Editor’s Note: The amount of box lacrosse coverage coming at you this winter on LAS is going to be staggering. Jeff Matheson, Matt Brascia and Chris Fox are going to be tearing up the NLL week in and week out; picking games, talking a little trash and opining ’til the cows come home. This time around we have a Week 2 NLL Preview by Jeff with picks from all three of our Canucklehead friends! In last week’s only game Calgary went down early to Toronto but came back and won 12-9 on the road. It was one heck of a game and if it is any indication of the overall play, the NLL will be BALLING in 2012! Now on to Week 2!!!!!
Rochester Knighthawks vs. Philadelphia Wings
2011 Scores: ROC 11 – PHI 6, ROC 13 – PHI 10, ROC 10 – PHI 6
Rochester dominated the Philadelphia Wings last season but I have a feeling the outcome will be a lot different this year.
Rochester had a strong season in 2011 finishing tied for first in the East. Unfortunately, they faced a tough challenge early on in playoffs and were eliminated by the Toronto Rock in the eastern semi-finals. Rochester has some big names on offense in Cody Jamieson and Jordan Hall that are complimented nicely by players like Mann Cup stand-out Jarrett Davis. On defense Sid Smith, a man worthy of his own line of Chuck Norris jokes, won’t let goals come easy for any of the offensive opponents he meets this season.
Philadelphia was the worst team last season, and as a result they received the first overall picks in both the dispersal and entry drafts. They were able to add Dan Dawson (dispersal from Boston), who is, in my opinion, the best player in lacrosse and Kevin Crowley, one of the brightest prospects in the sport, ever. Philadelphia also landed one of the best transition players in the league in Brodie Merrill in a trade with the Edmonton Rush that will help get the ball up the floor much quicker. With these pickups and trades it is safe to assume that Philadelphia has paid their dues in last place and won’t be back anytime soon.
Toronto Rock vs. Buffalo Bandits
2011 Scores: BUF 15 – TOR 14, TOR 8 – BUF 5, TOR 11 – BUF 8
Toronto took the series against the Buffalo Bandits last season and eventually went on to drink caffeine free cola from the Champions Cup in April.
Toronto is the best team in the NLL again this season. They lost a close one last week to Calgary but don’t be surprised when they end up in the Champions Cup game again this spring. Colin Doyle, Blaine Manning, and Josh Sanderson have so many rings they could literally open their own jewelry store. They know how to win and have continued to do so for decades. Youth like Stephen Leblanc and Garrett Billings meshes with the older crowd as if they have played together for years. Questions remain in goal with Matt Roik replacing Bob Watson, but this offense is so dangerous their goalie just needs to be decent in order for them to win.
Buffalo is a very good team again this season. John Tavares and Tracey Kelusky lead the experience pool and should combine for numerous scores this season. Mark Steenhuis is one of the best transition players in the game and will help get the ball safely up the floor to these proven snipers. It is interesting to note that long-time Buffalo forward Brett Bucktooth was cut from the team as Darris Kilgor looks to bring the team in a different direction this season.
Rock on, eh boys?
Minnesota Swarm vs. Colorado Mammoth
2011 Scores: MIN 12 – COL 10, MIN 11 – COL 10, MIN 12 – COL 8
Minnesota swept the series last season against the Colorado Mammoth but coming into this season they are my biggest question mark.
Minnesota doesn’t have offensively what the top teams in the league do. It seems as if they are lacking a marquee player like a Dan Dawson, Colin Doyle, or John Grant. Jamie Shewchuk and Corbyn Tao are great complimentary players but it might be tough to compete with the leagues best defensemen on a nightly basis that a Grant or Dawson would draw. Minnesota does have grit with young, tough players like Andrew Suitor and Nik Bilic and that is never a bad thing in Lacrosse.
Colorado didn’t have too strong of a season last year, but I feel like they have the parts to do a lot better. John Grant, Jamie Lincoln, and Ilija Gajic are all-star quality forwards that should be able to score a lot more goals than last season. With dangerous secondary scoring in Jordan McBride and Adam Jones I see this Mammoth team winning a lot more games this year. Perhaps they lacked toughness last season so adding NLL heavyweight Rory Smith should be able to sort this issue out.
FOXY: COL because of the Sean Pollock factor!
Calgary Roughnecks vs. Washington Stealth
2011 Scores: CAL 13 – WAS 11, WAS 19 – CAL 14, CAL 17 – WAS 13
Calgary took the 2011 series, but Washington was able to win when it counted the most eliminating Calgary in the Western finals with a score of 10-8.
Calgary has a plethora of young superstars; a group that was able to out duel the Toronto Rock last weekend. Shawn Evans, Curtis Dickson, 2011 NLL MVP Jeff Shattler, Dane Dobbie, and Cory Conway are five players capable of scoring in bunches. The Roughnecks also pack a powerful transitional game with fast and talented players like Dr. Curtis Manning, Peter McFetridge, and Travis Cornwall.
If Toronto is my pick for best team in the NLL then Washington is a CLOSE second. Washington’s offense is led by Lewis Ratcliff and Rhys Duch; two players that continue to prove to be one of the most dangerous combinations in the NLL. They pack the most dangerous transition player in the world in Paul Rabil, and have added grit with Cliff Smith and Kyle Ross. They are a top-notch team and should win this first game against a young, Calgary Roughnecks.
FOXY: WAS – I will continue to pick every team JMath does until he gets blanked!
Editor’s Note: Thanks for all the info Jeff! And thanks to all the guys for making their picks so early in the week!!! Foxy, pick your heart. It worked out for you well last year, right?
We watched the NLL’s opening game last night and although we’d MUCH rather see the games on TV, the livestream broadcast was exponentially better than it was last year. Now if they could only get Shawn Evans’ name right…