There’s a saying in baseball: “Momentum is only as good as the next day’s starter.” In baseball, so much can turn on a pitcher that changes every day. Imagine if you had to change your starting goaltender, as an example, every game. You’re one bad outing — maybe even one bad pitch — away from no longer having momentum.
In an NHL playoff series, a lot can change from game to game. Going into Game 2, it was imperative that the Montreal Canadiens put out a strong effort. Not only were they facing a 0-1 deficit, they had just found out that their head coach would be out for the remainder of the series against the Philadelphia Flyers. They would either prove they were up to the task or they wouldn’t.
If there was ever a time for the Canadiens to play their best game, Friday afternoon was it. After a 5-0 win, they have evened the series at 1-1, and took last-change advantage along with it.
Sunday night’s Game 3 is no time for Montreal to take their foot off the gas pedal. Any letdown, especially in the start, can see them leave Scotiabank Arena on Sunday down 2-1 in the series. It’s something that the team’s interim head coach, Kirk Muller, is aware of.
“Momentum is a funny thing. Once you get it, you can ride with it,” he said on Saturday. “We just have to get off on the right track and try to get better every day. [Friday] was great, but we need to be ready to roll again [Sunday].”
There are always adjustments to be made. In Game 3, Philadelphia is likely to bring their changes and will have an added boost after being embarrassed in Game 2. But the Canadiens will just have to focus on themselves.
The Canadiens are a good team. Teams that aren’t good don’t do what they did to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they don’t do what they did to the Flyers on Friday. The difference between good and great is consistency. Montreal has shown a lot of good, but perhaps never as good as they were on Friday. But great teams don’t get swept in the regular season series by the worst team in the NHL, like the Canadiens were by the Detroit Red Wings.
Since returning to play, the players on the Canadiens have all said that they see this opportunity given to them in the NHL’s Return to Play as a fresh start. After a great Game 2, it can be more than that.
It can be a chance to prove they can be great after all.