Today at the Ice Garden we are going to reflect on the Boston Blades’ 2017-18 season.
Playoffs: Did not qualify.
The Boston Blades finished in last place in the CWHL for the third consecutive year. The team has struggled to find wins for several years now, accruing just four total victories since their Clarkson Cup championship in the 2014-15 playoffs. Dark days have fallen on the once shining franchise.
The CWHL’s only team in the United States surrendered 117 goals in 28 games this season. Despite this, not all hope is lost. Blades fans should feel good about the fact that the numbers are starting to trend in a better direction.
The Blades allowed an average of 4.18 goals against per game this season. That is a drastic improvement from the 5.67 goals against per game that Boston allowed in 2016-17. The Blades’ offense also improved from scoring 1.29 goals per game last year to 1.46 goals per game this year. These are small steps, but proverbs for such circumstances exist for a reason.
What Went Wrong
Unfortunately, not much went right for Boston this season. The team scored the fewest goals in the league, allowed more goals than any other team, and surrendered over 1,000 shots against their goaltender.
The team’s leading scorer, Kate Leary, finished with seven goals and 16 points in 28 games. There were 28 players around the league who scored more points than Leary. Boston lacked the elite scoring ability and depth options to bolster their forward corps.
The Blades played a lot of hockey at even strength this season. They were the least penalized team in 2017-18 and they were awarded the second fewest powerplay opportunities in the league. Boston found success with the skater advantage, but not enough to steal any games.
When you strip away all superlatives and nuance of circumstance, hockey is a simple game. Boston could not muster the offense to challenge in the vast majority of their games and their defense struggled to keep the team within striking distance.
Game of the Year - January 6, 2018
The Boston Blades were sporting a 0-14-0-2 record when they hosted the Toronto Furies on January 6, 2018. Boston had just returned from their Chinese road trip where they challenged but fell to Kunlun and Vanke. They set their sights on a Toronto team that was having difficulties keeping the puck out of their net. The Blades had an opportunity and they seized it.
Boston scored the first two goals of the game to jump out to a rare lead. Meghan Grieves buried a goal on the powerplay thanks to an Alexa Aramburu hooking penalty. Less than four minutes later, Michelle Ng doubled the Blades lead and Melissa Bizzari registered her second assist of the game.
However, Boston watched all their hard work slip away in the waning minutes of the opening period. Toronto’s Emily Fulton and Danielle Gagne scored goals at 16:23 and 18:29 of the first to level the game going into intermission. It appeared that perhaps the Blades had squandered their chance to get in the win column.
Adding to the tension, Meghan Grieves took a penalty less than a minute into the second period. In a turn of fate, the Blades killed the penalty and struck back from an unexpected source. Taylor Wasylk scored the first goal of her CWHL career less than a minute after Grieves’ penalty expired. The Blades continued to put pressure on the Furies but held a tenuous one goal lead going into the final frame.
Kate Leary added an insurance goal halfway through the third period to make it 4-2 in favor of the home team. It was the last goal scored in the game. Goaltender Lauren Dahm battened down the hatches and Boston weathered the storm. Dahm was busy as always, turning aside 37 of 39 shots. She must have been relieved to watch her team provide a rare burst of offensive support, registering four goals on 43 shots. It was only the second time that Boston had eclipsed the 40-shot mark. It was the first time they skated away as winners.
Team MVP - Lauren Dahm
With all due respect to her teammates, Lauren Dahm was the undisputed most valuable player of the Boston Blades. No other goalie faced the sheer quantity and quality of shots that Dahm endured in her 27 games played. She finished the season with a 3.91 GAA and a .908 SV% along with 1,023 saves. Only Vanke’s Elaine Chuli was anywhere near Dahm’s workload and she benefited from nearly double the offensive output that Dahm received.
The New York native’s statistics may not stand out when compared to her peers such as Noora Räty and Emerance Maschmeyer. However, when put into the context of her team’s performance, Dahm’s value is crystal clear.
Lauren Dahm of @BostonCWHL faced 42.1 SA/60 (all strengths) this season. She played just 78 more minutes of hockey in the regular season than Emerance Maschmeyer (MTL), but faced more than twice as many shots. Dahm had 13 quality starts and posted a .907 save percentage. pic.twitter.com/5n5NXRg5cH— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) March 22, 2018
No other Blade gave the team a chance at winning more than Dahm. She has earned the respect of her teammates, opponents, and fans of all affiliations with her unwavering competitive streak on the ice and endearing demeanor off of it. Perhaps no player in the entire CWHL meant more to her team relative to her peers than Dahm.
It has been an unfortunate few years for the Boston Blades and their fans. The team has had very few bright spots since the puck dropped on the 2015-2016 season. Among them is Lauren Dahm, who has emerged as a heart and soul player for the franchise over the past two seasons. The team continues to strive for success with unwavering work ethic and few key players injected into this lineup could certainly change the course of the franchise. For now, the Blades need to forget the outcome of 2017-2018 and look forward to a future with promise.