Momentum is something often discussed in sports. It is an invisible force that changes over the course of a game and a season. In hockey, it’s determined by: individual effort, bounces, shots, big hits, injuries, fatigue, crowd noise, power plays, big saves, fights and luck.
Individuals have been putting out effort for this Avalanche club. Kevin Porter is playing great right now. O’Reilly works harder than anyone else. Elliott and Landeskog play with passion as rookies. Shane O’Brien and Ryan Wilson provide solid defensive plays. Other individuals, especially Stastny, are providing less individual effort.
The bounces have not been going the Avalanche’s way recently. The team is averaging 35 shots a game in November but those pucks aren’t going to the net. Part of this problem seems to be a lack of traffic in front of their opponent’s nets. Rebound ratio is not something often referred to in hockey but the Avalanche are obviously getting outhustled in the offensive end.
The big hits are there at times, such as the hit by Wilson that led to the first goal against the Oilers. Landeskog also provides a lot of hits to the point where he is being held out of practice to nurse his injuries. However, for a team that upgraded in size on the defensive end, there is not enough checking by this team. They should be able to establish more of a presence.
Injuries and fatigue bring about loss in momentum. Peter Mueller’s absence has obviously hurt this team, as they never upgraded their wing positions. Johnson has the only other real injury and his absence has been less than noticed the last few games.
The crowd noise at the Pepsi Center seems to have no effect on the Avs play. I actually feel like energy levels are less effective in hockey than in football or basketball. While there’s something to be said for a full house, the energy does not intimidate the other team quite as much.
Power plays do not come often enough for the Avalanche anymore and momentum is rarely found due to the ineffectiveness of the power play.. While the penalty kill has been slightly better thanks to McClement, Kobasew and Winnik’s hustle, the Avs do not seem to get much momentum from killing off penalties.
Big saves have been lacking from this team. Varlamov came up with the big saves early but now only makes routine saves. He has not played badly, but every once in a while he should stand on his head. Additionally, the Avs do not have a real momentum-grabbing fighter. Just as well since I’m tired of fights in the NHL.
So basically, it comes down to luck. Sure a little luck is needed to win games, but are the Avalanche just waiting for their luck to change? They play dump and chase hockey all the time now. They emulate the other teams’ style of play. They do not play fast for their youth. They make too big of a deal out of wins and brush off the losses.
Momentum can mean a number of different things in hockey. Right now it’s something the Avalanche need to play desperately to earn.