Momentum Swings

Momentum is the reason why a freight train will always kill you if you’re standing on the tracks. The train carries too much weight to be able to stop in time to not turn you into mashed human. Dictionary.com defines momentum as “a quantity expressing the motion of a body or system, equal to the product of the mass of a body and its velocity, and for a system equal to the vector sum of the products of mass and velocity of each particle in the system.”

Simple, right? Right.

So how does this translate to hockey? Think of the freight train as the five members of the team on the ice. The product of the mass is the amount of offense that those five members are able to produce during a given shift. If the next line is able to continue the same offense produced as the one that proceeded, then they are slowly building their own momentum. If properly cared for, they can turn into a freight train that is ready to make human mash out of the other team.

There are a number of things that can create momentum shifts during a game. Take the current game: Winnipeg Jets vs. New York Islanders. This game began with all the momentum riding the Islanders rails. This happened because the Jets came out of the gate shooting blanks. They took a penalty in the first two minutes of the game, and allowed a goal in the first two seconds of the ensuing power play. Coupled with terrible puck management and bad decisions at both ends of the rink, the Jets were looking pretty bad.

The momentum shifted to favour the Jets when Scheifele fell victim to a dirty hit and the team rallied around that. The momentum further favoured the Jets after Mark Stuart was hit from behind, and sent into the boards headfirst. The culprit was ejected from the game and received a five-minute major. The Jets capitalized by scoring two power play goals, and then, later on in the period, a lucky one that Halak (Islanders goalie) should have had.

A good hit, a fight, a penalty, an error or a great play can shift momentum. A good example of how momentum can shift with the predictability of a forest fire is what happened a few minutes later. The Jets made a few mental errors in their own zone, and the Islanders were able to tie it up with two quick goals.

Watching the momentum swings of a game is what makes hockey the greatest game on Earth. If it weren’t for physics taking a direct interest in the sport of hockey, underdogs would never be able to come out on top.

Overtime Thriller in Winnipeg

When I used to work in warehouses, anytime I’d log some overtime I’d receive time and a half pay. When the Jets do it, they get two points!

The Winnipeg Jets defeat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 in an overtime victory that came down to the wire. Brian Little tipped in a backhander by Andrew Ladd with just over 24 seconds left in overtime.

It was a big night for Andrew Ladd. He scored his 100th goal with the franchise in the first period to put the Jets up 1-0, and he got the assist on the game-winner. Mark Scheifele also had a good game. He shot four pucks on goal, which is more than all other players but Jarome Iginla. But Scheifele looked good despite his four shots. Not only did he attempt numerous other shots, but he was strong on the puck, aggressive in the corners (where he was winning battles), and he was in good positions throughout the game.

What weren’t good, were the bad decisions the Jets were making on offence. Too many times they tried to make a pass when they should have been shooting. Too many two on ones were broken up by the Avalanche’s defense because the Jets tried to force a pass when a shot would have done the trick. Don Cherry would say that you need to get the puck on net, and the Jets should take his advice. They finished the game landing 28 shots on the Colorado goalie, but they might have been able to get more than 35 shots had they taken all the opportunities given.

With the first eight games complete, the Jets are in a pretty ugly hole already. Their record is 3-5, and they currently sit in last place in the Central Division, and in the Western Conference. It may be early in the season, but I wonder when, and if, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will reassess his roster. In many games this season, the Jets have looked out-gunned by superior teams; teams that tend to get better as the season progresses.

A Spectator Sport

Another game is in the books for the Winnipeg Jets. They just got their collective asses handed to them by the Calgary Flames. Yes, the Calgary Flames. The final score was 4-1, and the Jets left the ice to a parade of boos from the faithful at MTS Centre. The Jets fall to 1-4 in their first five, with a four game losing streak.

The really pathetic part of this loss is that it’s to the Calgary Flames (did I mention that already?). Last season, the Flames finished with 77 points; only three teams had less.

Worse yet, the Blue Bombers just lost to the Calgary Stampeders. I’m starting a militia…first stop…Calgary.

Okay, that’s not true. But, I have started a new Twitter hash tag: #whatswrongwithwinnipegsportsteams. When you use this, people will know that you are fed up with Winnipeg sports teams consistently biting it, whatever it is. The hash tag is long and annoying, just like watching these teams play. Appropriate!

The first period started out great for the Jets. They came out hot, energetic and focused. They outshot the Flames 13 to 6 in the first period. The Jets were faster, tougher, better positioned and passing better than the Flames. After the intermission, however, everything changed. The Jets forgot how to play their positions, they forgot how to pass the puck, and most importantly, they forgot how to play like adult professionals. They looked more like the Selkirk Steelers out there, which is ironic, because Ron MacLean featured the Steelers on City TV tonight. I think I smell a conspiracy!

This game was like a bad rendition of Trading Places. The Flames, of course, being Eddie Murphy’s character, who goes from being a bum on the streets to a millionaire.

On a more positive note, the Jets scored their first goal since A Clockwork Orange came out. And, they all know how to follow the puck, which is an essential part of being a spectator. The Jets have been really good at watching the other teams play hockey.

“Going to California”

That’s right…I’m going there “with an aching in my heart.” But unlike Led Zeppelin, the Winnipeg Jets will be leaving California with aching hearts. No amount of hot sandy beaches set against the endless Pacific backdrop will change the fact that California feels like a death zone to them right now.

It’s at the edge of the continent that the Jets find defeat at the hands of, arguably, two of the best teams in the league: the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings. They return home to lick their self inflicted gunshot wounds to the feet.

The similarities are striking between the two loses: the Jets started off both games terribly and gave up 3 goals in the opening periods. After that though, they began to pick up their game and by the end were actually playing decent hockey. In the case of the L.A. game, they actually began to outplay the defending champs after starting the second period.

It’s not enough in this league to play only two periods of hockey. It’s is positively all about the starts; something the Jets, thus far, are not able to accomplish as easily as, say, George W. Bush is able to dodge projectile shoes.

But lets give them a little time, eh….I’m sure Bush wasn’t always as deft and nimble on his feet…

The Other Kane

Despite out scoring their opponent (Arizona Coyotes) 1-0 in the second, Blake Wheeler still said that his team was sloppy in that period. That is the sign of a true leader and one of the reasons why he now wears the “A”; and deservedly so. Leaders call out their teammates when they aren’t performing to their best, especially if they’re winning.

It’s not always bad news when a key player gets hurt in a game. Evander Kane went down early in the game, but filling his spot on the line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler was Dustin Byfuglien. Kane has, and let’s be honest, not lived up to (even) his own hype in his tenure with the Jets. There are only so many breakouts down the wing that end in a wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle that I can take before I don’t panic when he gets hurt. Byfuglien seems to be a nice replacement for number 9.

Evander Kane is a dichotomy. On one hand, he has such potential. He’s one of the fastest players in the league today, he has a great shot and he’s so strong. This skillset puts him in a great position to be amongst the best power forwards in the league. However, he has a darker, more underachieving side to him. He clearly has trouble staying healthy, and it’s no longer a secret that he hates playing in Winnipeg.

Kane’s delusions of grandeur would see him playing with elite teams in the league like Montreal or Boston, as he has said to the media on occasion in seasons past. The one thing that Evander does have, and I’ll give him this, is trade value. Kevin Cheveldayoff should trade him roughly midway through the season after he’s accumulated a few goals, and get someone who is actually capable of scoring 35 or 40 goals, instead of just talking about scoring that many.

The Dumb Questions in Life

Ladies and gentlemen summer is over. Dead! Never to return (at least not for eight months). The minty fresh breath of winter is upon us, and with that, the return of the NHL.

Yes, it’s officially the first day of the 2014-15 hockey season, and nothing could be more welcomed for me. Not even Christmas. In fact, as far as comparisons to Christmas for important days go, this is my Christmas.

But enough with the pleasantries, I want to get down to the bareknuckle issue that’s on my mind. I found, on my Twitter feed, an article that asks “Fourteen questions entering 2014-15 season.” The problem with this article is that it reflects the blandness and predictability of most sports journalism. Before even reading the article, I was able to correctly guess that there would be some form of question pertaining to whether or not Sidney Crosby will be fully recovered and ready to play; or whether Steven Stamkos will be able to perform at the same level he did before he broke his leg.

These questions are little more than a waste of words printed on digital paper. They do nothing more than deplete the digital trees that provide the digital paper we all love to write on.

Questions like this are a waste because guys like Stamkos and Crosby are professional hockey players at the top of their game. Not only are they professionals, but, on occasion, they make other professionals look like amateurs. These are players who live their lives between the goal lines, and when they’re not there, they’re training to be there.

The next question on the docket for this gem of modern journalism was asking whether or not the Sharks could recover after their breakdown in the playoffs last season. I had to read this one twice. Can a professional hockey team get back on the ice and perform after losing in the playoffs the season before? The obvious answer is no.

Officially, the San Jose Sharks have folded as an organization and will never play the game of hockey again. All assets have been liquidated. The fans are devastated, and small children are left crying, piggybanks in hand as they realize that it’s simply too late to make any donation to save the Sharks. The question itself is offensive and in bad taste. It’s a dark day in the San Jose sports world that will forever beg the question: what if the Sharks didn’t blow a 3-0 lead in the first round?

Of course, blowing leads of that stature are rare in the NHL. But statistically, they always lead to a full-blown corporate collapse.

All sarcasm aside, the Sharks will get over their failure in last years playoffs, if they haven’t already, because, as a team, they are used to losing in the playoffs after extremely strong showings in the regular season. It’s just what they do.

Better questions for Adam Kimelman (Deputy Managing Editor for NHL.com) to ask would have been along the lines of: can the Edmonton Oilers win more that a hand full of games this season? Was the acquisition of Devin Setoguchi the equivalent of committing suicide for the Calgary Flames? What were the Canucks really thinking in the off-season? And, can the Winnipeg Jets actually make a playoff debut this year with a full season of having coach Paul Maurice at the helm?

The latter will be examined periodically throughout the season. I can’t end this post without drawing attention to Mr. Kimelman’s final question, though, which asks if the Kings can repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Although he says yes, the true answer is clearly no, because as any sports fan worth their weight in pucks already knows, no team, regardless of league or sport ever wins back-to-back championships…ever!

So, ladies, make sure you safely pack away all your sundresses and cute short shorts, because you won’t need them anymore. Winter is upon us. But more importantly, hockey is upon us.

Strange Preparations

Whenever I sit down to write, as long as I’m not in school, I crack a beer. Not to say that I’m an alcoholic, but somehow, it just gets the juices flowing. It’s become a, sort of, ritual for me going back many years now. And I know that I’m not alone in the writing world when it comes to this technique.

With hockey, however, this is not exactly possible. It is possible in the beer leagues, but no one really pays attention to them. In the NHL, some of the players have been known for their superstition. Goaltenders especially.

Ray Bourque, a long time Boston Bruin defenseman, changed his skate laces before every game and during every intermission. According to bleacherreport.com, he played 1,826 games, which means he went through 5,478 pairs of laces.

Weirder still, old time goaltender Glenn Hall would induce vomiting before each game. The worst part about this superstition is that he would do this in the locker room. Hopefully, he had the common decency to not puke right in front of everyone else.

Stan Mikita played centre between 1958 and 1980. He used to smoke a cigarette between each period. Upon completion, he would toss the cashed smoke over his left shoulder every time.

Goaltenders are a special breed. Patrick Roy used to talk to his goalposts. “The goalposts are always with me. They talk back to me. Some nights they say ‘bing.’” While this may sound like a slight case of schizophrenia, just keep in mind that this is the same man whom after becoming a coach, nearly went threw the glass between the benches just to kick Bruce Boudreau’s ass. He’s crazy!

While players in the NHL might not share the same preparation techniques as I do, there is definitely a sense of familiarity in the weird superstitions that some of them keep. More on my weird superstitions for another post. Stay tuned….