Hockey has something in common with just about every other sport out there: momentum. It can make or break a game for a team, no matter when it reveals itself.
Most teams in any league or conference will try to get the momentum right from the get-go, and make big moves to show off their dominance from the first whistle. But, most importantly, some teams know how to use momentum to their advantage, and know that there's another component of the game coupled with it.
Without setting the pace, momentum can mean absolutely nothing, more often than not. And for the Boston Bruins, along with the entire National Hockey League, it's that pace that means so much.
Tonight, on December 19th, the Boston Bruins went up against the Montreal Canadiens in TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Canadiens are in no way a team to be run over, especially not by the Bruins, who are this year's defending Stanley Cup champions.
Every team in the league has something to prove against the Boston-based team, and the Canadiens are no different. They came out to play tonight, and showed it with a quick tying goal after the Bruins posted their first point.
But when the Bruins scored again, you could tell that the momentum had changed, and in the favor of the home team. From the second period onward, the Bruins controlled the game in such a way most people expect them to, especially once they "wake up" and start playing.
The Bruins have changed things up slightly in this part of the season. Instead of building momentum and forcing the game to contort into their expectations slowly but surely, they have put the pressure on teams and done everything they can to put the game in their hands right from the start.
It could have something to do with that slow and disappointing start to the season, now knowing they have something to prove to every team out there, but we may never know.
Tonight showed that the Bruins know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they've still got to fight to prove their perceived dominance in the league, but they are still playing to their strengths. They show teams that the pace is the most important part of a game, because it's integral to the momentum that each team craves. Each team needs.
But mistakes seem to break the whole thing down, don't they? And the Bruins are no stranger to mistakes. We see the defense break down when the game seems to be "clinched." And this is where the focus needs to be put on Boston's renowned hockey team. These mistakes are what cause the losses to the likes of the Winnipeg Jets or the Florida Panthers.
There is plenty of time to make sure these changes take effect, and there's plenty of time for the Boston defense to come together just like we know they can and make sure that both Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask are confident (and not just complacent) in their position. If we can stop the mistakes, then keeping the pace—and ultimately the momentum—will lead us to more victories, and eventually, the Stanley Cup.