Week 11 picks

I tried something different this past week since the previous weeks hadn’t really gone so well. I reversed my picks – if I thought team A would win, I picked team B. I did this for all four games and after starting 0-2 (and thinking this was the dumbest idea I’d had in years), I went 2-0 in the last two games, thus ending the weekend 2-2 and rendering my experiment pointless.

This week I’m back to my regular picking strategy. Next year, I think it would be interesting to actually flip a coin each week and see how many people the coin can beat.

Record: 18-27 (.400)

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BUF @ COL This one will be weird, since with all the injuries, trades, and suspensions, the entire game will be Tye Belanger and Anthony Cosmo lobbing the ball back and forth to each other, with John Grant and Mark Steenhuis trying to intercept the passes. Steve Dietrich will replace Cosmo in the fourth just because now he can. Bandits
WAS @ MIN Stealth fans yell at me when I pick the Stealth, which I guess is understandable given my overall record. But I’ve picked Washington to win 7 times this season, and they’ve won 4 of those games. So when I pick them, they win 57% of the time. That’s the highest percentage of any team in the league. You’re welcome. Stealth
TOR @ PHI Brandon Miller will not be playing this weekend (unless he appeals his suspension), so backup Kevin Croswell will be starting. But facing the backup goalie isn’t always the good news that you might think. Last year, the Rock faced Washington’s backup goalie when Tyler Richards was injured and he played a great game, giving the Stealth the win. That backup goalie was Kevin Croswell. Rock
EDM @ ROC Rochester now has Purves and Sullivan on their D – but both are suspended. They’ve also added defensive stud Scott Self who is not. They’ll be without Casey Powell, which I think is a good thing for their offense overall, but it might take a bit of time to reorganize. Edmonton has scored 14+ goals in 4 of the past 5 games and have won all four. Rush
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Week 10 picks

OK, this is getting silly now. Parity is great and all, but what I wouldn’t give for a 2007 Knighthawks vs. 2004 Anaheim Storm game – at least it’d make one pick easy.

I went 2-3 last week, which isn’t bad, but it’s my third sub-.500 week in a row. People have started to ask me on twitter NOT to pick their team so I’m going to spin things around this week. I will make my picks, and then record the opposite. Sounds silly, but if I’d done that the rest of the year, I’d be 25-16, batting .610.

But I’m tellin’ ya, if this doesn’t work, I may not bother with the picks thing next season. Maybe I’ll just do Power Rankings. Anybody can do those.

Record: 16-25 (.390)

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MIN @ CAL Despite their recent struggles, I still find it hard to pick against the Roughnecks. This combined with a Suitor-less Swarm who have also been struggling lately, and I think the Roughnecks will get back to their winning ways and take this one. So I’m picking the Swarm. Swarm
COL @ TOR Top team in the league against the bottom team in the league – no-brainer, right? Not exactly. With the weapons that the Mammoth have and the fact that they’re hungry to prove themselves and get out of the basement, they could be a dangerous team. That said, the Rock aren’t happy with their loss to Buffalo last week. Like the Roughnecks, I think the Rock will get back to form and take this one. So I’m picking the Mammoth. Mammoth
COL @ BUF Tough one. Both teams have superstar players that can be unmatched when they’re on their game, but if you get them rattled, their effectiveness drops significantly. Colorado’s is Grant, and Buffalo’s is Cosmo. If either one of these guys is off his game, the other team’s likelihood of winning skyrockets. I’m not saying that Grant will be off his game, but I liked how Buffalo played last Thursday against the Rock so as long as they can avoid a fourth quarter collapse like they did against Philly (and like the Rock did against them), I think Buffalo can take it. So I’m picking the Mammoth. Mammoth
WAS @ PHI Hmmm… Philly’s won 3 in a row, Washington’s won 2. BMiller vs. TRich. Crowley, Buchanan and Ross vs. Duch, Ratcliff, and Iannucci. Reynolds vs. Snider. This is a close one, but Philly has surprised me too often this season to pick them to lose again. So I’m picking the Stealth. Stealth

NLL mid-season report: West division

The East consists of one really good team, a couple of good ones and one struggling, but the west is much more even. Last year we had two great teams, two good teams, and the Stealth. This year it’s more like five pretty good teams. Nobody is head and shoulders above the rest, and nobody is terrible – not even the last place Mammoth. Blah blah parity blah blah…

 

Roughnecks Calgary Roughnecks

Offense: A+

First in goals scored per game by more than a full goal. There are two Roughnecks in the top ten in scoring including #1 and five in the top twenty-one. Averaging 1.2 shorthanded goals per game. Have only scored less than 11 goals once, and they won that game. Scored 16+ four times in ten games. Best offense in the league – only the Toronto Rock is close.

Defense: C

7th in goals allowed per game, so they’re winning lots of high-scoring games. Only given up less than 10 twice, but have given up 16+ in each of the last four games and 15 in one other (though they won two of those). Poulin hasn’t looked like Poulin – in Calgary’s last three losses, he’s allowed 16 goals on 48 shots, 13 on 46, and 14 on 37. He’s 7th among starters in GAA and 9th in Save %.

Overall: A

Still my pick to win the West, though I’m reconsidering. After coming up with grades for the Rush, I had to think about which of the two I would rank higher. I eventually settled on giving each of them an A.

 

Mammoth Colorado Mammoth

Offense: D

Tied with the Knighthawks for 7th in goals per game. Grant is tied for 7th in points, then Prout at 16th. In terms of points per game, Grant is 3rd, Prout 13th, and Jones 17th. Of their top 10 scorers in 2012, 6 of them are down in points/game this year, two (MacLeod, McBride, Coates) are slightly up, and one (Hopcroft) is gone.

You couldn’t expect Junior’s production to stay at the 8.3 points per game he had last year (he’s down to 5.8), but as he’s dropped, so has just about everyone else. Derek Hopcroft was traded for a 5th round pick and is on the Bandits’ practice roster and playing in CLax. Jamie Shewchuk is sitting at home. First round draft pick Colton Clark has played in one game. They’ve been so focused on their goaltending situation that they have done nothing to shake up their offense. They’re just not clicking this year. This was the top scoring team in the league last season.

Defense: D-

Dead last in goals allowed per game with 13.8. They’re way worse at home (14.2) than on the road (13). They released Chris Levis after a terrible start and gave Matt Roik the keys. Then they released him and are trying Minnesota’s rookie-twin-terror strategy – Lewis and Belanger had a combined 30 minutes of NLL experience before this season. It worked for the Swarm last year, though not so much this year. Can it save the Mammoth’s season? Seems like a long shot.

Overall: D-

At the halfway point, there are no two ways about it: the Mammoth are the worst team in the league. But they’re not that different personnel-wise from the contending team they were last year. A little confidence and they could start winning but they need the wins to get the confidence.

 

Rush Edmonton Rush

Offense: A

Wow, this Mark Matthews kid just came out of nowhere! Who saw this coming? Oh wait, everybody did. Matthews leads the league in goals scored and is tied for 7th in points. The team is 2nd in goals per game and has three players in the top 13 scorers. When have you been able to say that about the Rush before? Matthews is the offensive star the Rush have never had, and he’s turned a decent offense into a great one. The Rush have scored 18 twice, 15 twice (though they lost one) and 14 twice.

Defense: A

2rd in goals allowed per game. The Rush are giving up less than 10 goals per game in away games. They’ve given up 10 or fewer goals in six games out of ten. Aaron Bold is 4th among starters in GAA, though only 8th in save %.

Overall: A

Last year, the Rush were decent offense and great defense. This year the defense is just as good but the offense is so much better.

 

Swarm Minnesota Swarm

Offense: B-

5th in goals per game. They’ve scored less than 10 goals in a game only three times. Ryan Benesch is 6th in points per game, Callum Crawford is 8th (but has missed 2 games), Shayne Jackson is 28th and Kiel Matisz is 30th. The next player is Jordan MacIntosh way down at 50th so it seems that the Big Four do pretty much all the scoring.

Defense: D

The Swarm are 6th in goals allowed per game; only Colorado and Calgary are higher. Strangely, the Swarm have given up an average of 2 more goals per game at home than on the road. The experiment with two young goalies that worked so well last year isn’t going so well this year. Both Evan Kirk and Tyler Carlson have GAA over 14, ranking them 9th (Carlson) and 10th (Kirk) among starters, and they are 6th (Carlson) and 7th (Kirk) in save percentage.

Overall: C+

I expected a lot from the Swarm this year – I picked them to finish second in the west. Right now they’re fourth and with captain Andrew Suitor out for the year, I have to wonder if the Swarm are already done. I was on a roundtable last week with the guys from LaxDirt.com and most of the panel believed that the loss of Suitor will be too much for this young team to handle and that they’ll be the team that finishes out of the playoffs. I’m not sure I’m ready to write the team off quite yet, but with all he does for the team, Suitor will be a tough guy to replace.

 

Stealth Washington Stealth

Offense: B

Right in the middle, at 4th in goals per game. I was about to say that “Rhys Duch is having a great year” but when I look over his points per game averages over his career, I found this:

    Season Points Points per game
    2009 89 5.56
    2010 86 5.38
    2011 90 5.63
    2012 (14 games) 79 5.64
    2013 (10 games) 57 5.70

Look at the points per game – talk about Mr. Consistency. Duch missed two games in 2012 and his total extrapolates to 90 points over 16 games, and this year he’s on a pace for 91. So yes, Duch is having a great year but not significantly better than his previous great years.

Duch is fourth in the league in points per game, while Iannucci and Ratcliff are 21st and 24th respectively. Cliff Smith is having a career year – he has 32 points in 10 games so far. He started the season with 44 career points in 33 games over four seasons.

Defense: B-

Also right in the middle, 4th in goals allowed per game. In their four losses, they’ve allowed 18, 15, 15, and 7 goals. OK, we’ll give the defense a pass on that last one. Tyler Richards is having a much better season than last year, with a GAA lower by more than two. Last year, Richards’ GAA was twelfth among starters last year. Twelfth is not great in a 9-team league. This year, he’s second. Nick Patterson had a 16.81 GAA but was released last week, replaced with former Mammoth Matt Roik.

Overall: A-

The goal for the Stealth in 2013 was (a) forget 2012 and (b) win Championship. Perhaps they thought about it in the other order but I think (a) had to be done before (b) was possible. At 5-4 and second in the West, they haven’t clinched a playoff berth yet but I think they’ve been successful in getting (a) accomplished. But (b) will be a bigger challenge.

Similar to the Bandits, their overall grade is higher than their offensive or defensive grades. Can’t argue with first in the West, though given how the Rush have been playing and how the Roughnecks should be playing, I’m not sure I’d count on the Stealth still being in first at the end of the season.

The NLL Pronunciation Guide v2.0

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article on the NLL Blog listing a bunch of NLL players with difficult-to-pronounce names and how to say them correctly. Apparently it is not yet required reading for NLL play-by-play guys, since I still frequently hear names being mispronounced. But there are a number of new players in the league now, so it’s time for an update. Some of these have been confirmed by the players themselves via twitter – thanks to Frankie Scigliano, Jaeden Gastaldo, Kurtis Wagar, and Neil Tyacke for responding and confirming how to say their names properly.

I’ve grouped them by team and alphabetically.

Buffalo

Chad Culp – CHAD CULP
John Harasym – HAIR-a-sim.
Mat Giles – JYLES
Alex Kedoh Hill – KEE-dough
Tracey Kelusky – kuh-LUH-skee. Not kuh-LOO-skee.
Steve Priolo – pree-O-lo
Jimmy Purves – PURR-vis
John Tavares – If you can’t say his last name, you are obviously not a lacrosse fan. Why are you reading this article? But for completeness, it’s tuh-VAR-ez.
Jay Thorimbert – I would have expected THOR-im-bear but I believe it’s THOR-im-bert.
Dhane Smith – DANE
Mark Steenhuis – STAIN-house
Kurtis Wagar – WAY-ger. Attention Buffalo announcers: not WAG-ner.

Philadelphia

Kevin Buchanan – byu-CAN-in
CJ Costabile – COST-a-bull
Pat Heim – HIGHm
Paul Rabil – RAY-bull
Brian Tueber – TOOB-er
Drew Westervelt – WEST-er-velt
Chad Wiedmaier – Could not get confirmation. I’d have said WEED-myer but the NLL Pronunciation Guide* says it’s weed-MAY-er.

* – Yes, the NLL Pronunciation Guide is a real thing, though there are a few mistakes in it. No idea if this is one of them.

Rochester

Mike Accursi – uh-CUR-see
Stephen Keogh – KEY-o
Ian Llord – la-LORD. No, I’m not serious. It’s just LORD.
Matt Vinc – Like VINCE, not VINK
Cory Vitarelli – VIT-a-RELL-ee

Toronto

Kasey Beirnes – BEERns
Stephan Leblanc – STEFF-in la-BLONK
Brendan Thenhaus – I had TEN-house originally but I believe it’s TAIN-house. Like Steenhuis without the first ‘S’.

Calgary

Dane Dobbie – DOUGH-bee. Not like Dobby.
Joe Resatarits – res-a-TARE-its
Frankie Scigliano – SHIL-ee-ANN-o
Geoff Snider – SNY-der. Not SHNY-der.
Kaleb Toth – KAY-leb TOE-th. My biggest pet peeve – he played 11 seasons in Calgary and I still hear people (even Calgary announcers!) talk about Kaleb TAW-th.

Colorado

Joey Cupido – cuh-PEE-dough
Ilija Gajic – ILL-ee-ya GUY-ch
John Gallant – gull-ANT
Jaeden Gastaldo – JAY-den guh-STALL-dough
Chet Koneczny – kon-EZ-nee
Eric Martin – Just like it looks, presumably. I asked a Colorado fan and he just lowered his head and whispered “We do not speak his name.”
Sean Pollock – SHAWN POLL-ick
Creighton Reid – CRAY-ton REED

Edmonton

Chris Corbeil – cor-BEEL
Brett Mydske – MID-skee

Minnesota

Mitch Belisle – buh-LYLE
Ryan Benesch – buh-NESH
Nic Bilic – Nick BIL-ich. Oddly, Jake Elliott (Swarm play-by-play guy) acknowledges that he knows this but says it “BIL-ik” anyway.
Callum Crawford – CAL-um. Attention Edmonton announcers: not CAY-lum
Alex Crepinsek – CREP-in-sek
Kiel Matisz – Just like it looks. (Sigh) OK, fine. It’s KYLE muh-TEEZ
Corbyn Tao – COR-bin TOW (last name rhymes with COW). Attention Washington announcer: not TAY-o.

Washington

Rhys Duch – REES DUTCH
Billy Hostrawser – HOS-trouser
Athan Iannucci – EYE-uh-NOOCH-ee
Justin Pychel – PITCH-el
Bob Snider – SNY-der. Remarkably similar to that of Geoff Snider.
Neil Tyacke – TY-ack. Rhymes with kayak.

Non-players

Steve Bermel – BURR-mull. Rhymes with “thermal”. Bandits writer for IL Indoor.
Jamie Dawick – DOW-ick. (DOW rhymes with COW like Corbyn Tao. Sounds like that sentence should be in a rap song somewhere) Owner of the Rock.
Marisa Ingemi – muh-RISS-uh in-JEM-ee. Runs the show over at InLacrosseWeTrust.com.
Darris Kilgour – DARRIS KILL-gore. Not DAR-ee-us. Buffalo head coach.
Johnny Mouradian – moor-RAD-ee-an. Philadelphia GM & head coach.
Graeme Perrow – GRAY-um PEAR-o. The most knowledgeable lacrosse mind of our generation whose first name is Graeme. Or at least in the top ten of Graeme’s.
Grant Spies – SPEEZ. NLL ref.
Tim Then – THEN. I dunno, some guy that tweeted me.

Week 9 picks

OK, so that sucked. I went 0-5 last week as Edmonton and Minnesota each won in the other’s barn, the Wings pulled off a couple of wins, and the Stealth grabbed a first-place tie in the West. Every team is in action this weekend (and this week, since Toronto and Buffalo play a rare Thursday night game), and the Bandits play twice.

Record: 14-22 (.389)

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BUF @ TOR Buffalo has a winning record in Toronto, but the Rock are the top team in the league right now. If Cosmo plays like he did two weeks ago this could be a tough one for the Rock. Nick Rose has allowed 12, 13, and 12 goals in their last three games so he might have to take it up a notch, especially with John Tavares returning. Rock
PHI @ BUF Both teams are 4-3, both 2-2 at home. Buffalo has scored two more goals and allowed one more than Philly. Couldn’t really get more even. I’ll give this one to Buffalo because they’re at home. Bandits
EDM @ CAL The Roughnecks have lost two of their last three but this is their first home game in a few weeks. I think Calgary is still the team to beat in the West. Roughnecks
ROC @ COL The loser of this game will have the worst record in the league. The Knighthawks have gone from the Championship game to the basement in one year. Where have we heard that before? And this is after adding Casey Powell and Dan Dawson to their lineup. And yet, I still can’t bet against them… Knighthawks
MIN @ WAS Speaking of Championship game to the basement in one year, now the Stealth are trying to go the other direction in one year. I’m not sure they can get all the way there, but in a one-and-done playoff format, anything’s possible. Meanwhile, the Swarm have lost their captain for the rest of the season. How will this young team handle the loss of their leader? Stealth

Faceoff dominance: Does it help you win?

Over the last decade or so, a few players have stood out as excellent face-off men. Washington’s Bob Snider and his brother, Calgary’s Geoff Snider, are the cream of the crop right now, and in recent years Peter Jacobs, Jamie Hanford, and Jamison Koesterer have also made names for themselves in the circle. But does it really matter?

Logic says yes. When you win a face-off, you gain possession and in lacrosse, possession is everything. If you win 75-80% of your face-offs, as the Snider boys do with regularity, that’s 10-15 extra possessions per game for your team, and at least a few of those have to translate into goals, right? But do the stats bear that out? As we frequently do on this blog, let’s look at the numbers and see if they support something that “everybody knows”.

tl;dr

For those of you who don’t care to look at the actual numbers, here’s the “too long; didn’t read” version: Yes, but not by very much. Feel free to skip to the conclusion now.

The numbers

I only have sufficient stats for the 2012 season, so we’ll have to restrict the numbers to that season. There were 72 games played during the regular season, and therefore 72 winners. Three of the 72 games finished with a tie in faceoffs, so we won’t count those three. Of the 69 remaining games, the winning team led in faceoffs 39 times (56.5%). This means that in 30 of the games (43.5%), the winning team won fewer faceoffs than the losing team.

So it looks like winning the faceoff battle does give you a slight edge. But let’s look even further. If we look at games where one team really dominated the faceoffs, say winning 70% or more, we find the opposite. There were 28 such games last year, and the team that won the faceoff battle only won 13 (46%) of them. Of the 15 games where the losing team won 70% or more of the faceoffs, the teams break down like this: Washington 8, Philadelphia 3, Calgary 3, and Minnesota 1. The Stealth lost eight games (and won three) while winning 70+% of the faceoffs.

Of course, this is a strange case – the team with the best face-off man in the league and the worst record. This is also the record of one team over only 16 games. Calgary, for example, went 5-3 in games where they won 70+% of faceoffs. Even if we look at the season as a whole, that one team dominates so much that the numbers are too skewed to be meaningful. Not surprisingly, we can’t honestly say that winning 70% of the faceoffs means you’re less likely to win the game.

Conclusion

The conclusion to all of this is that during the 2012 season, teams won 56.5% of games in which they won more faceoffs than their opponents. I’ve done the calculations for the 2013 season as well (less than half over), and through 31 games (one game tied), everything is exactly 50-50 – winning teams have also led in faceoffs 50% of the time.

This tells me that winning the battle of the faceoffs does give your team a greater chance to win, but not by as much as you might think.

Week 7 picks

After starting the season 2-8, I’ve gone 10-6 since. Just enough to give me confidence that I might actually know what I’m doing. Therefore, look for a 1-4 week.

Last week I said this about the Philadelphia-Rochester game: “I have a weird feeling about this one” and then picked Philadelphia. Shoulda just taken a Rolaids for that weird feeling. I also got the Toronto/Minnesota game wrong, though in fairness (Warning: cheap excuse ahead) I did say that if Crawford returned I was less sure about my pick, and Crawford did play.

Record: 12-14 (.462)

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WAS @ EDM Looks like the 2012 Stealth are gone, and the 2010/2011 Stealth are back. They are second in the west, tied for most goals scored. The Rush are what they were last year – struggling to score goals but doing very well in the defense department. No brainer, right? No such thing in this league, buddy. But I’m still betting on Washington. Stealth
CAL @ TOR This will be a fun one. Both teams are stacked offensively and have great goaltenders so I don’t know if this will be a blowout one way or the other, a defensive battle, or a 18-17 slugfest. Could be any of them. Toronto is 5-7 at home in 2012 and so far in 2013, and I’ve heard everyone from owner Jamie Dawick to GM Terry Sanderson to a handful of players talking about how they have to play better at home. I can think of no better challenge than having the Roughnecks come in on a four-game winning streak. The Rock did beat the Roughnecks earlier this year, but they were Dobbie-less and hadn’t clicked yet. I hate to pick against my Rock, but Calgary scares me. Roughnecks
EDM @ COL This is kind of backwards to the Washington/Edmonton pick above: Edmonton’s defense is doing well and the Mammoth are struggling. The Mammoth is one of only two teams who have scored fewer goals than the Rush. Can they break out and score 15? With Junior on your team, definitely. But they only scored 6 against the Stealth and they’ve been more focused on their goaltending than their offense recently. Rush in a close one. Rush
CAL @ MIN Minnesota played very well in their game against Toronto last week, though they did give up the lead in the fourth quarter. But they didn’t give up entirely, scoring  twice in overtime. One of those goals even counted! And this against the top team in the league. This time they’re facing the Roughnecks, the #2 team in the league (and if they beat the Rock on Friday, they’ll be the #1 team). Not sure the Swarm can pull that off two weeks in a row. Roughnecks
BUF @ ROC Toughest game of the week to call other than CAL@TOR. The Knighthawks have been too strong over the last week or two while Buffalo has been consistently inconsistent and is still without JT. Knighthawks