Are we buying this trend from the Carolina Hurricanes?


In recent years, the impact of home games versus road games has been questioned in all sports, not just the NHL. For a long time, we’ve given NFL teams a three-point advantage on the field. However, over the past few years we have quickly realized that three points is too many in most cases. With teams now traveling lavishly and staying in first class accommodation on the road, the convenience of sleeping in your own bed may not be what it used to be. Sure, you could argue that fan impact and building energy might play a role, but probably not as much as we once thought.

However, these NHL playoffs were a throwback to the days when home ice advantage was paramount. During the regular season, NHL teams went 704-608 on home ice, good for a winning percentage of 53.7%. In these playoffs though, the home teams are 42-25, which is good for a success rate of 62.7%. In the first round, we saw five series go to a Game 7. Four of those Game 7s were won by the home team. While home ice advantage has been good for most teams in these playoffs, there is one team where site has been everything.

Carolina splits are serious

The Carolina Hurricanes currently find themselves tied at two games against the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference second-round playoff series. It’s the exact same situation they found themselves in in the first round against Boston. It ended up working for Carolina in the first round, and if the trend continues, Carolina will advance to the conference finals as well.

In 11 playoff games, the Hurricanes are 6-0 at home and 0-5 on the road. They are the only team remaining in these playoffs that has yet to lose a game at home. They are also the only remaining team to have yet to win a game on the road. In these playoffs, Carolina is scoring 3.7 goals per game at home, but just 1.6 goals per game on the road. On the other side of the puck, they allow just 1.2 goals per game at home, but teams are scoring over 4 goals per game against Carolina when on the road.

Jordan Staal is one of the main reasons for the Carolina Hurricanes’ crazy home/road splits in the NHL playoffs. (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Hurricanes are yet to score more than two goals in a single road game, and they are yet to allow more than two goals in a single home game. They have won four of their six home games by at least two goals and lost their five road games by multiple goals. So not only could you accumulate money with Moneyline bets, but you could be triple dipping and attacking the team total and puck line markets as well.

Carolina has won 29 of its 41 home games during the regular season, so its performance at home should come as no surprise. They had a top 5 home record in the league and the atmosphere at the PNC Arena in Raleigh is great. What is surprising is the performance of the Hurricanes on the road. During the regular season, Carolina had 25 road wins, which is tied for the most in the league. Carolina went from the best road team in the league to one that is 0-5 in the playoffs while being outscored 21-8.

What’s the cause ?

When you think of the advantage of playing at home in the playoffs, you imagine crazy atmospheres and raucous crowds. It’s definitely part of the equation. The Hurricanes have a large home crowd filled with pre-game tailgating and a college-like atmosphere (they share their building with NC State basketball). Their two playoff opponents, Boston and New York, also have dedicated fans who make their buildings difficult to play.

However, the main advantage for home teams in hockey is the fact that the home team coach can make the last line change and therefore controls the matchups. In the regular season, most coaches will try to get the matchups they want, but they won’t go overboard in doing so. It’s a long season and rolling your depth and controlling the minutes is the goal. In the playoffs, coaches go out of their way to get the games they want at home.

When the games were in Carolina, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour used the Jordan Staal line to neutralize the other team’s top line. Staal is one of the best defensive centers in the league. In the first two games of this series, Rangers only scored one goal in total and it came from their third line. However, once the series returned to New York, Rangers coach Gerard Gallant removed his top line of Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Frank Vatrano from Staal. the three have combined for four goals in the last two games at Madison Square Garden.

It also works the other way around. In Carolina, Sebastian Aho scored twice in the first two games of the series. In these playoffs, Aho has nine points. Eight of them are at home. When games are at Madison Square Garden, Gallant opted to field the defensive duo of Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren against Aho’s line and for the most part they shut him down.

Carolina needs more of its secondary players if it wants to be able to win on the road in the playoffs. The best guys always face stiff competition, and it’s usually the lesser-heralded guys who succeed with big goals in teams that go far. Andrei Svechnikov has only four points in these playoffs. Martin Necas has no goals. If these guys go, they’ll have a better chance of surviving unfavorable matchups.

Hope for Caroline

There’s a silver lining to all of this for Carolina. If these insane separations between the national roads are maintained, they are in rather good condition. Two of the last three games of this series against the Rangers are in Raleigh. Carolina is still a -150 favorite to advance to the Conference Finals. Carolina is a -155 favorite in Game 5 on Thursday.

If Carolina passes the Rangers, the Hurricanes will also have home-court advantage in the Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. If a team other than Colorado came out of the West, the Hurricanes would also have home ice in the Stanley Cup Finals. Carolina is currently +210 to win the East and +550 to win the Stanley Cup. If Carolina wants to win the Cup, I guess they’ll probably have to earn a win or two on the road.