Not exactly the start Riveters and their fans were expecting a third of the way through their season. While we spent the weekend honoring and celebrating the Isobel Cup victory, based on recent play it's hard to believe the Rivs are the reigning champions.
So what's going wrong? I know the Rivs don’t have D’Oench and Burke, but the Riveters should win without them.
It's time for some Riv Rants.
~ During a rush, why are the Riveters’ defenders staying planted on the blue line? It looks like the pair is tethered together and they’ll get shocked if they cross the line. Leave a defender back and bring one in to support the forwards. That way you have a better chance of keeping possession of the puck and getting more shots on goal.
~ What’s up with the power play? Kessel is not Ovechkin, why is she on the point slapping shots into the crowded crease? Is this the only power play practiced? Time to try something else. Instead, bring Kessel in and allow her to get closer to the net to set up another player, or allow her to take a close range shot herself. Have someone like Koelzer take slapshots. Also, why 3F and 2D? With a coach stressing a defense-first system, it kinda sucks when you give up a shorthanded goal with two defenders on the ice. At least bring the two extra players closer to the action so they can contribute to the power play, especially since the Riveters have dynamic offensive defense. Or try 4F and 1D!
~ No support for speedsters. The Riveters are stuck in their own zone, when they do get an offensive chance, it's usually a solo player breaking through with no support, or they're bringing the puck down to allow for a line change. Aside from the first line, every line has one fast skater who then gets abandoned. I know during this weekend’s games the Riveters were trying several line combinations, even switching period to period. Try combining two of the faster players on the second or third lines to create some more balance. Maybe even break up the first line to see if you can get all three Riveters' lines to roll.
~ The system. Why this system?? Even when they've struggled, Riveters hockey has always been characterized by their fire: it looks smothered. They are not a defense first team. Heck, no successful women's hockey team is defense first. Sure, you can have strong defenders, but they compliment and support your forwards. The Rivs play best when they control the puck, rush the net, take SOG, and score as much as they can. We've all seen what this offensive-minded team can do when their systems are built for them, not in spite of them. Let’s get out of their way!
But wait, there were some Riv Raves!
~ I will admit the Packer-Russo-Kessel line is quite excellent. They're the only line consistently breaking through the opposing team. Their play is reminiscent of the style that won the Riveters the Isobel Cup seven months ago. But you can't win games with only one line rolling.
~ When the other lines did break out, the best scoring chances came when everyone, including defenders, got involved in rushing the net. More of that, please!
It's frustrating as a fan, knowing the talent on this team, what they are capable of, and trying to understand why the game they are playing looks like self-sabotage. It isn’t fun to watch. The Rivs have the talent, it's all about the system being implemented. Coach, with all due respect you need to quickly learn how the women's game is played. Do your homework: watch the Riveters' games from last year, watch NCAA women's hockey, watch all the Team USA vs Team Canada games. Everything is about speed, offense, and constant back and forth. There's nothing to lose by trying something new, but if nothing changes there's real risk you’ll lose the room.