NWHL Stock Report: Nashville Bound

City of (all-) stars, are you shinin’ just for me...

The final weekend of action before the All-Star break provided few surprises. The Buffalo Beauts bested the struggling Riveters, and the Connecticut Whale couldn’t solve Katie Burt and the Boston Pride.

With the league’s best on their way to Nashville for the 2019 All-Star Game, let’s have a look at who’s hot, who’s not and who to keep your eye on during the festivities.

Trending up: Savannah Harmon, BUF | Game-winning PPG vs MET
It took a while for Savannah Harmon to truly adjust to the pace of professional play. In her first few games, Harmon bled rushes and was either out-muscled or out-witted by more veteran forwards (Boston’s Jillian Dempsey has three goals against the Beauts while Harmon is on the ice this season).

But things have steadied for Harmon. She potted her third goal of the season on Saturday, her first power play goal that proved to be the game-winner. She’s become more active offensively, taking more chances and joining rushes as she did to score in New Jersey.

Harmon was invited to Team USA’s evaluation camp last year and as a result was named to Team USA’s Rivalry Series roster back on January 23rd. The series begins next Tuesday.

First on the docket, though, is the NWHL All-Star Game, which Harmon will be participating in this weekend skating on Team Szabados. Her development as a defender both in the NWHL and internationally will be fun to watch. The future is bright for the 23-year-old.

Trending down: NHL and NBA All-Star Jerseys | I mean just look at them
When I reviewed the NWHL’s All-Star jerseys back in December, I gave high marks for creativity in overall design and layout. The usage of watermarks is a revolutionary move, and the splashes of color are evocative and fun.

Though I questioned the usage of purple and the curvy font adorning Team Stecklein’s sweater for being too reminiscent of New Orleans, I discovered that the color was chosen for the Tennessee state flower, the iris, and the font is lifted off surrounding marquees of the Grand Ole Opry.

If given that information one still finds flaw in the NWHL All-Star jerseys, then fine. That’s personal preference. Regardless of taste, it’s abundantly clear that a lot of thought and effort went into the creation of these sweaters.

Which is why I was so disappointed with the NHL’s take on All-Star jerseys.

They are the epitome of blandness. A monochromatic color scheme with the players’ team logo on the chest as if the game were held not in San Jose but in the home of the Sharks’ cross-state rivals, the Los Angeles Kings. How did that design meeting go?

“Gentlemen,” a man says exuberantly, “I’ve got our blank template set up for our all-star jerseys. I’ve got it down as just a generic format, we can really go crazy! We are artists, this is our glorious canvas on which we can truly create! What say you?!”

“Nah, we’re good here,” is the response. “Print it.”

But Casey, you say, they were made from recycled materials! Maybe design options were limited! Yes, the jerseys were eco-friendly. Cool. So how come the University of Miami made their jerseys out of recycled materials and they were the brightest in college football?

Right around the corner is the NBA All-Star Game, where players in the city of Charlotte, whose Hornets wear bright purple and teal, will be wearing- you guessed it- black and white monochrome.

So kudos to M Style Marketing for actually giving a care and making unique and inventive jerseys for the NWHL All-Star Game.

Take notes, y’all.

Trending up: Westward expansion
There have been many milestones set this year for the NWHL. New financial partnerships, capacity crowds in Boston and Minnesota, a sell-out game on neutral ice in Pittsburgh and so on. This particular weekend is another in a growing list of points of pride for the league.

It will also not-so-quietly be a litmus test.

The league dipped its toe in the water by holding last year’s All-Star game in Minnesota. Less than a year later, Dani Rylan and company welcomed the Whitecaps to the ranks of the NWHL. To their credit, the Caps have a full house every home game and are currently leading the league at 10-4.

The year prior, the All-Star game was held in Pittsburgh at the same facility where the Whale and Riveters played this season. Surely another market test, which the city has most assuredly passed.

Time and again this league has teased expansion to different locations, from posting vague graphics of team locations during broadcasts to point-blank polling social media followers on where they want to see new teams added.

Credit once more to the league, they are not hiding the fact that this weekend could very well be opening a lot of doors in the very near future.

Again, it could be blowing smoke and trying to build excitement around the event and the league itself. But this particular group of executive leadership is nothing if not ambitious. Nashville has shed its “unconventional market” tag and become a legitimately thriving hockey town.

If this event goes well, who knows. We could be seeing more ventures into midwestern markets.

Trending down: Minnesota’s 1st place hopes
Minnesota has two games remaining after the All-Star break: at Boston and at Connecticut. The surging Beauts have two games remaining against the Riveters and one against the Whale. Boston plays Metro, Connecticut, and closes their season against Minnesota.

The Whitecaps might be in trouble.

The Caps lead the league by two points with a game in hand. Boston and Buffalo are both tied for second with 18 points. Buffalo has by far the easiest schedule, with all three games being against the bottom two teams.

Boston closes their season with a home game against the Caps. A sold-out crowd in Warrior Arena and a team desperate to pull even for first could cause some trouble. The loser of that game is, if Buffalo wins out as they should, effectively eliminated from first.

Not to mention a single loss could mean the difference between a home game against the 4 or 5 seed and a road game as the 3 seed against the 2.

What a wild race this is going to be.

Enjoy this final weekend of camaraderie in Nashville, because the road ahead is about to get real nasty.

Trending up: Shenae Lundberg, CTW | 25 saves on 28 shots vs BOS

Meeri Räisänen should be back and healthy for the remainder of the 2018-19 season. She will not be participating in All-Star weekend so she can report to the Finnish national team, a well-deserved honor.

Connecticut has lost two of their other rostered goalies. Maria Sorokina was traded to the Riveters, while Sam Walther departed the team for reasons unknown. Laura Brennan, the team’s goaltending coach-turned-backup, was unfortunately hung out to dry in her lone appearance on the season allowing seven goals on 18 shots.

An additional safety net certainly would not be objected to in Stamford.

Lundberg turned aside 25 of 28 shots thrown her way in a 3-1 loss to Boston. Holding the Pride’s offense to three goals is par for the course, given Boston averages 3.5 goals a game.

The Whale can have whoever they want between the pipes, it’s moot if they cannot score. That said, Lundberg is a welcome addition back into the fold and is a more than dependable backup should Räisänen encounter any more trouble this year.