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NHL playoff teams have winning record on road

TAMPA — Lightning coach Guy Boucher doesn't mind starting the Eastern Conference final with the Bruins on the road.

There are fewer distractions on the road, Boucher said, and more pressure on the home team to get off to a fast start.

"So we're fine starting on the road," he said, "definitely."

Boucher's confidence certainly is helped by Tampa Bay's playoff-best 5-1 road record, compared with 3-2 at home. But the Lightning is not alone in kicking dirt in the face of opponents on their home turf.

Road teams are 37-32 this year. Eight of the 16 playoff teams have winning road records, including the 4-1 Bruins. Two teams are .500, meaning only six teams are road losers.

"That's weird," Lightning left wing Simon Gagne said Tuesday at the St. Pete Times Forum. "I don't remember seeing that in the past. Usually it's tougher to win on the road."

There were plenty of theories to explain the reversal of fortune.

Perhaps, defenseman Mattias Ohlund said, it is about mind-set.

"When you're playing at home, some teams might feel there's a little bit of pressure to be creative and make plays," he said. "When you're on the road, you don't have that pressure. You chip it in. You chip it out. That's how games are usually won in the playoffs, by staying with your structure and not making fancy plays."

Perhaps it has to do with environment. New arenas generally are bigger, with fans farther from the ice, which Ohlund said eliminates some of the "atmosphere" of the old buildings.

Gagne, for example, used bleepable language to describe the visitor's locker room at Pittsburgh's old Mellon Arena.

"With that room, you already felt not good," he said. "It's one of those things that could play with your mind."

Compare that with the relative comfort of Pittsburgh's new Consol Energy Center, where Tampa Bay was 3-1 during the East quarterfinal, including a Game 7 win.

"So, every team is equal when it comes to (getting on) the ice," defenseman Brett Clark said.

But not, Boucher said, when it comes to expectations.

"You've heard your entire life you have to win games at home because that's what home-ice advantage is," he said. "So, there's extra pressure on yourself to win. … It becomes an extra distraction you need to manage."

Other distractions are from outside. "Being at home, you get all kinds of people who are coming at you," Boucher said. " 'We're going to win tonight. We're going for the Stanley Cup.' It just builds something up you don't really want. You're already so cranked up to play, anything you add on … has a tendency to throw you over the emotional side."

That is why on nights before playoff games, Lightning players stay in a hotel near the Times Forum, in essence treating home games like road games.

Still, when the Lightning begins the best-of-seven series Saturday at TD Garden in Boston, road rules will be challenged. The Bruins are 4-2 at home in the playoffs. Only the 4-1 Red Wings have been better at home.

That said, "sometimes it's to a team's advantage to start on the road," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "There's less pressure, and if they can win one of the two games, it's a major accomplishment."

Road warriors

Playoff teams this season with winning road records:

Team Record

Lightning 5-1

Bruins 4-1

Sharks 4-2

Canucks 4-2

Predators 4-2

Red Wings 3-2

Kings 2-1

Penguins 2-1

NHL playoff teams have winning record on road 05/10/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 10:53pm]
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