Does it matter if the New York Islanders are the home team for the play-in round and maybe beyond? Yes.
For up to three games of the New York Islanders play-in series against the Florida Panthers, the Islanders will be the home team. But with games possibly being held in Toronto how are the Isles going to be the “home team” exactly? And does it really matter?
With the Islanders being the seventh seed and the Panthers the tenth seed, the Isles will be the “home team” for games 1,2, and 5 (if required). While the Panthers will be the “home team” for games 3 and 4 (if required).
We know that fans also won’t be able to attend games so how does anyone get a “home team” advantage in an empty arena? Well, there are a few subtle advantages that a home team receives other than just having their fans in the stands.
All of the rules below can be found in the
"Rule 7.1: Prior to the start of the game, the Manager or Coach of the home team, having been advised by the Official Scorer the names of the starting line-up of the visiting team, shall name the starting line-up of the home team"
Right off the hop, the home team gets an advantage by being able to name their starting lineup second after having seen the visitors starting lineup.
Now for Barry Trotz that won’t matter too much, he typically names the fourth line as his starting lineup irrespective of the opposition. But if he wanted to match lines right from the opening faceoff, he could as the home team.
"Rule 82.1: […] the visiting team shall promptly place a line-up on the ice ready for play and no substitution shall be made from that time until play has been resumed. The home team may then make any desired substitution,"
Throughout the game, the home team retains the advantage they got at the very start. They get to match lines every time there’s a stoppage in play.
Visiting teams have five seconds to get their players over the boards and then the home team will have eight seconds to make their line change. When it comes to matching lines, the home team has an incredible advantage.
Of course, that doesn’t apply if the home team is guilty of icing the puck. No change can be made following icing for the guilty party.
"Rule 76.2: When the play is stopped for any reason not specifically attributable to either team while the puck is in the neutral zone, […] When it is unclear as to which of the four face-off spots is the nearest, the spot that gives the home team the greatest territorial advantage"
When a faceoff has to take place in the neutral zone and the refs aren’t sure where the faceoff should be taken (outside of the center ice position) they’ll choose the spot that directly benefits the home team rather than the spot closest to where the stoppage happened.
"Rule 31.11: Managers or Coaches of the two Clubs shall agree on Referee(s) and Linesman(men). If they are unable to agree, they shall appoint a player from each side who shall act as Referee and Linesman; the player of the home Club acting as Referee and the player of the visiting Club as Linesman."
Ok, this one probably won’t ever happen. But, if, for some reason, the referee and linesman aren’t there or are ill and if the teams can’t agree on a replacement for both, a player from the home team will be the referee while a player from the away team will be the linesman.
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I’m sure there’s a moral code between players where should this situation arise there won’t be any shenanigans. But you could see where there could very well be an advantage for the home. Even if it’s nothing more than a perceived advantage.
Again, it’s unlikely that this happens, but there’s a rule there just in case it does.