THN.com Blog: Momentum swing

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Adam Proteau will return Feb. 26. In his absence, the The Hockey News.com will feature several guest bloggers. Up today is THN Copy Editor and Trauma Unit author Ryan Kennedy:

As Hunter S. Thompson once pointed out, all things work according to the Great Magnet. And what fools we'd be to defy it.

Last night was certainly a Great Magnet night in the East, as the concept of momentum got a clean slap in the face from several cornered clubs.

Atlanta, who fell apart against the Senators Saturday, notched a crucial victory over Carolina last night with three goals in the third. Not only was this a self-esteem builder for the flailing Thrashers, it also came at the expense of the division-rival Hurricanes, who also happen to be chasing A.T.L. in the standings.

Montreal, previously praying for some sort of space-age polymer hamstring substitute to be invented for Cristobal Huet, officially ushered in the Jaroslav Halak era with back-to-back wins over Columbus and a defensively-depleted Washington squad.

Granted, if you're the Habs you're supposed to win those games, but they haven't of late, so consider these key victories, especially with games against the Isles, Leafs and Rangers – all competing for that eighth spot with them – on the horizon.

The suddenly-hot Leafs also slipped against the Bruins last night. Boston, a wounded bear playing without top forwards Glen Murray and Patrice Bergeron, is a plodding team on the ice, but it has translated into a hot streak of late, vaulting them back from the dead in the playoff race.

As for the Islanders, how is this team winning? I was physically present when they bested the Leafs in a shootout last week and I still can't believe it. Ted Nolan's squad plays a bend-but-don't-break style of hockey that seems to do just enough to win (as evidenced by their 6-5 theft over the Pens the other day). Rick DiPietro has been spectacular at making those “dagger” saves – where a goal would mean certain death for the team – and Miroslav Satan is making sure everyone knows there's more to the offense than Yashin and Blake.

A final note from the Western Conference: Calgary has been road kill this year, notching just seven victories away from Sweet Home Ala-berta. If the playoffs started today, they'd be the eighth seed and therefore an “away” underdog. This does not bode well.

For more on the stretch drive, stay posted for Bubble Buzz, a new THN.com feature monitoring those teams scrambling for playoff spots: which squads are soaring and which are drowning? Momentum's a heckuva thing.

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