Boston Blades Emerge as Favorite Heading into 2013 Clarkson Cup

Mark Staffieri@@MarkStaff100Contributor IIMarch 19, 2013

Hilary Knight will be the key to Boston's offense, Photo by Raphael Bieber
Hilary Knight will be the key to Boston's offense, Photo by Raphael Bieber

With their first regular season title in franchise history, the Boston Blades are looking to carry the momentum towards their first ever Clarkson Cup championship. In looking to become only the second American club to win the coveted Cup, the Blades will need to be at their best.

Boasting the top goaltending duo in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the black and gold should be impenetrable between the pipes. Genevieve Lacasse emerged as the CWHL goaltending champion and led the league in five statistical categories (wins, fewest losses, goals against average, win percentage, shutouts). With a strong backup in Molly Schaus (a silver medalist with the US team at the Vancouver Winter Games), this dynamic duo brings great confidence to the Blades' lineup.

Although the club lost Kelli Stack and Erika Lawler to injuries, third overall draft selection Hilary Knight has paid remarkable dividends for the club. Having emerged as the leading scorer among all American-born players (and finishing third overall in the CWHL scoring race), she has proven to be the catalyst of the Blades' offensive attack.

The blueline corps features leaders such as Caitlin Cahow, Gigi Marvin, Anne Schleper and Karen Thatcher. With all four having played for the US National Team, these four fantastic blueliners are capable of shutting down the best offenses in the league.  

As the two-time defending Clarkson Cup champions, the Montreal Stars stand as the biggest obstacle towards the Blades making their championship dreams come true. After a season with several ups and downs, the squad managed six wins in a row to close out the season.

With so many new faces on the roster (Ann-Sophie Bettez, Cathy Chartrand, Haley Irwin, Charline Labonte, Carolyne Prevost), the pressure of postseason hockey at the CWHL level is new to them. The preseason retirements of Stephanie Denino, Nathalie Dery and Kelly Sudia left a big hole in the locker room for the Stars.

Perhaps worse for the defending champs was an unexpected coaching change. Prior to the holiday season, the Stars head coach resigned for undisclosed reasons. In addition, the club lost an assistant coach due to pregnancy. With Philippe Trahan and Pierre Alain behind the bench, the Stars are hoping that a third title is within reach. 

Coaching may prove to be the factor in determining the eventual Clarkson Cup champion. Boston’s head coach and general manager Digit Murphy brings with her superlative credentials. As the first woman to win 200 and 300 games at the NCAA women’s hockey level, Murphy is an accomplished coach who knows how to motivate her players.

The one element that has evaded her during a Hall of Fame worthy coaching career is a postseason championship. With the Clarkson Cup having an official home in the Hockey Hall of Fame, it may be the ideal time for this coaching legend to finally gain her long earned championship glory.