Only one team can win the Championship and given both the parity in the NLL this year and the one-and-done playoff format, it’s possible for anyone who makes the playoffs to win it all. So far, nobody has been eliminated from the playoff race, and it’s looking more and more like that outcome won’t be decided until the final weekend. Every team has their strengths and weaknesses, and opposing teams will be focussing on how they can exploit those weaknesses. What will it take for each team to reach the pinnacle of the NLL, and what will it take to shut each team down?
The Roughnecks have to make sure their offense isn’t neutralized by a tough defense. Because all you have to do to be successful against the ‘Necks is shut down Shattler and Ranger and Dickson and Veltman and Evans and Dobbie and Conway and Toth and Snider and Cornwall. Once you’ve done that, all you have to do is score a bunch of goals on the best defense in the league and you’re golden.
Obviously, this year’s MVP favourite John Grant needs to be the focus for opposing teams. The Mammoth have proven that they can win without him but in the playoffs, his presence is vital. This is, of course, assuming that he’s not out rescuing kittens from trees, reducing crime in the greater Denver area, performing delicate life-saving surgery, or leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
If you’re defending against the Rush in the playoffs, get near the Rush player with the ball. Then remind him that he plays for a team based in the “City of Champions” and as such, he has a high standard to uphold. His uncontrollable laughter should allow you to strip the ball from him for a quick transition chance.
Many people picked the Swarm to miss the playoffs because of all the unproven rookies on the team, but those rookies have played better than anyone expected. Now they have to see if they can handle the pressures of the NLL playoffs. But first they have to get their social studies homework finished and get some work done on those science fair projects. Good thing the games don’t happen on school nights.
Whispering “Bruce Urban” when standing close to Athan Iannucci should get him rattled and reduce his effectiveness. Also, if the game goes to overtime, pretty much your only chance is to go all Tonya Harding on Rhys Duch.
John Tavares is 43, and so this may be his last season in the NLL. I’m sure his teammates would love to see him go out the way Bob Watson did, winning a Championship in his last game, so they’ll be playing extra hard for JT. Of course, many people have wondered “Is this Tavares’ last season?” for about five years now, and the way he played this year, the pressure to win now “for JT” is reduced. They might consider “win now for Darris”. Actually, they might want to think about “Win now for everyone but JT” because if they don’t win this year, he may be the only current Bandit left on the roster next season.
Shutting down the strong right side of the Wings’ offense is the key to beating the Wings, so you need to send your biggest, strongest defenders out against them. When they’re facing the likes of Crowley, Dawson, and Westervelt, have your defenders just pound on their kneecaps until they fall down, then tie them to the ground with ropes.
The Knighthawks have five players listed at 175 pounds or less. Kedoh Hill is listed at just 150. Mounting a strong fan behind your goalie should keep them from getting in too close, but NLL regulations may prevent that. Just get out there and use your body against them, they should be easy to push around. Unless you get too close to Sid Smith or Craig Point or, God forbid, Tim O’Brien. Note: if using this strategy, stay the hell away from Jake Henhawk.
I know I’m a Rock fan, but I’m going to be completely objective here. The key to shutting the Rock down is Stephen Leblanc. He was the 2010 Rookie of the Year and also had a great 2011 campaign, and if John Grant wasn’t having such a great season, who knows how many MVP votes Leblanc might have gotten this year. He’s the real backbone of the Rock offense, and all opposing defenders should really focus on him and ignore everyone else. Especially Doyle. And Billings – totally leave him