The word "momentum" gets used over the course of a playoff series for good reason. It can carry a team from one game to the next, and to an upset series victory in some cases. Other times the favorite can ride it even when things aren’t going smoothly. One goal, one big save, and the tide can turn.
The series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings has been full of the usual momentum shifts. The Hawks owned it after Game 1, it was up for grabs after Game 2, directly in the Wings' corner after Game 3 -- and maybe used in their favor to earn a Game 4 win. But Game 5 swung the Hawks' way, in a decisive 4-1 victory. Seemingly every player or part of the Hawks' game that had been struggling came through for them.
Which brings us to Game 6 on Monday night in Detroit.
There is no momentum. There is no real favorite. Can you pick one for this game? It stands alone in the series. The Wings get the slight edge for being at home, and that’s about it.
“I don’t think too much about it,” Duncan Keith said Sunday before leaving for Detroit. “We felt like we had most of the momentum much of last game, it’s up to us to recapture that momentum early on in the game and go from there.”
As well as the Hawks played on Saturday night, there is nothing in that game that says they’ve figured something out about the Red Wings. They were simply due for some breaks. That is if they brought the same effort and intensity they had in Game 4 or even Game 3. They worked hard and finally were rewarded on the power play and five-on-five. And to believe Detroit was going to win four in a row against the Hawks was something most people didn’t think could happen -- and it didn’t.
“We’re a little more confident than we were,” Bryan Bickell said. “But we need the same mindset as last game. It’s still do or die for us. That last game, we kind of got back to where we needed to be.”
So here comes Game 6. Detroit will rely on the fact it holds home serve in Games 3 and 4, though they were tight affairs. The Hawks will count on the fact they have played well enough to steal a win there, it just didn’t happen.
“I look back at the last two games in their building, it was two tough losses that you probably played the way you wanted to play,” Quenneville said. “Probably played two really good road games. Over the course of the season you give up those kind of chances on the road you would find a way to win one -- at least one. We have to earn our breaks, but I don’t think we want to change much the way we played the last couple of times in there.”
There is one X factor. His name is Andrew Shaw. For all we know he’ll be a non-factor, or even worse, he’ll revert back to his penalty-filled ways. But if he has found the right level of play, he’s the one guy who could carry over his Game 5 success for the rest of the series. He learned where that line he could creep up to was -- as long as he doesn’t go over it.
“Just have to be calm and be physical and go to the net, and good things will come of it,” Shaw said.
It sounds like he has figured things out, but he has to prove it one or two more times. Naturally, there are other factors that could determine the outcome, like an off night for a goaltender or a penalty-filled game for one team or the other. But based on pure momentum, there is no edge other than the game being played in Detroit.
“Sure if we win the next game they’re going to have a little bit of pressure that they didn’t close it out and we’re going back to our building,” Keith said. “You can look at it a bunch of ways. At the end of the day we’re trying to win, so are they.”
The series starts over on Monday.