Having home ice advantage is important, I’m not going to argue that it isn’t. But in this series it’s been rendered useless. In my opinion being on home ice in this series has been a disadvantage.
The team on the road has won four of the six games so far in the series. But this isn’t about math, it’s about the way the crowds have affected this series. When the series started I was extremely frustrated that once again the Leafs had to face the Bruins in the first round without having home ice advantage. The Bruins constant forecheck had the TD Garden erupting after every big hit a Bruins player would make.
But then something changed.
As the series progressed the crowds in both Toronto and Boston seemed almost nervous at all times. While when their respective home team would score or lay a big hit the crowd would react accordingly it’s when the other team scored that things took a turn for the worse.
When the away team would score to take the lead or even bring the game level the crowd would go dead silent. Not just for a minute or so after the goal, I am talking about serious stretches of the game. Sometimes even the duration of the rest of the period. This would instantly kill any momentum the home team had and build this unnecessary tension in the building for a one goal deficit or even a tie game.
Which is why I believe playing at home in this series has been a disadvantage. Both teams have showed that once they have a lead they will sit back and play smart defence and wait for the other team to make a mistake to pounce for a second goal. So if you’re a player and your team goes down early and your home building is silent you are going to want to change that quickly. You see the problem now?
In a series where it seems that it could be decided by a flip of a coin, I would rather not have to worry about the pressure of the crowd if someone makes a mistake early. Toronto has lost to Boston too many times to say all of Leafs nation isn’t nervous right now. If you say you aren’t, you’re lying.
So the last thing the Leafs would need is for the Bruins to squeeze one by Freddy early in the first to have the Scotiabank Arena go dead silent for the rest of the period. But since we are on the road that’s not an issue. In fact, we can do that exact same thing to Boston.
The Leafs should come out hot and squeeze one by Rask to quiet the crowd. Kill the momentum that Boston tries to build at the beginning of every game. Put the pressure on them and make the fans in TD Garden sweat. While the Bruins are filled with playoff experience, home crowd anxiety is a real thing and it could force them to push for a equalizer and result in them making a mistake.
If the Leafs can start strong in game seven and quiet the crowd they have a good chance of seeing Columbus in the second round.
Game seven is on Tuesday at 7PM EST.