So as this season as highlighted in an extreme fashion, the New Jersey Devils have some serious home ice advantage. In their 8 home games so far this season, they are 6-1-1. That is pretty incredible for an organization that has in the past been berated for having a lukewarm or minimal fan base, one not quite indicative of the New York market in which is resides. Not to say that the fans have anything to do with it, but according to ESPN (I know, I know), the Rock has been filled at 99.3% capacity on average this season. That certainly showcases a lively crowd.
While the Devils have been on the road this season, however, they are a measly 2-7 thanks to an atrocious 1-6 road trip. What advantage the team has found in Newark, for whatever reason, they have been utterly unable to transfer that most anywhere else. The only state they seem to be able to transfer their high level of play would be Pennsylvania, where both their road wins have occurred.
Given this, what I wanted to go was go back to last year as well and see if the Devils have really become a team reliant on the home win. Below is a chart going from this month back to the beginning of last season, the team’s home and road records in each month, and the totals and point percentages at the end:
The more we get closer to the present, the more stark those point percentages become as well. If you remove the 2017 months and only focus on what has happened in 2018, the home point percentage falls a little to 0.613. but the away point percentage tumbles much further, down to an even 0.400. That means that since the calendar turned to 2018, the Devils have gained greater than 20% more potential points when at home as opposed to on the road. That is a large number. Even with the three 2017 months, that percentage sits at 15.6%.
With that 0.637 point percentage from the chart, over the course of an 82 game season, the Devils would end up with 103 points, and would clearly be in a strong position for a postseason run. With the 0.481 point percentage from the chart, however, the Devils would end up with 78 points in a full season, less than one point per game and in a clear lottery position. That is the difference between their home and road records since the start of last season. Over the course of a season, it would come out to 25 extra points. Wow.
The question, of course, is what to make of that. Is it a positive, that this team has such home ice advantage? Of course it is, but how does that weigh against the plain fact that the same team has been a pretty garbage team when playing out of state. Remember that 2014-15 season where Tuomo Ruutu played in 75 games, Jordin Tootoo played in 68, Steve Bernier played in 67 and even the extremely disappointing Michael Ryder played in 47? You might have tried to forget it. That team ended with 78 points, the exact same point percentage that the current Devils have had on the road since the start of last season. That is how bad they’ve been playing away from the Rock for quite some time (53 games to be exact).
So far this year, New Jersey has played 7 games in Newark versus 10 games on the road (I am counting the game in Sweden as on the road despite it counting as a home game in the books). And you know what else they have? 8 wins and 9 non-wins (8 losses and an OTL to Nashville), almost identical to their home-road split so far. Of course not all of their wins have come at home and losses on the road, but it is pretty close. Despite the Devils’ strong performances at home, if they cannot figure out their road woes at some point, it really does not matter what they do at home. At best, their strong home ice advantage would keep them in a similar position to where they are now in the standings: within striking distance of some Metro rivals, but probably not in a true position to overtake them. At the worst, that advantage would not be enough to get them into the playoffs once again, but it would give them terrible lottery odds and a mediocre pick out of the top 10.
If they can figure out how to bring some of that mojo they get at the Prudential Center to other arenas, however, then we are talking. Combine even a slightly better road point percentage with how they are playing at home, and the Devils all of a sudden become a dangerous team to contend with. That is a big if of course, because it implies both becoming better on the road while simultaneously remaining super good at home. Is it possible? Absolutely. And as fans, it is exactly what we need to root for. The rest of November will see 3 more home games versus 4 on the road. Despite having more road tilts, if the Devils can manage to finish the month with more wins than losses, that would be a great start.