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PHF Power Rankings: Holiday Break

Who is at the top of the mountain at the end of 2022?

Jonathan Sawn/Connecticut Whale

The PHF’s Holiday Break has arrived. As of today’s date, 30 games have been played, 184 goals have been scored, and we’ve seen four clean sheets posted by goalies — and three of those belong to Corrine Schroeder. It’s been a wild ride so far and that is only accounting for what has happened on the ice.

Fans who have been following the first chapter of the 2022-23 season will know that we haven’t seen as much of the Buffalo Beauts and Connecticut Whale as we have of the rest of the pack due to a winter storm mucking up the schedule. However, we are now at a stage where every team has played at least half a dozen games — that’s 1/4th of a 24-game season. That’s a reasonable sample size to work with. We are also on pause until the New Year, which makes this a fine time to take a look at where all seven PHF teams stand.

Standings

  1. Toronto Six | 22 points | 7-1-2
  2. Boston Pride | 19 points | 7-2-0
  3. Minnesota Whitecaps | 14 points | 4-4-2
  4. Metropolitan Riveters | 11 points | 4-6-0
  5. Connecticut Whale | 10 points | 3-3-1
  6. Montreal Force | 10 points | 4-4-0
  7. Buffalo Beauts | 4 points | 1-4-1

One can’t help but notice that only three teams — Toronto, Boston, and Montreal — are actually at or above .500 hockey. Also, remember that regulation wins count for more than OT and shootout wins. Right now, Toronto is leading the field with 6 wins determined in 60 minutes. The Buffalo Beauts are bringing up the rear with 1 regulation win in 6 GP.

Now that we have reviewed the standings, let’s get into the power rankings.

Power Rankings

The Pride [1]

That’s right, I said it.

I have Boston ahead of Toronto because the Pride have been doing their thing shorthanded most nights and because they’re the reigning champions. At full strength, they’re the best this league has to offer. They’ve lost just twice and play like they hate to lose regardless of who they are playing. I refuse to underestimate this group, so they have the top spot until I see enough to prove that it no longer belongs to them.

The Six [2]

The Six have been sensational so far, led by newcomer Brittany Howard who has 12 goals in 10 GP. That’s right. A dozen goals in 10 games.

But the real number that I want to highlight here is Toronto’s +15 EV goal differential. That number, in my opinion, is the strongest case for the Six deserving the top spot in the power rankings over Boston. Of course, there’s also Toronto’s 7-3 thrashing of the Pride from Nov. 27 but that was just one game. I’m more interested in the high quality of play from Toronto across all 10 of their games.

I don’t know if Toronto can keep this pace up — they’re collectively shooting at 12.06 percent — but I do know that this team has a formidable group of forwards, a great goalie tandem, and that Kati Tabin has quietly been playing like an All-Star on the blue line. Did you know that Toronto finishes the regular season at home with a final weekend series against the Pride? Yeah, circle those games on your calendar.

The Whitecaps [3]

It’s hard to believe a team with this much talent started the year with 4 consecutive losses but Minnesota has begun to turn things around. The Whitecaps are now 4-4-2 and, as we all expected, have beeen leaning on Amanda Leveille since the word go. Minnesota has a great power play, a shaky penalty kill, and has a -1 EV goal differential.

Jonna Albers, Sidney Morin, and Natalie Snodgrass have been tearing it up in the offensive zone but the defensive breakdowns in front of Lev leave a lot to be desired. Minnesota needs to find a way to hold their blue line better a even-strength to disrupt entries and make life easier for their franchise goalie. If they do that, they may avoid long losing streaks for the rest of the year.

The Whale [4]

The team I picked to finish first in the standings this year is 3-3-1 after their first 7 games. Yep.

Look, the Whale have been unlucky. I know, I know — but just hear me out. I have numbers and words for you because that is what I do. The Whale have the worst PP% (11.1) in the league, the worst Sh% (7.48) in the league, and the best average shot differential in the league (+6.86). There’s a lot of signs that things are going to get better in Connecticut — a lot better. This team isn’t going to finish the season below .500. It just isn’t going to happen.

It was great to see Caitrin Lonergan finally pot her first and second PHF goals and for Meeri Räisänen backstop the team to a win on Dec. 18, just before the break. That 6-4 win was the first time this season the Whale scored more than 3 goals in a game. Remember, the Whale averaged 3.7 GF/GP in 2021-22 and, if anything, their offense is better on paper this year. We have not seen the best of the Whale but right now the highest spot they can claim on my power rankings is 4th.

The Riveters [5]

The Riveters have defeated the Whale and the Six (twice) but I have them in 5th in my power rankings because of their -5 EV goal differenial and a league-worst 6 regulation losses. There’s also some questions about consistency on this squad, but we should have expected that with a new coach and so many new faces.

Fortunately, today’s Rivs are better than the Rivs who started the season on Nov. 6 by being shutout by the Boston Pride. Head coach Venla Hovi’s team has an effective power-play, at least two lines that can score, and the best group of defenders this team has had in years. There’s also the recent addition star goaltender Katie Burt, which gives Metropolitan a formidable stable of netminders.

Sarah Bujold is a star, Kelly Babstock has her groove back, and the Packer-Pelkey connection is heating up. This is a team trending in the right direction — for now, at least.

The Force [6]

It’s great to see the Force, the new kids on the block, at .500 hockey at the break. The reason why they are 6th in my power rankings comes down to having 2 regulation wins in 8 games. With that said, this team has definitely surprised me.

There’s no other way to say this — Montreal plays beautiful hockey. The Force have unbelievable puck movement when they’re rolling and it has made them one of the most spellbinding teams to watch. More importantly, they play tight games. They have a -1 goal differential and a -2 EV goal differential after 8 GP. Montreal has only one loss by a margin of two or more goals, which is an impressive start for any expansion team.

With all of that said, the Force have yet to play Toronto and Boston. They’re also the only team to lose to the Buffalo Beauts. Some might see the 6 spot as unfair for a 3-3-0 team and to them I would say: yeah, you’re probably right.

The Beauts [7]

Buffalo has a -9 EV goal differential after 6 GP and the worst record in the league. As much as I want to believe in the Beauts, they are the team with the most to prove right now.

The good news for Buffalo fans is that the blue line is scoring, the power-play looks significantly better than last year, and Mikyla Grant-Mentis is doing what she was brought here to do. The bad news is the Beauts need more depth scoring and they need Kassidy Sauvé to get healthy and stay healthy. It feels like the Beauts’ fate is tied to what happens with their star goalie. Right now, Buffalo has a .885 Team Sv%. That’s a troubling number if you are in the business of winning hockey games.

I said it before the season, but if I was signing checks as a PHF general manager I would have made sure to set aside some cash to have a third goalie under contract. The Beauts are fortunate to have Hofmann in their camp. Hopefully, this extended break gives them time to lick their wounds and smooth out the wrinkles in their breakouts and entries.