PWHL Power Rankings: Week 11 (03/18-03/25)

Settle in for another trip to Middle-Earth in this week's PWHL power rankings!

PWHL Power Rankings: Week 11 (03/18-03/25)
Sarah Nurse and Natalie Spooner celebrate a goal. Photo by Andrea Cardin/Freestyle Photography/PWHL.

Note: this week’s power rankings were extended by a day to include Monday’s Boston-New York game since it was the final one before the international break.

Welcome to The Ice Garden’s weekly PWHL power rankings! Check back for new installments every week, and remember: if you think your team is ranked too low, it’s definitely totally 100% because we hate them.

This week's rankings unintentionally mirror the standings again thanks to a lot of shuffling in the middle after zero movement last week. Toronto and New York snapped their respective winning and losing streaks, while Minnesota and Montréal continued theirs. Meanwhile, Ottawa and Boston finally separated in the standings a little bit. All of this will make for an exciting stretch run once the PWHL returns from the international break, with teams being more desperate than ever for points as they look to either sneak into the playoffs or lock up one of the top two seeds. 

For this week’s theme, we journey back to Middle-Earth. I attended a Lord of the Rings marathon on Sunday at a local theater, and considering I wrote most of this when I got back from that, I really had no choice but to continue in that mode. This time around, I’ve calculated each team’s home points percentage and used it to assign them a location from around Middle-Earth. If you’re not a Tolkien fan and you’re still reading these, thanks for putting up with me (but also, read the books or at least watch the movies).

Note: specific broadcast info for the upcoming games was unavailable at publication. For a general idea of what to expect, check out the season summary here.

#1. Toronto (10-3-0-6, 36 points)

Blayre Turnbull celebrates a goal against Boston. Her arms are raised above her head in celebration. She is wearing a blue home uniform.
Blayre Turnbull celebrates a goal against Boston. Photo courtesy of the PWHL.

Last Week’s Ranking: 1 (-)

This Week’s Results:

  • Wed, Mar 20 vs BOS- 2-1 W
  • Sat, Mar 23 @ OTT- 5-3 L

Upcoming Schedule:

  • Thu, April 18 @ BOS- 7 p.m. EDT, Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA 
  • Sat, April 20 @ MTL- 1 p.m. EDT, Bell Centre, Montréal, QC 

Home Points Percentage and Middle-Earth Location: 66.7%, Mirkwood

Mirkwood is one of the places I’d like to visit the least in Middle-Earth. Dark, creepy, and enchanted, it seems like a bad time unless you feel like slowly losing your grasp on reality. Likewise, Toronto has been the most dominant team in the PWHL since the start of February, and their home points percentage is second only to Minnesota. Playing them has been a horrible time for opponents, and while their ridiculous win streak is finally over, there’s no reason to believe they'll get much easier to play against after the break. Enter Toronto and Mirkwood at your own risk.

After kicking the week off by stretching their win streak to 11 games, Toronto finally lost a game exactly two months to the day of their previous one. It was bound to happen eventually, and there’s little reason to believe Toronto won’t bounce back from it. That said, just how they do so will be a good test of what this team is made of, especially with nearly a month off because of the international break. Regardless, they’re in a great spot going into the stretch run and are just one point away from clinching a playoff spot. Thanks to their ridiculous run, they’re also in a good spot to get one of the top two seeds, as they sit five points ahead of third-place Montréal and nine points ahead of fourth-place Ottawa. Interestingly, Toronto’s two most recent losses came against Ottawa, so that’s something to keep in mind should Toronto secure the top seed in the playoffs. However, Toronto will still have to scrap hard for that honor since they sit just one point ahead of second-place Minnesota.

#2. Minnesota (8-4-3-4, 35 points)

Natalie Buchbinder takes a shot against Montréal as Mikyla Grant-Mentis defends. Buchbinder is hunched over with her stick raised in a follow-through. Grant-Mentis is hunched over with her stick on the ice outstretched to try to defend. Buchbinder is in purple, Grant-Mentis is cream.
Natalie Buchbinder takes a shot against Montréal as Mikyla Grant-Mentis defends. Photo courtesy of the PWHL.

Last Week’s Ranking: 3 (+1)

This Week’s Results:

  • Sun, Mar 24 vs MTL- 3-2 SOW

Upcoming Schedule:

  • Thu, April 18 @ MTL- 7 p.m. EDT, Verdun Auditorium, Montréal, QC 
  • Sat, April 20 @ OTT- 7 p.m. EDT, TD Place, Ottawa, ON 

Home Points Percentage and Middle-Earth Location: 69.7%, Mordor

One does not simply walk into Mordor or the Xcel Energy Center. You don’t need to be the Ringbearer to be filled with dread at the thought of going to either place. Even if you manage to sneak into Mordor like Frodo and Sam, you’re not emerging from it unscathed unless you’re one of Sauron’s minions (which I sincerely hope you’re not). Likewise, chances are when visiting Minnesota, you won’t emerge with all three points. It has only been done twice this season, once by Montréal and once by Boston, and Boston was largely outplayed despite the win. So, Minnesota is the last place I want to go if I’m on another PWHL team.

Minnesota kept rolling this week, taking down Montréal in the shootout for their fifth straight win. The streak has them sitting in second place, just one point behind Toronto and four points ahead of Montréal. They may not be the most skilled team in the PWHL, but this team is all-around good. Most importantly, their chemistry is off the charts, which allows them to play a complete team game night in and night out. Combine that with their willingness and ability to win in various ways, and you have a team that will be extremely tough to beat in the playoffs.

#3. Montréal (7-3-4-5, 31 points)

Keopple provides support by blocking a Minnesota defender as Boulier skates with the puck. Both Montréal players are in cream away uniforms.
Mariah Keopple provides support as Amanda Boulier skates with the puck. Photo courtesy of the PWHL.

Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (-)

This Week’s Results:

  • Sun, Mar 24  @ MIN- 3-2 SOL

Upcoming Schedule:

  • Thu, April 18 vs MIN- 7 p.m. EDT, Verdun Auditorium, Montréal, QC 
  • Sat, April 20 vs TOR- 1 p.m. EDT, Bell Centre, Montréal, QC 

Home Points Percentage and Middle-Earth Location: 59.3%, Gondor

Gondor is the greatest kingdom of Men in Middle-Earth. Montréal is perhaps the best-assembled team in the PWHL. However, in the Third Age, Gondor weakened, especially as Sauron grew stronger as the War of the Ring approached. Likewise, Montréal has been slipping recently, and that includes at home. After not losing in regulation through seven home games, Montréal has dropped their past two in regulation. However, Gondor turned things around once Aragorn became King and began the Fourth Age. I expect Montréal to do the same once captain (and team MVP) Marie-Philip Poulin returns from injury after the international break.

Montréal’s skid continued this week without Poulin in the lineup. They’ve lost four straight games, and although they played better in the last two, scoring was still an issue. They've produced just five goals in the past four games. The streak has made it evident just how important Poulin is to this team, but once she returns, I expect they’ll go right back to the scary team we saw before. Luckily for Montréal, Poulin is still set to play in the World Championships. So, barring any new injuries or setbacks to this current one, she’ll be back in the lineup for the stretch run as Montréal hopes to regain one of the top two seeds.

#4. Ottawa (7-0-6-6, 27 points)

Ottawa players start to celebrate after scoring a scrappy goal. One has her arms raised while the other two are still battling by the goal crease. There are four Toronto players are them, plus goaltender Kristen Campbell. Ottawa is wearing red, Toronto in white.
Ottawa players start to celebrate after scoring a scrappy goal. Photo courtesy of the PWHL.

Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (+1)

This Week’s Results: 

  • Wed, Mar 20 @ NYC- 3-0 W
  • Sat, Mar 23 vs TOR- 5-3 W

Upcoming Schedule:

  • Sat, April 20 vs MIN- 7 p.m. EDT, TD Place, Ottawa, ON 

Home Points Percentage and Middle-Earth Location: 44.4%, Rohan

Rohan is one of the great kingdoms of Men in Middle-Earth. However, Rohan’s settlements are rather open and spread out, with only Edoras and Helm’s Deep known to be fortified in any significant matter. This leaves them more vulnerable to attack than many other kingdoms/realms. Likewise, Ottawa has been vulnerable at home, although they have managed at least a point in six of their nine games. They are the most vulnerable during overtime or the shootout, when things are much more open. They are the only team that has yet to win in extra time, home or away, yet they've gone past 60 minutes six times. So, teams don’t have a ton to fear entering TD Place compared to the other home arenas I’ve gone over. It's not the easiest place to play, but while you may not get all three points, odds are you’ll emerge with something.

My, my, how the tables turn. After starting the week in fifth place and without the inside track to the playoffs, Ottawa suddenly finds themselves solidly in fourth place, five points ahead of Boston. They’ve been playing great hockey recently, and the results are finally coming. There’s still work to do, as this week showed how quickly and drastically things can change in the race for the final playoff spot. But, if Ottawa can keep this momentum going after the international break, they’ll give themselves a great chance to secure a spot in the playoffs after looking like a lost cause just a month ago.

#5. Boston (4-4-2-9, 22 points)

Lexie Adzija hunts the puck. She is hunched over while skating hard. Her stick is out to her left. She is wearing a white away uniform.
Lexie Adzija hunts the puck. Photo courtesy of the PWHL.

Last Week’s Ranking: 4 (-1)

This Week’s Results:

Upcoming Schedule:

  • Thu, April 18 vs TOR- 7 p.m. EDT, Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA 
  • Sat, April 20 @ NYC- 3:30 p.m. EDT, Prudential Center, Newark, NJ 

Home Points Percentage and Middle-Earth Location: 36.7%, Rivendell

Rivendell is one of the most peaceful spots in Midde-Earth during the Third Age and home to one of the most powerful and important elves, Elrond Half-elven. Few, if any, places in Middle-Earth seem like a better place to visit. Likewise, Boston has some of the most talented player personnel on paper in the PWHL. However, the resulting team has not been overly threatening. As a result, the Tsongas Center has been one of the best places to visit as an opponent this season, with Boston earning a mere five out of 27 points (they also added two during a “home” game at Little Caesars Arena). Also, Rivendell (sometimes known as the Hidden Valley) is hard to find, and considering Boston plays in Lowell (which is about 30 miles outside the city and a 35-40 minute drive without traffic), it feels fitting.

Boston’s playoff fortunes cratered this week in tandem with Ottawa’s rising. They outplayed Toronto for 40 minutes but couldn’t hold on to win, and then they couldn’t complete the comeback on Monday after allowing New York to control the first 40 minutes. It was a disastrous week, and now the margin for error down the stretch is extremely slim if they hope to squeak into the playoffs. They must use this long break to reset and emerge ready to play desperate hockey for the final five games. They’ll still need Ottawa to lose a few games, but the big thing to start will at least be controlling what they can.

#6. New York (3-4-3-9, 20 points)

Taylor Baker tries to protect the puck from Lexie Adzija. Baker is hunched over further into the corner, as Adzija reaches around her. Baker is in a teal home uniform, while Adzija is in a white away uniform.
Taylor Baker tries to protect the puck from Lexie Adzija. Photo courtesy of the PWHL.

Last Week’s Ranking: 6 (-)

This Week’s Results:

  • Wed, Mar 20 vs OTT- 3-0 L
  • Mon, Mar 25 vs BOS- 3-2 W

Upcoming Schedule:

  • Sat, April 20 vs BOS- 3:30 p.m. EDT, Prudential Center, Newark, NJ

Home Points Percentage and Middle-Earth Location: 25%, The Shire

The Shire is perhaps the most carefree, peaceful realm in Middle-Earth during most of the Third Age. The hobbits who inhabit it care little about the larger world and value peace and comfort above all else. Meanwhile, New York’s home arenas have been some of the most comfortable places for opponents to play. However, there is a big discrepancy between New York’s points percentage at Total Mortgage Arena (8%) versus UBS Arena (42%), and perhaps it’d be better to break it down further than just The Shire. So, I’d say Total Mortgage Arena is more like Hobbiton, where the hobbits are so attached to their cozy lifestyles that for most, the thought of anything different is horrifying.

Meanwhile, UBS Arena is like Buckland, where the hobbits are a little less naive since they live at the edge of the Old Forest and are more willing to defend themselves and perhaps do things out of the ordinary. You still won't find too much of a fight in Buckland, but it'll at least be tougher than Hobbiton. Also, as a bonus, Buckland didn’t become an official part of The Shire until the beginning of the Fourth Age, making it the newest part, while UBS Arena is one of the newest arenas in North American professional sports. 

New York finally snapped the losing streak at seven with one of their best games on the season on Monday, and certainly the best they’ve played in a long time. Their playoff hopes remain bleak, as they sit two points behind Boston for fifth place and seven points behind Ottawa for the fourth and final playoff spot. However, if they can build off Monday’s win after the break, they’ll at least put themselves in a better position to get the first overall pick via the Gold Plan.

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