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.