NWHL Isobel Cup playoff preview 2021: Boston Pride
The single-elimination Isobel Cup Semifinals will be shown live on Friday, March. 26 at 5 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET. The winners of the semifinals will advance to the Isobel Cup Final on Saturday. March 27 at 7 p.m. ET. In addition to coverage on NBCSN, live coverage will stream exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
• Boston Pride 3-4-0 in Lake Placid
Last time out: Beat Buffalo two games to one in a three-game series
Leading players: Kaleigh Fratkin, Lovisa Selander - Fratkin, a defender, led the league with nine points in Lake Placid. Selander, last season’s goalie of the year, comes in with a .947 save percentage, the best of all remaining goalies.
Who to watch: McKenna Brand, Sammy Davis - Brand never truly broke out like she has the ability to at Lake Placid, but started to get on a bit of a roll at the end. Once she got going, she looked like one of the most dangerous players in the league like she is, and was third in the league with seven points.
Davis, the first overall pick in the 2020 draft, was second in the league with four goals. She started the season on an all-rookie line but started to succeed more while playing with veteran Lexie Laing.
Roster changes: Jenna Rheaut - Rheaut broke her wrist early in Boston’s first game in Lake Placid, a loss to Minnesota, and missed the rest of the time there. With the near two-month break since the last time they played, Rheaut has made a complete recovery and has no restrictions, according to head coach Paul Mara.
Isobel Cup previews: Toronto Six / Connecticut Whale / Minnesota Whitecaps
Friday, March 26
Saturday, March 27
• Isobel Cup Final; higher seed is home team - 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)
Matchup history: The Pride and Six have played just once ever, a Boston loss in their third game in Lake Placid.
Vibe check: Boston was a run-away favorite at the start of Lake Placid, but the narrative changed. They struggled out of the gate, dropping the first game with Minnesota, then suffered consecutive defeats to Toronto and Connecticut.
They rebounded in a big way against Buffalo, winning the final two contests of a three-game series, where the offense exploded. Those games looked much more like the Pride we’ve been accustomed to seeing.
Since there’s just two games and no room for error, the Pride can’t afford to find themselves at the end; they have to avoid the slow start they had in Placid.
“You look at our first few games and I don’t think we played poorly,” said Pride head coach Paul Mara. “We led in every game, it was the third period. I think you look at the first-year players, they didn’t know how good the NWHL is…. They really came into their own when they got used to the speed.”
They tallied just a single goal in four of their first five games. That’s nothing like the Pride of 2019-20 that made it to the Isobel Cup with a single loss, and nothing like what on paper they should look like on the ice.
The question is, what version of the Pride come out -- on their home ice -- on Friday night? The team that could only beat Buffalo or the team that ripped through the entire league a year ago and struck fear into the hearts of its opponents?
Mara believes they have it figured out, and the young players are ready to move past any rookie jitters. Toronto is a top seed, but the least experienced team as a franchise and with its players. Perhaps playoff experience finally wins out.
One thing is for sure; if they want to beat Toronto, they can’t wait to figure things out. The Pride are their most dangerous when they lay it on thick and offense comes from all parts of the ice. If they take a lead, they have to expand on it, something they struggled with in their first five games.
If the Pride have used these past couple of months to figure that out, they’ll be the most dangerous team on the ice.
NBC Sports is proud to celebrate Women’s History Month. For the latest in women’s sports news and features all year round:
Bookmark the On Her Turf blog: www.nbcsports.com/on-her-turf
Follow On Her Turf on Twitter and Instagram