For the Home Team…
By: Miranda Martin
For most teams in any sport, the home arena is utilized as a distinct advantage. For the Nashville Predators, it’s a survival tactic.
Merely one week ago, the Nashville Predators were facing every facet of frustration and defeat, as “The Road Trip from Hell, Part Deux” played itself out with a fourth consecutive defeat in Columbus, making the road record 5-11-2 this season. Fans were ready to put half the team on waivers, trade the other half, and fire the coaching staff…
Then, around 8 PM Thursday night, something changed.
Amidst playing a lackluster first period against the Calgary Flames, the team finally found a spark. Their errors weren’t being rewarded with cheers like the previous five games on the road. Instead, there were reprimands for poor plays and rewards for hustle and momentum. Suddenly, it was a brand new team on the ice. The home ice was a distinct advantage, and with the victory Monday night against Edmonton, Nashville’s home record stands strong at 9-2-4, sixth in the league.
The team who had originally been averaging less than two goals a game have averaged 4 goals in their home games in March. The first line found their groove, with Kostitsyn/Fisher/Erat combining for 11`points in the past 3 home games. The same line had only combined for 18 points total in the entire month of February. The power play is best in the league at home, with 28.3%, strikingly different than the 23rd ranked road powerplay at 12.5%.
Beyond the offense, the defense also performs much higher in the presence of the 17,000 strong at Bridgestone Arena. In 15 home games, the Predators have only allowed 26 goals against. In 18 away games, the Predators have allowed 57 goals against. Pekka Rinne feeds the most off the fans love, especially. His goals against average (GAA) at home is a 1.69–on the road, it’s nearly doubled at 3.01. Four of Rinne’s five shutouts have appeared on home ice, as well.
This isn’t the first time that the Predators have relied heavily on their home record in the standings. Last season, the Predators home record was ranked sixth in the league at 26-10-5. In 2005-2006, after the last lockout, the Predators had a stunning 32-8-1 home record, first in the league. However, road woes have been prevalent over the years as well. The Predators didn’t win a single road game in their first four playoff series. They finally tallied their first road playoff win in 2010, six years after their inaugural playoff berth. When the Preds had their great home record in 2005-2006, their road record barely broke even, going just 17-17-7.
With 9 more home games left in the season, it will certainly be interesting to see where the Predators end up. It’s almost the tale of two teams. At home, fans see a fairly entertaining team that doesn’t let up. On the road… well, the remote has to be taped down to avoid being chucked at the television. Not to mention that there are still 7 road games as well.
It’s a 9-2-4 home team versus 5-11-2 road team… and it truly depends on which team shows up.