Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let's do away with (the idea of) home ice advantage

You want a home ice advantage? Play better on home ice!

I'm a big fan of TSN's Sunday morning opinion show The Reporters, but I'm a bigger fan of the podcast version. Opinions and information without having to look at Steve Simmons' ugly mug? Perfect! They did a little bonus episode last Sunday discussing the apparent lack of advantage for NHL teams that play at home and I couldn't help but take issue with their way of thinking.

Opinions ranged from a lack of distinctiveness among NHL arenas to the length and flight patterns between cities to even... get this... a lack of effort from heckling fans. Frankly, I think this analysis forgets that there's nothing good and natural about home ice - it's what you make of it.

Finishing at the top of the Eastern Conference certainly didn't help the Washinton Capitals much, and the Ottawa Senatorss having game six against Pittsburgh at home only worsened their record. The last game was played in Ottawa - you'd think it was the Sens who finished ahead of the Penguins.

I think mixing the facts up like this only serve to prove that there's no such thing as home ice advantage - the better team should win whether they're in their own town or not.

In the case of the Caps, playing at home didn't hurt them as much as their goaltending, powerplay, lack of scoring, poor defence... get where I'm going?

Over-analyzing home ice advantage is like asking why the tail is wagging the dog. The reason why it's a seven-game series is because the better team will eventually win. And witnessing the Canadiens scrape their way through these playoffs despite playing only six games on home ice is all the proof that should be needed.
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