Blackhawks united in their love of home ice
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org June 22, 2013 11:24PM
Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) reacts after a late third period goal by the Chicago Blackhawks during Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, Saturday, June 22, 2013, in Chicago. The Blackhawks won 3-1. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: June 22, 2013 11:24PM
If we’ve learned anything in the early stages of this Stanley Cup Final, it’s that very little separates the Blackhawks and Bruins. And in a series so tight, with three of the first four games going to overtime, the Stanley Cup could be decided on one key faceoff matchup, one fluky bounce, one extra burst of energy.
So while the ice surface at the United Center is just as long, just as wide and just as affected by the warm, humid weather as the one in Boston’s TD Garden — and while each team has won in the other’s arena — home-ice advantage still can make the difference. And with the Final down to a best-of-three entering Saturday night’s Game 5, the Hawks were very happy to have it back after their Game 4 win.
“We get the last [line] change; we get the matchups we want; we get our crowd behind us,” Hawks winger Bryan Bickell said.
There’s a comfort level that comes with playing at home, too. While the Bruins certainly weren’t trying to bank a shot high off the glass and have it land in the crease for an easy goal like they did in Game 4, every arena has its own contours — particularly more weathered ones such as Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena and TD Garden.
“Home ice is still an advantage,” Hawks center Dave Bolland said. “We know all the bounces; we know the little kinks in our rink. It’s different when you’re in their rink. They know all their breaks and where their little kinks are in the ice, along the boards.”
The Hawks were a league-best 18-3-3 at home in the regular season and are 10-2 in the postseason. The Bruins, meanwhile, had won seven straight at home until the Game 4 loss.
“I think it matters,” Hawks winger Viktor Stalberg said. “One-goal games, there’s a bounce here or a bounce there, and suddenly you’re winning on the road. I don’t know if it’s going to be that big of a factor, home ice, but we certainly feel we’ve played well throughout the playoffs at home. We’ve been comfortable all year. It’s nice to have the crowd at your back when you get those long shifts and get some extra energy off of it. We certainly feel it’s an advantage to be at home.”