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Capitals-Islanders: A Tale of Two Cities

Have the Capitals been taking advantage of their home ice advantage?

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Capitals and Islanders have played five hard fought playoff games. Barry Trotz and his "heavy hockey" have taken a serious toll on the Islanders defensive corps and that bodes well for the Caps' prospects of advancing to the second round. While all of the heavy hitting has been entertaining and maybe the most consistent theme of the series a lot has been said about home-ice advantage. Using data from War-On-Ice we are able to quickly look at how the series has played out both on Long Island and in the District.

Score-Adjusted Shot Attempt Percentage Capitals Islanders
Verizon Center 51.3% 48.7%
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum 44.9% 55.1%

These sample sizes are incredibly small, so they should be taken more for entertainment than anything else, but looking at the numbers still makes one ask, "Why?" Why are the Capitals numbers so much better at home than they are on the road? To get a quick idea of how much the Caps have been utilizing their home ice advantage we can look at how the Capitals have utilized the last change to keep their top offensive unit away from the Islanders top defensemen.

Using data from Natural Stat Trick we can examine how much of Alex Ovechkin's even strength ice time has been shared with the Islanders' top blueliners this series.

Boychuk Leddy and Ovi

Those are big differences - they equate to Ovechkin playing around three extra minutes away from Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy when the Caps have been at home versus when they are away. It's clear that the Islanders want to match Ovechkin with Boychuk and Leddy during five-on-five play, while Trotz appears to be proactively working to keep Ovechkin away from the Islanders top [remaining] defensemen. Why? Here's why:

Ovechkin Shot Attempt Percentage On-Ice With On-Ice Without
Boychuck 52.33% 59.46%
Leddy 54.95% 57.55%

To the extent that Ovechkin has been "contained" (he hasn't been), it's been Boychuk who has done the job. When Ovechkin has been able to get away from Boychuk, the Caps are attempting nearly six out of every ten shots taken.

Home ice advantage has mattered in this series. Barry Trotz and the Capitals have been utilizing the last change to control the match-ups and even play when playing at the Verizon Center so far, but haven't been so lucky on the road. That's, in part, why the first 82 games of the season matter.