Apparently millions of people are watching the Super Bowl right now. I don’t understand. When are you all writing up your NLL weekly report?
I’m still not a believer that face-offs in box lacrosse really mean much in the long run. The stats show that winning the faceoff battle doesn’t help your team win games, and winning games is kind of what it’s all about. Faceoff importance is purely situational. That said, Ierlan won 25 of 26 faceoffs in the game against Buffalo, which is amazing, so he gets an awesome for that. But Ierlan has been very hit-or-miss in his six NLL games – in three of them, he’s at or above 75%, which is fantastic. In the other three he’s below 50%, including 15-for-31 (48%) against Jake Withers and 16-for-48 (33%) combined in two games against Trevor Baptiste. It’s very early in his career to be generalizing like this but so far, when he’s going up against someone who isn’t a face-off specialist, he’s excellent. But against guys like Withers and Baptiste, he’s just OK.
The Seals are 6-1 and everything is clicking. Their goaltending has been amazing, regardless of whether it’s Frank Scigliano (currently leading the NLL among starters in GAA and third in save percentage) or one of their two rookie goaltenders, each of whom won their first-ever NLL start this year. Their defense has been great as well (which obviously helps the goalies), and their offense has been well-balanced, with nobody in the top ten of scoring but three (Berg, Noble, Dobbie) in the top 20, plus Austin Staats who would be in the top 20 if he hadn’t missed a few games, and Tre Leclaire, the second-highest scoring rookie in the league.
The Seals are currently leading the league in goals against (i.e. fewest per game), second in goals scored (per game), and are tied with the Bandits for first place overall. They are also on pace to set league records in both goal differential (66) and average goals against (8.71). Of course keeping up that pace is a tall order, but we’re not even halfway through the season and it’s already hard to picture them not finishing first or at the very least second in the West division.
After a goal during the Rock / Bandits game, colour analyst Pat Gregoire wanted to say “that was some nice passing there”, but did it in a more interesting way. He said “OK Google, show me a perfect passing play”, and then went on to describe the excellent passing that led to the goal. The Google Nest in the room next to me heard this from the TV but thought it was “OK Google, show me a perfect cast”. It decided that what I meant to ask was for the cast of the movie “A Perfect Plan” (which I’d never heard of) and responded with a few actors from that movie. Luckily I don’t have an Amazon Alexa or Pat might order me some stuff during his next broadcast.
It’s no secret that I don’t like fighting in lacrosse, and I’m not going to get into that again here. But I have to give props to Buffalo rookie Brad McCulley for taking on Billy Hostrawser on Saturday. Hostrawser is one of the toughest guys in the game, and has been in eighteen fights in his career. Only six players have been in more fights. McCulley, on the other hand, has only played in four games in his NLL career and had received two minor penalties prior to Saturday. I’d say McCulley lost the fight but he held his own and didn’t get entirely pummelled. It took some serious courage to go up against a seasoned pugilist like Hostrawser so McCulley gets an awesome this week.
Halifax and Philly defense
Sunday afternoon’s game was not just a goaltending clinic, it featured great defense all around. Yes, both Zach Higgins and Warren Hill were outstanding in net, but both defenses limited the number and quality of shots available. There were a number of intercepted passes, lots of blocked shots (Blaze Riorden (!) led the game with 3), and several shots that missed the net entirely because the shooter couldn’t actually see it. Players I thought played especially well: Wagner, Joaquim, Davis-Allen, and Ranagan for the Wings, and Hossack (of course), Brock, and Withers for the Thunderbirds. I sort of felt bad that one of the teams had to lose.
Both Awesome and Not Awesome
I’m not sure what to make of the Warriors. Are they the team that started 2-0 and gave the Seals their only loss, then beat the Rush while playing without Mitch Jones? Or are they the team that went from 2-0 to 2-3, including losing one where they only scored four goals? Honestly, I don’t think the Vancouver fans care. Even at .500, this year’s Warriors look a lot better than the 4-9 Warriors from 2020 or the 5-13 Warriors from 2019, and let’s not even talk about the Vancouver Stealth, who were 8 or more games under .500 in four of their five seasons. Every team has games where they can’t score, or games where they can’t keep the ball out of their own net. But the Warriors are no longer the team that does both of those on a regular basis. The Warriors might not be top in their division, but they’re competitive, which is more than they’ve been in a very long time.
Colorado Mammoth offense
I’m not sure what to make of the Mammoth offense. They’ve scored 14, 16, and 18 goals in games this year, but have been held under 10 in all their other games. Ryan Lee has been excellent and is on pace for 120 points, the third-highest total ever. But the next closest players are Connor Robinson and Eli McLaughlin who are tied with 30 points, which is on pace for 77 over 18 games. When your top player eclipses his next highest teammates by almost fifty points, that’s certainly not the balanced offense we talked about with the Seals. Zed Williams has 14 points in six games, which would be the lowest output of his NLL career. He’s hardly been the offensive star they thought they were getting, especially after last summer’s PLL season.
Then again, they’re 5-2 and second in the West. When held under 10 goals, they’re still 2-2, so maybe it’s not such a big deal.
I mentioned this earlier this season and said it wasn’t time to panic yet. But now the Rush are a third of the way through the season and still several places out of a playoff spot. Still not panic time, but it’s getting closer. Their goalie is unproven as a starter, so that was one of my questions about the Rush going into the season. But Shute has a GAA under 10 and a save percentage of 77.4%. Not spectacular numbers but certainly good enough. The Rush are 7th in the league in goals against, so defense is not the problem. Offense is the problem.
The Rush’s top scorer is Mark Matthews (as always), but he’s 23rd overall. Robert Church is 26th and Ryan Keenan is 33rd, but then we have to go all the way down to 71st, where Dan Lintner and Jeff Shattler are tied. They’ve scored more than 11 goals only once, and have been kept under 10 twice.
For years, the Rush have been known more for their defense than their offense. But from 2013 to 2019, the Edmonton / Saskatchewan Rush never finished worse than 3rd in goals scored. The 2020 Rush were last in goals scored, but they only played 10 games – everyone else except Calgary played more. They were on pace for 7th place. This year they’re on pace for 13th out of 14 teams. As I said, it’s not necessarily panic time yet, but I think it might be time for concern beyond “Yeah we’re not scoring but we’ll figure it out eventually”.