The Blades finished second in the league last season, with 26 points on a 24-game season. This is quite a bit behind league leader Montreal, who finished with 42 in 23 games. It was in the Clarkson Cup tournament, however, that Boston stole the show from Montreal, looking like the clear top dogs — until Toronto upset them in an overtime victory.
Over the course of the last season, Boston had some of the worse special teams in the league, with a power play of 12.61%, and a penalty kill of 83.51%. Their power play is actually a tiny improvement over the previous year, but their penalty kill was a pretty big fall off, as it had been 96.69% in the previous 2012-2013 season. This fall off can probably be laid at the feet of their missing Olympians, particularly the loss at their blue line of Gigi Marvin, Anne Schleper, and Kacey Bellamy. Notably, they also lost Caitlin Cahow, their captain in the 2012/2013 season, first to Team USA before the Olympics and then to retirement from the league. They also lost both of their goaltenders — Geneviève Lacasse to Canada, who started the majority of the 12/13 season and had a .925 SV%, and Molly Schaus to the US, who had an .888 SV%.
While Boston remained one of the stronger teams in the league last year, it was despite a clear loss of some of their core players. They had several players step up to take on this challenge, particularly Jillian Dempsey, who was the 2014 Rookie of the Year, and finished the season 5th in the league for scoring. Brittany Ott, who started most of the games for Boston, was also a rookie in the 2013/2014 season, and in fact lead the league in save percentage, with a .921 SV% over 17 games. Blake Bolden, another 2013 rookie, also stepped up to try and fill that hole on the blue line — she had 19 points in 23 games with the Blades. She was also, however, the most penalized player on the Blades, with 44 PIM, twice as much as the next most penalized player. That’s a bad habit for a player on a team that’s having a harder time killing penalties. Overall, however, Boston was one of the least penalized teams.
So, this is supposed to be a preview of the upcoming 2014/2015 season, not a rehashing of last season–what are the Blades going to look like this year? And the problem is, I’m not quite sure.
Boston is currently without official commitments from Marvin, Schleper, Schaus, and Hilary Knight. On Knight in particular, there’s some speculation that she’s going to be trying out for a Swedish men’s league. Also, Meghan Duggan is going to be an assistant coach with Clarkson, which is six hours at least from Boston. (Or so Google Maps tells me). That’s quite a trek if she’s also going to be playing in Boston. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her time with the Blades greatly reduced, if she’s on the team this season. However, I’m told that Tara Watchorn will be moving to Boston, as her fiancée works there. I’d expect to see her end up on the Blades. Watchorn was very solid for Calgary’s defence, as well as for Canada in Sochi.
Even if the Blades are losing some of their more elite and veteran players, they made moves to address that in this year’s draft. Their first pick overall was Jenny Potter, the 35-year old forward previously of the US National Team and the Minnesota Whitecaps. She actually won the Clarkson Cup with the Whitecaps in the 2009/2010 season, making her a member of the unofficial Triple Gold Club, with the 1998 Olympic gold, the Clarkson cup, and gold in the Women’s World Championships. I’m actually a little surprised to see Potter go to the CWHL — I had thought she was focusing more on coaching these days.
With their second pick, the Blades picked up Monique Lamoureux, of Team USA and University of North Dakota. She’s listed by Team USA as a forward, but North Dakota lists her as D/F — I’ll be interested in seeing how that shakes out in Boston. She was often right behind her twin sister Jocelyne for scoring leader in North Dakota, and I’d expect her to bring that to Boston. She’s a very physical forward who likes to crash the net, but I’ll be honest — I’ve mostly seen her play for Team USA, and I’ve never seen her without her sister. Let’s hope they’re not as much like the Sedins as they’re painted, and can be just as good without each other.
Another excellent forward from Team USA, Boston picked Brianna Decker in the third round. She was the 2012 Patty Kazmaier winner while with the Wisconsin Badgers. In her last two years with them, she finished first in points for the team — ahead of both Carolyne Prevost and Hilary Knight, I’d like to point out. 🙂 Her first two years, she finished in the top three.
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Boston took the most players in the draft, with 19 players in total drafted. The number is so high due to the geographical constraints of players having to live and have a job near their team.
Boston is going to be DEEP AS HELL next year. We don’t know exactly who they’re going to have, between uncertain commitments and the fact that you can only roster 25 players. Based on how we’ve seen their defense fumble when they’ve had major personnel disruptions, I’d suspect their blue line is going to have some friction coming together, particularly if Gigi Marvin doesn’t come back. It’s always been my impression that the Blades’ defense was largely built around Marvin. However, I’m hopeful that the added veteran presence will smooth out their transition, and Digit Murphy is a good coach who will hopefully be able to re-mold them into a cohesive team. I’d expect them to remain strong in the league, but I’m also anticipating early season struggles, on the ice even if not on the league board. I think their goalies are good enough to shore up a rough defense, but that’s not a long-term solution.
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- of note, this is the same Brooke Fernandez who blogs at Women’s Hockey Life
EDIT: According to a September 16th USA Hockey article, Duggan intends to continue playing for Boston while coaching at Clarkson.