Shut Down: Minnesota 4, Boston 0
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Shut Down: Minnesota 4, Boston 0

Shut Down: Minnesota 4, Boston 0 by Nicole Haase

Minnesota was 1-f0r-2 on the power play, took advantage of Boston miscues and earned the win, which ties them with Montreal and Toronto at the top of the standings.

What happened?

Minnesota played a disciplined and opportunistic game on Wednesday where they kept building on their lead and did not give an inch.

Boston felt like they had the advantage in the first, holding the puck more and out-shooting the home team 7-5, but they never seemed able to turn that possession into much of threat. Just one of their first-period shots came from below the faceoff dots. Minnesota was strong on defense, poke-checking, intercepting passes and keeping Boston from settling in to their game.

In the waning minutes of the first, Natalie Buchbinder stepped in front of a clearing attempt to keep the puck in the Minnesota offensive zone. She played it to Taylor Heise in the corner and Heise dropped a gorgeous, no-look pass behind her to Kendall Coyne Schofield, who slipped into the slot behind two Boston defenders and had a wide-open look at the net to make it 1-0 Minnesota.

Early in the second, Coyne Schofield picked up a loose puck behind the net and fed it out to Sophie Jaques, whose long distance shot bounced off the end boards to the left of Aerin Frankel. Michaela Cava saw daylight between the goalie and the post and one-timed the bounce from a sharp angle to double the lead to 2-0.

Minnesota gained momentum from there, though they didn't put the game out of reach until about five minute left in the third when Grace Zumwinkle's slap shot on a pass from Maggie Flaherty on the power play beat Frankel five-hole.

Boston immediately went with the empty net, but their offense struggled to get good looks on net despite holding the zone with the player advantage. Minnesota outshot Boston 13-8 in the third and Taylor Heise's empty-netter with 2:03 to play iced the 4-0 win.

It was the third win in a row for Minnesota, who have put together a small but dominant streak where they've put up two shutouts, outscoring their opponents 10-3 over the three games and racking up a +34 shot differential. They are now tied atop the standings, tied in points with Toronto and Montreal (30), though Toronto has a game in hand.

Three up, three down

↑ First goal, best goal – Minnesota scored a bit against the run of play at the end of the first and their history – and tonight's outcome – prove how important getting the opening tally is. They have gotten points in each of the nine games they've played where they scored first and won eight of them.

↓ Pucks to the net – The shots on goal in this game were low: just 24 for Minnesota and 20 for Boston. Boston rang up 16 blocks, but Minnesota had only 6 per the live stats and the shot chart for Boston makes it pretty obvious how they got shut out. Just seven shots came from below the faceoff dots and there are even two from beyond the blue line. Props to the Minnesota defense from keeping the puck from ever leaving a Boston stick, but Boston is far too talented to put up such a lackluster performance, especially as it felt like they dominated in possession at times throughout the game. They need to turn possession into scoring opportunities.

↑ Ref cam – This game featured another use of the ref cam and the broadcast did a great job of integrating it. The ref could be heard telling players his head was tired from the extra weight, so who knows if it will be a regular addition, but on Wednesday it game some awesome views of breakaways, goals and even a scuffle. They rarely went to it live, instead using it for replays, which feels like the right way to employ it. After the broadcasters praised it, it felt like the producer tried to shoehorn it in a little more and there was a live shot of a faceoff that didn't show much, but overall it really added some cool views in replay and didn't leave me feeling nauseous from the shakiness.

 Consistency – Boston just does not seem to be able to string together wins. Coming off an OT win over New York and having beat Minnesota in late February, it felt like they should be in good position to earn these three points. But they looked clueless at times while defending and they never managed to threaten in the offensive zone.

↑ Goose egg – Nicole Hensley earned the first clean sheet of her PWHL career. The defense was stellar in front of her, which obviously helps, but in a game with a bit of weird rhythm, she stuck to her game and played well.

 Puck control – Both teams struggled with holding the zone, making mental mistakes and icing the puck in situations that really hurt their game. Boston had to put Aerin Frankel back in net after pulling her with 4:22 to play, down 3-0, because they iced the puck. There was just a surprising lack of finesse from both teams at this point in the season.

VP's Player of the Game

Grace Zumwinkle – Not only did she score on the power play – something we know is rare and unusual in this league – but she was really active on offense across the board. Her goal came on a slapper from high in the faceoff circle and we can only hope scoring convinces her to unleash that more often. She seems to be settling into the season and becoming more comfortable and that has led to confidence and dynamic play from her.

  • Game replay link (YouTube) – The PWHL has started posting "condensed game archive" video, after taking their videos private after broadcast as of late. Check their video uploads page for the game archive content as it becomes available. (This game is not yet as of press time.)
  • Game data

(Photo: PWHL)