In the past two seasons, the Boston Pride probably had the best line in pro hockey — captain Jillian Dempsey centering wingers McKenna Brand and Christina Putigna. In their first season together, the 2019-20 campaign, they finished first (Dempsey, 40), tied for second (Brand (36), and sixth (Putigna, 29) in the league in scoring. In Lake Placid, Putigna led the trio with eight points in seven games.
Despite the impressive start to her career, Putigna has rarely been given the attention or credit that she deserves. In short, she’s a very good hockey player on a team with an abundance of very good hockey players. Dempsey, Brand, and Kaleigh Fratkin share most of the spotlight in Boston. Sometimes, Putigna can get lost in the mix when we talk about what makes the Pride the Pride.
That’s a mistake.
Here’s a thought: try to think of five wingers in the PHF who are better than Putigna. Of course, “better” is a subjective term. Better how? More productive? More complete players? More valuable to their respective teams? So, instead, let’s say this — if you were starting a new franchise, how many PHF wingers would you take before Putigna? Chances are, you have a pretty short list in your head. If you don’t, you are probably not a fan of the Pride.
After Boston’s first six games of the season, that list of wingers might have gotten trimmed down. Putigna has three goals and a primary assist through her first three weekends and is second on Boston in scoring. It’s worth noting that all of her points have come at even strength and that only of her goals involved Brand or Dempsey. In other words, she’s proving her star power playing away from her former linemates and showing us that she’s much more than a great passer who can set up elite linemates.
This season, we’ve seen the Providence alumna carry the puck with confidence and create offense playing with new linemates in her new role. We’ve seen her wave goodbye to the freshly vanquished Connecticut Whale after scoring an overtime winner. We’re watching her become a star of her own making.
At the Thanksgiving (U.S.) break, Putigna is second on the Pride in SOG/GP, averaging just over five shots a game. The only player on Boston putting more rubber on net is McKenna Brand. Together, Brand, Putigna, and Taylor Wenczkowski account for 45 percent of the team’s shots. I think it’s safe to say that we know who the Pride’s shooters are. And Putigna is definitely one of them.
Why is this so noteworthy? Heading into the 2021-22 season, 27 of the winger’s 37 career points were assists and she was averaging 3.87 SOG/GP. What we’ve seen in the early stages of this season is Putigna embracing her new role by choosing to shoot more often and take things into her own hands. She’s establishing herself as one of the rare wingers who can drive play and shape the identity of her line.
Pride head coach Paul Mara appears to be spreading out his forward talent instead of having a super line. Having elite wingers like Putigna and Brand is a luxury. Of course, Mara can also always reunite the trio that helped make Boston look all but unbeatable in 2019-20 in key moments. He did just that when the Pride needed a goal in the final minute of their game against the Whale on Nov. 13. They delivered — Putigna delivered.
Call it swagger, call it confidence, call it whatever you’d like — Putigna has it. She also has the skill to back it up and is playing that way regardless of who she is on the ice with. The time of Putigna being just another star on a stacked roster is over. This season, she has the chance to prove that she is so much more.