Opinions about the round-robin vary pretty drastically when it comes to pundits and fans. Many believe getting the #1 seed is crucial as it will make the path to the Final a bit easier while others think they are glorified exhibition games as no matter who you play you’ll have to be the best team in the conference to advance.
Both sides carry weight and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a coach or two of the eight round-robin teams use them to experiment more than he would in a real playoff game.
As far as Vegas goes, Pete DeBoer pushed for there to be meaningful games prior to the Golden Knights’ first round matchup and he believes they have them. Kelly McCrimmon echoed the same sentiment. Jonathan Marchessault took it one step further than potential opponents and pointed towards another advantage winning the round-robin brings.
Honestly, (the round-robin games) are pretty important. The advantage of the ice like in regular times it’s a lot of the crowd and playing at home, but on the technical side, there’s ‘last change.’ It’s a big advantage to have so I think it’s going to be important. We’re facing three really good teams so it’s on us to be on our toes and be ready for that challenge. -Jonathan Marchessault
“Last change” is the ability to select your five players after the opposing team does at every stoppage of play. Prior to each faceoff, a referee skates over to the benches and directs the line changes. The away team must send out their players first, then the home team gets the chance to select theirs.
This is crucial for line-matching as it allows the home teams opportunities to create mismatches. If the away team sends out their 4th line, the home team can counter with their 1st.
Golden Knights games average 59 faceoffs per game, which means being the home team offers 59 chances to use “last change” to gain the upper hand on their opponent.
Pete DeBoer is a big proponent of finding matchups he likes both with his forwards and defensemen. He’ll work hard to match his top defensemen against the opposition’s top line and he weighs zone starts for his forwards heavily based each line’s strengths.
Winning the round-robin means that team becomes the “home” team in each series through the Western Conference Final. Thus, four games as the “home” team and only three “away” in each series. “Home” also comes with the most important game, Game 7, and we know how important any little advantage can be in one of those.