The links above are all essential reading and resources for NWHL statistics tracking. This article would not have been possible without the excellent work of Graduateand Women's Hockey Nation.
As a team the Riveters shot 2.8% thanks largely to amazing performance by Jaimie Leonoff on Sunday afternoon's season opener. The good news for the Riveters is that there is really only one direction for that number to go, the bad news is that they missed at least a half dozen high-quality scoring chances.
NOTE: The following shot chart is by no means accurate and should not be considered anywhere near perfect. The third period in particular was extremely difficult to plot given the issues with the NWHL's stream and archived video.
Much like in the preseason game against the Minnesota Whitecaps some of New York's best scoring chances came from shots from the point, especially from the sticks of Gabie Figueroa and Ashley Johnston. However, a great many of those shots and low, hard passes were blocked and smothered by the Whale's defense and forwards. Therefore, they do not all show up on the shot chart above. Lyudmila Belyakova and Janine Weber were the catalysts for the Riveters' best scoring chances against the Whale and were dangerous on the rush. Outside of Brooke Ammerman's historic goal in the second period, very few of the Riveters' most significant scoring chances came from offensive zone starts and very little was generated on their power play opportunities in an exceedingly chippy and nasty game.
The Riveters out-shot the Connecticut Whale last Sunday, but they did not out-posses them. The third period was especially rough for the visiting Riveters who looked like they lost a step after a bad bounce made it a 3-1 game. They were out-shot ten to seven and surrendered two goals to the possession-dominant Whale in the final period last Sunday. Both the Whale and the Riveters had dominant stretches during the game, but the fact that the Riveters out-shot Kelli Stack and the Whale 36 to 29 doesn't tell the whole story. The Whale owned the puck in the Riveters' zone for long stretches of the game and were concerned with possession, cycling, and finding open shooters. The Riveters, on the other hand, had issues getting any set plays or their cycle going and often had to settle for low-scoring chance opportunities. Given the roster that the Riveters carry and the identity of their team, we should expect the cycle and going hard to the net to be a big part of their identity on offense this season.
The missed chances were a huge issue for the Riveters and they stung all the more when the Whale took their two and later three goal lead in the third period. The Riveters worked hard to get quality scoring chances in the slot throughout the game, but when they did Jaimie Leonoff closed the door. Scrambling, diving, and battling Riveters failed to get home several big rebound opportunities thanks to great defense by the Whale and some herculean efforts by Ketchum when she looked down and out of position. Bray Ketchum peppered the net on Sunday and led the Riveters with seven shots, but she was unable to beat Leonoff even with some high-scoring chances like this one.
Open shots that were shanked wide, golden opportunities from great set-up passes that were just missed by their targets, and some big stops from Jaimie Leonoff of the Whale were a lethal recipe for halting the Riveters' chances to get back in the game after the Whale scored just seventy seconds after Ammerman's goal that came at the 4:15 mark of the second period. A Belyakova breakaway that was missed early and this chance from Morgan Fritz-Ward that didn't get past Leonoff were two big chances that the Riveters could not afford to miss:
<a data-flickr-embed="true" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/135540917@N02/21477995183/in/photostream/" title="Shot on net by Morgan Fritz-Ward"><img src="https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5665/21477995183_d1d0c0d71f_z.jpg" width="640" height="427" alt="Shot on net by Morgan Fritz-Ward"></a><script async src="//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
When chances like this don't find the back of the net you know that you're having some seriously bad puck luck and you also know that you probably aren't going to win.
Note: All of this great work is done by @GradHawksBlog
The Riveters entered the offensive zone "successfully" (that just means they got in, not that they did anything) 83% of the time, failing to enter the zone 17%. In the 2013-2014 NHL season, most teams failed to enter the zone about 7-9% of the time. While this is a small sample size, this is something the Riveters can work on. Successful zone entries are key to an effective offensive attack, and without them it is difficult to score or control the game. Of the successful entries, 48% were controlled, 38% uncontrolled, and 14% were unknown due to difficulties with the archived stream. Uncontrolled entries generated shots at a rate of 0.3 per entry, while controlled entries almost doubled that at 0.59. This goes with what is to be expected, if you maintain control of the puck, more offense will be generated.
Source: Graduate Blackhawks
There isn't much for me to add to this spot-on analysis other than offering a visual representation of a sight that was all too common against the Whale last Sunday; a failed zone-entry.
Too many of the Riveters most promising zone-entries were foiled by miscommunication and failed reads that resulted in offsides calls. The play that is pictured above stood out from Sunday's loss. Janine Weber gained control of the puck after a threatening shift by the Whale and slid the puck over to Morgan Fritz-Ward who carried it along the boards as the Riveters went on the attack in the transition game. After feeding Fritz-Ward, Weber drove hard through the center of the ice and managed to out-pace Ward to the blue line, resulting in an offsides call and a failed zone-entry. Breakdowns in the transition game like this one greatly limited the Riveters' attack. Thankfully, they are all things that can be worked on by Riveters coaches Wiseman and DeSimone as the season progresses.
Belyakova and Weber
I have expressed some concerns about the Riveters' offense prior to and after last Sunday's game, but if Janine Weber and Lyudmila Belyakova can play like they did in Connecticut for the rest of the season the Riveters' top two forward lines will be lighting the lamp a lot. Belyakova looked great centering Wisconsin standouts and former USWNT members Madison Packer and Brooke Ammerman despite being with the team for only a week or so before the puck dropped on Sunday afternoon's game.
<blockquote class="twitter-video" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="https://twitter.com/belyakova9">@belyakova9</a> is an incredibly skilled player. Look at her read the play, steal the puck, and make a brilliant pass. <a href="http://t.co/3XBU0X52Vm">pic.twitter.com/3XBU0X52Vm</a></p>—
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Ammerman and Belyakova were standouts according to Women's Hockey Nation's analytics after the first game and it's easy to see why. Packer and Ammerman created all kinds of space for the crafty Belyakova to work with and, with a little more puck luck, the Riveters' top line could have had three or four goals instead of the one that they did score in the second period.
Janine Weber was a force to be reckoned with on the rush. Her six shots on net, what looked to be a hit post in the third period, and several gorgeous feeds that her linemates just missed on are all great signs for the first player to sign an NWHL contract to have a solid year. The Riveters are going to need Weber and Belyakova to be the catalysts for their offense this season if they want the Isobel Cup in the spring. Both Weber and Belyakova are standout international stars and are two of the Riveters' highest-paid players.
With just two practices a week and two preseason games under their belt, it should come as no surprise that the Riveters have a lot to work on after a disappointing result in the franchise's first game. There are a lot of things that need addressing, but cleaning up the transition game and better communication in their own zone will be paramount against the big forwards that the Boston Pride will be putting on the ice tomorrow night at Aviator.
Thanks for Reading. Let's go Riveters.