The first half of the Boston Pride’s National Women’s Hockey League season has gone exactly as they could have hoped.
Without Knight, Offense is Still There
Even without Hilary Knight for all but one contest this season, the Pride have had no problem creating goals and scoring chances. Brianna Decker is playing as well as ever and rookie Alex Carpenter has seamlessly fit into the offensive conversation. Decker is tied for first in the league with six goals, matching Connecticut Whale All-Star Kelly Babstock, while Carpenter is tied for second in points with 11, just one behind league-leader Babstock.
Perhaps the biggest addition, however, was Meghan Duggan, who joined as a free agent from Buffalo. With seven points, four of them goals over 25 shots, Duggan has also brought a physical presence as a player who crashes the net and creates plays.
Solid in Net
Brittany Ott is playing some of her best hockey, but Lauren Slebodnick has been more than capable when needed.
Ott’s 1.14 goals against average (GAA) is the best in the league after she had back to back shutouts and Slebodnick has a solid 1.50 GAA in her three full games.
In addition to leading the league with 33 goals, the Pride have also allowed just 10 goals. Compare that to the Whale, who are second when it comes to fewest goals allowed, but have given up 29 so far this year.
Improving Out of the Gate
It took a bit, but the Pride are starting to open games stronger. At the start of the season, Boston was playing as purely a second period team.
Boston has an impressive 17 goals in the second frame, but an even more impressive 14 goal differential. However, they have just five goals in the opening period and, in their last few games before the holiday break, that number was much lower.
With nine third period goals, the Pride do get better as the game goes on, but one key for them during the second half of the season will be to open games quickly and set the tone of the game early.
Blue Line Dominance
All season long, the Pride have been able to run much of their offense from the blue line because so many of the defenders are able to push the puck forward. Lexi Bender has offered a surge of offense, directing the puck at net, and Kacey Bellamy has one of the best shots in the entire league.
Blake Bolden and Gigi Marvin are also an offensive force from the blue line, creating depth five players back whenever Boston is on the attack.
Boston creates so many plays in transition, but their bread and butter is setting up plays from the point and getting action around the net. The blue line unit allows that approach to work.
Depth Players Contribute
While names like Decker, Duggan, and Carpenter might get the attention, the Rachel Llanes and Zoe Hickels of the world are also contributing just as much to the offensive onslaught.
Hickel and Amanda Pelkey each have five points on the season, while Jillian Dempsey has contributed six of her own. Jordan Smelker also has five points and has scored at clutch points in the season. Finally, Llanes has four points of her own, even after missing time.
The first game for the Pride out of the break is on January 7th against the New York Riveters, a team that has challenged Boston so far this season. With the Pride still undefeated, it will be our first look to see if anything has changed for the first place team in 2017.