Leading up to Wednesday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Finals between the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings — on the ice and off the ice.
Regardless of whether the New Jersey Devils and their fans expected to see a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, it's probably a safe bet to assume that even the optimists didn't expect the team to have home-ice advantage once they got there. Typically, when you start the first round of the postseason on the road, it's likely that you'll be starting future rounds on the road as well.
But, with the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings making it out of the West, the higher-ranked Devils now see home-ice advantage fall into their laps.
Typically this would be simple good fortune. Not so with the Kings in town.
L.A. is an historic 8-0 on the road in the postseason. The Kings seem downright unbeatable away from home, and if they remain perfect outside the Greater Los Angeles area, they will win this series. With four of the seven in Newark, the Devils have to defend home ice to win.
All this said, home-ice advantage is going to matter even more in this Final than it usually does (and in last year's Final, the home team won every game but Game 7, so it already means quite a bit).
Who has the better home-ice advantage: The Devils or the Kings?
New Jersey Devils
The Devils aren't exactly slouches in their own building. Los Angeles may have that sexy 8-0 road record, but New Jersey are 6-2 at the Prudential Center in the postseason. They've done well defending home ice, and they're looking forward to doing it again beginning Wednesday.
"It's big," Ilya Kovalchuk told NHL.com about having home ice. "It's a big advantage for us. We deserve it, and we have to use it to our advantage."
What should really help them do that in Game 1 is the time difference. The Kings are the team that has to adjust their body clocks. The Devils haven't left the Eastern time zone all postseason. Darryl Sutter touched on that earlier this week. From NJ.com:
"They probably had a couple days off and then try to ramp it up again," Sutter said. "That's what we're trying to do."You look at it this week. It's a huge advantage for New Jersey. We're going to be (traveling), with the time change, eight hours. That's a huge factor. It's not so much confidence. We've been a well-prepared team. So, when you're well-prepared, it's not just about winning and losing. It's about playing well. If you do that, then you play good.''
The other element the Devils have working in their favor here is that their fans aren't new to this. The Prudential Center may be the newer building than the Staples Center, but it's full of veteran hockey fans who know better than to get silent if things start going against them. They've seen New Jersey win Cups. They know what it takes.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings' fan base, on the other hand, is unproven. They're hungry, no doubt. You can see it in the increased ticket prices. From North Jersey:
The Los Angeles Kings have never won a Stanley Cup since entering the National Hockey League in 1967, while the Devils — after moving to New Jersey from Denver in 1982 — won the Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003. That may help explain why the average price paid for any of the four potential Devils home games, at $835.62, is more than 50 percent lower than the $1,296.47 being paid on average for Kings home games in the series.
But they're still young, inexperienced fans. This is their second Stanley Cup Final. Will they get rattled if the Kings suddenly face adversity, something they have yet to experience in these playoffs? Will they get silent if the teams is struggling, even though that's when the team needs them most? If the media is any indication, Los Angeles isn't exactly the most knowledgeable hockey town in North America, but that's not something to be ashamed of. They're just learning. And sometimes you have to learn hard lessons.
Still, what they lack in the veteran savvy of the Prudential Center crowd, they more than make up for in enthusiasm. The Staples Center is a big, daunting building, and it can get incredibly loud if you give those fans a reason to cheer. The Devils need to jump ahead early and exploit the rookie nerves of the LA fan base.
The Devils get the edge here for three reasons: First, because they have actual home-ice advantage, and regardless of what the Kings have done before, that doesn't negate the privilege of playing four Cup Final games at home.
Second, because I refuse to reward Los Angeles for that horrible clip of Cartman screaming "Go Kings Go!"
And third, when it comes to the Final, you have to rely on your veterans, and the Devils fans are the veterans here. Whatever the fan version of old-man strength is, they have it, and they need to flex it in order for the Devils to keep the advantage in their home ice.