It’s been over a year since the Boston Pride felt the sting of defeat. Since the 10th January 2016 they have strung together 23 victories in a row, winning the Isobel Trophy on their way, and are well on route to repeating this success.
As if 23 wins wasn’t impressive enough, once you start to delve deeper you realise just how dominant this side really is. They’ve won 20 of those games in regulation, and have outscored their opponents 103 – 32 over this stretch. That means on average, they score over 4 goals per game, while only conceding 1.4 goals in return.
To have a successful team you have to be at the top of your game in four sections. These are offence, defence, goal tending and special teams. Pretty simply put, if you can nail these, you’ve got the game sorted, which is exactly what Boston have done. Below I take a look at just how dominant Boston is across the board.
Brittany Ott won best goal tender in the inaugural season of the NWHL, posting a GAA of 1.94 and a save percentage of 0.925%. She’s on track to defend her title, currently sitting on a GAA of just 0.98 and a save percentage of 0.960%, which are absolutely ridiculous numbers. You need someone solid between the pipes, and Ott definitely is that.
As many a team can tell you, it’s not good enough to have one lights out goalie- you need a good backup. Boston have filled that position for the 2016/17 season with Lauren Slebodnick who, despite being the backup goalie for the Pride, has the second best numbers across the whole league (1.33 GAA and a 0.932%).
Whichever of these goalies is in net, any team hoping to best Boston is going to have to take every opportunity that comes their way; there certainly aren’t going to be a lot of them.
Brianna Decker was the 2016 MVP, and leads the league in all time points with 50 from 30 games. She’s been on fire and shows no sign of letting up.
Hilary Knight was the top goal scorer from the 2015/16 season. She’s only played 3 games this year, missing the rest due to injury, but she is still in contention to once again be the top goal scorer, as she’s currently hitting a goal a game pace.
With the two “veterans” performing just as always you would think the team was set, but who’s been carrying the slack whilst Knight has been out injured? Alex Carpenter, and then some. Selected as the first overall pick in 2015 by the Riveters, she was traded to Boston for the 2016/17 season. Since then, she’s not only leading rookie scoring, but is leading the league in assists, goals and points.
With this kind of firepower it’s no surprise that Boston are able to put up over 4 goals a game against their opponents. These three are only the start of the offensive talent that the Pride have, including Meghan Duggan and Jillian Dempsey.
Offence can’t win games by itself; as much as scoring goals will help, if you’re leaking goals in your own end as well, you’re unlikely to get such a winning streak going. There certainly isn’t much leaking from the leading 5 defence women of the Pride. They all post positive +/- ratings, with Alexandra Bender going +13, and allstar Blake Bolden +12. If you’re not convinced by the +/-, maybe you’ll be impressed by their shot suppression, led by Alyssa Gagliardi who has 12 blocks on the season. The Pride have only allowed 234 shots to reach their goalies: that’s far fewer than any other team.
Of course, a little offense never goes amiss from the defence either, and Boston bring that in bucket load with many of the women picking up plenty of assists and the odd goal. However, Gigi Marvin leads the Boston defence with 2 goals and 3 assists.
If the offence and defence are functioning as they should, the special teams should just be a combination of that well-oiled machine, functioning and putting up numbers. This however, isn’t always the case (see the Connecticut Whale). It has been said that special teams win championships. That was in relation to the NHL, but the saying can easily be transplanted to the NWHL. I’ll leave it at this: Boston have the second best power play in the league at 19.4%, and are miles out in front with their power play operating at a ridiculous 92.1%.
So there we have it, Boston have all four parts of the recipe for a winning team, and it is clearly showing. The question is, for how much longer? New York and Buffalo have both pushed them to the wire this season, but neither have been able to top the Pride. Will either team be able to turn around their fortunes come the playoffs this spring?