The ROAD Ice Advantage
Coming into the Conference finals, teams were winning at a nearly absurd rate at home. Over 75% winners, while skating on home ice. My how things change quickly.
There have been zero home wins in the west, while Philly and Tampa have split their 4, leaving a combined record of 2-6 at home. This is highly unusual. Perhaps the dreadful home record for the Final Four is a strong indicator of just how closely paired the remaining teams are. It also is a strong indication that we no longer have the dominant teams we’ve seen in the past.
Going out on a limb- a sturdy one, but still a limb- it certainly appears that parity is allowing one hit wonders, a la Anaheim’s run last year, and quick turn arounds, such as shown by Calgary, and San Jose.
Sure, it is common for a team to play “nervous” at home, in an effort to please the sell out crowds; however, Calgary did not even resemble the same team that dominated games 1 and 2. Philly has (arguably) the most significant home ice advantage, and played one of their worst games in game 3. With each series down to a best of 3, it is time for the stars to shine, and the teams to step up. Which team remaining can fight through the adversity, and muscle out at least one more road win?
A closer look at each series:
Calgary/SJ – series tied at 2
This has been a very unusual series in that we have not seen a close game yet. For two teams that mirror each other well, this is almost inexplicable. Nabokov has risen to the occasion, and may be a big part of the turn around, along with much more inspired play from Cheechoo and Marleau. One has to figure that San Jose is back in this series; however, winning three in a row is not the most common feat in the conference finals. San Jose will need to play even better to win game 5, and push Calgary to the brink. Another possibility for the sudden turn around- Calgary looks to be getting worn down. A fantastic Blue Collar effort, but that can take a toll….
Philly/TB – series even at 2
Games 1 and 4 were a little closer than 2 and 3, with Philly making key mistakes in game 1, and Tampa owning the third period of game 4……
This has been a strange series as well, as Tampa has been coerced into playing a more physical game than they are used to. Games 2 and 3 are absolute throw aways, as these teams are very evenly matched. It appears we will be in for a battle of wills, over the next 3 games, as TB will attempt to impose their strategy, waiting for the one break out pass that will set up a scoring chance, while Philly will continue to throw lumber in the corners, and use it’s power game to wear down TB. So far, the grinding forecheck of Philly has been dominant, but TB has not broken. This series will likely break if TB cannot do a better job of handling Philly in their defensive zone- while the Lightning have been able to fight off scoring chances, they will be the tired team if this series continues to drag on.