The first Isobel Cup Final is set to start Friday with a three-game series between the Boston Pride and the underdog Buffalo Beauts at the Prudential Center ion Newark, NJ.
It was taken as a foregone conclusion by many that the Pride would face the Connecticut Whale in a championship meeting between the league’s two best regular season teams. But the Beauts came back from a 1-0 series deficit to upset the Whale in the opening round.
They’ve got their work cut out for them if they want to be the first team in league history to hoist the Isobel Cup, but it’s far from an impossible task. Here are three reasons that the Buffalo Beauts could win the Isobel Cup.
— Buffalo Beauts (@BuffaloBeauts) March 7, 2016
The Beauts had a slow start to the season and that weighs down their season-long numbers. They progressed nicely throughout the course of the season. That’s maybe best seen in how they handled the league-leading Pride.
They began suppressing goals better after a 7-6 overtime win in early December — in no small part due to strong goaltending. By the end of the season the Beauts handed the Pride their worst shot differential in a single game with just a +9 tilt for the Pride (Boston outshot opponents every game this season). The 36 shots that Buffalo limited Boston to was the second lowest mark of the year for Boston.
If the Beauts can repeat that stingy performance, a hot goaltender could steal the series. It’s significantly harder for a goaltender to steal an entire series if Buffalo gives up 66 shots, like the Whale did in their last match against the Pride this year.
2. Brianne McLaughlin
That’s a smooth transition. McLaughlin, who is also a goaltender for the U.S. National Team, has been good lately. Her .907 save percentage on the season isn’t atop the league, but she’s been heating up.
In particular, she was very good in the opening round series, with a .929 save percentage through three games.
All of that aside, this is the second season. Anything could happen and we’ve see McLaughlin stand on her head before. She has the ability to steal this series.
3. Roster Depth
The Beauts don’t have superstars like the Pride have in Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker. However, this is a deep team with a number of under-appreciated players like Kelley Steadman, Devon Skeats and Kourtney Kunichika, on top of very good leaders like Megan Bozek, Meghan Duggan and Emily Pfalzer.
The Beauts depth has the ability to be a difference-maker. Both teams are deep, but Steadman, Skeats and Kunichika have proven previously that they can be the player that turns a game and having those kind of role players is a hallmark of championship teams.
The Isobel Cup Final starts at 7:30pm ET Friday, Mar. 11. Game two will take placed at 7:30pm ET on Mar. 12.
— Buffalo Beauts (@BuffaloBeauts) March 10, 2016
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.