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How Much Does Home-Ice Advantage Matter in the Stanley Cup Final?

Jun 02, 2018 8:57 PM EDT

The Highlights

  • Outside of the Golden Knights, home teams have not fared well in the postseason.
  • Washington has a 4-5 record at home in these playoffs, but history is on its side for Game 3. 

In this year’s NHL playoffs, home ice hasn’t been much of an advantage — except for the Golden Knights, who have a 7-2 home record. Excluding games played in Vegas, home teams are just 30-41 for a shockingly low winning percentage of 42.2%. That means road teams own an overall record of 43-37 in this year’s playoffs, which includes Vegas’ 6-2 away mark. Regardless of what happens in the rest of this series, road teams will finish with a winning record for the first time since the 2012 playoffs, when they went 47-39.

While 42.2% is abnormally low, home ice hasn’t meant nearly as much historically as it has in the NBA — especially in the postseason.

Like MLB, home teams do not fare any better in the NHL postseason than they do in the regular season. And a 55% win percentage implies a line of -120 for two evenly matched teams. With the line set right around -120 for Game 3, you should bet the Caps if you feel they have the better team — adjusted for injuries and other factors you deem important.

NHL Home Teams in the Stanley Cup Final

Home teams in the Stanley Cup Final have gone 51-24 (68%) straight-up since 2006. A $100 bettor would be up $1,103 betting the home team (14.7% ROI). However, most of that profit came during 2006-2011, when home teams went 29-9 for a profit of +10.8 units. Betting home teams between 2012 and this season has essentially been a wash, as they have gone 22-15 for a marginal net profit of +0.23 units.

How About in Game 3?

Home teams in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final have gone 12-2 over the last 15 years. The only road teams to win a Game 3 in that span? Los Angeles in 2014 at New Jersey and Tampa in 2015 at Chicago. Believe it or not, the Stanley Cup Final has only been tied 1-1 three other times during that stretch, with the home team going 2-1 in Game 3.

The Knights have already demonstrated their road prowess in this postseason with two enormous road regulation wins at Winnipeg, which owned the NHL’s best home record in the regular season. The Jets lost only five home games in regulation during the regular season, but they dropped two during an eight-day stretch against the Knights in the Western Conference finals.

Can the Capitals finally win a home series opener on Saturday? They’ve failed in three separate chances this postseason. Or will the pressure of performing in front of their home crowd be too much to overcome again?

History says they will need to play better at home. No team has won a Stanley Cup with a losing home record since the NHL went to the best-of-seven format in 1939. The Caps, who currently have a 4-5 postseason record in DC, mathematically can become the first to do so. However, I wouldn’t count on the Cup coming back to the Beltway if they lose their first two home games of a series, as they did against Columbus and Tampa.

But then again, if Braden Holtby makes saves like he did in the final minutes of Game 2 — it won’t matter what Vegas does.

Credit:

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Braden Holtby.

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