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Home vs Road Splits; Home Ice Advantage?

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Every hockey team likes to think they have home ice advantage that is meaningful. Did the Devils play much better at home last season than on the road? Let’s take a quick look.

NHL: New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I wrote up a post about how the New Jersey Devils performed against other teams within the Metropolitan, highlighting that the division is certainly a tight one, and each of those games next season will be quite significant to a team that needs to improve drastically over last season if it hopes to push for a playoff position. If you looked at that chart I made up last week, the difference between how NJ did at home vs Metropolitan opponents and how they did on the road was pretty stark. A 6-5-3 record at home against a 3-11 record on the road is significant. 6-5-3 gets you 15 points in the standings, whereas 3-11 gets you only 6.

Knowing that split occurred against the Metro, I wanted to expand upon that and see how the Devils did at home last season versus what they were able to accomplish on the road. Was the home ice advantage true for the entire league, or was it just present in rival games and games against other Metro teams?

Below, I’ve made a chart, and decided to break it down a little. The home-road splits for the Devils last season are highlighted by division, with goal differentials thrown in.

So as you can see, across the board, home ice advantage for the Devils stayed relatively true. The Devils were an above .500 team in the NHL standard at home last season, producing 47 points in 41 home games. Double that for both home and road and NJ would have ended up with 94 points. That would have been 4 points shy of a playoff berth this past season, but it certainly would have gotten them on the playoff bubble, and would not have been too far away from where they were the year prior, when they ended with 97 points and clinched a wild card.

Perhaps the biggest differential that showcases the difference between NJ’s home and road records is against the Atlantic. On the road, the Devils were straight up atrocious against that division. They were a -23 goal differential in those 12 games, and only managed 7 points. At home, however, they more than held their own. NJ managed 15 points in those 12 games, and produced a barely positive +1 goal differential, significantly better than the -23 on the road. Their final totals against the Atlantic look bad overall, but that is really because of their road games, not their home ones.

Also interesting, and certainly has to be an anomaly, is the Devils’ strong performance against the Pacific overall. Chalk it up to long flights and road trips or whatnot, but NJ was a strong 5-3 against them at the Rock, but a near equally strong 4-3-1 on the road. Against the Central, however, the Devils were really bad again on the road, managing only one win in seven tries, a 5-4 overtime win against Minnesota. Their home record was not all that much better against those teams, however, with a subpar 2-2-3 record and a -1 goal differential. This was the one division the Devils did not play well against at the Rock, but still, a -1 goal diff means that a couple bounces here and there and NJ would have had a positive record here.

What does it all mean? Well, in a way, hopefully not much. We certainly don’t want the Devils to be a similar team to last year, as that one finished the year with 72 points and was a big disappointment. Preferably instead, they are a much improved team and are pushing for a playoff position once again. If that is the case, then comparing last year’s team to this upcoming one might not make too much sense.

However, if there are similarities that trail over from last year to this one, a good trait to keep would be the way they play at home. A really bad New Jersey team still had a 94 point pace at home last season. If they can maintain that type of winning style at home next season, and improve as a team, they might be a really formidable team to play at the Rock. If that is the case, then if they can somehow work on their road performances, real and definitive gains in the standings over last season would definitely be possible.

Again, as I wrote last week, the biggest games and the most important ones are against the Metro. But knowing the Devils’ abilities on the road last season, I think it becomes even more vital to win those games against Metro foes at home. If they give up their fair amount of four point games on the road next season, they need to take 4 point games at home. It is just that simple.