differential that’s massive, but also misleading given the three shutouts.
That gap is largely the product of Boston’s dominance in front of their surly Beantown crowd. The Bruins have outscored Vancouver 17-3 at home, a cavernous divide compared to the 5-3 aggregate score the Canucks have compiled during their three wins at Rogers Arena. Each game in Vancouver has been won by only a single goal, while the games in Boston have all finished with at least a three-goal gap, including the 8-1 drubbing in Game 3.
When looking at the past five Stanley Cup Finals, the dominance of the home team is still clear, but the offensive gap isn’t nearly as wide. Since 2006 the home side has a record of 21-7, with the 2008 series between Detroit and Pittsburgh the only outlier in which home and road wins were even at three apiece.
A scoring gap similar to the one Boston holds over Vancouver on home ice began to develop for Detroit that year after the Red Wings earned shutouts in the first two games, winning by a combined score of 7-0. But then the two teams were separated by just one goal in each game that followed. When Detroit and Pittsburgh met again in 2009 the trend resumed, and the home team won all but one of the seven games. However, the goal differential between the home and road team was still a reasonable 16-7.
We saw a similar story from the 2006 series that broke hearts in Edmonton. The home team won five of the seven games, outscoring the team doing the traveling 21-12. While we’re getting warmer with both this series and the Detroit/Pittsburgh tilt in 2009, the nine goals separating Carolina and Edmonton is still significantly in the rear-view of the goal differential this year (17). In 2007 when Anaheim beat Ottawa, four of the five games were decided on home ice, but there was another minimal home/road scoring gap of 16-10.
This series has demolished recent Stanley Cup Final history in terms of home ice scoring. While it’s easy to look at the record of the home side and assume that any deviation from Sedin’s prediction is little more than the standard gambler’s fallacy, it should also be easy to remember which team built that massive scoring gap.
We’ve seen biting, a reluctance to pump tires, and two scary injuries in this series. It’s time for a road win now, and for Boston’s offence to finally travel west.