Welcome to the first edition of Straighten the Crown! Twice a month, you can find this Beauts-centric editorial here on The Ice Garden. The focus will be on the great things to come, observational weaknesses, and insider insights from your favorite players and coaches.
Heading into the early bye week, Buffalo has opened the season 2-0 for the first time in the team’s four-year history. Adding to this momentous start to the 2018-19 season, the Beauts have allowed ZERO goals against - both Nicole Hensley and Shannon Szabados have posted their first shutouts in their professional women’s hockey careers.
The least Buffalo thing to do would be to bust out a soapbox and climb aboard, espousing the virtues of the team’s defensive acumen, or it’s offensive firepower. Which is why much of what follows are largely exploitable weaknesses that have been identified in the early going.
Pointless Power Play
In three seasons, Buffalo’s calling card has been special teams. In year one, Ric Seiling’s Beauts scored nearly as many short-handed goals as they allowed on the penalty kill.
The same has been true for the club’s power play. It’s been among the best in the league each year.
This season has been a different story. Despite outscoring opponents 11-0 through two games, the team has failed to score on the power play. Seiling and assistant coach Craig Muni have trotted out the power play units eight times, and come up empty. In the home opener against Connecticut, the Beauts even tried three defenders on the PP, to no avail. Maybe they should try Szabados on PP2?
Scoring at a league-leading rate at even strength is great, but the team is going to have to capitalize with the advantage against the stronger teams.
Just like the Cup season, Buffalo is home to one of the best goaltending duos in hockey. Hensley and Szabados left donuts on the scoreboard in their two matchups, making 10 and 22 saves, respectively.
The Beauts travel to Minnesota for back-to-back games next week, and barring extenuating circumstances, both netminders will likely see a start in the State of Hockey. Seiling and Muni have an affinity for the 1/1A approach, and there is no reason to abandon it with this duo.
It’s going to be a good test for each goalie. Hensley will certainly see more shots, and Buffalo broke down in front of Szabodos several times in the team’s most recent win. Both goalies are going to have to improve on already stellar performances if they are going to continue their winning ways.
The best defense is an offensive defensive group.
Beauts defenders have combined for two goals and four assists. The squad has more goals than the entire Whale team and as many goals as the Riveters have scored this season.
“All aspects of our team are super strong,” boasted rookie blueliner Savannah Harmon, when asked about the defense’s contributions. “We’re all starting to gel, so when one group’s going and another group’s going and another group’s going...whether you’re forward or D, we’re all leaning on each other and if one gets going, everyone gets going.”
There is little question this is the production Seiling has been expecting from this group in the past, and he’s certainly glad to have it this year.
Buffalo has the weekend off, but there is a heavy practice schedule for the club. Hopefully the Beauts can shore up the loose ends in preparation of the battle for first place against the Whitecaps next week.