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PWHL Minnesota, Montreal & Boston All Waiting on Final Game – Hockey Writers – PWHL

On a crazy day in the Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL), Minnesota missed their chance, Boston held their own and won't enter the playoffs through the back door, but Minnesota might…if Ottawa loses to Toronto in regulation tonight. Once that result is known, Toronto will have 24 hours to choose its opponent and the playoffs will begin on May 8 in Toronto.

Rule One: Minnesota vs New York

The day started with Minnesota playing New York at UBS Arena. To win, Minnesota needed just one point to book its spot in the playoffs. In other words, they had to avoid losses in regulation. New York, already eliminated from playoff contention, came out of the gate ready for battle. Micah Zandee-Hart's teammates decided it was game on right away, and they didn't relinquish control. The game was Lindsey Post's first start in the PWHL and it couldn't have gone any better. Named the game's first star, he stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced.

Related: PWHL Minnesota's First Line Needs to Step Up in Finals

Although missing the playoffs wasn't something New York thought would happen at the start of the season, they went through an eight-game losing streak and were debilitated. The losing streak started on February 23 and ended on March 25. Just before the international break, they lost three games in a row. Once eliminated, they played without pressure and finished the season with two wins. Their consolation prize, getting the first pick in June's draft, should help them make up for the lack of postseason action. In addition, Sarah Fillier, who many believe will be the first pick in the draft, just finished her NCAA career at Princeton University in the neighboring state of New Jersey. It's almost like it was meant to be.

Sarah Fillier, Team Canada (Josh Kim / Hockey Writers)

As for Minnesota, they didn't expect New York to come out that strong and look shocked the entire game. As soon as the home team took the lead by two goals, they had the body language of the team that had already defied them. This lack of interest, when all they needed was to get one point to get into the play-offs, is inexcusable and worrying. Now their fate rests solely on the shoulders of Ottawa, if Emerance Maschmeyer pulls it off and beats Toronto for the fourth time in five meetings, Minnesota will be eliminated. However, if Toronto can beat its pet peeve, Minnesota will be in. Time to light a few candles for the women's church and hope for the best.

Second act: Montreal vs Boston

In Boston, Hilary Knight and company decide to take matters into their own hands. Captain Knight led the way, scoring the first goal through Ann-Renée Desbiens on 15 minutes. Three minutes later, Alina Muller missed in the slot and made it 2-0 in Boston. At the beginning of the second period, Knight hit a wonderful pass to Megan Keller and put it into the net to make it 3-0 for Boston. Montreal looked confused as he returned to the locker room.

Whatever Kori Cheverie told his players seemed to be working well as they rallied and scored three unanswered goals to seal the game with more than three minutes remaining. Interestingly, even though Montreal didn't need the win, Cheverie still pulled his striker when he was down 3-2 which led to Marie-Philip Poulin's game-tying goal. Montreal thought Captain Clutch had done it again and the game would go to overtime, but Boston didn't give up and scored the game-winner with less than two minutes to go. Kaleigh Fratkin defeated Desbiens in the final to propel her team to third place in the standings and secure their playoff spot.

Boston had an interesting year in the first season of the PWHL, it was not a power, but at the same time, it did not have a long losing streak. Their first pick in the last draft, Alina Muller, did not disappoint, the rookie led her team with 16 points in 24 games. It probably won't be enough to earn her the best rookie title as Minnesota's Grace Zumwinkle has 19 points to her name, as does Toronto's Emma Maltais. The trade with Minnesota for forward Susanna Tapani was smart as the new acquisition became a key part of Boston's attack. It wasn't a good season for free agent and captain Hilary Knight, he was limited to only 11 points in 24 games, like Team Canada forward Jamie Lee Rattray who was selected by Boston in the third round. Rattray did not finish the game against Montreal as he fell heavily on the ice after colliding with the ice. As for Knight, he stepped up when his team needed him most.

As for Montreal, the season was a real roller-coaster. The power play struggled until the international break, truth be told. They couldn't get a single win against Toronto who quickly became their pet. The defense was very fragile at the start and only stabilized when Amanda Boulier was added in a stoppage-time trade to replace Tereza Vanisova.

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It took time to find a combination of lines that worked and many injuries did not help. Losing Ann-Sophie Bettez and Dominika Laskova for the rest of the season was a tough blow, but it's something you have to endure in professional sports. Laura Stacey led the team with 10 goals in 23 games and the increased role she received on the team allowed fans to find Stacey in the top six who can do anything on the ice. He has incredible speed and a slapshot (although he sends you off target sometimes).

At that time, fans realized how important Poulin was to the team, when the captain was injured in early March, he had to miss three games and Montreal lost all three. While Montreal was in the early shooting zone, Cheverie took advantage of the opportunity to send Poulin multiple times alone on Toronto's Kristen Campbell. He's been criticized on social media for doing that, but I expect him to do the same thing again if put in the same situation. Even though he is not leading the league in points, I strongly believe he should get the regular season MVP award.

Now, the stage is set for the final game of the season, Toronto takes on Ottawa today at 7:00. The result of that game will finally tell us who will be the candidate between Ottawa and Minnesota, but the matchups will have to wait until Toronto decides who they want to play in the semi-final.

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