2023 NLL Week 5

Happy New Year one and all! Not a lot to talk about this week. I didn’t see the PCLC/Sask game on New Year’s Eve so I have no comments on that one. This coming weekend is a busy one with seven games, six of which are on Saturday night including four at the same time.

Awesome

Del Bianco’s passing

Christian Del Bianco didn’t have the best game of his career on Friday night but in the third quarter, he made a some offensive plays that led to a couple of amazing goals. In the third quarter, Del Bianco made a save and then noticed Shane Simpson sprinting up the floor. He launched a pass three quarters the length of the floor, right to Simpson who somehow caught it one-handed, over his head, on the run, between two defenders, and then scored. This particular “Awesome” entry was for Del Bianco, but consider Simpson’s catch Awesome number 1A.

Shane Simpson

And then in the fourth quarter, Del Bianco made a similar pass to Jesse King who scored, and yet another to Dan Taylor who rang the shot off the pipe. One of these passes in a game for CDB is not particularly surprising, since he’s one of the best passing goalies in the game, but three of them in the second half alone? Amazing.

Buffalo Bandits

Remember how the highly-ranked Bandits lost to the FireWolves and everyone thought their season was over and we all gave up on them? Well, OK, nobody did that. We all knew they had one bad game (to take nothing away from the FireWolves) and had too much talent not to bounce back, but kudos where they’re due: they’ve done just that. Their next two games were against two other highly-ranked teams in the East. As I mentioned last week, their defense against the Rock was outstanding, and then then hosted the offensive powerhouse Thunderbirds and kept them to 13 goals. Against a team that scored 18+ in their previous two games, that’s not insignificant. If you want to say the Bandits are back, go ahead but honestly, they never really left.

Not Awesome

Complaining about refs

I saw a few people complaining about refs and penalty calls they didn’t like. This is not unexpected or surprising in any way, people complain about officials in every sport all the time. Personally I think they have a very difficult and thankless job and they get far more right than they do wrong, so I tend not to complain about refs. Or at least not that often.

The thing that surprised me the most was the Calgary Roughnecks twitter account tweeting some complaints (here, here) during their game. Jesse King made an excellent defensive play to prevent an empty-net almost-breakaway goal, and then immediately cross-checked the San Diego forward directly across the back for an obvious and unnecessary penalty. Then a couple of minutes later, King cross-checked Jesse Gamble in the helmet and was amazed to be called for that. Complaining about questionable calls is one thing but neither of these were all that questionable. If you don’t like the penalties the refs are calling against you, maybe you should try not to commit them.

However

Having said that, late in the game, San Diego’s Wes Berg cross-checked someone off-ball right across the nameplate on the back of his jersey. The ref was looking right at it and called a moving pick. Loss of possession but no penalty. Less than a minute later, Calgary’s Tanner Cook was sent to the penalty box for doing the same thing. Neither hit was particularly egregious so I’d have been OK if both had been ignored by the refs. But if you call one, call ’em both. If you’re going to ignore Berg’s hit, you have to ignore Cook’s too.

Stats

It’s almost six weeks into the season and the game stats are still messed up. Some data is missing and thanks to some incorrect data being posted and then corrected later, I don’t have much faith that the data we do have is correct. For example, the game sheet for the HFX / BUF game said that Matt Vinc made 65 saves in that game, a Bandits record and only one away from the league record. However, that turned out to be wrong, as Halifax only took 57 shots and scored on 13 of them, meaning that Vinc made 44 saves. Not sure how the gamesheet ended up wrong by almost 50%.

Huge kudos to my fellow stats nerds like Adam Levi, Cooper Perkins, and Ty Merrow who continue to put out meaningful and compelling stats articles despite the lack of complete stats from the league.

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