The Truth About Playoff Scoring & Home Ice Advantage

They are the questions that many fans are asking.

Is home ice advantage in the NHL playoffs as important as it used to be?  Is scoring down in the playoffs?  To get answers to these all important questions, we need to look at past results.

I have looked back at all of the results going back to the beginning of the 2011 NHL playoffs.  The numbers are telling.  They answer both questions with a fairly strong degree of confidence.  We will now use our findings to answer these important questions.

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Is scoring in the NHL playoffs down compared to previous years? The numbers tell the story. (Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

Is Scoring In The NHL Playoffs Down?

Let’s start with this year’s playoffs.  To date, including the 2 games last night, there have been a total of 329 goals scored in 67 games in the playoffs.  That is a total of 4.91 goals scored per game combined.  That is on pace to be among the lowest combined goal total per game since the start of the 2011 NHL playoffs.

To give you some perspective, since the beginning of the 2011 playoffs, including this season, 2,196 goals were scored in 421 games.  That is a total of 5.22 goals scored per game combined.  The breakdown by season puts this season into proper perspective.

2011: 499 goals scored in 89 games = 5.61 goals/game.

2012: 416 goals scored in 86 games = 4.84 goals/game.

2013: 432 goals scored in 86 games = 5.02 goals/game.

2014: 520 goals scored in 93 games = 5.59 goals/game.

The fact that this season is trending under 5.00 goals/game confirms what we all see on the ice.  Scoring is in fact down again.  Want an even more disturbing trend?  Let’s now look at total goals per game by playoff round since 2011.

1st Round: 1,284 goals scored in 239 games = 5.37 goals/game.

2nd Round: 549 goals scored in 113 games = 4.86 goals/game.

Conference Final: 251 goals scored in 45 games = 5.58 goals/game.

Stanley Cup Final: 112 goals scored in 24 games = 4.67 goals/game.

The Cup Final is the main event of the NHL Playoffs.  Casual fans will tune in to watch the Final series.  Recent history suggests that the Final is the lowest scoring round of the NHL playoffs.  That’s not good.  Fans want to see scoring, especially on the biggest stage.

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The Stanley Cup Final is the lowest scoring round of the NHL playoffs since 2011. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Is Home Ice Advantage Still Important?

The prevailing thought is that road teams are better now than before.  The mentality is, just make the playoffs, and see what happens after that.  According to the numbers, home ice advantage is still as important as ever.

Overall, in the 421 games since the start of the 2011 NHL playoffs, the home team has a record of 242-179, a .575 winning percentage.  Let’s look at this season by season.

2011: 48-41 (.539)

2012: 39-47 (.453) This was the year the Kings won a remarkable 10 road games.

2013: 59-27 (.728)

2014: 56-37 (.602)

2015: 40-27 (.597)

Outside of 2012, home teams have the advantage.  Ask any player.  You want to have your fans cheering you on as much as possible.  The numbers bear this out.  But let’s take this a step further.

Let’s now look at home records by round since the 2011 playoffs.  You’ll notice that in every round, the home team has a winning record.

Round 1: 131-108 (.548)

Round 2: 69-44 (.611)

Conference Final: 26-19 (.578)

Cup Final: 16-8 (.667)

And if that wasn’t enough, let’s look at elimination games.

If you’re in an elimination game, it’s better playing at home.  Whether you are trying to knock an opponent out, or trying to prevent someone from knocking you out, history favors the home team.  Here are the records of the home teams in elimination games since 2011.

2011: 18-11

2012: 13-13

2013: 16-7

2014: 16-12

2015: 13-7

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Ask any team. They’d prefer to play on home ice in the NHL playoffs. They’re favored to win. (Photo by Andrew Forbes)

Overall, the home team is 76-50 in elimination games since 2011.  Again, advantage goes to the home team.  No matter how you look at it, home ice advantage still has its importance in today’s NHL.  The odds favor them over the long-term.

What did we learn from these numbers?  We learned that scoring is down in the NHL playoffs compared to the last 4 playoffs.  Defense and goaltending are at an all-time high.  We also learned that home ice advantage is just as important as ever.  Whether it is overall record, or record in elimination games, home teams have the advantage.

These are now the questions that you know the answer to.