So I’m supposed to write a Clarkson Cup preview, but I’m emerging from a month-long illness and I don’t know which way is up. FACT: the Clarkson Cup is happening as of today, and it’s super fun. FACT: they changed the format this year, so the final is whoever wins Calgary vs Montreal and whoever wins Boston vs Toronto. This is kind of sad for me since a Boston-Toronto final would be BEAUTIFUL, and a rematch of last year. Unfortunately, it’s not to be. If I had to guess, I’d say there’s a good chance we’ll end up with another Montreal-Boston matchup, but let’s be honest, Calgary is a lot better this year. It could very well be Calgary-Boston. The one thing I don’t think will happen is Toronto beating Boston to advance to the final, but I don’t have much to back that up with, aside from the fact that Toronto’s a solid 10 points behind the three top teams in the CWHL.
PEOPLE TO WATCH
The Blades’ Brianna Decker has played 12 games, beginning to play in mid-January, and is leading the Blades with 32 points – 16G, 16A. Brianna Decker is good at hockey, guys.
Charline Labonté might be 2nd in the league in GAA, but her SV% is the best at .927. If Montreal makes it to the final, she’ll be facing down either players like Decker and Knight, or players like Spooner and Prevost. Toronto’s had a rough year with scoring, but what better time for the floodgates to open than the playoffs?
I don’t know if I’ve seen a Calgary game all year, but Rebecca Johnston has 37 points, so she seems a safe bet to watch.
Montreal’s got a narrower spread of scoring leaders; they have 2 players with >20 points – Ouellette and Bettez. Of course, they also have Labonté, but it seems fairly safe to say Montreal’s days of total Clarkson Cup domination are over, or at least temporarily on hold. Simply put, they don’t have a ton of depth. If Ouellette has a bad weekend, they could be in serious trouble.
Also, Monique Lamoureux is playing defense for the Blades, which is interesting from a sheer tactical point. The Blades struggled last year (and still made it to the final, but hey) in part because of a lack of mobile defense. M. Lamoureux has played forward for Team USA for awhile, but she’s a physical presence, a puck-mover, and a pain for goaltenders on the other team – in other words, potentially ideal for Boston in this attempt to get their second Clarkson Cup. (And Kate tells me she jumps into plays a lot, which isn’t surprising, given both her talents and the fact that the CWHL in general plays fast and loose with F/D.) In a similar note, Blake Bolden is another one to watch. Boston has, for several years, focused on a kind of offensive, bombastic play. They lost a bit of their step last year with the Olympics, but it looks like it’s back this year.
I don’t have a lot to say about Toronto. They’re struggling! They’re by far the weakest team in the playoffs. Kate has pointed out that conditioning might be a serious problem, going into a tournament. THAT’S LIFE. Now that I’ve said this, they’ll probably win it all again.
This is exciting! I’m Imp-Come-Lately, but I’m pumped! The CWHL has THREE TEAMS this year that are very, very close in points (Boston, Montreal, and Calgary), which marks the second year in a row that I’ve thought there was a solid chance of someone not Montreal or Boston getting the title. What a world! What a life. I have to drink more coffee now.
PS: in terms of watching, Kate talked about streaming details here. This is, as far as I know, the first year we’ll have this level of accessibility in terms of watching games live. So, you know, go forth and stream, or watch on TV. [waves flag]