This time last year, the Connecticut Whale had just suffered their first ever loss. Their 2-1 defeat to Boston made their record at the midpoint of the season 8-1-0. A year later and they are currently sitting on a very mediocre 4-5-0, considering their previous achievements. So what’s going wrong for the Whale this time round?
The problem doesn’t seem to be with their offense; they have scored 27 goals this season, giving them the second most potent offense in the league. This goes hand in hand with the 256 shots they have managed to put on net. Their faceoff wins are pretty equal at 226 won and 227 lost. Their defence- although not amazing- is solid, conceding 29 goals on 219 shots, again 2nd in the league.
Going through all of the numbers, I realised that the issue is their power play, which is abysmal. They only have two power play goals from 28 power plays, giving them a conversion rate of just 7.4%. This is by far the worst in the league, with two teams achieving a power play rate of 20%+. To truly put this in perspective let’s have a look at their PK unit. They have 2 shorthanded goals when being a woman down, meaning that 5.5% of the time that they are at a disadvantage, they have scored. Their PK unit is almost doing just as good a job as the PP unit despite all of the numbers being against them!
A prime example of the Whale’s poor power play was the 5 minute major that New York took, early in the 3rd period in their game against Connecticut on the 18th December. During those five minutes they only had 3 shots on net, from low risk areas and the Riveters were able to clear the puck from their zone a total of 10 times. Below is a heat map of where the puck spent its time on the rink during this power play, with the Whale attacking to the right. Along with this, the three black dots mark where the Whale shots were taken from. The darker the colour, the longer the puck stayed in that area during the five minutes.
As you can see, the Whale are far too susceptible to being pushed to the corners behind the goal and being boxed in. Due to the fact that the other teams generally have the size on the Whale, they are likely to lose these battles along the boards, thus allowing the opposition to clear down the ice and get a line change.
They also spent a noticeable amount of time outside of the attacking zone, due to the fact that they often look to rush into the zone when they aren’t ready and so get pushed right back out. A rush works well when you have the numbers on the opposition, but often the Whale don’t. If they waited, they could take advantage of having an extra body on the ice. By taking their time, making their passes and getting their offense setup, they would be able to move the puck around the ice where they wanted it, and get into the slot for those high percentage shots.
Ultimately, the Whale aren’t doing a whole lot wrong. If they can sort out their power play and fit the final piece of the puzzle together, they should be able to finish the year on a winning record.