Editor’s note: I know what the title of the site is, but with how the Blackhawks handled the Patrick Kane situation, I don’t feel like writing about them, so enjoy this post about the Riveters.
The NWHL is back! Amanda Kessel be praised! I was fortunately able to make it to the two Riveters preseason games, and I thought I’d type out some quick observations I had from them.
-Amanda Kessel is the fifth horseman of the apocalypse. The mythical destroyer of worlds. Death incarnate. Everything she was promised to be and more. Riveters fans should be very, very excited. Almost every time she had the puck she created a scoring chance, and when she didn’t have the puck she was usually taking it away from the opposing team. It was an absolute joy watching her do everything right, from impeccable skating, always finding the right spot to be, to placing her stick perfectly to direct a pass from her teammates. She had two goals in two games and easily could have had more. Amanda Kessel is the best player to ever put on a Riveters sweater, and it will be fun watching her.
-Rebecca Russo, one of many additions to the Riveters roster, has shown immense promise with this new Riveters team. She is incredibly fast with soft hands and is difficult to take the puck away from. She had the only assist on D’Oench’s goal in game one. Her combination of speed and tenacity will fit in well with the Riveters, as will her big personality that seems to shine through no matter what. She is sure to be a fan favorite before long! Plus, she went to BU. Everyone loves people who went to BU! 😉
-Ashley Johnston had an incredible two games, seemingly back to her pre-injury form from last season. The unparalleled positioning, shot, and awareness that that made her such an effective blue-liner last year are back. Look out NWHL.
-Michelle Picard, former US Olympian, was impressive with her skill and aggressiveness. She has no qualms about jumping up into the offensive zone, and was effective doing so. Picard was also strong with the puck, showing excellent vision and distributing the puck well.
-The biggest question mark with the Riveters right now is their goaltending, after signing and then losing the leagues previous best goaltender, Jamie Leonoff. Rookie goaltenders Sojung Shin and Katie Fitzgerald have large shoes to fill, but looked good in the first two games. Fitzgerald showcased some considerable athleticism, while Shin was impressive playing an excellent positional game and showcasing a lightning-like glove. At the moment, I believe Shin should and will be the starting goaltender, as she showed a more complete game than Fitzgerald did. Both showed some difficulties with rebound control, but once the team gels more that should be worked out. It is a small sample size, but Riveters fans should be hopeful about their goaltending tandem.
-So the Riveters the first few games have been, wait for it, good at zone entries and exits.
I’ll give you a minute to process that.
GOOD ZONE ENTRIES AND EXITS! Last season twitter was constantly screaming about their absence and the difficulties that they were causing for the Riveters. But if these two games are any indication, it will no longer be a problem for the Rivs. The improved defense is a big part of this. As Jen LC (who in my mind is the best analyst around) on twitter says, having D that can dig the puck out, turn, and quickly move it out of the zone is incredibly important to a team’s success. She says if forwards have to come back and help dig the puck out, they can’t participate fully in the breakout the way they should. The D on this Riveters team don’t need help getting the puck, and can look to move it up ice quickly. Combining that with a faster and more skilled forward corp, and this team can move the puck in and out of zones fast and efficiently.
-The Riveters game could still use some more structure, particularly on the back end, but this wasn’t surprising. They were playing for the first time with each other, and I for one was very impressed with how far their play had come from last year. The structure will come. This is a team that will be able to compete with any team in the NWHL, and in my mind is second only to the stacked Pride roster. This should be a fun year for Riveters fans, so enjoy the ride!