After starting their season with three wins in a row, the Toronto Six headed to Boston two play two games against the Pride.
The Six were swept in the weekend series. You probably already know how things shook out, but in case you missed it:
On Saturday, the Six scored the opening goal in the second period and managed to hold on to it until about halfway through the third when Jillian Dempsey scored to tie the game at 1-1. Regulation couldn’t settle things, and neither could overtime, so the game went to a shootout. Christina Putigna and McKenna Brand scored for the Pride, Emma Woods and Mikyla Grant-Mentis did not score for the Six, and the rest is history. The Pride took the first meeting of the regular season 2-1.
On Sunday, the Pride made life difficult for the Six. They practically chased them off the ice at Warrior to the tune of eight goals, five of which went unanswered. The Pride took the second game by a whopping score of 8-2.
So what happened? Did the Six get bad all of a sudden? Did those talent-stealing aliens from Space Jam show up in their hotel rooms on Saturday night? Was Boston’s home ice advantage just that good?
Whatever the reason, the Six were able to play a close game on Saturday and, for the most part, keep up with Boston’s incredibly stacked lineup. They were absolutely blown out on Sunday.
It’s not that something suddenly happened to make the Six into the kind of team that loses by six goals, it’s that the Pride were able to take advantage of weaknesses that have always been there and capitalize on mistakes that this team has made frequently.
It might seem a little bit ridiculous to start talking about overarching trends for a team that’s barely played double digit numbers worth of games, but that’s what we’re going to do anyway.
The Six have been historically bad when it comes to defending in front of their own net. They give their opponents anywhere from slightly too much room to way too much room to work in the slot. This gave Boston ample opportunity to make the kind of cross-crease passes that goaltenders see in their nightmares on Sunday.
This was Boston’s second goal of the game, and Ridgewell barely had time to react before McManus was releasing her shot. Watch at the end for Sarah Steele seeming to scramble to cover Dempsey, leaving McManus free to receive the pass.
McManus is left all alone in front and buries it! pic.twitter.com/tEdeCaZPaQ— PHF (@PHF) December 5, 2021
It’s not about making the heroic diving blocks or putting the body on the line by taking a puck to the shin, it’s about staying getting sticks and bodies in passing lanes and interrupting the drive of the opponent. The Six didn’t do a great job of that in Boston, and they paid for it, to a borderline excruciating extent on Sunday.
The Six are not a team that has mastered their defensive systems yet (though their penalty kill does seem to be holding up pretty well) and that was their downfall in Boston.
Toronto has been able to get by on their offensive firepower with a great deal of success, both this season and last season in Lake Placid. That only really works when they’re able to spend a lot of time in the offensive end. When they come up against a team with a particularly strong forecheck and a knack for clearing the zone, they don’t have a backup plan that they can execute as well as their first plan.
The Pride not only made things difficult for the Six when it came to defense, but they also denied them the opportunity to get anything going offensively either. It’s pretty telling that Toronto’s three goals this weekend came off of an absolutely superhuman effort from Emma Woods to get past three Pride players, a classic Lindsay Eastwood shot from the blue-line, and a rush from Taylor Day to beat the Pride’s backcheck.
Eastwood grabs Toronto's second! pic.twitter.com/BvOplsg6Sx— PHF (@PHF) December 5, 2021
The Six weren’t able to set up effectively in front of the Pride’s net, nor were they able to stop the Pride from setting up effectively in front of their own. Ultimately, that’s what gave Boston the chance to come away with the sweep.
All this not to say that Toronto Six fans need to start panicking. These were the fourth and fifth games of a 20 game season and they’re still 3-2. The sky isn’t falling in for the Toronto Six, but it things could certainly move in that direction if they’re not careful.