Home ice advantage has been a palpable asset in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the second round alone, home teams are 9-1, with the Detroit Red Wings owning the lone road victory, over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 to even their series.
The Red Wings return home for Game 3 on Monday night. Except it’s the Blackhawks that have owned their house for the last four seasons.
“It’s a fun place to play. There’s a lot of history here,” said winger Patrick Kane on Monday.
Here’s the history for the Hawks in Detroit’s home barn: 9-1-1 in their last 11 visits dating back to Oct. 9, 2009. That’s the last regulation win the Red Wings had at home against Chicago, after defeating them three times in the 2009 Western Conference Final.
Chicago has scored 33 goals in that 11-game span to Detroit’s 19. But the games were mostly well contested: The Blackhawks had three shootout wins and an overtime victory, while Detroit added an overtime win of its own.
So why do the Blackhawks play so well in Detroit (outside of our working theory, which is that Patrick Sharp stays beautiful through octopus gunk facial treatments)?
Joe Louis Arena is always mentioned among the best in the NHL when it comes to quality of ice.
Kane said that plays right to the Blackhawks’ strengths, with the speed and skills they have up front.
“You’re not really worried about looking down at the puck, or the puck rolling on you,” he said.
Coach Joel Quenneville cited the “lively boards” at the Joe being something the Blackhawks use to their advantage. From the Freep:
“There’s an awareness,” Quenneville said. “We’ve been in their building a lot of times and we’ve seen what the puck is capable of doing. Whether there’s the unpredictability of their end boards or side board, there’s almost a spring to the puck. It’s a livelier game in certain areas and an awareness on both sides of the puck is something we have to be ready for.”
As he indicated, it’s a two-way street: The Blackhawks can use to boards to their advantage, while understanding what a weapon they can be the Wings.
The Measuring Stick
It’s the Detroit Red Wings. It’s the measuring stick of all measuring sticks for the Western Conference, with or without Nicklas Lidstrom on that blue line. As Quenneville said, a visit to Joe Louis means a mandatory top effort from the road team.
“It’s always an important game. It’s always a tough building in the past to pick up points, and you had to play your best,” he said, citing Chicago’s 7-1 win during the regular season as perhaps their best effort of the season.
“That’s kind of the pace we have to expect from each other.”
The Blackhawks Are a Pretty Darn Good Road Team
Chicago was 18-4-2 on the road this season, after being just a .500 team away from home in 2011-12. Patrick Kane led the NHL with 30 points on the road. Jonathan Toews has scored more away points than home points in each of the last four seasons, and was an NHL best plus-21 on the road this season.
So the Blackhawks have done well away from home this season.
And they’ve been anything but humble guests at the Joe for the last four seasons.
“It’s just a great place to play hockey,” said Kane.