Nashville Predators: Home Sweet Home In Smashville

(Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Professional hockey returns to Smashville tonight. The Nashville Predators couldn’t be happier about it. Will some home cooking get them right?

When I first saw the 2017-18 NHL schedule released, I couldn’t help being a little disappointed. Last year featured an opening night tilt with the Chicago Blackhawks carried on NBCSN. Nothing against the Boston Bruins, but there’s not much history with them and the Nashville Predators. A trip to Boston, followed by a trip to Pittsburgh, didn’t have the same oomph of last season’s back to back with their bitter division rivals.

I was also disappointed because I didn’t think it would go well for the Predators.

Some say that home field advantage is overrated in sports. It’s not in the National Hockey League. Only seven out of thirty teams had more regulation & overtime losses than wins at home in 2016-17. The New York Rangers were the only team to score more wins on the road than on home ice. If teams don’t take care of business at home, they aren’t going to accomplish their goals.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

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The Nashville Predators, like everybody else in the NHL, perform better at home. Peter Laviolette‘s three seasons in Nashville have seen a big difference between the Predators’ home & road records. The Predators have gone 75-29-19 during Laviolette’s time as head coach. Their 54-54-17 record away from Bridgestone Arena during the same time period tells the tale.

These aren’t numbers exclusive to the Predators. Perhaps the most important number is one that is exclusive to them in recent years: 10. As in 10 consecutive playoff home wins. You would think it would happen more often. Everybody talks about the great home ices in the NHL. Teams like the Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins & Los Angeles Kings with great postseason records in the 2010s haven’t won ten straight playoff games at home.

The streak put Bridgestone Arena on the map. The hockey world had to take notice of what was happening in Nashville. It turned “Smashville” from a marketing slogan into an actual thing.

I went down to Nashville for Game 3 of the Western Conference Final & felt it. You couldn’t deny the energy pouring out of the building that night. Even when the Predators went down 1-0, there was no doubt in my mind they would win. The belief you will win no matter what is a heck of a thing to have on your side. It’s a lot easier when 17,000 feel the same way.

How Did It Happen?

The LA Times asked Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Caryle to explain Nashville’s home ice advantage. His response was one of my favorite things.

"“We’ve experienced loud buildings,” he said. “[But] this building is a little bit more unique because of the brightness in the building, the color of the opposition’s jerseys. The closeness and the acoustics in the building make it a very loud place. “If you look at the top of the board around the rink, it’s yellow. All other buildings are blue, have a different color. That’s defining. It’s part of their color scheme. It’s all added. I just find it’s different.”"

The explanation of how yellow is different from blue is tremendous. I thought Laviolette’s explanation in the same piece made more sense.

"“Typically, when somebody talks about a home-ice advantage, it goes through the atmosphere of the building and the energy that can come from a building. And ours, I think, is just terrific,” he said. “There’s more of a European soccer match-type event, with the chanting and the noise and the applause and just 100% behind us, and it is an advantage.”"

It’s all about energy. Energy & atmosphere work against you on the road. Sure, there’s usually some straggling road fans. In most NHL arenas, they’re the minority. They might get a good chant going, but nothing like you hear at home.

Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home. Throw in whatever cute quote you want. It’s human nature to perform better when everybody in the building wants you to succeed. Cheers & adulation always help the cause.

Moving Forward

The Predators lost two games. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. Not the end of the world. Now they need to take care of business in Bridgestone Arena. Beat the Philadelphia Flyers and the Dallas Stars. Most of the bad vibes people feel from the first two games will go away.

Next: Seriously, Girard Should Play Against Flyers

Something tells me that Smashville will be more than ready to pick up their end of the bargain. They’ll be loud. The Predators need to be ready.