Week 17 picks

So this is it, the last week. I’m way under .500; best I can do is 32-40, but I could also end up 28-44. Yet another .500 week would put me at 30-42. Still, that’s not too much worse than some of the IL Indoor guys, and depending on this week’s games, it might even be better than some of them. But remember when we start the playoffs, we’re all tied at 0-0…

Record: 28-40 (.412)

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TOR @ EDM Toronto is playing for home floor advantage while Edmonton can’t change their playoff position. Nick Rose had a bad outing against the Mammoth but rebounded and played pretty well against the Stealth last weekend. Edmonton has the lowest-scoring offense in the league, so this might be another opportunity for Rose to bump his confidence going into the playoffs. That said, the Rush beat the Mammoth last weekend so maybe let’s not count our chickens and all that. Rock
COL @ MIN Apparently Gavin Prout will miss this weekend, although the Mammoth said that about John Grant after the weekend he missed and he played anyway. The biggest question of this game is: will it be Evan Kirk or Tyler Carlson that gives up John Grant’s 116th point of the year? Or will they say “Sorry, Mr. Grant, not on my watch”? Given the season Grant’s had, that would be rather surprising, but surprising things just keep happening in the NLL this season. Mammoth
PHI @ ROC I really wanted to pick Philly just because I can’t imagine them going into the playoffs on a five-game losing streak. But I couldn’t imagine the Bandits going on a six-game losing streak, or the Stealth missing the playoffs, or the Mammoth going from 5-11 to 11-4 in one year, or… The Knighthawks have owned the Wings this year, going 2-0 with a combined score of 33-20. Knighthawks
BUF @ WAS I know, I know, I said I was done with the Bandits, but holy crap, Anthony Cosmo was great last weekend. And the one before. The Stealth are playing for exactly nothing while the Bandits are shaping up for the playoffs. Bandits

Previous weeks:

Week 1 – 0-1
Week 2 – 2-2
Week 3 – 2-2
Week 4 – 2-4
Week 5 – 2-2
Week 6 – 1-3
Week 7 – 2-2
Week 8 – 1-3
Week 9 – 2-2
Week 10 – 2-4
Week 11 – 1-2
Week 12 – 1-5
Week 13 – 5-0
Week 14 – 2-2
Week 15 – 0-4
Week 16 – 3-2

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Interview: Steve Toll

Toll as a KnighthawkSpeedin’ Stevie Toll is currently playing in his fifteenth season in the NLL. Toll has seen it all, through five teams, five NLL Championships, and one Transition Player of the Year award. It was thought that he retired after the 2011 season, though that was never made official, and it was assumed that his involvement in the Canadian Lacrosse League (as Director of Operations of both the Durham Turfdogs and the Oshawa Machine) was the reason. But a little over halfway through the 2012 season, Toll decided he couldn’t stay away any longer, and signed with the Edmonton Rush.

It has been argued by some that Toll deserves to be in the NLL Hall of Fame, but we’ll have to wait until his real retirement to see if that happens.

I recently had the honour of talking to Steve about Edmonton’s upcoming playoff game, his return to the NLL, memories of his time with the Toronto Rock, and his involvement with CLax and the NALL. Many thanks to Steve for taking the time to talk with me.


Graeme Perrow: Let’s start with the upcoming NLL playoffs. Edmonton hasn’t had much success against the Roughnecks over the years, but you will be playing them in the first round of the playoffs. Will the history between the teams come into play at all?
Steve Toll: It’ll come into play a little bit, their confidence maybe. But every year’s a new year, and obviously there’s a lot of different guys on the team so I think we’ve just got to go with a positive attitude and stick to the game plan. Really, the big thing about going into Calgary, they’re such a good team, is not letting them go on the three or four-goal runs runs that they can go on in a hurry. If we can contain those, we should be in good shape.

GP: The Rush defense is one of the strongest in the league, but the offense has struggled this year. Calgary’s defense is also very strong – do you plan on making any changes to the offensive strategies against the Roughnecks?
ST: It’s just trying to get better looks. Like you said, their defense is very good and their goaltending is playing very good right now too. To score in this league, you have to get quality looks, goalies aren’t going to let in bad goals very often. Our offense is doing whatever it takes to get a good shot away, not just throwing it at the net hoping it will go in and being happy with that. You gotta make it a quality shot.

GP: You are playing the Rock this weekend, but the game means nothing to your playoff position. Is it more difficult to get pumped up for a so-called “meaningless” game?
ST: I think we want to go out on a positive note for us. It means a lot to Toronto, I do believe that they could still finish first. We really don’t want to go into Calgary losing our last two games, so that’s one thing, and someone said that they’re one of the only teams we’ve played this year that we haven’t beaten, so hopefully we can deny them. Plus we could meet them down the road in the playoffs hopefully, and we’d rather not be going into Toronto if we ever do get that far.

 

GP: A few questions about your NLL career. When you retired after the 2011 season, did you have any plans of coming back to the NLL as a player?
ST: I never really announced my retirement. A lot of other people said it, but I never officially retired. The league sends you retirement papers when they hear things like that, and if you’re gonna retire you sign them, but I always felt that I had a little more to give, and we’ll see what happens.

GP: When did you first entertain the idea of returning to the floor?
ST: I actually thought about it from the start of the year that I was going to come back. Actually, Edmonton had approached me at the start but at that time I thought I was going back to Colorado so I actually told Edmonton no. Then Colorado made some trades for some D guys, and said they were going in a different direction, which is understandable. I know Derek Keenan very well and we kinda talked about it, and I said I think I can help out in a couple of different ways, and it kind of went from there.

GP: Shawn Williams is a friend of yours – was he involved in the decision?
ST: No, it wasn’t really Willy, it was more Derek Keenan.

GP: Is this season your swan song in the NLL, or could you see yourself coming back again in 2013?
ST: I’m not sure. At times I’ve felt like it would probably be my final season because I wanted to go out on my terms, and thanks to Edmonton I can go out on those terms. But it’s weird, you get that feeling where you want to go back for more, like when we played that game in Colorado [GP: Edmonton beat Colorado 14-11 last weekend; Toll scored 3 goals], it just felt good, seeing that I could still play the game. Obviously I’m not the player I used to be, but we’ve got 7 O guys and 11 D guys, so on most teams I like to think I’m the best 11th D guy you could have around, because I can do the penalty kill, and bring some leadership and all that too. We’ll have to see though, my kids are getting older, it would have to be a family decision.

GP: The game has changed over the course of your career. What rule changes have had the most impact in that time? What strategies did you use in the past that aren’t as effective anymore, and are there new strategies that you’re using now that you wouldn’t have ten years ago?
ST: I can’t think of any drastic rule changes. I think a big difference from my point of view is going from 15 to 18 guys dressed for a game. Back when we had 15 guys, we had role players, all the guys did something really well. Nowadays, if the league is 15 guys, I’m not playing right now, plain and simple. That’s one rule – if there’s 9 teams in the league and 15 guys on a team, I’m not playing. That’s one rule that’s helped my career!

One rule I do hate is the scoring from behind the net. That bothers me.

With the Mammoth, 2011

GP: How has your game changed as your career has progressed?
ST: I think I’ve just matured as a player, and realized what I can and can’t do, and the things I can still do I try to do exceptionally well. Obviously I’ve been known to do the penalty kill and can pick off passes and start the fast break, so I think I can still do that. Anyone who plays the game knows their role and obviously I can’t take off up the floor like I used to, taking five breakaway passes a game from Jim Veltman like I used to. I can still run the floor, maybe not as fast, but just try to help out any way possible.

GP: It’s been a couple of years since you wore a Rock jersey, I guess it would be seven or eight years now?
ST: Yeah, I got traded in the summer of 2004 or 2005. [GP: It was July of 2004.]

GP: You saw a lot of success with the Rock. Was there one moment or event that stood out as your favourite memory of your time with the Rock?
ST: I would have to say probably the win in Rochester. I remember the pre-game speech by Les Bartley saying how we’d never won in that building but the best line I’ve ever heard him say was “We’ve never won in this building, but we’ve never had to win in this building.” That line sticks out in my mind so much. We played there during the season, but we didn’t have to win during the season. We’ve been here a lot and we didn’t have to win but now we need to win. I think that would probably be one of my best memories of being there. Plus I got two short-handed goals in the first quarter. That helps a little.

GP: Who are some of the first- or second-year players in the NLL today that you think could be stars for many years to come?
ST: Well, I’m playing with one in Kyle Rubisch. I mean, he’s already a star, and in my mind he is the best defensive player in the league. That kid has it all. He’s like a younger version of Brodie Merrill. He definitely has all the tools, I mean he can do whatever you ask, he can score, he can do it all.

Offensively, hmmm. Well, he’s still young in some ways, but little Evy [GP: Shawn Evans] has been around forever too, but he’s not that old, you know what I mean? I liked what I saw of Johnny Powless who I watched in a few games. I like Keogh as well, and obviously the big Crowley kid in Philadelphia. They have a lot of potential. A lot of potential.

GP: Have you played much field lacrosse, or are you strictly an indoor guy?
ST: Nope, the only time I ever played field lacrosse was ’98, ’02, and ’06 for Team Canada. Those are my only field lacrosse memories. Too much running in field lacrosse.

GP: There was talk at one point that you were going to play in the NALL before their legal troubles began. Is that possibility still out there for next year?
ST: I’m not sure, I just read one article saying they’re coming back with a new name…
GP: The PLL – Professional Lacrosse League.
ST: Yeah. I’m still actually in touch with Jacksonville but Paul Stewart has a different role now, he’s actually gone to the league side of things. I’m not sure if I’ll be playing or maybe even coaching in the league. To me, it’s just guys wanting a place to play lacrosse, and that’s what I’m all about. That’s one of the reasons I joined CLax. Paul St. John and Jim Veltman invented a spot for 120 kids to play lacrosse. When I was that young, I’d have loved that opportunity too, so for me to give back is an easy decision, and it’s the same with this league. Yeah, most of them are going to be American, but I want the NLL to grow and grow, and these guys are going to be moving on to the NLL. Whatever helps the game, and as long as the family agrees, I’m in.

GP: A few questions about the Canadian Lacrosse League. How did you first get involved with CLax?
ST: It’s funny, they actually talked to Shawn Williams initially about coming on but obviously he was already playing so he mentioned it to me, and I met with Jim and Paul St. John and it kinda went from there. Obviously those guys did a tremendous amount of work and to me, yeah the league might have lost a little bit of money, but it was successful in a lot of ways. For the Championship game they had over a thousand people, and our last game in Oshawa we had over seven hundred people. It was an easy decision, I mean there were two teams here in Oshawa for guys that would just be sitting around partying all winter long, and now they’re playing lacrosse and staying in shape. It’s good for the game.

GP: How difficult was it to be so closely involved with lacrosse but not playing? Did you ever consider putting the equipment on and getting out there on the floor?
ST: It was actually, and I did actually! Paul and I had talked right around the time that Edmonton called, and I was even thinking about it. I’m not saying it might have helped or drew a few more people in, but I tell ya, that’s when I knew that I either had to come back there or go to the NLL because watching those games, I still had the itch. I saw the guys making mistakes, I wished I could be out there helping ’em. It definitely gave me the itch to get out there and play again.

Toll the executiveGP: Will you be back in the same position with the Turfdogs and Machine next year?
ST: Yeah, we just gotta get things finalized. It’s hard when one guy owns all six teams when he’d like to just worry about his two teams. It’s a process, and it’s an uphill battle for those boys, they’re willing to keep fighting and fighting. Find a guy with some deep pockets, maybe willing to lose a couple in the first couple of years and make it at the end, that’s what you gotta hope for. I hope it succeeds, and I hope the NLL jumps on board too. I don’t understand, it should be an automatic AHL-type affiliate. Automatic, in my opinion. Have a couple of NLL teams have a couple of affiliates and you can send guys there. Why have guys sitting in Denver to be on a practice roster practicing once a week and not playing a game. It makes no sense. Zero.

GP: That kinda what I assumed CLax was going to turn into. It hasn’t happened yet, though it’s only been a year, but it seemed to me to be the most obvious route to go.
ST: I agree with you 100%. But now it’s down to “You should be paying us” “Well, you should be paying us”. Why don’t we just talk about the situation, do what’s best for the guys, and worry about the money situation later. It could be an affiliate where you could move guys, send them down, call them back up. I think it’d be ideal for both leagues.

GP: The season is barely over, but do you know of any major changes planned for the next season, either in in your teams or with the league as a whole?
ST: No, from what I’ve heard from a lot of the General Managers, we all like the rules. Everyone seems to be a big fan of that front door rule, which I was a fan of too. That game was fast at times. It was funny because the very first game I went to, they pulled their goalie and they shot too early, then tried to get their goalie out the back door and it ended up being a penalty shot because you’ve got to go out the front door. They weren’t used to it yet, so he went out the wrong door. I was a big fan of that rule for sure.

GP: I was just about to ask about that rule. So do you think it did have the desired effect, forcing players to play at both ends rather than having your strict offensive guys and your strict defensive guys?
ST: Yeah, but the part I worry about is that the NLL is obviously not going to adopt that rule and you’re making those players do that. But if you have a two-way guy in CLax, and maybe he’s always been on offense but now he’s playing defense, well you know what? If he’s just working on offense the whole time he’d be getting better, but now he’s playing defense and when he goes to the NLL he’s still not going to be playing defense against Colin Doyle. So realistically, why not just go offense / defense? But there were some guys that you could get off the floor, but you had to make sure they were off the floor. It was hard, but it could be done, but just the one door definitely made it tough.

GP: OK, a few quick ones before I let you go. Toughest goalie to score on?
ST: Toughest goalie for me personally was Patty O’Toole. I liked shooting on smaller goalies. Like, even though Eliuk was real good, and Disher and all those guys. I just liked smaller goalies. I don’t know why. Probably because I didn’t shoot hard.

GP: Toughest forward to defend against?
ST: Definitely John Grant Jr. because he’s big, strong, and he could bulldoze ya, he could dodge ya, he could roll around ya, and if you came to double him, he’s throw a backhand reverse pass to the guy next to you anyway. I never got to cover those guys anyway. I’d always go on the floor, and they’d say “Toll, we all have matchups, you’ve got the fifth guy”. I never really had a guy anyways cause I was in the middle getting ready to cheat and weave anyway so I never really watched anybody.

GP: You were getting ready for the breakaway in the other direction.
ST: Yeah, I was already gone.

GP: Favourite arena to play in as a visitor?
ST: Definitely Denver. Well, you know what? I initially came right away with Denver but then I’m thinking of some of those Buffalo Bandits fans. But I’d have to say Denver was my favourite.

GP: I’ve never seen a game in Denver, but I’ve been to Buffalo a few times and they can be pretty darn loud in Buffalo.
ST: They can be really loud there, yeah. Both places are excellent. But I tell ya, there’s just something about Denver. You gotta go to Denver. It’s just the city there, everything. It’s one of the most beautiful places – if I had to pick a place to live, that’s where I would live. That’s the spot.

GP: Teammate you learned the most from as a young player?
ST: Playing in the NLL, definitely it would be Jim Veltman. He did so many things on the floor, off the floor, he was a pure team leader. It’s little things, like a little story: we lost a game in Philadelphia, I think it was in overtime, and then we flew back again at 10:30 in the morning. Obviously the boys were all sad that we lost, and still a little hung over, and all of a sudden the flight attendant comes out with like 30 beers and she goes “These are from the captain, get your heads up”. Just little things like that that no other guys would do. Just getting the boys back on track, like “Don’t worry about it, boys, it’s a loss. No big deal.”

GP: Well, that’s all the questions I have. Thanks a lot for doing this, Steve, I really appreciate it.
ST: Hey, no problem, anytime!

Defense wins championships – or does it?

Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.

I’ve heard that quote in relation to lacrosse, football, and basketball, and it’s probably been applied in other sports as well. I know that a lot of Toronto Rock fans from the early 2000’s believed it, but is it generally true? Let’s take a look at the NLL Champions from 1987 to 2011, covering 25 seasons. Don’t worry, this isn’t nearly the propeller-head stats-fest that my article on back-to-back games was.

I went through each Championship team and calculated their rank in the league that year in terms of both goals scored and goals against. Just so we’re clear, “first” in goals scored is the highest amount, while “first” in goals against is the lowest. That’s fairly basic and obvious stuff, but I wanted to spell it out to avoid any misunderstandings. I’m going to ignore the absolute value of goals for and against, mainly because a different number of games were played in different seasons. Using the rank rather than the value factors that out, as well as other differences like rule changes. I’ll look at goal scoring trends in the NLL in a future article.

The “rank” I’m using for a given team is “1 plus the number of teams that are ahead of the team in question”. So if two teams scored more goals than the team I’m looking at, they are ranked third. If another team scored the same number of goals, then the team I’m looking at was actually tied for third, but I’m ignoring that – tied or not, they still had the third-highest total.

Before we get to the general trends, here are the extremes. In the 25 years of the NLL, only once has the Championship winner been both #1 in goals scored and #1 in goals against – the 1994 Philadelphia Wings. At the other end of the spectrum, the 2003 Rock were ninth in goals scored (they scored 36 fewer goals than the #1 Bandits that year), but first in goals against. The 2007 Knighthawks were the exact opposite – first in goals scored (scoring 30 more goals than anyone else) but ninth in goals against.

If defense wins championships, then it stands to reason that most Championship teams would rank higher in goals against than they would in goals scored. But we don’t find that to be the case. Out of 25 seasons, 12 of the Champions (or 48%) ranked first in the league in goals scored, but only 8 (32%) ranked first in goals against. The average rank for goals scored is 2.6 while the average rank for goals against is 3.1. This means that on average, the Championship team is closer to the top of the league in goals scored than they are in goals against, i.e. most Championship teams are better offensively than they are defensively. Defense does not win championships.

But there was a period where it did. From 1998 to 2003, the Rock won four titles and the Wings won two. Only one of those teams – the 2001 Wings – was not first in the league in goals against, and only those same Wings were as high as third in goals scored. The Rock Championship teams in 1999-2000 and 2002-2003 were 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th respectively in goals scored. But before that period, the top defensive team had only won the Championship once, the 1994 Wings, and it’s only happened once since, the 2009 Roughnecks. On the other hand, from 1988 to 1996, every Champion except one (the 1990 Wings) was first in goals scored. It didn’t happen again until the 2005 Rock, but then it happened in five of the next seven years.

Here’s a graph of the ranks of the Championship teams in both goals scored (blue) and goals against (red). Notice how the blue line stays low until about 1997, then jumps up for a few years before dropping back down again. At the same time, the red line is higher during the 90’s, then drops down to the bottom while the blue line is high, then grows again when the blue one drops. That inversion was the Les Bartley era in Toronto.

GF-GA

Generally, the NLL Champions have been better offensively than defensively. But as we’ve seen, from about 1998 to 2003, that trend was reversed. Of those six seasons, the Toronto Rock under Les Bartley won four Championships – and lost a fifth to the Wings in a low-scoring defensive game. This is one reason Bartley was so well-respected – not only because he led the Bandits to the only undefeated season in NLL history, but because he bucked the trend and built a team that was a defensive powerhouse rather than offensive, and was exceptionally successful doing it.

This is not to say that you don’t need a good defense to win, of course you do. And it’s not to say that you can’t win with a great defense and adequate offense. It’s just happened far more often in the past the other way around.

Week 16 picks

Two weeks ago, I went undefeated. This past weekend, I was nothing but defeated. Another 0-fer weekend, though it is only my second, and the first was only one game. But still. It’s no longer possible for me to finish at or above .500 on the season; the best I can do is 4 games under, and that’s if I win out.

Record: 25-38 (.397)

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EDM @ COL I had a bad feeling picking the Rock over the Mammoth last week. It’s like the “Rock fan” part of my brain kept yelling “Go Rock Go! We can do it!” and some of the “unbiased blogger” part said “The Rock do have the talent to beat anyone, and Nick Rose played really well in his first 3 starts, sure they could do it!” But there was another part yelling from the other room “HELLO?! John Grant – does that name ring a bell? Levis? Prout? Jones? Allen? Ten wins?” Should have listened to that guy. This week he’s yelling even louder. Mammoth
TOR @ WAS Nobody knows what to make of Washington. I keep hearing (and I agree) that they have too much talent to be losing this often, but it’s no longer a couple of bad games in row. They’re 4-10 and still in dead last. And yes, one of those four wins was a convincing victory against the Rock. But the Rock were without Blaine Manning and Colin Doyle and had Matt Roik in net. They’re a different team now. Rock
ROC @ BUF I’ve given up on the Bandits this year. During their six-game losing streak, I decided they’d have to show me that they could play good lacrosse before I’d pick them again. Then they did, and so I picked them again. And then they sucked again and I went back to not picking them. And then they kicked Philadelphia’s butt and I picked them against the Rush. But then they lost again. I can’t figure these guys out at all. I’m done. Knighthawks
CAL @ EDM Sorry Rush, you’re in for a rough weekend. First the Mammoth on Friday and then the Roughnecks on Saturday. The two best teams in the league on back-to-back days. Part of me thinks that after getting beaten by the Mammoth on Friday night, the Rush will be even more motivated to beat the Roughnecks in Edmonton. But then there’s that guy in the other room yelling “HELLO?! Shattler? Dickson? Ranger? Eleven wins?” If Mike Poulin returns to the net, this game is Calgary’s to lose. If he’s still out, the Rush could pull off the upset, but again I have to play the odds. Roughnecks
PHI @ MIN The Swarm went through a four-game losing streak in the middle of the season, including losing to the lowly Bandits and getting blown away by the Stealth. But they’ve rebounded nicely and have won two in a row, one of which was over these same Philadelphia Wings. The Wings, on the other hand, have lost three in a row with a stinker against the Bandits two weeks ago. The fact that the Swarm have already clinched a playoff spot will boost their confidence, and having Ryan Benesch back will boost them even further. Swarm

Previous weeks:

Week 1 – 0-1
Week 2 – 2-2
Week 3 – 2-2
Week 4 – 2-4
Week 5 – 2-2
Week 6 – 1-3
Week 7 – 2-2
Week 8 – 1-3
Week 9 – 2-2
Week 10 – 2-4
Week 11 – 1-2
Week 12 – 1-5
Week 13 – 5-0
Week 14 – 2-2
Week 15 – 0-4

Separated at birth?

My family enjoys the show Once Upon A Time, and we look forward to watching it together every Sunday evening. But when I first saw the show, I decided that David/Prince “Charming” James (played by Josh Dallas) looked a lot like John Grant. Now I can’t unsee this.

Josh-Dallas1 JohnGrant2
Josh Dallas John Grant, Jr.

A number of years ago, I noticed another similarity:

tobey josh
Tobey Maguire Josh Sanderson

Game report: Toronto 12 @ Colorado 19

The Toronto Rock had some trouble getting to Colorado on Friday, after their flight to Denver was cancelled. After some scrambling, they managed to switch not only airlines but airports and made it on time. In retrospect, it might have been better if they hadn’t arrived at all. The Rock were smoked by the Mammoth 19-12 in a game the Rock were only really in for the first five minutes. Nick Rose did not have a great game at all, and Colorado was great in every aspect of the game. They were scoring, played great defense, had fantastic goaltending, and a loud crowd. Even the girls in the hot tub were great. Of course, they’d be great even if all they did was just sit there wearing bikinis with their feet in the hot tub. Which is all they did do. But they were great at it. I digress.

The game was broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network, with former MLL player Matt Damon Mikey “Don’t call me Mike” Powell doing the colour commentary and (I think) Jason Knapp doing play by play. Knapp was pretty good, though he made a few newbie mistakes, getting names wrong (“Jesse Campbell” instead of “Gamble”) and such. I’ve seen far worse watching the NLL on TV, believe me. But I thought Mikey Powell was very good. There were a few “um”s and “uh”s but for the most part, he sounded like a natural and obviously knows the game well enough. He’s been a big field lacrosse star for years but never played the indoor game, though his brothers (Ryan and former NLL MVP Casey) did. He did talk about the field and college experience of many of the players a lot more than was likely necessary, because that’s what he knows. Powell even explained why he never played the indoor game – he needs a lot of room to run around to play the way he does, and that’s just not possible in the indoor game because of the confined space. Makes sense, I guess. Still, you’d think with his level of skill, he’d be able to adapt pretty quickly and even if he couldn’t play exactly the same way as in field, he’d still be pretty good.

GrantDoyle

But back to the game itself. The Rock led off the scoring, with Stephan Leblanc scoring his first of four on the night only 22 seconds into the first quarter. Exactly four minutes later, it was 4-1 Mammoth. The Mammoth scoring their goals in bunches was a trend that would continue all night – they had streaks of 2, 3, 4, and 5 goals while the Rock scored two in a row only twice. There was only one case where the Rock scored two goals within two minutes, and in that case the Mammoth scored in between them. The Rock were desperately trying to get on a four- or five-goal run of their own, but Chris Levis was stellar in the Mammoth net and shut down any attempts at momentum. By the end of the game, it was obvious that the Rock were becoming desperate – a couple of times while shorthanded, they’d come rushing down on a possession change and try for a quick transition goal. Um guys? You’re killing a penalty, remember? Unless you have a breakaway or damned good transition chance, you want to take full advantage of your shot clock to kill time. Instead, the time they killed was the time it took to run down the floor and back. Some of the defensive players didn’t even have time to get off the floor.

So Nick Rose. What can I say about him? His first three games were great, though I wouldn’t say he was really tested much. In the Buffalo game he made some big saves, gave up some big rebounds and then made the second save as well, though I might have preferred that he not give up the big rebound in the first place. In Saturday’s game, there were few rebounds because most of the shots went in the first time. He couldn’t make the second big save because he didn’t make the first one. I do remember one great save with a big rebound, which someone (Lincoln?) easily grabbed and converted. He just didn’t seem to be seeing the ball very well at all. Rose was pulled in the first for Pat Campbell, who always makes me nervous when he plays. Not because I have no confidence in him, because I do, but because he makes seemingly routine saves look less routine. He seems to flop around and sweep his hand behind him and fall on the ball and such more often than many other goalies. But hey, if it gets the job done, go nuts. Rose was brought back in in the second and finished the game. He was actually starting to look pretty good in the third and fourth, and only allowed two goals in the fourth quarter. But it was a little late by that point.

It’s gotta be tough being Kasey Beirnes. First, you get pounded on a lot because you get into the corners digging for loose balls and setting picks for your teammates who score the big goals. Second, you’d likely be a top 3 or 4 scorer on half the teams in the league, but you end up behind the likes of Leblanc, Billings, Doyle, Sanderson, and Manning. Hey Kasey, just so’s ya know, you are appreciated.

There was an interesting play by Chris Levis – a Rock player ran around behind the net, and Levis left the crease to slam him into the boards. Levis’ helmet managed to get knocked off and luckily, he’s smart enough not to get back in front of the net without a helmet. This led to an easy Rock goal. The rule book says that:

When a player loses his helmet, the player must immediately either re-assemble his helmet while in the game or leave the floor. 

Levis did neither. He just stood behind the net, seemingly unsure what to do. I imagine he would have been given a penalty if he picked up the ball.

Other game notes:

  • At one point, Mac Allen was chirping at Colin Doyle, and Doyle cross-checked him across the chest a number of times. Allen never backed away and never stopped yelling at Doyle, who hit him a few more times. Eventually the two separated, but this was a smart play by Allen. Didn’t throw a punch or swing a stick, so there was no chance of his getting a penalty, but he almost forced Doyle to take one.
  • Gavin Prout ranks just above the Evans brothers for me. Great player, lots of skill, wouldn’t mind having him on our team (I guess), but he’s a bit of a prick. He scored a goal in the first to tie up the game, and then did this idiotic swagger behind the net. There are situations where I can see a player doing that – if he’s been frustrated all night and then scores a meaningful late goal perhaps, or if his team comes back from a huge deficit and has been listening to trash talk all game, but this was less than a minute into the first quarter.
  • When the Rock changed goalies, there were what sounded like chicken sounds being played over the PA. I’m all for fun jabs at the other team over the PA, but that seemed, I don’t know, less than classy somehow. Playing Yakety Sax while the Rock were on offense was pretty funny though. 
  • Colin Doyle tied Gary Gait on the all-time points list with 1165. Only 450 to go to catch John Tavares! Except JT is still playing. And has more points than Doyle this year.
  • What was with all the face-offs away from centre? Did the refs lose track of the ball that many times?

Other broadcast notes:

  • Mikey Powell did a little on-field demonstration of playing near the net – with a long cable trailing behind him. Surely CBS could have splurged for a wireless microphone.
  • “Prout, in his second year in a Mammoth uniform”. Yeah, in this go-round. You missed the six seasons he spent previously with the Mammoth.
  • They need to get rid of the little mini-interviews with players during play. Nobody is going to watch the interview rather than the game (listening to it would have been fine) so the little video window is not only useless but distracting and covered up part of the play. Also in most cases the player was out of breath anyway, and in at least one case (Sean Pollock in the first) it looked like the player would rather have been watching the play than just giving the standard “yeah, I scored a goal but we’re still looking for the W, that’s the main thing” answer.
  • Nick Rose was described as “he’s a stopper. He stops the ball.” As opposed to what? Maybe “stopper” is one form of goalie, while there are other forms, like a “power pitcher” vs. a “finesse pitcher” in baseball, but I’ve never heard this term.

Week 15 Picks

I had it. I freaking had it. I originally picked Minnesota to beat the Wings last week, and then realized that Ryan Benesch was still hurt, and I changed my pick. I was all ready for a last minute “Benesch is in the lineup after all!” win by Minnesota, and what happened? The Swarm still won without Benny. I guess the Swarm found my lack of faith disturbing. I have paid the price for my lack of vision.

Of course, what are the odds that someone took a screen shot of my picks from last week and timestamped it, showing the way the page was at game time? I could easily change and re-publish the article, then claim that I changed it back before the games. But I won’t do that. Damn you, integrity, damn you all to hell. You’re always getting in the way.

All four games this week are brutal. There isn’t a single game this week that’s even close to an easy pick. I thought Calgary over Rochester was a relatively easy one last week, but Rochester made it close which makes their rematch this week in Rochester tougher to pick. Toronto and Colorado are both near the top of their divisions, while the games in Edmonton and Minnesota involve four teams fighting for a playoff spot.

Record: 25-34 (.424)

Game

Comments

Pick

TOR @ COL This will be a tough game for both teams, no question. With Grant on one side and Billings on the other, don’t expect a 8-7 final. This will be the first real test for Nick Rose as a starter. But the Rock are healthy, firing on all cylinders, and have tons of confidence. When they play like that, the defending champs can beat anybody. Rock
BUF @ EDM I have no idea what to do about Bandits games. They either play really well or really badly, but Cosmo’s performance last weekend (and that of the whole team) has to give them some confidence. They held Philly to only 7 goals, and Philly has a better offense than Edmonton. Edmonton has a better defense than the Wings, but Buffalo shouldn’t need 17 goals to win. Bandits
WAS @ MIN I waffled on this one the most. In their last 6 games or so, the Stealth have been playing a lot more like I expected them to at the beginning of the year. They kicked the Swarm all over the place a couple of weeks ago, and lost a close one to the Roughnecks the week after. I’ve only picked Minnesota in 3 games this year, but they have yet to win when I pick them. Sorry Swarm. Stealth
CAL @ ROC As I said, a much harder pick this week based on last week’s game between these two, but I still think Calgary’s #1 in the league so I gotta go with them. Roughnecks

Previous weeks:

Week 1 – 0-1
Week 2 – 2-2
Week 3 – 2-2
Week 4 – 2-4
Week 5 – 2-2
Week 6 – 1-3
Week 7 – 2-2
Week 8 – 1-3
Week 9 – 2-2
Week 10 – 2-4
Week 11 – 1-2
Week 12 – 1-5
Week 13 – 5-0
Week 14 – 2-2