NLL Playoffs Week 6: Championship Games 1 and 2

I was away on vacation last weekend, so there was no weekly report. I travelled to Quebec City for a long weekend with my wife and in-laws. Both the weather and the city were beautiful and we had a lot of fun. The only downside to the trip was that I had to watch Game 1 of the NLL Finals on my phone while sitting on a train between Montreal and Quebec City. It certainly wasn’t ideal, but the fact that I was able to watch it at all was pretty cool, and the fact that the 10-15 minutes where I lost the internet completely did not happen during the fourth quarter was also good.

Awesome

Dillon Ward in game 2

Ward, like every goalie, has good games and bad games. But some games you just see the ball better than others, and Saturday night in Denver was one of those nights for Ward. I’m certainly no expert here but Ward’s body language during the game said to me that he was on a mission – “Buffalo’s a very good team and we might lose this game. But if we do, it won’t be because of me.” You’d hope that that’s the mindset of everyone on every team in every game, but he just seemed on another level in this one.

The fourth quarter of game 1

Twelve goals were scored in the second quarter of game 1, and although the Mammoth kept it close, the Bandits led throughout. But despite only six goals being scored, the fourth quarter was amazing. Colorado tied the game three times but each time Buffalo scored the next goal to take the lead again. Both Vinc and Ward were excellent and both defenses were very strong as well, but the kicker was Nick Weiss scoring his fourth career playoff goal, a transition marker with under a minute to go. I’d guess that very few people had money on Weiss scoring the game-winner.

Dylan Kinnear and Zed Williams

The second half of game 2

The first twenty minutes of game 2 featured only three goals, and the Mammoth looked like they just might be the dominant team, though not by much. But over the next ten minutes, the Bandits scored five more times, only allowing two, and took a 6-4 lead into the half. They started looking more like the team that won game 1. Both goalies played very well and both defenses were excellent. But in the second half, the Colorado Mammoth comeback machine went into full force, as it has so many times this season. Dillon Ward only allowed two goals in the second half while the Mammoth – still without Ryan Lee and also without Eli McLaughlin for this game – scored seven.

Zed Williams led the scoring as you might expect, but they got 4+ points from five other players. Surprisingly though, they got no goals from transition players. If they get McLaughlin back for Game 3, they are in good shape but even if they don’t, they have shown they can beat the Bandits as long as they get some secondary scoring. The Bandits may be the favourites but given how the Mammoth played in game two, both teams are going to have to work for this Championship. Whoever wins it will definitely have earned it.

There is a game 3

After two very entertaining and exciting games, we get another one!

PLL season has begun

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a box lacrosse fan first and a field lacrosse fan second. That said, the PLL has provided some pretty entertaining lacrosse over the last few years, and I don’t expect that to change this season.

One thing that’s interesting about the PLL is to see the players that play in both, and what their skillsets are. Obviously Blaze Riorden is an outlier, playing goalie in one league and forward in the other. And you have Josh Byrne, Brodie Merrill, Dillon Ward, and Tom Schreiber who are excellent in both. But it’s interesting to see which players are superstars and MVP candidates in one league but not the other. PLL stars like Zed Williams and Matt Rambo weren’t likely in the top 25 of anyone’s MVP list for the 2022 NLL season (very good players, make no mistake, but not MVP candidates like in the PLL), and NLL stars like Curtis Dickson and Ben McIntosh are just “pretty good” in the field*. Challen Rogers is a member of Chaos but has yet to play a PLL game, and famously, Mark Matthews isn’t even on a PLL roster.

None of this is really surprising – box and field lacrosse are obviously similar sports but not exactly the same. Many skills cross over but not all. It’s not surprising that some players have a much higher skill level in one than the other, I just find it interesting to see who those players are.

* – It’s important to remember that “pretty good” in this context still means “among the top 200 field lacrosse players in the world”

Upcoming dispersal draft

The league announced this weekend that the dispersal draft to begin filling out the Las Vegas Desert Dogs roster will happen on July 7th. The timing was weird though – the league sent out the email announcing this during the second half of game 2 of the Finals, shortly after Teddy Jenner interviewed Desert Dogs GM and head coach Shawn Williams at halftime. I wonder if one of them leaked the date of the dispersal draft before the league was ready to announce it, so they decided to just send out the email then rather than wait until this week or until the finals were done.

Update: Joel Feld, EVP of Broadcast and Content for the NLL, contacted me to say that this was not a mistake – the league arranged for Williams to be on the broadcast to announce the date of the draft, and then sent out the email to update those who might not have been watching. There was no “leak” and nothing accidental about it. Thanks Joel

These kinds of drafts are always fun because there’s rampant speculation on who will be protected, why certain players weren’t, and who the new team will pick or not pick. There are mock drafts everywhere, and I’ll probably do one too. It’s just what you do.

Not Awesome

Vancouver Warriors

Their season started with so much promise. They won their first two and five of their first eight. A 5-3 record is the best record after eight games that the franchise had seen since 2010 when they were the Washington Stealth and had a 6-2 record. But then everything fell apart and they finished the season 1-9. They only lost by more than 2 twice in that time, so it’s not like they were terrible (and we’ve seen some terrible teams in Vancouver), just not good enough to win. Losing Mitch Jones for the season didn’t help but they went 3-1 in their first four games without him. But GM Dan Richardson decided that was enough, and fired head coach Chris Gill and assistant coach Kaleb Toth. No replacements have been named, but I imagine a new head coach will at least be chosen (though possibly not announced) before the aforementioned dispersal draft.

Only one game left in the NLL season

:-(

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