After two weeks of NLL action, the Rush are 0-2 and the Warriors are 2-0. Just like we all predicted. Of course, it’s way too early in the season to extract anything really significant out of that. Good teams have started slow before (including said Rush), and a 2-0 start doesn’t mean you’ll make it to the finals.
Here are my choices for the awesome things and the less awesome things that happened in week 2.
Wings beautiful ugly jerseys
Philadelphia went with their third jerseys this past weekend and they were beautifully ugly. They chose an “ugly Christmas sweater” motif and made them bright red with a snowflake pattern and big Wings logo. Love ’em.
They’ve had their good games here and there, but before this season, the Vancouver Warriors were 9-22 (.290) in two seasons. The Vancouver Stealth were slightly worse, at 25-65 (.278) in five seasons. This year, the Warriors are 2-0 and have looked very good in those two games. Alex Buque has been excellent and has held their opponents to 7 and 8 goals, the defense in front of him looks strong, and Keegan Bal and Mitch Jones look like they’re picking up right where they left off in 2020. I’m not used to being this impressed with Vancouver, but props where they’re due: they’re playing very well.
There were no real boxscores after the first week’s games, just the pages on NLL.com which were missing a ton of information. They they introduced boxscores, which had some of that information, but were missing others. The two of them together had most of what was there last year. But then during week 2, they changed the format of the boxscores, and now almost everything is there – full player names, refs, attendance, and so on. They are still missing goalie saves by quarter, time on floor, and plus/minus, which were all there last year. Plus/minus is not needed, but the others are useful. And it looks like blocked shots is now a thing, so we can see which defenders get in the way and sacrifice their body more than others. The fact that almost all the stats are available once again is great, but the blocked shots stat by itself is awesome.
The work isn’t done though – the Calgary game listed three goals and one penalty by “Dickson”. In this particular case, it’s possible by looking at the stats to determine that all three goals and the penalty were by Haiden Dickson and not Curtis, but if Curtis had one of the goals and Haiden had two, there would be no way to tell.
Second half in Saskatchewan
See below in the Not Awesome section for why I was so… um… invested in this game, but whether you had money riding on it or not, the second half was incredible. Calgary built up a 3-goal lead, but the Rush chipped away and tied it six minutes into the fourth, then we went for over 6½ minutes with no scoring but almost continuous action. It was back and forth, from end to end, with lots of transition, some great passing plays and scoring chances, but primarily outstanding defense and goaltending. Dilks, Rubisch, and Corbeil continued to show why they’re three of the best in the game, but Holden Garlent also played really well. The Calgary defense was also excellent, particularly Shane Simpson, Mitch Wilde, and Curtis Manning, and Christian Del Bianco was just amazing in the fourth quarter.
The crowd in Halifax was 6242, lower than all but one game from last year. The crowd in Panther City for their inaugural home game was listed as 7309, but I wonder if their scorekeeper is a graduate of the Georgia Swarm School of Attendance Reporting. It didn’t look like anywhere near that many people were there. Only 3709 showed up in Philadelphia, by far the lowest-attended game in Philly pro box lacrosse history. That number was half of their lowest attendance from 2020, and almost 1500 lower than any home game the old Wings ever played. Honestly, it looked like the attendance numbers from Panther City and Philly were reversed. And the fact that the two numbers are the same with two digits reversed is suspicious…
On Saturday, the weirdness continued as only 9112 were in Sasktel Centre for the Rush’s home opener, the second-lowest crowd since they moved to Saskatoon. 8730 in Colorado is the lowest in Mammoth history, over 2000 less than their previous lowest, and the first time they’ve dropped below 10,000 since they moved to Colorado in 2003. Buffalo’s 7395 in week 1 is the lowest attendance in Buffalo since April 2003.
We haven’t seen a Roughnecks home game yet but they had over 12,000 out to a pre-season game a few weeks ago, so there’s hope in Calgary. The Rock had over 8,000 to their first game in Hamilton, so that’s good news. It’s just the rest of the league that’s dropping.
It’s no big surprise that the pandemic is to blame here. There are likely lots of people who would love to go to games but are still nervous being in big crowds, even though everyone there is vaccinated and (is supposed to be) wearing a mask. Honestly, it’s hard to blame them. There are still others who refuse to go because of the vaccine / mask mandates, which is also contributing to at least some of the attendance drop. The fact that the games are on TSN and ESPN makes it even more likely that people will stay home.
Rhys Duch is done for the season after less than a game and a half. Brutal for Duch, a terrible blow to the Halifax offense, and bad news for the league in general. The NLL is better with the future Hall of Famer in it. There’s no upside to an injury like this, but if any team is deep enough on offense to be able to handle that big of a loss, it’s Halifax. That assumes that Jamieson and Shanks don’t miss significant time, though they did beat the Rock without any of those three guys.
It was also revealed this week that Adam Jones is out indefinitely, almost two years after suffering broken ribs in a game. The Rock offense could really have used a spark on Friday night, so this is bad news for them. Jones has shown on more than one occasion that when he’s on, he can be as dominant a forward as there is in the game, so I hope we haven’t seen the last of him in the NLL.
Bets are off
For the first time ever, I placed bets with actual money on NLL games. Coolbet.com offered an “OTCB Boosted Odds Parlay”, where they picked three bets for the weekend and if ALL of them hit, you won a bunch of money. In this case, the three were (1) New York / Philadelphia total goals over 21.5, (2) Bandits win, and (3) Rush win. I put $25 down and the odds were +500, so I stood to win $125. After the Wings won 14-12 and the Bandits beat the Knighthawks, I watched the Rush/Roughnecks game with a fair bit of interest. The fact that it was a very close and hard-fought fourth quarter was exciting enough but having money riding on it made me, temporarily, the biggest Rush fan outside of Sasktel Centre. Lesson learned: Never go in against Christian Del Bianco when money is on the line.
That wasn’t the only NLL bet I’ve made this season. There have been two others so far, but those are on players and are based on season stats, not a single game. Let’s just say that I’m really cheering Challen Rogers and Mark Matthews on this year.