The New York Riveters have yet to win a game in the 2016-17 season, with their most recent defeat coming at the hands of the undefeated Boston Pride.
The Pride have been finding a way to thrive without co-captain Hilary Knight. But the Riveters have been stumbling without star winger and alternate captain Amanda Kessel.
The Riveters have allowed an alarming 15 goals in their first three games. Goaltenders Sojung Shin and Katie Fitzgerald have been less than stellar, but they aren’t the reason why New York is losing games.
Shin stopped 17 shots in the first period against the Pride on Saturday night before allowing three goals in the second period. She allowed two more in the third period, but did everything to keep her team in the game. The Riveters’ 5-1 loss wasn’t on Shin.
Boston out-shot New York 35 to 17 on Saturday. The Pride put as many shots on net in the first period as the Riveters had in the entire game. The Riveters are averaging 25 shots per game for and 35.67 shots per game against. Clearly, goaltending isn’t their biggest problem this season.
New York managed to score the first goal of the game against the Pride, but struggled to establish any pressure in the offensive zone for the vast majority of the game. Unsurprisingly it was the Riveters’ speed that gave them their only goal against Boston. But because they spent so much of the game struggling to work the puck out of their own zone, the Riveters’ speed appeared only in fits and starts.
Most concerning of all for the Riveters’ offense was the poor performance of the power play. It looks to be in disarray without Kessel prowling the halfboards and pulling the strings. New York managed just three shots on three unsuccessful power play attempts against the Pride. They also allowed their second shorthanded goal of the season.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Riveters. It’s important to remember that there are a dozen new faces on the team and that this group has played just five games together.
They have lost two games to the undefeated defending Isobel Cup Champions and another game to the Whale when two of their top forwards were out of the lineup.
The Riveters’ massive roster turnover in the offseason was bound to cause some growing pains. Wiseman’s systems were called “advanced” by last year’s team.
It will take some time for the new faces on the team, especially the four new defenders, to adjust and develop some chemistry. There has been a clear lack of cohesion and structure.
It’s not surprising that New York has looked flawed early. They have been without their best player for two weeks. Kessel’s impact isn’t just missed in the offensive zone and on the scoreboard, she was the spearhead of the Riveters’ forecheck before her injury took her out of the lineup. Kessel is the kind of player that makes the players around her better.
Chad Wiseman disclosed on Saturday’s live stream that Kessel won’t return to the team until after the Four Nations Cup break due to a lower-body injury. But Kessel’s injury isn’t the only one that Riveters fans should be keeping an eye on.
Rookie defender Courtney Burke left the game against the Pride with what appeared to be a lower body injury of her own. She didn’t play a shift in the third period.
The Riveters need some time to get healthy. They also need some time to get more comfortable with Wiseman’s system and playing with one another. The NWHL’s two week hiatus should provide the team with the time that they need to iron things out.
It’s been an undeniably rough beginning for New York, but an 0-3 start isn’t necessarily an omen of a doomed season. There is plenty of time for Wiseman’s Riveters to figure things out. The speed is there, the skill is there and the leadership is there. We have not yet seen the real Riveters.