The New York Rangers are just one point away from securing their fourth straight berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and their eighth postseason visit in the last nine years.
With a first round match-up against the hated Philadelphia Flyers seeming more and more likely each day, the question of just how important gaining home ice advantage would be for the Blueshirts if and when they do clinch.
Obviously in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, home ice advantage is always talked about as being highly important. Statistics have shown that the teams advancing in each series are usually the one’s who host games one, two, and even potentially the decisive game seven in front of their own crowd.
For one, having the home crowd on your side for a majority on the games is certainly an advantage in of itself when looking to gain the energy and momentum that it takes to will your way to a win in the war that is a Stanley Cup Playoff game.
In addition, the familiarity aspect is something that could be a huge factor when trying to win a playoff series. Each team plays 41 out of their 82 games at their home rink, meaning that they know all the little intricacies and tricks that their rink provides, such as board speed, potential bounce angles, and can utilize these small advantages that may be foreign to the other team to gain the upper hand down the line.
Also, the ability to stick to a comfortable routine, such as sleeping in their own beds at home, eating meals that they can make and regulate, and driving to the arena on a familiar route gives players the chance to focus more on the game at hand, rather than worry about the routine before hand.
Home ice advantage is something that every team wants, and strives for when they battle for positioning in the regular season.
However, for the Rangers home ice may not be as vital as it would be for many other teams in the NHL. This season, New York has been one of the best teams on the road. With 25 wins away from Madison Square Garden, they possess the most road wins in the entire league.
Towards the beginning of the year, they struggled mightily at MSG, after spending the first month of the season away from The World’s Most Famous Arena in order to allow for the completion of the three-year Garden renovation process.
The team got off to a tough start, but quickly began to rely on their road presence in order to keep them afloat until they could right the ship and begin their ascent in the standings.
They have been much better at home as of late, however, overall this season sport an unimpressive 18-17-4 record in Midtown Manhattan, as opposed to a 25-14-1 record away from home.
Not only has their play away from home turned some heads this season, but it has also made this 2013-14 New York Rangers team, the best road team in franchise history:
The @nyrangers defeat the Canucks 3-1 & win their 25th road game this season to set a franchise record!
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) April 2, 2014
The team has had some pretty impressive wins in some highly difficult places this season, as well, showing how this team might fair in the hostile environments during the playoff run.
One that comes to mind is the January 8th match-up against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Chicago Blackhawks, at the Madhouse on Madison where the team dispatched of a game-tying surge by the potent ‘Hawks offense to win it off a GWG by Carl Hagelin in the 3rd (pictured above) in front of a raucous crowd in the Windy City.
Maybe the Blueshirts got confused by seeing the word “Madison” lit up in red during the game, and felt a little more at ease, but whatever the case may be, the United Center is a tough place to play and the Blackhawks are a quality hockey team. Yet the Rangers went into the storm, and came out on top, showing that they can play with anybody regardless of the standings or location.
The Garden Advantage
While the Rangers have proven that they are a competitive team on the road, the playoffs are a different monster, and any team (including the Blueshirts) should strive for home ice advantage in the postseason.
Should the Rangers, in fact, be matched-up against Philly in the first round, Rangers home ice would surely become a game changer, as Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers have beaten the Flyers eight straight times at The Garden, dating back to 2011.
The Flyers have had a very difficult time playing at MSG the last few seasons, and being able to start the series with two games at home would certainly be a confidence boost for the Rangers and the Garden Faithful.
A series against Philadelphia would certainly be a hard-fought affair, with the very realistic possibility that it could go the distance to a Game 7. Should this be the case, Rangers home ice advantage would be absolutely huge for the club.
In the entire history of the New York Rangers organization, the team has never lost a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. Since the 1992 Patrick Division semi-finals vs. the New Jersey Devils, the Rangers are a perfect 5-0 all-time in Game 7’s at home.
If you combine the Rangers’ history of success at home in a do-or-die situation, with the domination over the Flyers at The Garden over the past 3 seasons, and a potential Game 7 at Madison Square Garden in the first-round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals could be crucial for Alain Vigneault’s squad.
Every NHL arena turns into a loud, hostile environment for the visiting team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fans seem to kick it up ten gears as they try to will their team through the grueling second season that is the NHL postseason, in order to see the world’s greatest trophy being hoisted by their respective club.
Yet while every rink sees a spike in energy (and decibel level) during the months of April-June, few arenas can offer what Madison Square Garden brings to their hometown heroes. The Garden has a certain aura about it that often considered unmatched by any other venue in sports, which is why it has become known as The World’s Most Famous.
The energy of Midtown Manhattan transplants from outside on the hustling streets of New York and into the 5th floor The Garden with each and every Rangers game, and that is only amplified during the playoffs.
While the Rangers have been a stellar road team in this 2013-2014 regular season, securing that home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs would be just that for the Blueshirts – a major advantage.
The Rangers have proven capable of being able to play hard-nosed, playoff-type hockey both at home and on the road, which should make them a scary team once they do clinch.
A trip past the first round, and the loss of home ice would certainly not be as worrisome for New York as it would for some other teams, but the idea of hosting at least the first round should certainly be a goal for the boys in blue.
The postseason is almost upon us, and the excitement of the home stretch is here. For the Rangers, home ice in the first round would definitely be a welcome sight, but the first step is securing that one more point to punch their ticket into the best playoff tournament in professional sports.