Ron and Don: Why teams are thriving on the road

Don Cherry can’t help but wonder why the Florida Panthers left Golden Knights’ forward Jonathan Marchessault up for grabs, and talks about the smarts of defencemen like Anton Stralman.

Home-ice advantage just isn’t what it used to be.

The real advantage, according to Don Cherry, comes on the road.

“Take a look at Washington, how they played in Tampa, they were absolutely great, and then they come home. And look how Tampa played on the road,” Cherry said Wednesday night, also noting the Capitals’ road dominance in their Round 1 comeback against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In these two Conference Final series combined, road teams are 4-1 going into Wednesday’s Game 3 between the Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights, who split the first two games in Winnipeg.

“Now, I’m going to tell you why. When you get on the road, you don’t have anybody bugging you. You get on the bus, you go to the rink, your mind’s on it, in the morning you have a morning skate, you’re together. The comaraderie always is there. You’re a team,” Cherry said. “And I’m not knocking you when you’re home. You have distractions at home, you have to have tickets and things like that. Your mind gets off the game. When you’re on the road, like I said, it’s the way to go, the game is all.”

Cherry also referenced coaches having even taken the liberty to treat their home teams like road clubs by staying at a hotel despite playing on home ice.

“The first time I ever saw this was Joe Crozier with the Rochester Americans, who was the owner, GM and coach. He took us all to Batavia, New York, in Rochester. We won three championships in a row,” Cherry recalled, explaining that Scotty Bowman executed a similar strategy during the Montreal Canadiens’ Stanley Cup runs during the late 1970s. “He was the first guy I remember taking guys out.”

As for the Washington-Tampa series, Game 4 is set for Thursday night with the Lightning attempting to tie up the series 2-2 with yet another win on the road.

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