NLL mid-season report: East division

Each team has played roughly half their games, so it’s time for mid-season report cards. Just like last year, I’ve assigned letter grades to each team’s offense and defense (which includes goaltending). The letter grades are purely subjective based partially on the stats but partially on my own impressions of the team. The letters compare roughly thus:

A 2012 Knighthawks (Champions)
B 2012  Roughnecks (Excellent regular season, faded in the playoffs)
C 2012 Wings (Just made the playoffs)
D 2012 Stealth (did not make the playoffs)
F SyracuseSmash

We’ll start with the NLL East and get to the West in a couple of days. All of the stats were as of the end of week 9.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

Offense: C-

6th in goals scored per game. The top scorer (Shawn Williams) is 11th overall. The next-highest scorer (Aaron Wilson) is 34th. If you look at points per game (to factor out the number of games played), Williams is 12th and Tavares is 29th. Tavares missed three games which did not help though he’s back now.

Defense: C+

6th in goals allowed per game. They’ve given up 12 or more goals in seven of their nine games. When Cosmo is on, he’s still one of the best in the league, and he was certainly on in their 10-6 win against the Knighthawks. He just has to be on a little more often.

Overall: B-

How is their overall rating better than either of their offensive or defensive ratings? Well, they’ve managed to turn a below-average offense and a below-average defense into a 5-4 record.
 

WingsPhiladelphia Wings

Offense: F

Dead last in goals per game, averaging less than 11. They have one player in the top 20 in scoring, Crowley at #15. Only 7 players have 10 or more points after 8 games. The Kevins are doing fine, Drew Westervelt is fine, and Jordan Hall isn’t quite up to his New York Titans numbers, but is on pace to blow away his Rochester numbers. Paul Rabil has been disappointing from a scoring standpoint, especially since he’s been on offense more than transition. Brodie Merrill is about where he was last year, and nobody else is scoring at all. They’ll be happy to get Brendan Mundorf back.

Defense: B-

5th in goals allowed per game. Brandon Miller had three pretty crappy games where he allowed 14, 16, and 20 goals, but has been good or really good in the five wins.

Overall: B-

The Wings have impressed me more than I thought they would this year. I predicted them to be the one team out of the playoffs, but it’s looking less and less like that’s the case. They’re still not a Championship team in my opinion, but they’re closer than I expected.
 

KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

Offense: D-

Tied for seventh in goals per game. How bad is the Knighthawks offense? Dan Dawson is on pace for his worst season since 2003, about 15 points worse than any season since 2004 – and he’s second on the team. (That’s not really a fair statement though, since a crappy Dan Dawson season is still better than most.) Jamieson is top 10 in both points and points per game, so no problem there. Dawson is tied for 18th in points per game. Casey Powell is in 35th and has missed two games. Johnny Powless is on pace for 35 points, after scoring 50 last year. Stephen Keogh is on pace for 38, after 59 last year. The only reason this isn’t an F is because they put up 35 goals in two games (in two days) in early February, so they can score. They’re just not.

Defense: A

The defense has been as good as the offense has been bad. The Knighthawks are first in goals allowed per game, allowing a measly 10.2. They’ve given up more than 10 goals once in their last six games, and yet they’ve lost two of them. The Knighthawks may have 99 problems, but Matt Vinc ain’t one.

Overall: D

If they’re trying to channel the 2012 Stealth (first to last in one year), they’re doing a good job. But there are better teams to emulate – like the 2012 Knighthawks. It’s looking like adding Powell and Dawson did have an effect on team chemistry. Strangely, the person I expected it to affect most, Cody Jamieson, seems unaffected and is on pace for 80 points.

RockToronto Rock

Offense: B+

Third in goals scored per game, and they have scored less than 10 goals only once. Two of the top six scorers are Rock players. Colin Doyle is on pace for 84 points which would be his highest point total in three years. Billings is on pace for 105 points. Blaine Manning’s numbers are way down (he’s on pace for less than half of his worst non-injury season), but his role has changed. He’s not one of the top scorers anymore, he’s one of the guys that “bangs bodies” and makes space for Doyle and Billings and Josh. He even played one game coming out the back door.

Defense: A

Second in goals allowed per game. Have only allowed as many as 13 goals twice, and one of those was in OT. Nick Rose is third among starters in both GAA and save %. Jesse Gamble has become one of the best transition players in the league. Young goalie, young transition, veteran D – seems to be a good combination.

Overall: A-

Most consistent team so far this year. Great goaltending and defense, the best transition game the Rock have seen for years, and plenty of offense, though by only a few players. A little more scoring from Evans and Manning and maybe a couple more decisive wins (7 of their 9 games have been decided by 1 or 2 goals) and this would be an A+.

The NLL Pronunciation Guide v2.0

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article on the NLL Blog listing a bunch of NLL players with difficult-to-pronounce names and how to say them correctly. Apparently it is not yet required reading for NLL play-by-play guys, since I still frequently hear names being mispronounced. But there are a number of new players in the league now, so it’s time for an update. Some of these have been confirmed by the players themselves via twitter – thanks to Frankie Scigliano, Jaeden Gastaldo, Kurtis Wagar, and Neil Tyacke for responding and confirming how to say their names properly.

I’ve grouped them by team and alphabetically.

Buffalo

Chad Culp – CHAD CULP
John Harasym – HAIR-a-sim.
Mat Giles – JYLES
Alex Kedoh Hill – KEE-dough
Tracey Kelusky – kuh-LUH-skee. Not kuh-LOO-skee.
Steve Priolo – pree-O-lo
Jimmy Purves – PURR-vis
John Tavares – If you can’t say his last name, you are obviously not a lacrosse fan. Why are you reading this article? But for completeness, it’s tuh-VAR-ez.
Jay Thorimbert – I would have expected THOR-im-bear but I believe it’s THOR-im-bert.
Dhane Smith – DANE
Mark Steenhuis – STAIN-house
Kurtis Wagar – WAY-ger. Attention Buffalo announcers: not WAG-ner.

Philadelphia

Kevin Buchanan – byu-CAN-in
CJ Costabile – COST-a-bull
Pat Heim – HIGHm
Paul Rabil – RAY-bull
Brian Tueber – TOOB-er
Drew Westervelt – WEST-er-velt
Chad Wiedmaier – Could not get confirmation. I’d have said WEED-myer but the NLL Pronunciation Guide* says it’s weed-MAY-er.

* – Yes, the NLL Pronunciation Guide is a real thing, though there are a few mistakes in it. No idea if this is one of them.

Rochester

Mike Accursi – uh-CUR-see
Stephen Keogh – KEY-o
Ian Llord – la-LORD. No, I’m not serious. It’s just LORD.
Matt Vinc – Like VINCE, not VINK
Cory Vitarelli – VIT-a-RELL-ee

Toronto

Kasey Beirnes – BEERns
Stephan Leblanc – STEFF-in la-BLONK
Brendan Thenhaus – I had TEN-house originally but I believe it’s TAIN-house. Like Steenhuis without the first ‘S’.

Calgary

Dane Dobbie – DOUGH-bee. Not like Dobby.
Joe Resatarits – res-a-TARE-its
Frankie Scigliano – SHIL-ee-ANN-o
Geoff Snider – SNY-der. Not SHNY-der.
Kaleb Toth – KAY-leb TOE-th. My biggest pet peeve – he played 11 seasons in Calgary and I still hear people (even Calgary announcers!) talk about Kaleb TAW-th.

Colorado

Joey Cupido – cuh-PEE-dough
Ilija Gajic – ILL-ee-ya GUY-ch
John Gallant – gull-ANT
Jaeden Gastaldo – JAY-den guh-STALL-dough
Chet Koneczny – kon-EZ-nee
Eric Martin – Just like it looks, presumably. I asked a Colorado fan and he just lowered his head and whispered “We do not speak his name.”
Sean Pollock – SHAWN POLL-ick
Creighton Reid – CRAY-ton REED

Edmonton

Chris Corbeil – cor-BEEL
Brett Mydske – MID-skee

Minnesota

Mitch Belisle – buh-LYLE
Ryan Benesch – buh-NESH
Nic Bilic – Nick BIL-ich. Oddly, Jake Elliott (Swarm play-by-play guy) acknowledges that he knows this but says it “BIL-ik” anyway.
Callum Crawford – CAL-um. Attention Edmonton announcers: not CAY-lum
Alex Crepinsek – CREP-in-sek
Kiel Matisz – Just like it looks. (Sigh) OK, fine. It’s KYLE muh-TEEZ
Corbyn Tao – COR-bin TOW (last name rhymes with COW). Attention Washington announcer: not TAY-o.

Washington

Rhys Duch – REES DUTCH
Billy Hostrawser – HOS-trouser
Athan Iannucci – EYE-uh-NOOCH-ee
Justin Pychel – PITCH-el
Bob Snider – SNY-der. Remarkably similar to that of Geoff Snider.
Neil Tyacke – TY-ack. Rhymes with kayak.

Non-players

Steve Bermel – BURR-mull. Rhymes with “thermal”. Bandits writer for IL Indoor.
Jamie Dawick – DOW-ick. (DOW rhymes with COW like Corbyn Tao. Sounds like that sentence should be in a rap song somewhere) Owner of the Rock.
Marisa Ingemi – muh-RISS-uh in-JEM-ee. Runs the show over at InLacrosseWeTrust.com.
Darris Kilgour – DARRIS KILL-gore. Not DAR-ee-us. Buffalo head coach.
Johnny Mouradian – moor-RAD-ee-an. Philadelphia GM & head coach.
Graeme Perrow – GRAY-um PEAR-o. The most knowledgeable lacrosse mind of our generation whose first name is Graeme. Or at least in the top ten of Graeme’s.
Grant Spies – SPEEZ. NLL ref.
Tim Then – THEN. I dunno, some guy that tweeted me.

Game report: Buffalo 15 @ Toronto 13

I don’t know who the Rock played in Thursday night’s game, but it certainly wasn’t the Buffalo Bandits that I, as a Rock fan, know and love. You know, the undisciplined team that takes stupid penalties at key times, sometimes giving away leads and games? Yeah, those Bandits were nowhere to be seen. The ones that showed up didn’t play perfectly all night, but they played well enough to beat the top team in the league and that’s really all that counts.

I wouldn’t say the first half was “all Buffalo” but the Bandits were doing a really good job with their passing, while the Rock were a little messy with theirs. In the second quarter, the Bandits took two penalties within 11 seconds, giving the Rock a 5-on-3 for almost two full minutes. A 5-on-3 in lacrosse is almost a guaranteed goal (or more accurately, should be a guaranteed goal), but the Bandits D came up huge. The Rock couldn’t get many decent shots away and Cosmo handled the ones that managed to get through. The Bandits took a 6-5 lead into the half.

The Rock came out of halftime pretty flat, not looking like they were really in the game at all. But after one early Bandits goal, they really turned it on and went on a 5-goal run to take a 3-goal lead and seemed in control. Up by three, only fifteen minutes left – this one’s over, right? Surprisingly enough, no. The Bandits came back with 5 of their own in a little over 6 minutes to take back their two-goal lead. They traded goals after that but the the Rock just couldn’t get that one extra to tie it.

Scott Evans was a healthy scratch. Right, because we don’t need gritty tough guys when playing the Bandits. But maybe they sat him because he’s gritty and tough and therefore more likely to get involved in the physical stuff. Maybe they figured “that’s the way Buffalo plays but we want to play our game”. Turned out that’s not the way Buffalo played anyway. At one point late in the fourth (after Buffalo had their 2-goal lead back), there was some pushing and shoving after a play and I thought “Oh good! The Bandits are going to do their normal thing and lose their minds and start taking dumb penalties. Man I wish Scott Evans was out there!” But to their credit, the Bandits kept it together and continued playing disciplined, smart lacrosse.

Goaltending wasn’t really part of the story here. I didn’t think Cosmo was outstanding but was very good in the first half, particularly during that 5-on-3. Nick Rose wasn’t terrible but it certainly wasn’t one of his better games and there were a few softies which we don’t see him allow often. I think I said this last year, but if there’s one thing that I don’t like about Rose’s game it’s that he gives up too many rebounds. Far too many times during this game he’d make a great save only to give up a huge rebound and have the Bandits recover the ball for either a second shot or a fresh 30. Here’s some goaltending advice for ya Rosey: stop doing that.

Jay Thorimbert was great on the faceoffs, winning a Snider-esque 80.6%, and even scored twice on breakaways. Speaking of breakaways, the Rock had a few, actually more than a few, but I don’t think they scored on any of them.

Long story short, the Bandits played very well while the Rock played OK, except in the third when it was reversed. I don’t buy into this “they wanted it more” crap, but the Bandits just played better and deserved the win.

Other game notes:

  • My friend Mike noticed that there were no moving pick calls the entire game. My other friend Steve said that this was likely because they were all moving, so if you call one, you have to call them all. Otherwise, the officiating would be inconsistent, and we can’t have that, can we?
  • Jimmy Purves: dude, what’s with the thigh-high socks? Looked like he was wearing leggings.
  • I don’t know if the decision to have a Thursday night game was intentional or whether that’s the only date that was left, but I think it’s safe to call that experiment a failure. The announced attendance was 8213, the lowest in Rock history.
  • Fearless Fred from Edge 102 was one of the in-game hosts. I’ve never heard him on the radio, but he was less animated than I expected an afternoon radio guy to be. He didn’t add much to the experience.
  • Dear Rock music guy: “Brick House” is the song they play in Buffalo for Mark Steenhuis. We should probably not play it in Toronto when playing the Bandits.
  • Overheard: “There’s a lot of money in pro lacrosse. A LOT of money.” Boy, would I like to have heard more of that conversation, mainly to find out where the hell it is.