As the results of the opening games of the 2014-15 NHL playoffs show, having home ice advantage isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be — unless you’re an Original Six team, or the Anaheim Ducks.
Here’s a breakdown of the games. You can quickly see that the visitors had the upper hand.
|VISITING TEAM||HOME TEAM|
|Ottawa Senators||Montreal Canadiens – WIN
|New York Islanders – WIN||Washington Capitals|
|Chicago Blackhawks – WIN
|Calgary Flames – WIN||Vancouver Canucks|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||New York Rangers – WIN
|Minnesota Wild – WIN||St. Louis Blues|
|Detroit Red Wing – WIN
|Tampa Bay Lightning|
|Winnipeg Jets||Anaheim Ducks – WIN|
As for the four original six teams in the playoffs, each of them won their opening games, irrespective of whether they were at home, or on the road.
The Stops the Nashville Predators Pulled
Take the Nashville Predators as an example. When it was certain the Preds would be facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, they pulled out all the stops they could to have the greatest amount of support for their team. For starters, they found ways to make ticket purchases for non-Tennessee residents awkward — requiring credit card identification to match the transaction at the entry to the Bridgestone Arena. They weren’t the only team to do this either – the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Ottawa Senators have made ticket sale restrictions.
If that deterrent wasn’t enough to stop the Hawks’ fans from making the 7 hour drive south down I-65 to Nashville and Blackhawks fans still showed up, they needed to shut down the Hawks fans clapping and cheering their way through the national anthem. As everyone knows, the Hawks’ fans try to get their talons into the visiting teams as soon as the national anthem begins up in Chicago’s United Center. To shut that possibility down in Nashville, none of the corral of country singers would be singing the anthem, instead the crowd itself was asked to sing. If everyone was singing, they reasoned, it would be more difficult for the Hawks’ fans to clap and scream through the anthem like they do in Chicago.
Sea of Yellow
Then they had yellow t-shirts waiting on every seat in the arena, so the game was surrounded by a sea of Predators’ yellow. Despite all these moves, they weren’t able to win their game. After blowing a 3-0 lead, Chicago regrouped, forcing overtime. The game went to two overtime periods before the puck was slipped past Predators’ goalie, Pekka Rinne, for a Chicago win. So much for home ice advantage.
Home ice advantage slipped away for all the home teams of the first game of the series, except for lone Original Six team to play on night one of the series, the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens didn’t try to stop the Senators fans from making the 2-hour drive to watch the game, but their spectacular pre-game show — something the Canadiens are known for doing extremely well — put the fans — and players — into high adrenaline right from the start. The show, which included a recorded speech in French from the Habs’ beloved center, Jean Béliveau – who passed away earlier this season, reminding the team that to win a championship, they must “jouer ensemble” – play together – and a video of him holding the torch high above the dark ice below stirred the Canadiens’ fans into a frenzy. Then the jumbotron — and the ice — appeared to light on fire — a fantastic spectacle. After singing powerhouse Ginette Reno belted out “O Canada”, the fans were stirred up to a frenzy, and the players were too.
On night two of the series, the visiting teams again had their way with home ice, except, once again, for the sole Original Six team with home ice advantage – the New York Rangers — and the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks’ home rink record this season of 26-12-3 was nothing extraordinary, coming in sixth of all teams in the league. And they and they did give away t-shirts and towels for all Ducks’ fans in attendance at The Honda Center. They didn’t, however, prevent out-of-towners from coming to their games, and perhaps that was the little bit of extra karma they needed to help them win.
Strategist, writer and hockey mom. Notre Dame Hound. Luctor et emergo.