“Momentum is a scary thing,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. “It gets going the wrong way, how do you stop it?” The Wings had it heading into Tuesday’s Game 3 of their of best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final against the host Calgary Flames, following two decisive victories to open the series at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
But Wings forward Kris Draper says momentum is fickle, particularly over a seven-game series during which it can be won and lost multiple times.
“It does come and go,” Draper said. “It doesn’t take a lot to get it. As hard as you work to try and get it in a series, it can just go like that. That’s something a lot of guys in this dressing room are certainly well aware of.”
Draper’s pragmatism comes from Detroit’s recent playoff disappointments.
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2002, the Wings were upset by lower-seeded playoff teams in the first or second rounds the next three post-seasons, including a first-round loss to eighth-seeded Edmonton, the eventual Stanley Cup finalist, last year.
But Detroit helped their odds immensely in this series against Calgary by winning the first two games.
Historically, teams that have opened a best-of-seven playoff series 2-0 have gone on to win it 86.5 per cent of the time.
“I don’t even care about those stats,” said Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom.
Momentum in a series is built within games. Babcock has observed around the league early in these playoffs that the teams who try and feel out their opposition after the puck drops are left in the dust.
“It appears to me every night when I watch these games, the team that gets started the quickest has the most success,” he said.
Flames head coach Jim Playfair concurred that strong starts breed better performances.
“You look at anybody that’s in the playoffs right now, any of the 16 teams, if you get up by two goals 10 minutes into the period, confidence flows,” he said.
Holmstrom says small things can yield big results in a playoff game.
“A big hit could be a momentum change, a great penalty kill, scoring on the power play, those things could be a big momentum change,” he said.
“You can lose it fast, too. If you work hard and stick to a game plan and do what you’re supposed to do out there, not your buddy’s job, it usually turns around or you keep it.”