NHL

Ranking the 10 NHL Teams with the Biggest Home-Ice Advantage

Rob VollmanContributor IJanuary 10, 2014

Ranking the 10 NHL Teams with the Biggest Home-Ice Advantage

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Despite their perfect record at home, Anaheim is not the team with the biggest home-ice advantage. At least that's the case when you compare a team's record at home to its record on the road. Which teams are at the greatest advantage when playing at home so far this year?

    There are many advantages to playing at home. Some are very minor, like which end of the ice they defend first, or getting to leave the ice first in arenas that don't have direct hallways to the bench.

    Other advantages are far more significant. When all else is equal, faceoffs are conducted in the position most advantageous to the home team, and the visiting center must always place his stick on the ice first. In the shootout, the home team gets to decide who goes first.

    Best of all, the home team gets to set their game day lineup last, and gets the last line change. That can be huge for teams that like to line match. For each team, we've included which player might be benefiting from that most.

    Now turn over to start with the team that just barely beat out the St. Louis Blues for tenth place on our list.

     

    Raw data sources from NHL.com unless otherwise noted.

     

10. Los Angeles Kings

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Home Record: 14-5-3 (31 points)

    Road Record: 12-8-2 (26 points)

     

    The Advantage: The Kings score 0.73 more goals per game at home than on the road. Los Angeles has generally played Jonathan Quick at home, and Ben Scrivens on the road. They have consequently allowed slightly more goals per game at home than on the road.

    The team's per-game advantage in points (0.23) is actually smaller this year than usual. Last year, they were second only to the San Jose Sharks with an extra 0.79 points per game at home. The Kings were 19-4-1 at home and 8-12-4 on the road in 2012-13.

     

    Home-Ice Player: Justin Williams loves playing at home this year, where he has 20 of his 26 points. Williams is a possession monster, but not as much of a two-player as his fellow top-six forwards. This means Sutter likely targets him for more advantageous matchups at home.

     

     

     

9. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Home Record: 12-5-3 (27 points)

    Road Record: 9-7-6 (24 points, in two more games)

     

    The Advantage: The mark of a great coach can be which ones can get the best results out of the advantages of playing on home ice. In that regard, Dave Tippett's reputation is well-earned.

    Just like with Los Angeles, Phoenix allows about the same number of goals no matter where they play, but they score 0.90 more goals at home. Mike Smith actually has a better save percentage on the road, .918 versus .903.

    And, also like the Kings, their per-game advantage this season (0.26 points) is actually smaller than last year's (0.38). In 2012-13 they were 14-8-2 at home and 7-10-7 on the road, and scored an extra 0.96 goals per game at home.

     

    Home-Ice Player: Keith Yandle was most likely excluded from Team USA because of concerns about his defensive play. Yandle is generally used only against secondary lines, and mostly in the offensive zone.

    This is easier to manage at home when Tippett has the last line change. That's a big reason why Yandle has 19 points and is +5 at home, compared to nine points and -9 on the road.

     

     

8. New Jersey Devils

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Home Record: 8-6-6 (22 points)

    Road Record: 9-12-3 (21 points, but in four more games)

     

    The Advantage: New Jersey's big advantage is defensively, where it has allowed 0.98 fewer goals per game at home. Overall, the Devils have allowed 38 goals at home, and 69 on the road. This could just be random chance, or it could be how much easier it is to deploy New Jersey's defensive assets effectively with the final line change.

    Last year, the Devils were 13-9-2 at home and 6-10-8 on the road. Their goal differential was still about a goal per game, but it was more offensive than defensive. That is perhaps the influence of having Ilya Kovalchuk in the lineup.

     

    Home-Ice Player: There's a reason fans still love Martin Brodeur. The future Hall-of-Famer has a .923 save percentage at home, but only .882 on the road. Suit up, Schneider!

     

7. Buffalo Sabres

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Home Record: 9-12-2 (20 points)

    Road Record: 3-14-2 (8 points)

     

    The Advantage: It's not so much that Buffalo has a home-ice advantage, but rather that they don't have quite as much of a disadvantage.

    With a lineup, at times, full of rookies whom opponents can key in on, Buffalo essentially can't win on the road. At home, they can use the last line change to give their scorers an edge. Matt Moulson consequently has twice as many points at home as he does on the road.

    Interestingly, star goalie Ryan Miller is used less frequently on the road, where it's roughly an even split between him and Enroth. There has been no real difference in the results, however, either between them, or where they play.

    Essentially Buffalo's home/road differential may not be at the top of the list in absolute terms, but it is by percentage. The Sabres are almost twice as likely to earn a point at home than on the road this year.

     

    Home-Ice Player: Buffalo captain Steve Ott has had much more success at home, where he has scored 10 of his 12 points. The team's top shutdown forward is also -16 on the road this year, despite being roughly even at home.

     

6. Boston Bruins

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    Steve Babineau/Getty Images

    Home Record: 18-4-2 (38 points)

    Road Record: 10-9-0 (20 points)

     

    The Advantage: It makes sense that home-ice advantage would be a significant factor for a team with top shutdown players. On the road, opposing teams can use the final line change to get away from players like Patrice Bergeron and captain Zdeno Chara, the latter of whom has 14 of his 18 points at home. 

    In nets, potential Vezina winner Tuukka Rask has an almost unbeatable save percentage of .944 at home, but is quite mortal on the road, posting a .908 save percentage. That could be random chance, or it could be that opposing stars are getting away from Chara and taking a higher percentage of their team's shots.

     

    Home-Ice Player: David Krejci has 24 of his 36 points at home, while Torey Krug has 17 of his 23. The latter makes particular sense, since Krug is more of an offense-only player whose ice time is much harder to properly shelter on the road.

     

     

     

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images

    Home Record: 14-4-2 (30 points)

    Road Record: 12-9-2 (26 points in three more games)

     

    The Advantage: Either with Steven Stamkos or without, it makes sense that Tampa Bay would be much better at home.

    With Stamkos, they can use the final line change to make sure he doesn't have to line up against top opponents. That's why 16 of his 23 points are at home.

    Without Stamkos, the Bolts can use that same line change to make sure their collection of younger players aren't in over their heads.

    Add it up, and that may be why the Lightning score 1.04 more goals at home per game, and also allow 0.23 fewer.

    Home-ice advantage is nothing new for Tampa Bay. Last year its record was 12-10-2 at home, and 6-16-2 on the road with a 1.17 difference in goal differential. Even in 2011-12 it was 25-14-2 at home and 13-22-6 on the road with a 1.41 difference in goal differential. This is one team that's consistently better off at home.

     

    Home-Ice Player: Free-agent signing Valtteri Filppula has 22 of his 34 points at home. Deals like his don't always work out, but this is one free agent who was set up to succeed.

     

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Home Record: 19-3-0 (38 points)

    Road Record: 13-9-1 (27 points)

     

    The Advantage: Though it makes perfect sense that Pittsburgh would be better off at home, where they get the best possible matchups for superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, this year's sizeable home ice advantage is completely new to them. Last year Pittsburgh was exactly 18-6-0 both at home and on the road.

    This year Pittsburgh's goal differential is better by 1.28 goals per game at home, split roughly evenly between their offense and their defense.

    Marc-Andre Fleury has a .935 save percentage at home, but just .895 on the road, although two of this three shutouts have been while visiting.

     

    Home-Ice Player: Rookie Olli Maatta can be protected more effectively at home, where he has nine of his 14 points, and is +8 rather than -4.

    It isn't just the rookies having more success at home, it's also the checking line. Brandon Sutter, for example, has 14 of his 16 points at home, and is +6 rather than -4.

     

3. San Jose Sharks

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    Don Smith/Getty Images

    Home Record: 15-1-3 (33 points)

    Road Record: 12-10-3 (27 points in six more games)

     

    The Advantage: The San Jose Sharks had the best home/road differential in the league last year, posting a 17-2-5 record at home and 8-14-2 on the road. This is an extra 0.88 points per game at home.

    Although it's triple eighth-place New Jersey's point differential, this year, the Shark's point differential is only 0.66.

    San Jose has averaged 1.10 more goals per night at home, and have allowed 0.65 fewer. Last year, they scored 0.83 more goals per game and allowed 0.92 fewer, for that exact same 1.75 differential.

     

    Home-Ice Player: Offensive-minded winger Brent Burns is one of the few Sharks forwards who needs a little protection, and consequently has 17 of his 25 points at home. He is also a dominant +16 at home and about even on the road.

     

2. Anaheim Ducks

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Home Record: 18-0-2 (38 points)

    Road Record: 14-8-3 (31 points in five more games)

     

    The Advantage: The Anaheim Ducks are hard to beat anywhere this year, but have been unbeatable at home (in regulation time).

    The Ducks earn 0.66 more points per game at home, same as San Jose. But they score 1.15 more goals per game, allow 0.94 fewer, for the largest home/road goal differential of 2.09 goals per night. Awesome.

    How are they doing this? The Ducks have an awesome checking line, which can be used to take on top opponents at home, giving Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf the space they need to be most effective. 

    Though it seems to make perfect sense that Anaheim would be better in their own arena, last year they were roughly the same at home and on the road.

     

    Home-Ice Player: Jonas Hiller has posted a .932 save percentage at home, but just .887 on the road. Last year's Norris contender Francois Beauchemin has had a +19 plus/minus at home, but only +3 on the road.  

1. Minnesota Wild

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

    Home Record: 16-5-2 (34 points)

    Road Record: 7-12-3 (17 points)

     

    The Advantage: The Anaheim Ducks may be better at home overall, but relative to each team's road record, there's a slightly bigger advantage in Minnesota. The Wild earn 0.71 more points per game at home, where they have twice as many points.

    Minnesota is also the only team to score and prevent at least one more goal per game at home than on the road. Their goals for and against are 65 and 45 at home, and 38 and 65 on the road, almost a perfect reversal.

    Could goalie usage be a factor? The game split between Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom is 17 games to 8 at home, but 12 to 10 on the road. There's no real difference in their save percentages, though.

     

    Home-Ice Player: The top line of Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise appreciate how the final line change gets them away from some of the tougher matchups. They have scored 40 of their combined 62 points at home, and are a combined +18 at home and -21 on the road.

     

     

    Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides and a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL.

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