Sharks hope history eclipses this year's home ice dominance

Sharks hope history eclipses this year's home ice dominance
May 24, 2013, 8:45 am
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The Sharks are returning home. The dark jerseys are the new momentum. That’s their, and your, new stalking horse. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Schedule
DateOppTime
10/8LA7:00 PT8:00 MT9:00 CT10:00 ET2:00 GMT10:00 北京时间7:00 MST9:00 EST6:00 UAE (+1)22:00 ET
10/11vs. Wpg7:00 PT8:00 MT9:00 CT10:00 ET2:00 GMT10:00 北京时间7:00 MST9:00 EST6:00 UAE (+1)22:00 ET
10/14Was4:00 PT5:00 MT6:00 CT7:00 ET23:00 GMT7:00 北京时间4:00 MST6:00 EST3:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ET
10/16NYI4:00 PT5:00 MT6:00 CT7:00 ET23:00 GMT7:00 北京时间4:00 MST6:00 EST3:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ET
10/18NJ4:00 PT5:00 MT6:00 CT7:00 ET23:00 GMT7:00 北京时间4:00 MST6:00 EST3:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ET
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So the straw of game-to-game momentum has been snapped, and now the San Jose Sharks are left to cling to home ice as the last floating thing in the ocean.

After enduring the most comprehensive beating of this Western Conference semifinal series, a 3-0 loss in Los Angeles to a dramatically better Kings team that looked like it could have been double that, the Sharks return home staring at elimination while trying to find comfort in the fact that these have been the most lopsided home-road splits since the NHL went to its current four-rounds-of-best-of-seven format.

And the Sharks are returning home. The dark jerseys are the new momentum. That’s their, and your, new stalking horse.

The last time there was even remotely close to this level of home ice dominance was 1991, when home teams went 57-35 en route to determining that the Pittsburgh Penguins were the best team. This year, through 64 games, the home team in an NBA-esque 44-20, including 15-6 in overtime and 14-3 in the conference semis.

Compare this to last year, when home teams were a substandard 39-47, and the Kings won the Cup in large part by going 10-1 on the road. The law has been set over the past decade – you win the Cup on the other team’s ice.

So why is it so lopsided now? The lockout? The lack of great teams, or as some like to call it, the level of parity? Are home crowds now dramatically more intimidating? Or is it just one of those stuff-happens years?

The likeliest answer is probably “D,” on the theory that when Occam’s razor (the obvious answer is usually the right one) isn’t sharp enough, it is best to throw one’s hands in the air and say, “Beats me, it just is.”

And anyway, that may be too macro a way to look at any individual series anyway. The truth of Game 5 was that the Kings, younger, faster and at their best, proved all three. Los Angeles outhit San Jose, even after allowing for home team scoresheet bias. Los Angeles dominated the faceoff circle except when Joe Thornton was in it, and even he was beaten cleanly on the Kings’ second goal. Los Angeles won the CORSI numbers (zone time, shots attempted – the formula is a slight bit arcane for the numbers-averse but trust me, it matters).

To tot it up, Los Angeles won every bit of the game, and after having been slightly the less inspiring side in the earlier games, grabbed the series by the neck and gave it a good shake Thursday night.

So the Kings have the myth of game-to-game momentum, and the Sharks have home ice. And to drag more meaningless concepts into the argument, only three times since the format change in 1987 has the home team won every game, in 1992 (Montreal over Hartford), 2002 (Toronto over the New York Islanders), and the 2003 Final (New Jersey over Anaheim).

By that logic, if the Sharks were to win Game 6 Sunday, they would be nearly home free, historically speaking. But history is taking a beating this year, starting with the Sharks’ best friend now, home cooking. The playoffs aren’t supposed to work this way, and yet they are because of one thing that is more important than all the others.

Deeds done at the right moment. There isn’t a foolproof metric for that, and there shouldn’t be. Series are won with moments like Trevor Lewis beating Thornton on the draw, getting the puck to Slava Voynov and watching him beat Antti Niemi through a thicket of limbs from 50 feet.

So San Jose’s potential salvation isn’t in numbers, or the benefits of being at home, or history, but in changing the dynamic of the series yet again with more moments of brilliance amidst the steady grind of two relatively equal teams in repeated collision.

But if home ice comforts you, you go ahead and seize it. It’s a long time before puck drop, and who needs the extra agitation?