PREVIEW: PWHL Boston Returns to Action Against Montréal

After 10 days off, PWHL Boston returns to action this afternoon as they visit Montréal.

PREVIEW: PWHL Boston Returns to Action Against Montréal
Teammates celebrate Megan Keller's goal with her. Photo by Cassie Froio/The Ice Garden.

PWHL Boston is finally back in action this afternoon as they visit Montréal in the last home opener of the inaugural season. Here’s everything you need to know before puck drop.

The Basics: Saturday, Januray 13, 2024- Boston at Montréal, 3:30 p.m. EST, Verdun Auditorium, Montréal, QC (NESN+, CBC, SRC, TOU.TV, PWHL YouTube Channel, GEM)

What to Expect:

It’s been 10 days since Boston last played a game due to a weather-related postponement earlier in the week. They have only played one game this season. Meanwhile, Montréal just played on Wednesday, and they’ve already played three games this season. So, Boston has had far more time to prepare for this game, while Montréal is in a groove with games, and the results could be interesting.

Both of these teams were good. On paper, pre-season I had them as the two best teams in the league. Certainly, Montréal is the deepest team, and they have shown that so far this season. They currently sit second in the standings with five points in three games, having won one game in regulation, one in overtime, and lost one. Boston, meanwhile, is dead last having yet to get a point. But, again, they have only played one game, so it’s hard to put much stock in it. Boston started slow and sloppy against Minnesota, but they came into their own and looked like the dangerous, high-octane team many expect them to be despite losing 3-2. This will be a tightly contested game if they can keep that momentum up despite all the time off. For comparison’s sake, Minnesota shut out Montréal three days after playing Boston.

Hilary Knight, wearing a green home uniform tries to set up a screen in front of Minnesota's Nicole Hensley, wearing a white away uniform.
Hilary Knight tries to set up a screen in front of Minnesota's Nicole Hensley. Photo by Cassie Froio/The Ice Garden.

However, if Boston comes out like they did against Minnesota, they’re in for a long night. Minnesota may be off to a scorching hot start, but they do still have question marks, particularly on defense, so they are a team you can reasonably climb back into a game with. That isn’t likely against Montréal. They’re just too deep and experienced. The first goal will be crucial in this game, especially since it is Montréal’s home opener after spending their first three games on the road. Giving them any extra momentum would be a mistake.

There has been no confirmation on starting goaltenders, but expect Ann-Renée Desbiens to start for Montréal. She got the last game off after starting the first two, but she is the clear-cut number one in Montréal, so it is unlikely she ever gets more than one consecutive game off. Meanwhile, things are a little murkier in Boston. If it weren’t for the long break, Emma Söderberg would surely start. Every team but Montréal rotated their goalies in the first two games, and Boston’s tandem is the strongest in the league, so logically, they’d follow suit. However, Boston may want to get Frankel back in where it’s been so long, especially where she has more experience against many of Montréal’s Team Canada stars. So, while Söderberg is still lightly penciled in, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if it’s Frankel instead.

In their green home uniforms, teammates celebrate with Theresa Schafzahl after her goal.
Teammates celebrate with Theresa Schafzahl after her goal. Photo by Cassie Froio/The Ice Garden.

Boston’s Key to the Game: Play a full 60 minutes, and get the first goal. It was hard to choose just one key to the game for today. Getting the first goal seems essential in this one, as one shudders to think what Montréal would do if they get their sold-out crowd even more riled up than normal before Boston gets a chance to quiet them. However, playing a full 60 minutes is absolutely necessary for Boston to leave Montréal with a win. There will be no room for rust after having so long off. They cannot expect to come back from a multi-goal deficit, nor will they be safe riding a multi-goal lead should they get one. Montréal is just too deep, and their goaltender and stars are too good. But, if Boston plays to their potential from the first puck drop to the final buzzer, they’ll give themselves a good chance of coming out of this one with points.