PREVIEW: Boston Looks to Turn Things Around Against Ottawa

Boston and Ottawa both look to snap losing streaks this afternoon.

PREVIEW: Boston Looks to Turn Things Around Against Ottawa
Boston players battle defensively with Ottawa. Photo by Andrea Cardin/Freestyle Photography/PWHL.

After a disappointing loss on Saturday, Boston is right back in action this afternoon as they face off against a struggling Ottawa team.

The Basics: Monday, February 19, 2024- Boston vs Ottawa- 4:30 p.m. EST, Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA (NESN, TSN, PWHL Youtube Channel)

What to Expect:

Aerin Frankel, wearing her USA pads and white Boston uniform, makes a save on Gabbie Hughes, wearing red, as Jess Healey, wearing white, defends.
Aerin Frankel makes a save on Gabbie Hughes as Jess Healey defends. Photo by Andrea Cardin/Freestyle Photography/PWHL.

The last time these two met, Boston handed Ottawa their first regulation loss and walked away with a 3-2 win. Boston got off to a hot start and played with a lead for the first time this season, and even when Ottawa woke up and took control for stretches, Boston was able to weather the storm thanks to solid defense and outstanding goaltending.

This is the make-up game for the weather postponed one earlier in the season. As such, it is a big opportunity for both teams to make up ground in the standings. Ottawa is in last place by both points percentage and actual points, while Boston is fourth by points percentage and fifth in actual points. A regulation win would vault Boston comfortably into fourth place or tie Ottawa with New York for fourth. So, expect some desperation from both teams as they look to avoid falling further behind.

Boston is mired in a three-game losing streak. The first loss was a closely-contested one to league-leading Montréal, while in the past two, Boston has outshot and outplayed their opponents but struggled to score, while Toronto and New York capitalized on their chances. But, as head coach Courtney Kessel said after the last game regarding their offense, “the ball’s gotta drop at some point.” Boston will be highly motivated to make sure that happens today.

Meanwhile, while things have been frustrating in Boston lately, they’ve been even worse in Ottawa. Ottawa is currently on a five-game losing streak, with two of those losses coming in overtime and all by just one goal. They’re coming off a tough 2-1 loss to Minnesota on Saturday. Emerance Maschmeyer has been great in goal, but scoring has been a big issue for this team. They keep finding ways to lose games they feel they should win, and they’ll be hungry to turn that around before it’s too late.

Emerance Maschmeyer, wearing her Ottawa gear and red home uniform, makes a save against Boston.
Emerance Maschmeyer makes a save against Boston. Photo by Andrea Cardin/Freestyle Photography/PWHL.

In goal, expect Emerance Maschmeyer for Ottawa. She is the only goaltender who has played for Ottawa this season, and given their current state, it feels unlikely that’ll change tonight. She gives them a chance to win every game and has a 2.16 GAA (seventh in the league) and 0.914 SV% (sixth in the league) to show for it despite her team’s 2-0-4-3 record.

Lastly, Boston’s goaltending situation is again hard to predict. Per the rotation, it’s Emma Söderberg’s turn, but one wonders if the losing streak will make Kessel rethink things. Aerin Frankel is their 1A and has been outstanding, making numerous highlight-reel saves against New York.

Meanwhile, Söderberg has also been solid despite what her numbers say because she is facing the fewest average shots in the league while getting hung out to dry frighteningly often. It’s hard to say if it’s pure misfortune that she’s played in Boston’s worst team performances or if the skaters are not as comfortable playing in front of her right now. She’s playing well enough that they should be confident in front of her, but it is notable that many of Boston’s skaters, particularly their top players, have played with Frankel before. However, no one had played with Söderberg before this season. So, while the eye test says Söderberg deserves to stay rotating with Frankel, it might be for the best that she waits until the losing streak is snapped and the team’s confidence is back up.

That said, Frankel did appear to tweak something in the Rivalry Series, and while she certainly looked to be 100% in the last game, playing her twice in three days is not necessarily the smartest thing. In short, Boston is facing a complex decision, and while Söderberg is penciled in because of the rotation, there is an argument to be made either way.

Boston’s Key to the Game:

Jamie Lee Rattray celebrates her goal at the Boston bench. All the players are in their white Boston away uniforms.
Jamie Lee Rattray celebrates her goal at the Boston bench. Photo by Andrea Cardin/Freestyle Photography/PWHL.

Break the offensive dam. This is easier said than done, but if Boston wants to walk out of Tsongas with a win this afternoon, they have got to find a way to break through offensively. Against Toronto, they put up 35 shots but not nearly enough high-danger ones. Then, against New York, they put up another 35 shots and did a much better job of getting quality chances, but they ran into the brick wall that is Corinne Schroeder. So, theoretically, if Boston continues this upward trajectory, they’ll put up a bunch of shots, get high-quality chances, and actually find a way to put them in the net. It is only a matter of time before their highly-talented offense finally breaks through, and hopefully, for their sake, that time is today.