There’s a lot to be said about the importance of momentum in sports. In order to maintain the momenta of my other articles I’ll make this concise and to the point.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines momentum as an impetus gained by movement or progress.
Based on the latter stages of the regular season and what has transpired thus far in the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, one can honestly say that the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins are in possession of momentum by the bucket load, while the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins are about as dry as the Mojave.
During that same period the Staal led Canes went 17-5-2, winning an outstanding nine straight, ironically commencing with a decisive 4-2 victory against the Devils, back on March 18, and capping it off with a 3-2 victory at Pittsburgh, on Apr. 4. The Canes will be looking for a similar outcome in the upcoming series.
During their final 25 contests the Devs and Bruins could only muster up 14-10-2 and 14-9-3 records respectively. The Devils finding a way to go winless in six during the latter stage of March and early April.
The Devils claimed victory over Pittsburgh 2-1 on October 11th, the second game of the 2008-2009 season, handily out-shooting the hapless Pens 49-15, only to have their tails served to them on a platter at their final regular season meeting on Apr. 1, 6-1, a mere fortnight prior to the start of the playoffs.
If the pair were to face one another in the Eastern Conference Semifinals you would be hard pressed to find a single sole with a shred of objectivity willing to give the Devs any more than a prayer in the series.
So if one were to judge the teams on their performance over the final third of the season, is there any doubt which of the Eastern Conference squads should have been dubbed favourites initially?
The season is simply too long, there are too many roster and coaching changes, momentum shifts, and shuffling of lines to claim one team is more favourably qualified for the playoff campaign solely due to having a better regular season record.
Sure the Bruins, Devs and Caps all had better seasons than the Canes and Pens; finished with better records, higher winning percentages, and greater goal differentials. They were superior in every conceivable area, however when it counted most, they failed to deliver. Why?
Let this be a lesson to all teams that think they can stumble, even head quietly into the playoffs. When asked about his teams shoddy play in March, a repeat performance of the Devils collapse towards the end of the 2007-2008 campaign, Brent Sutter responded “I don’t see a need to worry. “
Guess he was wrong.