Seven exciting games in week three. A couple of 9-goal blowouts, a couple of 1-goal nailbiters, and the first-ever home game for the Las Vegas Desert Dogs. Lots of awesome again this week, so let’s get to it.
Renee Washington and Mike Karvelis had me on their Daily Dive podcast last Friday, talking about stats in general and nllstats.com in particular. We talked about where my interest in stats came from (baseball!) and why it’s important to have the stats available. Basically, some fans want to know a little bit here and there, but I think the number of fans who are looking for advanced analytics is increasing, and such analytics aren’t really possible without detailed stats available. Plus broadcasters and journalists need these numbers to do what they do, and make the broadcasts and news outlets more interesting and compelling. If you don’t make those kinds of numbers available, there’s a large (and growing) portion of your fan base that is getting more and more disappointed. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to talk to Renee about this stuff so thanks to them for having me on.
First Desert Dogs game in Vegas
There was a good-sized and very loud crowd in the Michelob Ultra arena for the first home game for the Las Vegas Desert Dogs. It took until well into the second quarter before Jacob Ruest scored the first goal for the Dogs, and they ended up losing the game (see the next Awesome entry for more on the game itself). Of course it’s hard to see the whole experience on the broadcast, but it appeared that there were a lot of people there and they were pretty loud. Attendance was announced as 7072, though a lot of people had left by the fourth quarter once the Desert Dogs were down by four or five. I’m cautiously optimistic about that number but remember: the Georgia Swarm’s first home game had over 9,000 in attendance. That number dropped by half for the second game, and their second-last game of that season was under 3,000. They’ve rebounded pretty well in the last couple of years – as always, assuming the reported attendance numbers are correct. Hopefully the Desert Dogs can avoid the low numbers the Swarm had in their second and third seasons and keep a good chunk of that initial number coming back. They’re currently 0-2 but are an exciting young team which should be fun to watch even if they don’t have San Diego Seals-level success in their first season.
Defense in Vegas
In their first game, Joel Watson got the start in the Las Vegas net, and didn’t have his best game. Watson was pulled near the end of the third quarter and replaced by Landon Kells. Kells was excellent, allowing no goals on twelve shots in a little over fifteen minutes. That earned him the start in game two, and after allowing a couple of soft ones at the beginning of the first quarter, he settled down and was excellent again. After those two initial goals, he had a stretch of 22 minutes and then another later of 17 minutes where Panther City was held scoreless. It’s awesome that in his first career start, he allowed only nine goals. It’s not so awesome that he lost the game but that wasn’t his fault or the fault of the defense in front of him.
Landon Kells, Tor Reinholdt, and I think there may be a Panther City player under there somewhere
At the other end, Nick Damude had the best start of his young career, only allowing three goals in the entire game. To be honest, he was hardly tested in the first half at all but he was certainly excellent in the second half. I thought the Panther City defense was outstanding at limiting the Desert Dogs shots and in a lot of cases, preventing them entirely.
Both goalies were very good but for both teams, the defenses were even better. Anyone who bet the over in this one was quite disappointed, as this ended up being (tied for) the second-lowest scoring game in NLL history.
Defense in Hamilton
It wasn’t the Rock’s defense that was awesome in this one, though they weren’t bad. Nick Rose and the Rock D had a good night but Matt Vinc and the Buffalo D were just better. The number of shots blocked by Bandits defenders was off the charts; I was actually surprised when I saw that Matt Vinc made 52 saves, since I didn’t think that many shots actually made it to him. The Bandits were credited with 8 blocked shots to the Rock’s 4, but I’d have bet it was more than that. The Bandits were able to prevent the Rock from seeing much of Vinc at all, which actually caused some pretty nice passing plays in the fourth quarter, as every player in turn realized “I don’t have a shot, maybe he does” and passed it off. After 8 or 10 passes around the perimeter, someone would take a shot which would either be blocked by a defender or hit Vinc in the chest and be turned over. But when the Rock did get a look, Vinc was there to say no. There was a period in the third quarter where the Rock had half a dozen really good looks within about a minute and came away with nothing. There was another where Vinc got caught out of the net, made it back in and dropped to stop a low shot that never came, and was still able to get back up and stop the shot that did come. The guy’s 40, he’s supposed to be past his prime, right? Nope.
Kudos to the Bandits for a solid defensive showing.
We all knew Halifax was going to have an excellent offense this season, but holy crap. They’ve averaged 19 goals in their two games, but the best part is that their offense is about as balanced as you can get. Their top five scorers have 16, 15, 14, 14, and 11 points. Of course this means that if your defense manages to shut down one or even two of them, or one is just having an off night, the others can still do serious damage. We’ve seen teams before with lots of star offensive players who just weren’t as potent as we thought they should be (thinking of the Boston Blazers with “the big three” of Dan Dawson, Josh Sanderson, and Casey Powell). This ain’t that.
I hate putting this here, I really do. I would love to see the Warriors finally take that next step to being a contender. We thought they would last season, with a strong start and a potent one-two punch with Keegan Bal and Mitch Jones, and then Jones got injured. Bal had a great season and did what he could to carry the team, but that’s a tall order for any player. They have Jones back now and added Shawn Evans, but they still can’t seem to get any cohesion. Troy Cordingley has said as much a couple of times this season – they’re not competing hard enough or playing the way they need to play to be a contender. The Washington Stealth had great success on the floor – one Championship and two other Championship appearances in only four years – but nobody showed up to watch. Then they moved to Vancouver and everything went to hell. The Vancouver Stealth and Warriors are a combined 40-102 since moving to BC eight years ago, including their 0-3 start this year. That’s not awesome.
In week two, the home teams were undefeated. In week three, the home teams went 0-7.
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