Whitecaps at the Break: An Offense to be Feared
By Mike Murphy
The first six games of the Minnesota Whitecaps’ 2019-20 season have been equal parts frustration and domination.
No one was expecting the Whitecaps to drop three consecutive games after opening the season with a 9-2 rout of the Metropolitan Riveters. After all, Minnesota’s veteran roster is one of the deepest in the league. Fortunately for the reigning Isobel Cup champions, they bounced back with a weekend sweep of the Connecticut Whale. The Whitecaps have a record of 3-2-1 at the break, which places them second in the standings behind the Boston Pride.
The Big Guns
The Whitecaps have had the fewest number of power plays at the break, but their 35 percent success rate on the advantage is in a league of its own. Leading the way for Minnesota on the advantage is 2019 Newcomer of the Year Jonna Curtis. Curtis has picked up five of her four points the power play thus far – which leads the league – and is the only Whitecap with more than one power play goal.
Of course, Curtis isn’t the Whitecaps’ only big gun. Rookies Nicole Schammel and Sydney Baldwin are level with Curtis with nine points each. Scammel has been dynamic on the top line with Curtis and Baldwin is averaging a blistering 3.83 shots on goal per-game from the blue line; she leads all defenders in goals (4).
The Whitecaps are averaging 2.67 even strength goals per-game – second only to Boston – and have the second-highest SF60 in the league (39.94). That shooting rate is even more impressive considering how little time the Whitecaps have spent on the power play. If they keep flying like they have been, the defending champs are sure to spend more time on the advantage on the other side of the break.
Boulier Leading the Way
The frequently underrated engine of Minnesota’s offense is All-Star defender Amanda Boulier.
The puck-moving defender is level with Curtis in primary power play points (4) and leads the league in PP assists. Boulier, who led all NWHL defenders in goals last year, has been more of a pass-first player with Baldwin has her partner this season. She has just eight shots on goal at the break but her nine assists – six of which have been primary – are evidence of her ability as a playmaker.
One of the most surprising team stats at the break is Minnesota’s +1 even strength goal differential. A sample size of six games certainly leaves a lot to be desired, but it does represent a quarter of the NWHL regular season. A team with as much talent and depth as Minnesota needs to do more to keep pucks out of its own net at 5-on-5. That means tightening up and doing more to help All-Star goaltender Amanda Leveille.
Minnesota could also use more contributions in the offense zone from their second and third defensive pairs. Through half a dozen games, Baldwin and Boulier are the only two Whitecaps defenders with more than one primary point. Moving forward, Minnesota will need one or two more defenders to step up and play a larger role in the offense if they want to go punch-for-punch with Boston’s deep and versatile blue line.
The Whitecaps return to action on Nov. 23, when they fly into New York state for a two-game weekend series against the Buffalo Beauts that begins on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EST at Northtown Center. Following that road trip, the Whitecaps will be back home at TRIA Rink on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 7:00 p.m. CST and Sunday, Dec. 15 and 1:00 p.m. CST. Tickets are available at whitecaps.nwhl.zone/tickets and all Whitecaps home and road games can be watched streaming free on twitch.tv/nwhl and twitch.tv/nwhl2.
All data courtesy of NWHL.zone and the author's own tracking.
Photo Credit: Michelle Jay, Tom Morris