Five things we learned from Sunday

May, 10, 2010

1. We always talk about home-ice advantage in the playoffs and as Vancouver and Chicago can attest (among others), it's a bunch of hooey.

After dumping the Blackhawks 4-1 on Sunday night in Chicago, the Canucks have now scored 24 goals during six road games this spring for an average of four per game. They've allowed just 17 goals on the road for a plus-7 differential. At home? Not so good, as the Canucks have a minus-1 differential, having given up 19 goals and scored just 18.

Overall, the home team has lost two fewer games (33) than visiting teams (35) this spring.

A lot of players suggest that playing on the road in the playoffs is harder. There's pressure on the home team to be more creative, to produce more offense. The road team, conversely, can play a more patient, defensive game. It was so in Sunday's must-win for the Canucks and we've seen it throughout the playoffs.

Chicago, which plays in one of the noisiest buildings in the league and which should arguably have a huge advantage at the United Center, has outscored opponents 21-13 on the road but has been outscored 19-14 at home.

Montreal, with its history and raucous crowd, is minus-5 in goals at the Bell Centre and even on the road.

Pittsburgh? Same pattern. Plus-1 differential at home, plus-7 on the road. The one team left that defies this "road sweet road" theory is San Jose. The Sharks have been terrific at home, outscoring opponents 22-14, but have struggled on the road, scoring two fewer goals than they've allowed away from the Shark Tank.

2. We normally pay little regard to the World Championships, which take place every year during the Stanley Cup playoffs. We pay even less attention this year, an Olympic year, when many of the rosters are denuded even of marginal NHL talent. That said, kudos to host Germany for kicking off the tournament with a world-record game played at Veltins Arena, home of the Schalke soccer team.

Before a boisterous crowd of 77,803, Germany upended the United States 2-1 in overtime.

"It was crazy," U.S. GM Brian Burke told on Monday morning. "I have no idea how much beer they sold but it was millions of liters," Burke said. "The noise was unreal."

3. All kinds of karma on hand for Game 5 of the Boston/Philadelphia Eastern Conference semifinal Monday night in Boston.

Not only are the Bruins, up 3-1 in the series, just one win away from advancing to their first conference final since 1992, but Game 5 marks the 40th anniversary of one of the defining moments in franchise history. It was on May 10, 1970 (which happened to be Mother's Day), when the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1941. They did it in overtime on Bobby Orr's iconic flying goal, the great defenseman caught in midair by photographers as he put the puck past Glenn Hall just 40 seconds into overtime. To honor the moment the Bruins will unveil a statue of that memorable moment before Game 5 on Monday.

4. Could we be looking at even more karma? Not to get too far ahead of ourselves but if the Bruins don't make history by blowing a 3-0 series lead against the injury-riddled Philadelphia Flyers, and if the Pittsburgh Penguins don't succumb to the pesky Montreal Canadiens, whom they lead 3-2 heading into Game 6 on Monday in Montreal, it would be a '92 conference final reunion.

Pittsburgh defeated Boston in that conference final en route to its second straight Stanley Cup.

If the Pens do get past Montreal they will be in heady company, having qualified for the past three Eastern Conference finals.

Since 1982, when the current conference final format was introduced, only two other teams in the East have managed to make it this far three straight years. The Bruins (1990 to 1992) and the dynastic New York Islanders, who appeared from 1982 to 1984 and won all three times. The Bruins were 1-2 in their appearances.

The triple conference final play is more common in the Western Conference where Detroit (twice), Colorado, Dallas and Edmonton have all managed to accomplish the feat.

5. History certainly isn't on the side of the Philadelphia Flyers. Of course only two teams, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders, have come all the way back from a 3-0 series deficit to win a best-of-seven series in the NHL playoffs. This is the sixth time the Flyers have been down 3-0 and they were swept in four of those series. They forced a fifth game just once but have never taken a team to a sixth or seventh game after being down 3-0. They earned a dramatic 5-4 overtime win in Game 4 on Friday to keep this current series alive.

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer




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