The Anaheim Ducks finished this shortened season with a 30-12-06 record. They finished second overall in the Western conference and clinched not only the Pacific division title, but ensured themselves the elusive privilege of having home ice. But how much of an advantage is home ice anyway?
The Vancouver Canucks, who were seeded third in the Western conference, were eliminated Tuesday night after being swept by the sixth seeded San Jose Sharks. The Montreal Canadiens, who like the Ducks, finished second with home ice in the East and are one game away from being eliminated by the seventh seed Ottawa Senators.
The Ducks entered game 5 of their series against the Detroit Red Wings with a 2-2 split. Each team has won one game in each arena: Anaheim’s Honda Center and Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. The top seeded Pittsburgh Penguins and the eighth seeded Islanders are in the same situation in the Eastern conference.
So again, how much of an advantage is home ice anyway?
With no two teams meeting more frequently in the playoffs since 1997, the Ducks and Red Wings rivalry has become one of the most intense in the West. (Well, at least the Western conference as it stands today. With Detroit crossing over to the East in the new NHL alignment taking effect next season, the only circumstances in which these two will meet in the postseason after this year will be in the Stanley Cup Finals.)
Historically in this rivalry, home ice advantage has played into the favor of the Red Wings. The Detroit squad leads the Ducks with an overall regular season record of 48-20-7, with 30-4-3 of that coming at home. The advantage might seem large overall, but let’s not forget that it took the Ducks thirteen games (three full seasons) before they earned their first regulation win over Motor City.
Detroit also leads the rivalry in overall playoff games, but by a slimmer margin of 16-13. However, six of Detroit’s 13 playoff losses happened on their own ice at JLA. And since 2006, the Ducks actually have a 9-8 playoff advantage with 5 of their wins taking place on home ice. With the each team being just about 50/50 on home ice, game 5 could be anybody’s game.
With the series tied at two games apiece, the Ducks/Red Wings series had been narrowed down to a best-of-three, with two of those being on Anaheim ice. Prior to the start of game 5, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf stated, “We’re far from frustrated right now. This is playoff hockey,” while forward Nick Bonino echoed, “You play the whole year to earn home ice advantage.”
The first period of Wednesday night’s contest mimicked the series situation with the two teams exchanging goals and ending at 1-1, with the goals coming from Johan Franzen for the Red Wings and Kyle Palmieri for the Ducks. And as if concocted by the fates, the second period followed suit, with the second period’s goals being scored by Mikael Samuelsson and Getzlaf.
The third period drew blanks from both teams, sending the ever-crucial Game 5 into overtime.
However, it only took 1:54 into the overtime period for Bonino to end it, giving the Ducks a 3-2 victory and a 3-2 lead in the series.
“It’s what you dream of as a kid, scoring an overtime playoff goal!” Bonino exclaimed. He continued, “Game 5 is a big swing game when it’s a 2-2 series and we’d like to finish it in six.”
Getzlaf added, “Game 5 is a pretty crucial thing going into their building. Hopefully, we can go there with the same urgency we had tonight. It’s going to be great. Like I said, this is the funnest (sic) time of year and when you’re on the road, it’s a blast.”
Game 6 will take place in Detroit on Friday, with the Ducks looking to advance to the Western Conference finals and the Red Wings looking to escape elimination. Given the home ice tendencies between these two teams, particularly in the playoffs, game 6 will not be determined by home ice, but by which team fights for it more. It’s anybody’s game.