Without a doubt, the Stanley Cup Playoffs give some of the most exciting finishes throughout their thrilling weeks leading up to the Final. Two empty arenas are currently hosting all the games with only players, coaches and other personnel in attendance. Many fans are excited to be watching their favorite team in action after over 100 days with no hockey, but for the players, it’s hard. Some teams thrive off the home-field advantage they get from their roaring crowds. It feels good to have your loyal fans in the stands cheering you on, but now it’s just silence.
Here’s just a few examples of how loud an arena can get:
Obviously the NHL’s return plan doesn’t allow for fans in the stands. No matter how many hoops they jump through, the league will be unable to have fans due to social distancing protocols, which are also much stricter in Canada.
We have seen the effects take place already. The game that really showed the most effect from having nobody in attendance was the Penguins-Canadiens game. The Penguins power-play effeciency ranking was 16th in the league. In Game 1, they looked awful in these situations. Opportunities to score on 5 on 3 plays as well as breakaway moments were missed. Evgeni Malkin looked out of sorts the whole time he was on the ice and the goaltending is still a head scratcher.
Take the game that happened prior to it with the Oilers being outplayed on home ice by Chicago. Kubalik and Toews looked unstoppable, and Corey Crawford had a good day in net as well. Edmonton looked sloppy and couldn’t seem to get much going at all. Both the Oilers and Penguins are 5 seeds, so this leads to the question: does seeding really matter at this point? If the games are going to be played in empty arenas and not even on the teams home ice (They are being played in the two hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto), then what’s the point of seeding?
The only good thing about this is that there is no correct projection. You can predict all you want, but the games played during the regular season had fans. It’s going to be an interesting stretch the rest of the way with little to no consistency. Hockey is back, but it’s back with some empty seats. This is certainly something to watch as the playoffs continue to unfold everyday…