NEWARK — Road trips for the Rangers-Devils playoff series do not make for exotic travelogues. There are no buses to airports involved. Just . . . buses.
“It’s different, for sure,” the Rangers’ Barclay Goodrow said before Game 5 at the Prudential Center on Thursday night. “It’s nice just being able to take an hour bus ride to get here and obviously get home at a reasonable hour.
“It’s obviously good for the league having a [local] rivalry like this. It’s fun. These are the series you love to play in. And it’s definitely nice not having to jump on a plane.”
Did that lack of travel demands contribute to each team winning twice in the opposing team’s rink in the first four games?
It would be logical to think so, if not for the fact that it is part of a far wider trend.
Through Wednesday’s games, road teams had been excelling in the NHL playoffs. The Islanders’ victory over the Hurricanes on Tuesday made this only the second postseason in which all 16 playoff teams won a road game.
When the Avalanche and Bruins both lost at home on Wednesday — to the Kraken and Panthers — it improved road teams’ record to 23-14 in these playoffs.
That tied 2012 for the most road victories at this stage of the postseason.
“Honestly, I’d like to have a better answer for you,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said after practice on Wednesday. "But I can’t figure it out.”
Hockey traditionally offers less of a home-ice advantage than does basketball between the two spring playoff sports. But this is getting ridiculous.
“You look around the playoffs and road teams have done pretty good,” Adam Fox said. “I don’t know what the logic behind it is.”
Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said playing on the road promotes bonding.
“It must be that feeling of you against everyone, I think,” he said. “It’s something that’s pretty easy to rally around when you score a goal and it’s the bench that’s excited.
“There’s a good amount of Rangers fans [at road games], but on the road it’s the bench that gets excited. That’s who you’re rallying around — your teammates.
“I think that kind of brings everyone together, the emotion a little bit higher. It’s fun to win on the road, for sure.”
Trouba said the Rangers fell into “a little bit of a trap” in changing their approach in two home losses after playing well at the Rock in Games 1 and 2.
“I think we learned a lesson, learned it the hard way,” he said.
Patrick Kane said he was not sure how to explain the phenomenon, either. But he gave it a try.
“I think sometimes maybe you play a more disciplined game on the road,” he said. “You come home and it’s like, I don’t know if you necessarily want to put on a show, but you expect it to maybe be a little bit easier.
“Road team, maybe a little bit more structured. You’re disciplined because the other team is going to come flying out. I just think it speaks to the parity in the NHL, too. Any given night anyone can win."
Kane added, “Obviously, you want to play at home and it’s amazing to play at MSG, but [you] kind of bear down on the road.”
Gallant was not complaining about returning to New Jersey for Game 5.
“From what’s going on in the NHL, I’m glad we’re going on the road, trust me,” he said. “Obviously, we’re not the only ones. It’s happened around the league quite a bit.”
The Devils’ 28-9-4 road record in the regular season was second best in the NHL, behind only the mighty Bruins. The Rangers were a solid 24-9-8.
Gallant, who played in the NHL from 1984-95, said he considered playoff home ice “huge” then. Not so much now.
“As a coach I don’t see that anymore, the way the game is played today,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any intimidation anymore. Very little anymore, honestly.
“You might get a team or two that tries that. But for the most part, you just play the game. Back in our day, there used to be seven or eight fights in the first period, and then things settled down.”