The Dallas Stars lost two in a row and are coming off their worst loss of the series – luckily momentum isn’t real
The Dallas Stars started the Stanley Cup Final with a decisive victory to go up 1-0. Since then they’ve lost two in a row and are coming off their worst game in weeks. With the series now at 1-2 in Tampa Bay’s favor, the momentum has clearly shifted, right?
Not for mentally tough competitors like the Dallas Stars. The idea of momentum carrying over from one play to the next, let alone one game to the next is a widely debated issue. Outside of the psychological impact of winning and losing, there’s nothing remotely hinting that the outcome of one game has any impact on the probability of the outcome of the next game.
We know, more often than not, the better team usually wins. So the chances of the same team winning two games in a row are greater than a split. But winning the first has no tangible impact on winning the next. Now, hockey players are a superstitious bunch so chances are most of the Dallas Stars would take issue with any scientific claims that dare to go against their prior beliefs. But the reality is momentum only exists in our minds.
Our minds are powerful things. They’ll make us search for patterns and/or reasons why something happens, even if there isn’t a good reason to be had. Worse yet, our minds will double-down on cognitive dissonance and fight to the death to support those unsupported claims.
So it’s not all that surprising the mind is key to shifting momentum.
The mentally weak will be helped and hurt by the idea of momentum. They’ll let the outcome of one play or one game impact the way they play. They’ll either grow more confident or grow more demoralized. A mentally strong player will maintain his same level of confidence. He’ll fight on doing his absolute best regardless of how the puck falls in a series.
In basketball, the best shooters keep shooting even when they go cold. They know there’s a level of chance involved in sports and even the best all-time players can’t shoot 100 percent from the field.
The Dallas Stars know this all too well. They started the season terribly this season, going a horrific 1-7-1. They kept their confidence, prevented a snowball effect, and corrected course. They went on to post the best record in the NHL until their next losing streak struck when they finished the pre-COVID season losing six in a row, bookmarking an otherwise brilliant season.
After an up and down warm-up/round-robin, the Dallas Stars limped into the postseason rather uninspiring. But they kept grinding. They kept doing the things they do. And eventually it started paying off. Here we are weeks later and the Dallas Stars are once again on the wrong side of “the ‘M’ word.”
But outside of our own minds, momentum is nothing. Mentally tough teams know how to respond and only the weak let things snowball. Now is not the time for the Dallas Stars to question themselves or waver in their confidence. Just like Tampa can’t get overconfident, the Dallas Stars can’t get demoralized. Good teams don’t fall for the Momentum trap because deep down good teams are too mentally tough to believe momentum is real outside of our own minds.
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Momentum is a funny thing. On one hand you have Newton’s first Theory of Motion in which an object in motion tends to stay in motion. On the other hand you have completely different actions and reactions that aren’t impacted in any way by previous actions and reactions.