Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Home-ice advantage can be important in the playoffs. Though seemingly less effective than in other sports, playing that extra game at home might be what a team needs to make it through to the next round.
Unfortunately, even given that extra home game, a team either needs to be literally perfect in its home arena, or it needs to know how to win on the road.
When you look at the road records of playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, you can see why they're successful. The Flyers have the best record in the league at 25-13-3, meaning they got 53 points on the road this season. The Rangers, Bruins and Devils also each got at least 50 points from away games.
Comparatively, the Western Conference has one team, the Vancouver Canucks, who can boast that number.
This won't play too large a role in the playoffs until the Finals. In the East, more road games will be won. In the West, more home games.
That last part certainly makes sense, given that Western teams tend to be much more dominant at home. Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago have lost fewer than ten games in regulation at home this season. The Panthers are the only Eastern team to meet that standard.
Three teams—the Penguins, Rangers and Capitals—have each lost 15 or fewer games at home all season, including overtime and shootout losses. Meanwhile, Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago, Vancouver, Nashville and San Jose all meet that criteria.
That's all a complicated way of saying that, in general, the West get their wins at home, whereas the East split them up more between home and away.
So where does that come into play in the playoffs? Well, it means that if a Western team has home-ice advantage in the Finals, they have a sizable advantage. But if an Eastern team has home-ice, it's an even larger advantage, because the Western team will have to win a road game.
This all becomes moot if Vancouver advances to the finals, as they seem particularly skilled both at home and on the road, and would also be guaranteed home-ice throughout the playoffs. However, if another Western team* were to find its way there, they could struggle mightily.
*The Central Division teams are a particularly good example. Of the four Central playoff teams, the Blues are three games above .500, the Preds six games above, the Wings four games below .500 and the Blackhawks exactly on the middle-mark.