NHL Playoffs 2012: 5 Teams with the Biggest Home-Ice Advantage
The 2012 NHL playoffs begin Wednesday, and some teams will be relying on a big home-ice advantage to make a run at the Stanley Cup.
It is not only the top four teams in each conference that can use home-ice advantage to have success.
Each team gets an opportunity to play at least two home games in a best-of-7 series. For the lower seeds that start a series on the road, it will be very important to win each game at home. This is especially true if they fall behind 0-2 in the series while on the road.
A team’s home record was not the only stat used when putting this list together.
Home ice becomes even more important for the teams that succeed at home, but have a hard time winning consistently on the road.
Here are the five teams that will enjoy the biggest home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
5. Florida Panthers
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The Florida Panthers may not have a team captain, but they sure do know how to win at home.
The Panthers are 21-9-11 at home this season.
Luckily for the Panthers, no playoff games can end in a shootout. They lost 11 games this season in the penalty shot competition.
The reason for the Panthers' success at home being so important comes down to them having home-ice advantage in the first round.
Despite having the sixth-highest point total in the Eastern Conference, the Panthers are the third seed in the playoffs because they were able to win the Southeast Division.
The first-round matchup for the Panthers will not be easy. Especially with the New Jersey Devils playing such good hockey on the road this season (24-15-2).
The Panthers played the Devils twice at home this season. They won once in regulation and lost the other game in a shootout.
It’s been a long time since the Panthers enjoyed playoff success. If they can take advantage of home ice, there’s a good shot they will get to the second round.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Pittsburgh Penguins got their star player, Sidney Crosby, back and then promptly went on a run to get home-ice advantage in the first round.
That’s very important for the Penguins, who went 29-10-2 at home this season. That was the best home record in the Eastern Conference.
The leading scorer in the NHL, Evgeni Malkin, plays better at home for the Penguins.
In 37 home games this season, Malkin has 28 goals and 39 assists, as opposed to 22 goals and 20 assists in 38 games on the road.
The Penguins did not have great success at home until early January.
Through the first 20 games they played at home, the Penguins went 11-7-2. But, they’ve gone 18-3-0 at Consol Energy Center since Jan. 17.
Although the Penguins will likely only have home-ice advantage for one series, they are a matchup that no team in the NHL wants to face.
If the Penguins can win some road games this postseason, their ability to play so well at home may mean Crosby is again hoisting the Stanley Cup in June.
3. Chicago Blackhawks
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It is nearly impossible for the Chicago Blackhawks to get home-ice advantage for a series in the playoffs.
But, that doesn’t mean the Blackhawks won’t be able to take advantage of playing at the United Center .
This season, the Blackhawks went 27-8-6 at home, which is much better than their 18-18-5 road record.
The Blackhawks also ended the season playing very good hockey at home, going 8-2-2 over their final 12 games there.
The biggest key for the Blackhawks in the postseason will be the play of starting goaltender Corey Crawford.
Surprisingly, Crawford has actually been better on the road this season statistically. That was also true last postseason when the Blackhawks lost in seven games to the Vancouver Canucks.
Crawford gave up eight goals in three games at home (2-1), but only gave up eight goals in four games on the road (1-3).
There is no reason the Blackhawks can’t get by the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round in this year’s playoffs.
But they will have to continue their home success and improve on how they played at home against the Coyotes, against whom they were 0-1-1 this year and were outscored 8-4.
2. St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues have a great opportunity to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
To do so, the Blues will have to continue winning games at home, as they have done all season.
The Blues went 30-6-5 at home this season. That was the second-best home record in the NHL, behind the Detroit Red Wings.
The key to the Blues' success at home this season is the same reason that they enter the playoffs as the second seed in the Western Conference—goaltending.
Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak combined to only give up 66 goals at home this season (compared to 82 goals given up on the road). That number was good enough for a 1.61 GAA at home, best in the NHL.
The Blues open their first-round series on Thursday against the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks have struggled on the road this season (17-17-7) and were 0-2 at St. Louis this season.
In the two games in St. Louis, the Sharks failed to score a goal on the Blues.
If the Blues can continue their home success, they will have a great chance to extend their magical season. Maybe far enough to play for a Stanley Cup.
1. Detroit Red Wings
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The Detroit Red Wings have the best home-ice advantage in the NHL.
Because they are the fifth seed in the Western Conference, they will need to take advantage of each opportunity to play at Joe Louis Arena. If they don’t, it could be a very short postseason.
The Red Wings finished the season 31-7-3 at home, but were only 17-21-3 on the road.
And, as we all saw during their 23-game home winning streak, if the Red Wings get hot at home, it could be a long time before they cool off.
It was not only the team that saw a big shift in success during the season when playing at home.
Niklas Kronwall, a top defenseman for the Red Wings, was plus-15 at home this season. But, on the road, Kronwall was a minus-17.
Jimmy Howard put up incredible numbers at home this season (1.80 GAA, .931 SV%). However, his numbers took a big dip on the road (2.55 GAA, .907 SV%).
If the Red Wings want to go to their sixth Stanley Cup Final in the last 16 seasons, then they will have to improve their play on the road.
One way to ease the road pressure would be to continue doing what they’ve done all year at home—win.