THEY DID IT.
Folks, the Toronto 6ix won their first ever game last night.
In the newest installment of a Toronto v Boston rivalry, a game with lots of offensive firepower was on the books.
The Boston Pride won 23 out of their 24 games last year. Naturally with a win/loss record like that, they finished first, by a wide margin.
They lead the league in goals for, goals against, and goal differential. This is a juggernaut. This is the 1970s Montreal Canadiens, Les Canadiennes with Hilary Knight and Marie-Philip Poulin. A true David v Goliath game.
To add to a fresh rivalry was on offseason trade. In their first draft the 6ix exchanged their first overall pick to the Boston Pride. The Pride selected Sammy Davis with that pick. What a hockey player she is on track to be.
Toronto, despite their relatively slow start to the season, played a perfect game. From puck drop they played with ferocity, speed, and determination. At no point during this game did Boston feel like the better team. A testament to the team the 6ix have built in a few months, almost entirely via Zoom. I can’t even tell my boss how to open a PDF on Zoom and Digit Murphy is out here creating a pro hockey team from ground up.
I have liked the 6ix’s forecheck in all three games so far. Their natural speed is a huge bonus to an effective system. I noticed a particular cohesion today in the way all 5 skaters handled the forecheck against the Pride.
Using a system similar to the one above, the 6ix pressured the defense into several mistakes tonight. Having one forward effectively cut the ice in half and force a defender into the opposing corner is a good start. Having the second and third forwards attack that corner leaves defenders with virtually no options. In those cases defenders do what they do best: dump it high off the glass and out (I call this the Kris Russel Special).
For a team like the 6ix, regaining possession is the name of the game, and it’s that much easier when the other team is just dumping the puck.
More possession leads to more shots. Simple as that.
We can see the fruits of their labour in having 38 shots on the league’s best team last year. It would not be possible to draw up a better outcome as a coach.
Let’s talk about some of the game action shall we?
In another penalty slugfest the shining star tonight was Toronto’s penalty kill.
The good news is despite allowing a power play late in the first period, they handled the 7 penalty kills almost perfectly.
The bad news is, well, needing to use your penalty kill units 7 times in a game. This is a trend here for the 6ix. Not a good one. Their aggressive system makes way for penalties taken and penalties drawn throughout the game, but they need to be a little smarter. A little restraint would go a long way for some of these calls. We’re approaching the “THIS IS A HUGE RED FLAG” territory.
The second period was actually a relatively even affair. 11 shots apiece is nothing to scoff at.
A series of alternating power plays where the 6ix posed more threat on the PK than the Pride did with the extra skater. Watching the 6ix kill penalties is like art. Rotating from the box formation to diamond is a tough setup to maintain. It only works if your two forwards are quick to react and able to read plays at a superior level. Wilson-Bennett in particular for me today shone bright shorthanded. I am positive she had more shots on the Pride net than they did on the 6ix with the extra skater. BWB even got a breakaway and was tripped right before she made her move on the goalie.
How many times in your life have you seen the shorthanded team get a penalty shot?
Unfortunately the goalie got a quick pad save and the 6ix remained down by one.
Something special happened in this period. Mikyla “Bucky” Grant-Mentis took over. Every shift she was on tilted the ice for the 6ix. The moves she pulled off today broke my ankles just watching them. I cheered when she took a wicked wrister because I was sure she scored, only to realize it went off the lavender post. What a shame.
During the 2nd intermission I assume Digit Murphy gave every player a red bull and played some version of “John Wick Mode” in the dressing room. This could be the only explanation for the way the 6ix started the 3rd.
Rockets for skates.
Speed for days.
Then the 6ix take ANOTHER penalty about 3 mins into the period. Here I assumed they were cratering their chances at coming back in this game.
And then the magic started.
On an amazingly determined effort on the PK Taylor woods chased the puck all the way to behind the Pride net. That forecheck caused the Pride to take a penalty one minute into their power play. The result was 4 on 4. For a team built on speed like the 6ix, 4 on 4 is heaven. They drew another penalty.
Ladies and gentlemen we have ourselves some 5 on 3 action. The 6ix really take as much time as possible, but they make it count. 1-1! Boquist is a beast.
THIS GAME IS GOING TO THE WIRE!
The 6ix have better plans.
Less than 2 minutes later Bucky gets the 6ix on the board again. 2-1!!!!!!!
Eat that Boston. Sure it was a lucky goal, but with the amount she generated throughout the game, Grant-Mentis earned that one. (Insert that old hockey man saying of “make your own luck” or whatever, Brian Burke is licking his lips seeing me finally quote him)
The rest of the game was a series of Pride rushes thwarted over and over and over and over again by Chuli. They could not figure her out. Without her this game is wildly different. Through her two starts she has put in quite the effort. She and Ridgewell are a fantastic tandem. The stuff of nightmares for forwards.
Seeing Steve Dangle tweet about a Toronto lead late in the third against a Boston team definitely did not bring up any memories. None at all. Never. Not at all. *cries in 2013, 2017, 2018*
Speaking of nightmares for forwards, we saw you today Eastwood. We love it. Not afraid to impose herself she sat a few players down (within the confines of the rules at all times of course ……… ;)……).
How can you not love fall in love with this team?
This is what hockey is all about.
GO 6ix! LETS GET THOSE PANCAKES!