Week 6 picks

A quiet week in the NLL last week, with only 3 games. I went 2-1 thanks to the Rush coming back against the Stealth and the Bandits holding on against the Knighthawks. And if John Grant had been an inch or two off in his no-look behind-the-back shot in OT, I might have gone 3-0.

Just like I say every week, some tough games to pick this week. Parity’s a bitch, ain’t it?

Record: 13-8 (.619)

Game
Comments
Pick
VAN @ TOR Not sure about this one. The Stealth have played well but not really well, seeing as they’re 2-3. The Rock have played well but not really well, other than their first game against Calgary. Going with the return of Billy Greer to help the home fans give the Rock a boost. Rock
TOR @ BUF What a difference a coach makes. Oh, and Ryan Benesch and Rory Smith too. Last year I only picked the Bandits to win 4 times all season. This is the fifth time this year I’ve picked the Bandits to win. Cosmo is playing really well, the offense is clicking, and I think every game for the rest of the season will be played for Tucker Williams. The Bandits have always been a tough team to beat, not only on the scoresheet but physically too – and now you can add emotionally to that list. #BraverThanBrave Bandits43_thumb
VAN @ PHI Philly has impressed me this year. They’re playing a lot better than I expected, especially without Rabil and Crotty and Seibald and Miller. But the Stealth didn’t fly all the way to Philadelphia to lose and if they lose to Toronto on Friday night, they’ll be even hungrier. Richards steals this one for the Stealth. Stealth
MIN @ COL Two struggling teams face off. The Mammoth has played seven games, and in only two of them have they not switched goalies. Both times it’s been Dillon Ward, so I’m gonna guess that he gets the start. The return of Drew Westervelt and the season debut of Casey Powell will help the offense in a big way. The fact that the Swarm are averaging less than 7½ goals per game makes this pick a little easier too. Mammoth
ROC @ EDM The undefeated Rush battle the almost-undefeated Knighthawks. This will be a battle of the two best defenses in the league and two of the top goalies. Not surprisingly, these two teams are tops in goals against per game – Rochester at 8.5 and Edmonton at 8.0. They’re the only teams under 10. I’m taking the Rush and if the over/under on total goals scored was 17, I’d be tempted to take the under. Rush43_thumb
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Week 5 picks

I went 4-3 last week, getting the Philly/Minnesota back-to-back backwards, and going with Vancouver over Calgary. Props to my Addicted to Lacrosse co-host Tyler for going 6-1. He also got the VAN/CAL game wrong, but after the show he found out that Kyle Sorensen wouldn’t play in Calgary and tweeted that Vancouver wouldn’t win in Calgary without him. This turned out to be correct, so we’ll give him 6.5 out of 7.

Only three games this week, but still some tough ones.

Record: 11-7 (.611)

Game
Comments
Pick
ROC @ BUF The Bandits are playing with a ton of confidence right now. The offense is clicking (even without John Tavares last weekend), and the defense is playing well in front of a revitalized Anthony Cosmo. I’ve said before that it’s hard for me to bet against Matt Vinc, but I guess it’s not impossible. Bandits
COL @ CAL Colorado beat the Stealth in week 2, but haven’t played well since. It’s hard to convince myself at this point that they can beat the Roughnecks. Drew Westervelt will miss this game because of a US field lacrosse team tryout or practice or something, so that won’t help the Mammoth at all. Roughnecks
EDM @ VAN With these two goalies and defenses, this could be the lowest scoring game of the year. Edmonton is unlikely to go 18-0, and Vancouver definitely has the talent to beat them, but not this time. Looking forward to the Rush/Knighthawks game next weekend. Rush

Week 4 picks

Holy crap. I went 5-1 last week, my best weekend for making picks EVER except for my 5-0 week back in March of 2012. Of course, the only one I got wrong was the one I most wanted to be right – the Toronto/Buffalo game.  A whopping seven games this weekend, so I have lots of opportunity to make a huge jump in the percentages, and lots of opportunity to drop back under .500.

Once again, I gave my picks on this week’s Addicted to Lacrosse show.

Record: 7-4 (.636)

Game
Comments
Pick
CAL @ EDM Edmonton looked really good last weekend, and they’re at home again. Rush4
COL @ VAN Iannucci playing against his old team makes this an interesting game, but I still have to go with the Stealth. I’m starting to feel the same about betting against Tyler Richards as I am about Matt Vinc. Stealth4
MIN @ PHI Philly lost their game against Buffalo last week but they have to feel confident about their 2nd half comeback. Minnesota has yet to prove that they can score without Ryan Benesch. Wings
TOR @ ROC I hate to pick against my team, but like I said, I also find it hard to pick against Matt Vinc. Knighthawks5
VAN @ CAL I have no explanation for this pick. This will be really good game and I can see either one taking it. Stealth4
BUF @ COL Buffalo looked really good in the second half of their game against the Rock. That plus their OT win in Philly will give them confidence. Bandits4
PHI @ MIN Minnesota’s home opener, and they’re playing against their former teammate, who they also saw the previous night. Swarm

Game report: Toronto 10 @ Buffalo 12

As an NLL fan, I’m glad I drove to Buffalo Friday night for the Rock/Bandits game. It was an entertaining game, and the atmosphere in Buffalo is always fun and loud. But as a Rock fan, I should have left at halftime. Each team played a very good half and a lousy half. The Rock’s lousy half wasn’t as bad as the Bandits’ lousy half, but their good half wasn’t nearly as good as the Bandits’ good half.

I predicted a Rock victory, as did both of my Addicted to Lacrosse co-hosts, 6 of my 8 colleagues at ILIndoor.com, four out of four guys over at laxallstars.com, and ten out of ten at inlacrossewetrust.com. I kind of doubt the Bandits players knew about all of those predictions, but if they did, they wouldn’t have been happy about it. And after the first half, things were going according to plan. The Rock offense was looking good, Nick Rose was playing very well in net, and the Bandits’ offense was kind of sloppy. Toronto’s fourth goal was a beautiful and perfectly executed give-and-go from Stephen Leblanc to Colin Doyle. The Bandits didn’t score in the first at all and only twice in the second, and both of their goals were followed by Rock goals, dampening any momentum they were trying to gain.

6 on 5

And then came halftime, and everything changed. I don’t know what Troy Cordingley said to his team at halftime, but holy crap. Either he gave a compelling speech for the ages and John Lovell did not, or the two teams just swapped uniforms at the half.

The Bandits came out very strong in the third. They didn’t score until 11 minutes in, but then scored four within three minutes. They kept the Rock scoreless for the entire third. Cosmo played like the Cosmo the Bandits thought they were getting a couple of years ago, and the defense was strong. I particularly remember watching Kevin Brownell covering Colin Doyle and making sure he got nowhere near the net and couldn’t even get a decent pass away. In short, the Bandits played an excellent third quarter – possibly the most complete quarter of lacrosse (in terms of offense, defense, and goaltending) I’ve seen so far this year.

The Rock, on the other hand, didn’t have a great third quarter at all. There were a couple of boneheaded defensive plays and the offense couldn’t solve the Bandits D. A number of Rock passes were intercepted, and even Nick Rose got in on the boneheaded action. After a save, he immediately launched a long pass to Jesse Gamble halfway up the floor. This is usually a good idea, but Gamble was covered and was barely able to catch the pass. Kudos to him for catching it at all, but it was a bit of a dumb pass. A second after he caught it, Gamble got leveled by Billy Dee Smith in the hit of the game and the Bandits recovered the ball.

I have to give props to Steve Priolo. The first time I remember seeing Priolo was in Toronto in 2011, when he got involved in a couple of fights and just played like a complete goon. My first impression stuck with me for a while, so I’ve always thought of him as a big dumb fighter with a lacrosse stick. But even if you don’t count his two goals (on two shots) on Friday, he played a very strong defensive game. It makes me happy when you see players who start off as one-dimensional and gradually expand their skill set until they are much more complete players. Priolo looks like he’s headed that way, and his teammates Billy Dee Smith (who also had a strong game) and Rory Smith are also good examples of this.

In a nutshell, I think coaching was a factor in this game. The Bandits changed their game at halftime and played much stronger in the second half. But not only did the Rock play worse in the second half, they didn’t adjust to the Bandits changes, leading to a 10-4 second half in favour of Buffalo.

Other game notes:

  • Mark Steenhuis’ empty net goal was on a 2-on-1 with brother Billy Dee. BDS carried the ball the length of the floor before passing to Steenhuis who put it away. Smith was being covered by the Rock defender and probably could have scored himself but passed it for the sure thing. Very unselfish play by Smith.
  • Bandits fans: only 11,000 for a game against the Rock? Wow. I was expecting closer to a full house. Haven’t seen this many empty seats at a Bandits game in a long time. (See picture below, taken near the end of the first quarter.) In fact, that was the lowest attendance for a regular season game in Buffalo since 2006. Note that the Bandits went to the Championship in 2006. Probably unrelated.
  • Swennie: “Count it down for me! 1…” Crowd: “2… 3… we want 4!” That’s actually counting up, not down. My son made me add this one.
  • With a minute or so left in the game and the Bandits up by two, the music guy decided to play “We Will Rock You” ironically. Well played.
  • Talking to my son: “Former Rock players on the Bandits: Williams, Benesch, Wilson, Rooney, Bryan, Suddons, Cosmo. They’ve even got our coach from last year.” My son responds “I guess that’s why they’re called the Bandits.” Also well played.

Empty seats

Week 3 picks

The first of two busy weekend in the NLL – six games this weekend, seven next weekend. I announced all my picks on this week’s Addicted to Lacrosse show but in the unlikely event that you didn’t watch the show (you did, right? RIGHT?), here they are. This will be true going forward – we plan on making predictions on the show every week, and I’ll be posting mine here as well.

Record: 2-3 (.400)

Game
Comments
Pick
TOR @ BUF The Rock looked really good last weekend while Buffalo didn’t. The Rock are 14-6 all-time in Buffalo. That said, Troy Cordingley would love to prove to the Rock that firing him was a mistake, and so he’ll have his team ready to play. I’m going to this game – should be a good one. Rock5
COL @ CAL Calgary did not play like Calgary last week and so they will want to prove to their home fans that they are still a team to be reckoned with. Colorado will attempt to reckon with them. If Dillon Ward starts and plays like he’s done so far this year, this prediction could easily go south. (Get it? Colorado is south of Calgary) Roughnecks
PHI @ ROC Philly looked really good last weekend, but I find it hard to bet against Matt Vinc. Knighthawks
COL @ EDM Toughest game to call this week. Edmonton was 2-6 at home last year and 7-1 away, but I’m betting they can improve on that this year. Rush
MIN @ VAN The Swarm kept the Knighthawks to only 8 goals last week, but I don’t think they can be that strong defensively two weeks in a row. The Stealth are playing their first-ever home game in Vancouver (as a Vancouver team, anyway, they played the Championship game last year and a couple of pre-season games in Langley over the last couple of years) so they’ll want to put on a good show. Stealth
BUF @ PHI After losing their first two (assuming my prediction above holds), the Bandits will be angry and will do whatever they can to avoid starting 0-3. This anger and desperation could result in a debacle where they take a million penalties and lose by a ton, or Troy could pull them together and make them play better. There’s no evidence yet that he can do the latter (Darris certainly couldn’t over the last couple of years), but that’s what I’m going to go with. Bandits

Game review: Calgary 11 @ Toronto 16

The Toronto Rock and Calgary Roughnecks opened their seasons on Friday night in Toronto, and things couldn’t really have gone much better for the Rock. Captain Colin Doyle scored the first goal of the season four minutes in, and two minutes later, the Rock had a three goal lead. Not only did the Rock keep the lead for the rest of the game, but Calgary only got back within one once, and after the first quarter, the Rock’s lead would never drop below three. The Roughnecks had problems in all areas of the floor – goaltending, defense, taking bad penalties, and particularly the offense, which looked pretty sloppy. Shots were missing the net all night, and other times a Roughnecks player would try to sneak one by Rose through a screen rather than waiting for a  better shot opportunity.

That said, the Riggers did try to make a game of it in the 3rd and 4th, as Jeff Shattler scored four straight Calgary goals and then early in the fourth, Shawn Evans and Curtis Dickson (neither of whom had scored up to this point) each scored to bring the Roughnecks back to within 3 with 10 minutes to play – and of course 10 minutes to score 3 goals is tons of time. But Nick Rose and the Rock D only allowed one more the rest of the way, and the Rock offense never let up the pressure.

Garrett Billings scored one and assisted on nine to lead the game (and now the league) in scoring, and Stephen Leblanc had an excellent game with 5 goals and a couple of helpers. Jesse Gamble is already making me reconsider my Transition Player of the Year prediction (Geoff Snider), and I wondered during the game who would win in a race: Gamble or Steve Toll in his prime. On the Calgary side, Shawn Evans had a goal and seven assists, and Jeff Shattler scored four. I noticed rookies Karsen Leung and Garrett McIntosh a few times but I don’t even remember seeing Tor Reinholdt’s name. He’s on the scoresheet, so he obviously played, but I have no memory of him.

But man, those Roughnecks have some pests, don’t they? Evans, Dobbie, and Snider spent a grand total of 2 minutes in the penalty box, but they were being their usual irritating selves (though if I were an NLL GM, I’d take any one of them on my team in a heartbeat), and Greg (or possibly Jon) Harnett and Andrew McBride also got in on the action. There were no fights but a fair bit of pushing and shoving all night, which is somewhat typical between these teams. However Mike Carnegie was given a 5-minute major for illegal cross-checking which I didn’t think was warranted at all. It looked to me like a good hit – maybe high across the chest, but I didn’t think it was a head hit, and it certainly didn’t look like an intentional head hit.

Next weekend, the Rock travel to Buffalo to see old coach Troy Cordingley, while the Roughnecks host the Mammoth.

Other game notes:

  • Nice to see Ethan O’Connor get his first NLL goal in his first NLL game. Sure it was an empty-netter, but it still counts.
  • Mike Poulin was hot and cold. Mostly cold in the first half and better as the game went on, but he made a few damned impressive saves throughout the game. Nick Rose had a few OMG-worthy saves as well, but let in a couple of softies. Then again, when Jeff Shattler is standing 15 feet from you and winding up like he’s going to put a 100 mph shot through you, you’re getting ready to feel the pain. You’re not looking for a 40 mph change-up that bounces right at your feet.
  • Right at the end of the game, Damon Edwards was running out the last 5 or 10 seconds on the clock, when McBride started hitting him into the boards with some legal but very hard cross-checks – much harder than the situation warranted. When the hits continued after the final buzzer Edwards started shoving back, and a fight almost began. The refs broke it up before anything happened, and a minute later they were shaking hands in the lineup.
  • The Rock cheerleaders had new outfits including denim jackets, but it looked like they decided that each girl would go and buy their own, since none of them matched. Some were longer than others, some were light blue while others were dark, it was weird. Normally their outfits are very co-ordinated.
  • I like the Trainer’s Choice commercial they show on the Jumbotron during Rock games, showing players falling on various parts of their body. The best part is when they show a player falling through the crease. As soon as his elbow hits the ground, the video stops and the word “ANKLE” appears in big letters. This is a sports medicine company.
  • They didn’t show the car rental company commercial that everyone loves. (“A little more to your right, a little back to the left, just an inch more to your right. OK, there. Do it. <BANG>”) I can’t currently remember which car rental company it’s for, so from that point of view it’s a lousy commercial. Makes me laugh every time though.

Addicted to Lacrosse? So are we! Come hang out with us!

There’s a new lacrosse show in town! Addicted To Lacrosse is a weekly talk show about the NLL done by fans, for fans. It features myself, Melissa Dafni, and Tyler Fitch in a roundtable format, and the three of us discuss NLL news as well as the previous weekend’s games, and make predictions for the upcoming games. We’ve all been big lacrosse fans (and NLL season ticket holders) for many years and love to talk about the game. We make no apologies for being fans of the Rock (Graeme), Mammoth (Melissa), and Stealth (Tyler), but we promise to cover all the games and teams.

The show will air every Monday night at 9pm EST (7pm MST, 6pm PST) and is done live via Google+ Hangout, with the recording available afterwards on YouTube. All previous episodes (including a few we did during the off-season as practice) are available at addictedtolacrosse.com or through the official YouTube playlist. Make sure you follow @LaxPodcast on Twitter, and if you have feedback, you can tweet it to @LaxPodcast or send email to feedback(at)addictedtolacrosse.com. Send us your comments and we’ll read them on the show, and if you send us questions, maybe we’ll add a Q&A segment!

Melissa

Tyler And Kitty

Graeme needs a haircut

We’re looking forward to getting together once a week to talk about the NLL, and we hope you can join us!