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The NWHL’s most dangerous even strength teams

Kaitlin S. Cimini/Today's Slapshot

About one month ago FanRag Sports took a look at the CWHL’s most dangerous teams at even strength. And now it’s the NWHL’s turn.

Last week’s NWHL All-Star break was a convenient time to measure the league’s four offenses before the home stretch of the regular season. The Isobel Cup Playoffs begin in less than a month and all four teams are working hard to iron out their flaws. And when it comes to even strength production, the NWHL is clearly a league of haves and have-nots.

Even with Hilary Knight missing seven games, Boston’s offense at even strength hasn’t missed a beat this year. The Pride set the bar for even strength dominance in the NWHL. Boston averages three goals per game at evens while conceding an average of less than one goal per game. Only once this year did an opposing team outscore Boston at even strength.

Boston’s record of 12-0-0 isn’t misleading. Their peerless even strength production is just one of the reasons why they are the runaway favorites for the 2017 Isobel Cup.

One area of concern: the Pride’s power play is not greater than the sum of its parts. They could do more to punish teams for taking penalties against them while they’re dominating in the offensive zone.

The Connecticut Whale’s offense isn’t the reason why they are struggling this season. Which is surprising considering that the team lost both Kaleigh Fratkin and Shiann Darkangelo over the offseason.

The Whale have the second-best even strength offense in the league, but they’ve been a poor team otherwise. Even with an average of 2.36 even strength goals per game, the Whale are still in the red in even strength production. There’s no doubt about it: the Whale’s biggest weakness is their defense.

Losing Ivana Bilic and Molly Engstrom after the NWHL’s salary cuts was a crushing blow for Connecticut. No team allows more goals per game this year.

And even though the Whale and Beauts are almost level in even strength goals against per game, their blue line isn’t contributing to the team’s offense. Cydney Roesler and Jordan Brickner are the only two defenders still with the team to score goals this year. They have one goal each.

The Whale have regularly been on the losing side of high-scoring games this year. The trade for Zoe Hickel won’t fix Connecticut’s defense, but it does add to their forward depth. They will either have to out-gun the competition or start doing more to help out goaltenders Nicole Stock and Shenae Lundberg if they want to get past the first round of the playoffs.

Buffalo’s offense is as unique as it gets in the NWHL. They are the least productive team at even strength in the league by a significant margin, but their power play is deadly. The Beauts have just 20 goals at even strength in 13 games, but they have scored just two fewer power play goals this year than the Pride and Whale have combined.

If Buffalo can only work on one thing in their last four regular season games of the year it should be their even strength offense. And the answer to that problem is more Kelley Steadman and getting more offense from the second and third lines. The Beauts’ top-three goal scorers this year have scored more than half of the team’s goals, and one of them (Steadman) has missed seven games this year.

There’s a new team in Newark this season. Last year the Riveters scored 40 totals in 18 games. This season they have hit that mark in 15 games and 32 of those goals have come at even strength. In fact, the Riveters have the highest ratio of even strength goals in the NWHL.

The Riveters’ goal differential at even strength is second only to the Boston’s. The offense that was once so dependent on one line for goals now has the highest-scoring blue line in the NWHL and three legitimate scoring lines. But special teams has been an area of concern for the Riveters. They need to find consistency and discipline as the playoffs approach.

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