The once heavily favored Boston Pride faced a must-win situation heading into their final game of the 2021 regular season, but fate had other plans. The Metropolitan Riveters announced yesterday they were withdrawing from the NWHL’s bubble season due to COVID concerns, a disappointing turn of events for the Riveters but a fortunate one for Boston. The Pride now sit in fourth place and will face the Buffalo Beauts in a best-of-three series to make the playoffs.
A look back
Boston struggled in the regular season, going 1–3–0 when many expected them to be sitting pretty on top of the standings when all was said and done. You have to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the strong play from the other teams, but it is also fair to say that the Pride have not had the best of luck this season.
First, they lost young blue liner Jenna Rheault to a wrist fracture, and then shortly afterward lost captain Jillian Dempsey, one of the team’s leading scorers, to injury as well. Rheault has confirmed she will be out for the rest of the season, but a sliver of hope remains for Dempsey’s return as she did make a brief appearance in warmups for this past Wednesday’s game against the Connecticut Whale.
In addition, the Pride had one of the more difficult schedules, playing four games in five days with the back half of their season seeing more time to rest — something that could play a big factor in the outcomes of the games.
Three keys to success
With the difficult regular season behind them, the Pride look to reset as they get ready for the playoff series. Here are our three keys for victory:
- Keep things going on the power play. The Pride have done a fantastic job drawing penalties this season, recording 26 skater-advantages, but the power play unit struggled to score early on. After going 0 for 6 on opening night against the Whitecaps, Boston was able to convert twice against the Beauts and add one power-play goal each in its games against the Six and the Whale.
BOSTON GOAL— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) January 27, 2021
McKenna Brand gets the Pride on the board! pic.twitter.com/wdM2LbGsQP
- Stay healthy. Easier said than done, but it’s obvious Boston is already reeling from the losses of Rheault and Dempsey. Another player going down would be devastating for the Pride and could dash any hopes they have of winning the 2021 Isobel Cup. On a positive note, the possible return of Dempsey would provide a much-needed boost to Boston’s lineup.
- Finish strong. The third period has proved to be the deciding factor in Boston’s last two games, as both the Whale and the Six mounted comebacks in the final stretch. Pride head coach Paul Mara cited “exhaustion” as one of the main factors to the Whale’s rally, so with luck these few days off will leave Boston well rested and ready to go on Saturday.
Despite what we’ve seen in the regular season, I wouldn’t count the Pride out just yet. A few key adjustments and Boston could quickly turn things around and show that they belong in the 2021 Isobel Cup playoffs.