2015 Clarkson Cup Preview

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]

How to Watch The Clarkson Cup: 2015 Edition

So, if you’re not going to Markham to watch the games live, check out the following! We’ve got television broadcast information for both Canadians and Americans, and web-streaming information for everyone!

Schedule:

All times below are Central.

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Games #5 and #6 will only be played if necessary to break a series tie.

Television Broadcast Schedule

All times below are Central.

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To my knowledge, Game #3 is the only one shown both live and delayed on Sportsnet. Otherwise, however, games should be live on Sportsnet and SSN. NHL Network is playing games about a day later, but at least the Americans in the audience get something, I guess. 🙂

NHL Network games will only be broadcast for an hour, except for the final which will be broadcast in full. If this is like the All-Star Game, they’ll be playing the Sportsnet broadcast, so expect a lot of focus on the Canadian players. 🙂

Web Streaming

The Clarkson Cup Games will be streamed! It is, however, a different subscription than the regular season one– you’ll need to pay another $10 CAD/~8 USD to get access. That’s not terrible, however– check the CWHL website for your Clarkson Cup streaming package.

All games will be streamed live, so check the game schedule above for times.

2015 CWHL Awards Preview

What are the Awards?

The Chairman’s Cup:

For the CWHL regular season champion. The previous winner was the 2013-2014 Montreal Stars. Expect to see Boston this year.

Angela James Bowl:

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Regular season leading points scorer. The award is named after Team Canada alumna Angela James, one of first two women inducted into HHOF. Previous winner: Ann-Sophie Bettez of the 2013-2014 Montreal Stars, with 40 points in the 2013-2014 regular season. Expect to see Rebecca Johnston up for this award this year.

The Humanitarian Award:

Samm Holmes (Manager of Hockey Operations), Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Brenda Andress (CWHL Commissioner) and Chairman of the CWHL Board, Brad Morris.
Samm Holmes (Manager of Hockey Operations), Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Brenda Andress (CWHL Commissioner) and Chairman of the CWHL Board, Brad Morris.

To recognize a player making a positive impact on and off the ice in their communities. Previous Winner: Cassie Campbell-Pascall

Coach of the Year:

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Previous Winner: Sommer West, 2013-2014 Toronto Furies

Rookie of the Year:

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Previous Winner: Jillian Dempsey of the 2013-2014 Boston Blades, with 28 points.

Goaltender of the Year:

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Previous Winner: Delayne Brian of the 2013-2014 Calgary Inferno.

Defenceman of the Year:

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Previous Winner: Cathy Chartrand of the 2013-2014 Montreal Stars, with 30 points.

Most Valuable Player:

Previous Winner: Ann-Sophie Bettez.

Notably, only the Chairman’s Cup and the Angela James Bowl are strictly based on points. The other awards are based on a combination of regular season stats and voting by the league and teams. You may remember my confusion over the selection of Delayne Brian last year, as she was not the best goaltender in the league last year. She was, however, arguably one of the most key goaltenders, however, so expect to see that kind of argument behind this year’s pick.

Of other, interesting note, is that anyone who was head coach however long this last season is eligible for the head coach award. With two head coaches leaving their teams this year, this could be relevant. While I don’t know that I would expect him to win it, my pick previously had been Calgary’s former head coach Kevin Haller, based on the improvement to the team this season. While some of Calgary’s improvement is definitely their GM’s doing, as there were trades and acquisitions done to improve Calgary’s store of players, they’ve also just been a straight up better team this year. But we’ll see how things shake out, come Wednesday, March 4th!