After a tough shutout loss to the Whale in Pittsburgh, the Rivs were looking to rebound against the Pride at home. For the most part, the Rivs played well. They weren't outright shining, but they stayed competitive, and overall it was a very entertaining game. However, ten games into the season it's getting hard to sit down and recap what the Riveters are doing right and wrong, because it’s the same things they've been doing all season. They play great at points, looking much improved in their game, pushing the play, and staying competitive. But whenever there's a hiccup, the team falls apart. They revert to poor play, become stagnant, mentally collapse, and all the energy leaves the building. Unfortunately, they're susceptible to the latter far more frequently.
I've been saying it all season, this team should not be playing like this. Something needs to change, and it's more than just the lines.
Anyway, have some Riv Rants.
~ I don't like that Nash was at the game but wasn't dressed. She has some of the best hockey smarts in the league, and is an asset to any line she's on. Actually, now that I think about it this is the third time a Riveters player was at a home game, but not dressed. These sorts of decisions are starting to come off like petty jabs. Yes, these women have lives outside of the team, but this is the reality of women's hockey right now. Don't punish the team for something out of the player's control, especially when they are available on game day.
~ It's starting to become more obvious there's a disconnect between the coaches and the players. During first intermission Dosdall, Lawler, and Richards all stayed on the ice to play with the NJ Colonials. While I won't deny it was a really sweet moment, and I know all three are involved with the Colonials, I don't know any professional team where players stay out on the ice instead of heading to the locker room to get ready for the next period. Especially in a tied game. While innocent at face value, anyone following the Rivs this season knows it was an odd moment.
~ The third period was rough. The Rivs mental energy was waning, and the Pride were actually playing down to match the Rivs. The bad call on Gruschow late in the period was a really tough break for the Rivs. Packer getting called seconds into the PK was the death knell. While we always wish for better officiating, bad calls happen, and unfortunately are part of the game. How the team reacts to tough situations is what makes or breaks a team. The Rivs broke.
~ The lines weren't great. Go back to Russo-Packer-Kessel for the first line, and for goodness sake keep D'Oench and Gruschow on the same line. I think the lines were best when the Rivs won the game against the Whale in Week 6, more of that.
Some positive Raves from Sunday's game.
~ They played pretty solid first and second periods. Even though the play was back and forth, the Rivs kept up with the Pride and it was an exciting game. Most importantly, when the Rivs had possession their play looked damn good. Great play making, good scoring opportunities, and solid passing. They were actually able to move out of their zone and transition to offense. It was awesome to see Packer hanging on the far blue line waiting for a pass to rush the Pride's defense. It was refreshing to watch.
~ Even though they gave up a shorthanded goal, the Rivs power play was actually loads better. Despite the hesitancy in their play (I'm guessing because of its newness) what they did in the first period looked really good. However, it was this hesitancy that allowed the Pride to take advantage and capitalize on the Riveters, in the end. The Rivs were able to recover in the first and I don't think the team should write off this version of the power play just yet. Keep practicing it, it's absolutely going in the right direction!
~ It's interesting that some of the best highlights from the Rivs this season come from what I call "sheer will" plays. Breaking out of the system and making something happen. In this game, that effort came from Gruschow, who scored a shorthanded goal. The fact the assist came from D'Oench, despite the two playing on different lines Sunday, was all sorts of divine hockey intervention. They always create scoring magic together, and they should always play together. Next game they better be back on the same line!
Final serious thoughts.
I'm going to say it, it's time for new coaches. The Riveters lack leadership and accountability, and the on-ice play reflects it. For one reason or another, the coaches have checked out. They aren't able to take control of the ship, don't seem capable of handling whatever is going on with the team, and without keeping the players in check the players aren't respecting their coaches. Until the Beauts fired their coaching staff this past weekend, I wasn't sure any team in the league would actually do it. But it's been done, and done by a team that wasn't in nearly as dire a situation as the Riveters. A new standard has been set in the NWHL for coach accountability. Now the question is why haven’t the Riveters, who are overdue for a shakeup, not doing it? Can the league not find anyone to take over? Does the team have a reputation I'm not aware of? Whatever the reason, something needs to be done.
However, the blame can’t be put on the coaches alone. If a coaching change isn't happening, and leadership isn't coming from traditional sources, it's time for the players to step up. They need to band together and bring leadership, accountability, and coaching out in each other. In fact, the resources are already on the team. Kelly Nash. Promote her to Player-Coach, like Cydney Roesler on The Whale, and start fresh. The Riveters are in the playoffs, this season can turn around. They're smart, skilled, and creative players. Not to mention, proven winners. Not to be too pessimistic, but if nothing changes, why even bother playing the Wild Card Game? The outcome will be decided even before the players hit the ice.
Prove us wrong, Rivs!