Okay, I Guess: Montreal 0, Toronto 3
- 5 min read

Okay, I Guess: Montreal 0, Toronto 3

Okay, I Guess: Montreal 0, Toronto 3 by Zoë Hayden

I've gotta say, this was probably the first game in the entire PWHL season that I didn't actually enjoy watching. On one hand I'm exhausted from everything else going on in my life – but also like, what the hell? Not every game is going to be flashy with skill and/or dripping in immaculate vibes, and that's just part of a hockey season. That said, there were some genuine issues in this one that weren't just flukes. The officiating continues to be very bad. A few good things happened too, at least if you're PWHL Toronto. I'm not trying to take away from their victory as much as state that I really hope games with this type of pace and tone don't become the norm.

What happened?

Hannah Miller got the scoring started early at 1:20 of the first, as Natalie Spooner busted into the zone, took the puck wide around the net, and threw it in front off of Chuli's pads. Miller was net-front for the rebound and made it 1-0, which would stand as the eventual game winner.

Montreal's play, in general, looked disorganized and like it just wasn't clicking. I have wondered about this throughout the season. Montreal can fall into a back-and-forth style that can leave them defensively vulnerable, but they normally have a magic combination of puck support, good goaltending, and offensive prowess to lift them in close games. Part of the reason that didn't work on Friday night was, to be perfectly honest, poor officiating that really favored Toronto. Montreal may not have had the juice to win this one in any case, but Toronto being allowed to commit interference and boarding penalties with impunity really put a damper on the overall pace of the game. It seemed like every few minutes there was a Montreal player down on the ice, taking a long time to get up because they'd just been pasted without any attempt to play the puck. Renata Fast was particularly guilty of this, and I don't think I'm approaching that analysis with any sort of bias – it was just an overall out of pocket game by Toronto that the officials completely failed to control.

There was a sort of attempt in the second period, when six players were sent to the box at 8:06 for roughing after some nonsense along the boards by the bench (and one of the bench doors was open at the time?). The "highlight" of this was Brittany Howard grabbing Sarah Lefort by her face shield and pulling her down with it and Maureen Murphy had to hold Lefort back. Pretty sure the gloves almost went off. It was wild. There were two more penalties in the period as well. Unsurprisingly, nobody scored.

Toronto pulled ahead by 2 early in the third period, as Rebecca Leslie executed a perfect tip of a shot by Olivia Knowles from the top of the circle. Leslie got her stick blade right in front of the shot at the hashmarks and it completely changed direction to beat Chuli far side.

Things continued to be chippy and nasty. Montreal pulled Chuli with three and a half minutes remaining and while Montreal tried to do what they usually do – control the play and create an opportunity – it just wasn't going to happen against this Toronto team, who were quite literally clicking on all cylinders regardless of the poor officiating. Marie-Philip Poulin seemingly tweaked her knee but still ended up racing to deny Sarah Nurse an opportunity at an empty net in about as desperate a backcheck you will see in a regular season hockey game. Montreal wanted this win badly, but the vibes were extremely off for them.

Jocelyne Larocque took a tripping penalty and gave Montreal another late chance, and they kept Chuli out of the net to try to go 6-on-4. But the next time a Toronto player had the puck and a look at the empty net, Poulin couldn't catch up. Emma Maltais buried it to make it 3-0 and send us careening into the back stretch of the PWHL regular season with a twinge of blood in our mouths. It was also a jailbreak for Larocque, for what it's worth, and Maltais' second jailbreak goal of the season.

This game also featured limited edition jerseys sponsored by Molson, with the Molson logo above the numbers on the jersey and the player name plate stitched below it – so that players' hair doesn't potentially hide the nameplate. "Molson is covering its name so hers can be seen," according to the press release.

The jerseys are fine, though they didn't look as sharp as the teams' regular sweaters, probably due to the compressed timeline of creating them. The campaign is called "See My Name" and is described by the league as a "pilot project." My guess is that Molson's multi-year deal with the PWHL may involve permanent Molson branding on jerseys in future seasons. Personally, I think names look better across the shoulders than across the butt, even if sometimes there's a player ponytail in the way. While I'm not a fan of the nameplates being lower, Molson is a huge sponsorship get for the league.

Three up, three down

↑ That moment where Laura Stacey jumped into the air and hit Emma Maltais in the face with her butt – As a treat.

And you get a hit and you get a hit and you get a hit – I'm trying to be normal about this but the game stats credit 118 hits in this game, mostly along the boards. Anyone who actually likes this pace of hockey should feel free to invent a time machine to go watch the New York Islanders in like 2011. I don't wanna watch this shit in the playoffs. I am being honest. Quality is more important than quantity with bodychecking. If you want to actually Play A Hockey Game.

screenshot of ice chart showing hit locations, there are A Lot Of Them Along The Boards

↑ Kristen Campbell – Campbell is personally on a 10-game win streak and is the first goalie in the PWHL to record three shutouts. She's leading the league in games and minutes played (870:31 over 15 games) as well as shots faced (383). The more Soupy has played, the better she's gotten, and the team in front of her has followed suit.

↓ The refs, actually – Kori Cheverie managed to say it without saying it.

↑ ↓ Streaks – We knew one streak was going to end tonight – either Toronto's win streak or Elaine Chuli's. Unfortunately for Chuli, it was not meant to be. On the other hand, Toronto charges forward having won 9 straight games and they literally have moved into first place in the league. They are tied for Montreal in points (30), but own the tiebreakers with more wins in regulation. Toronto now has the league-best offense with 43 goals in 16 games, roughly 2.69 goals per game. Chuli, for her part, stopped 30 of 32 and certainly played well enough to win, but didn't get the goal support she needed to make it happen.

VP's Player of the Game

Natalie Spooner – With an assist on Friday, she's just one point back from Alex Carpenter and Marie-Philip Poulin for the league lead in points. She already leads in goals and has for awhile.

(Photo: PWHL)