Making it to the playoffs is one thing. Winning the Conference Finals another. But, if the Nashville Predators want to win the cup, they need home ice.
It was a bitter pill to swallow at the time. The Nashville Predators lost the Stanley Cup on home ice. For at least 3-games worth of playing time, the Western Conference Champion looked like the better team. They held the Pittsburgh Penguins scoreless for a majority of the first game. The Predators dominated at Bridgestone Arena in Games 3 and 4. Even in Game 6, the Predators looked destined to win it.
But, alas, they fell short.
As soon as the series was over, comments arose about “if’ the Predators had home ice they would be the champion. They may well be right. However, the problem is how good of a record do they need in order to earn home ice?
More from Editorials
- Captain Candidates if Nashville Predators Didn’t Have Roman Josi
- How the Nashville Predators Have Trended over Past Five Years
- Three Reasons Nashville Predators can Shock the World in 2023-24
- Three Different Outcomes for Juuse Saros’ Future with Nashville Predators
- Top-5 Nashville Predators Home Games to Attend for Upcoming Season
By the numbers
Now, before I move further, many of you are probably asking yourself “Wait, didn’t you just write an article on how the regular season does not matter?”
Yes. Yes, I did. In terms of being a team to win the Western Conference Championship, it doesn’t matter. As I established with nine-seasons of combinations, a team ranked sixth as just as good of odds as the top team in the conference. In the last nine years, teams ranked first, second and sixth won the Conference Finals twice.
…for the Stanley Cup, it is a bit different. Home ice matters. Duh, right?
Since 2008, teams that held home-ice advantage won the Stanley Cup seven times. The three that did not? That would be the Tampa Bay Lightening (2015), New Jersey Devils (2012), and the Vancouver Canucks (2011). That makes a solid case for the achieving home ice.
Out of control
Here is the problem. The Eastern Conference.
The Nashville Predators cannot control how teams in the other conference perform. They can only control how they play against them. That creates a challenge for any Western Conference team.
As for the Eastern Conference, the team with the best record at the end of the regular season has NOT played for the Stanley Cup during the 10-year span mentioned above. Neither has the sixth or eighth best teams, unless you count the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers who were tied for seventh. Commonly, the Eastern Conference is represented by teams ranked second, third, or fourth.
The comforting news is teams from the Western Conference have won seven of the last ten Cups. Two of those came against the team whom held home-ice.
So, what are the Nashville Predators to do? Should they go win the Western Conference during the regular season? I am not against that idea, but stats suggest being second or third to be just as favorable. The average seed of each conference’s Stanley Cup representative is roughly 3.6.
If the Predators want home ice, they need to take care of their Eastern Conference opponents. Sure, they finished with a mark of 14 wins and 12 losses with 6 ties, but splitting the season series with lower performing teams in the Eastern Conference must not happen. In 2016-17, the Predators only won three of 12 games against the bottom six Eastern Conference teams.
A few more wins on the road could not hurt either. Of all 16 playoff teams, the Predators were the only team with a sub-.500 record on the road.
Being the best team in terms of record in the regular season does not matter come playoffs. Having a better record than your opponent in the Stanley Cup Final matters. That is a tricky line to balance on throughout the season.
Let’s just be glad home-ice is not given to the winning side of an All-Star game.