Home Ice Not A Clear Advantage for Capitals in Postseason

Posted April 13, 2018

One loss, one game. That is all that it took for a sizeable chunk of the hockey universe to decide that, yup, it’s happening again in Washington.

In nothing short of the usual gut-punching fashion that fans are used to, the Capitals blew an early 2-0 lead in game one of the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not only did they then blow a second lead with just minutes remaining in the third to allow Columbus to force overtime, but one flick of the wrist from Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin in the extra session put the Capitals down 1-0 in a series that, for all intents and purposes, the Jackets arranged for by tanking their final game of the season.

It’s much too early to be raising the white flag, however, as the Capitals have a reasonably favorable record when trailing 1-0 in a series over their franchise history. That probably won’t make you feel any better considering how often the Capitals lose the type of game that they were playing in yesterday, though.

Again, while it is only one loss, it followed another alarming pattern that has plagued the team since their first playoff run of the Alex Ovechkin era in 2008.

Since that first series against Philadelphia, the Washington Capitals have held home-ice advantage eleven times. They have a series record of 5-6 over those years. Their overall record on home ice over that span is just 28-24.

Hockey is a bit of a weird sport when it comes to home ice advantage, which according to FiveThirtyEight, is a bit overstated compared to the other major sports leagues. However, when you have a team like the Washington Capitals that are at the top of the standings year after year while also being borderline unbeatable at home during the regular season, you would expect them to be a bit of an outlier.

Most teams relish the opportunity to play such important games in front of their own fans, but it is fair to assume that the overwhelmingly nervous attitude that is carried by fans this time of year permeates onto the ice towards the players as well. That is something that will likely only be changed by better results.

Hope is certainly not dead for the Capitals, who looked very good at times last night and with a little more discipline would probably be up 1-0 in this series. If they can clean up their game and win game two, they will have a great chance to steal home ice right back from Columbus by taking games three or four on the road.

If this really is going to be the year that Washington makes a legitimate run at a championship, utilizing their home ice advantage is going to be of utmost importance to give them the best opportunity of advancing beyond their usual territory of the first two rounds.