Down a long hallway in the bowels of Bridgestone Arena, it was a somber scene on Monday night in the moments after Viktor Arvidsson stunned the Sharks in overtime with a backhand goal to force Game 7.
With many of the 18,000-plus Predators fans jammed inside of the downtown arena refusing to go home, pounding together hands and feet and who knows what else enough to muffle the smooth sounds of some sweet country music in the background, the Sharks sat quietly in their lockers.
Disappointed at missing an opportunity to eliminate the Predators right then and there? Sure. Exasperated by seeing yet another overtime decision – the third straight in these playoffs – turn against them? Absolutely.
But more than that, there was a prevailing sentiment from the Sharks, which they somewhat spoke about, but mostly kept to themselves with the sort of quiet confidence this team has carried all season. That despite the negative turn of events, knee deep in an environment where everything seemed to be against them, that there was no reason to panic because they still owned their ace in the hole: the chance to return to San Jose for Game 7.
To San Jose, where they’ve won all three games this series. To SAP Center, where the Predators have never won in the postseason in seven tries, away from this rollicking scene in Middle Tennessee.
To the Shark Tank, where black cats and #roadiceadvantage aside, the Sharks possess one of the more distinct home-ice advantages in the league.
“The momentum has shifted back and forth,” Peter DeBoer said. “Everybody’s won their home games. Based on how this series has been played, it should come down to one game in Game 7. That’s what hockey’s about. We’re excited it’s in our building. We worked all year for home-ice advantage in this situation. We intend to take advantage of it.”
Seizing home-ice advantage is something the Sharks have done this whole series, beckoning the sort of home-ice dominance they’ve exhibited for most of the past decade, even if their home record this season lagged a bit behind past standards.
Western Conference Teams Best Home Records The Past Decade
|TEAM ||RECORD ||POINTS % |
|San Jose Sharks ||239-105-48 ||.671 |
|Anaheim Ducks ||242-112-39 ||.665 |
|Chicago Blackhawks ||239-111-43 ||.663 |
|Nashville Predators ||230-114-89 ||.648 |
|Vancouver Canucks ||229-132-42 ||.636 |
This home-ice advantage seldom presented itself during the regular season this year, when the Sharks went 18-20-3 at SAP Center. Ditto for the first round of the playoffs against the Kings, when the Sharks went 1-1 in San Jose and did their best work on the road.
But while the road has been historically kind (28-10-3 in the regular season) for San Jose this year in lieu of a middling record on home ice, this series has rekindled the sort of decided home-ice advantage this team has had for most of its history.
These home/road splits dictate that for whatever ailed the Sharks at home this season, those problems have disappeared, and when San Jose hosts Game 7 on Thursday, it will do so as the NHL’s most dominant home-ice team the past decade.
Team Stats in San Jose
| ||SHARKS ||PREDATORS |
|Goals ||13 ||5 |
|Shots ||89 ||95 |
|Power Play ||4/8 (50%) ||1/8 (13%) |
|Penalty Kill ||7/8 (87%) ||4/8 (50%) |
|Goalie Save Pct. ||.947 ||.884 |
|Faceoff Wins ||93 ||91 |
|# Of Players With Goals ||8 ||3 |
|# Of Players With Assists ||12 ||6 |
Team Stats in Nashville
| ||SHARKS ||PREDATORS |
|Goals ||7 ||12 |
|Shots ||92 ||102 |
|Power Play ||2/10 (20%) ||2/11 (18%) |
|Penalty Kill ||9/11 (82%) ||8/10 (80%) |
|Goalie Save Pct. ||.882 ||.924 |
|Faceoff Wins ||92 ||124 |
|# Of Players With Goals ||5 ||8 |
|# Of Players With Assists ||7 ||10 |
In almost every statistical category, the home team has held the advantage in this series, beyond even the final scores.
Where Martin Jones has played his best in San Jose, Pekka Rinne has stood on his head in Nashville. As San Jose’s power play has shredded Nashville at home, the Predators have limited the damage at Bridgestone Arena. While the Sharks have gotten contributions from up and down the lineup at home, the Predators get contributions just as deep in Music City.
From a historical perspective, this significance of this pattern is difficult to pinpoint. Sixteen times in league history, a series has started with the home team winning the first six games; eight times, the home team continued the pattern by winning at home, eight times the road team reversed the trend and won Game 7 on the road.
Of course, what happened in series in 1955 or 1979 has little relevance to the outcome of Thursday’s Game 7 in San Jose. Likewise, how the Sharks dominated at home in 2009 or 1999 is in no way connected to the present, either.
But what history shows is that for as much as some said the momentum shifted into the Predators’ favor on Monday, that the Sharks still have many reasons to be confident. That with historical stats and series stats accounted for, that the Sharks have put themselves in the perfect position to advance to the Western Conference Final.
“This series deserves Game 7,” Joonas Donskoi said. “May the best team win.”
And for this to be the team in teal, closeness and changes of momentum aside, all they have to do is maintain their home tank advantage and win one more time.