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Home-ice advantage isn't dead

Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

Hockey analytics pioneer Rob Vollman is ESPN Insider's armchair GM this season, exploring how modern statistics can inform front-office decisions.

On the final game of the regular season, the New York Islanders needed a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets to secure home-ice advantage against the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. The Isles were poised for their first home seed since 1987-88 when back-to-back Columbus shootout goals cost them the additional point they needed.

So how big of an advantage slipped away when Cam Atkinson beat Jaroslav Halak for the shootout winner?

Through the first games of the opening round of this year's playoffs, the team skating on home ice has won slightly more than 60 percent of its games (the Isles-Caps series has gone 2-2 through four games, with each team taking one as the visitor). Part of that success is related to the fact that the more successful regular-season teams get the home seed, but it's also due to the slight boost teams enjoy when playing at home.

The absence of travel, getting to train and play in familiar surroundings, and hearing the cheers of a friendly crowd all provide intangible boosts that have yet to be measured. On the other hand, numerous studies have shown that the combined effects of home-ice advantages on the draw, having the last line change and enjoying favorable officiating can increase the home team's chances of winning a single game up to around 55 percent, all things being equal.

Let's focus in on those latter, measurable advantages.

Measuring home-ice advantage