Editor’s Note: Jeff Matheson is back with a comprehensive preview of Week 4 in the NLL. He’s writing the preview, so he’s the only one picking. Plus the rest of us were awful. Just awful. Connor Wilson went 1-4. Embarrassing for him, we’re sure. But don’t despair… JMath actually knows what he’s talking about!
Coming into this weekend all of the teams have a game or two under their belts. Some teams are where we pegged them at the beginning of the season, and others are off to a slow start. 2011 Champions Cup finalists Toronto and Washington find themselves in the basements of both the Eastern and Western conferences respectively, while the Buffalo Bandits and the Colorado Mammoth are yet to register a loss. Week four features six games; two on Friday and four on Saturday.
Games on Friday, January 27, 2012:
Rochester Knighthawks Vs Toronto Rock - 07:00 PM – Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
Rochester comes into this game after a fairly solid start to their season. They hammered the Wings in game one and lost a close one to eastern conference leader Buffalo in their next one. Cody Jamieson is leading the goal-scoring charge with seven in two games, while Mike Accursi has picked the most apples with nine assists. Matt Vinc’s 11.3 GAA could be lower, but is not bad.
Toronto’s aging roster has gotten off to a slow start dropping their first two games. Adding Blaine Manning’s broken collarbone to the mix doesn’t add any optimism to the situation they are currently in. Although leading his team in points Colin Doyle’s eight points in two games isn’t enough, and the whole offense needs to put more balls in the net.
I will pick Toronto because they need to right the ship before they find themselves locked in the basement.
Philadelphia Wings Vs Buffalo Bandits - 07:30 PM – First Niagara Center, Buffalo, NY
The Philadelphia Wings are as tough a team to predict as you can find this season. Rochester embarrasses them in the first game and they answer back the next week topping western powerhouse Washington. 2011 first overall pick Kevin Crowley is measuring up to expectations leading the team with eight goals and fourteen points. Dan Dawson and Kevin Crowley are a scary combination and chemistry between these two big bodies should be worrying the rest of the league.
Buffalo is off to a white-hot start sitting at 2-0 with victories over Toronto and Rochester. John Tavares is leading the team in pretty much every statistic besides GAA, with six goals, fifteen points, and sixteen shots on goal in two games. Goaltender Mike Thompson’s 9.5 GAA is solid as well providing the Bandits with an opportunity to win every outing.
This is a hard pick, but I will go with Buffalo because of the difference in GAA’s: 9.5, 13.22.
Games On Saturday, January 28, 2012:
Buffalo Bandits Vs Minnesota Swarm - 8:00 PM – Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN
Buffalo is definitely at a disadvantage in this game due to playing at home the night before and having to travel to Minnesota for a game the next night. But I don’t think Minnesota has an answer for their high potency offense.
Minnesota has only played one game, dropping a decision 20-14 to the first place in the West Colorado Mammoth. Callum Crawford had a great first outing for the Swarm notching four goals and five assist for a total of nine points. Goaltender Nick Patterson has a whopping GAA of 20 and needs to be a lot better if the Swarm have any chance at beating a Buffalo team that is able to score in bunches.
Even though Buffalo is tired I will still choose them to win this one.
Rochester Knighthawks Vs Colorado Mammoth - 9:00 PM – Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Rochester flies into Denver fresh off of a game in Toronto the night before. This game in Toronto is guaranteed to be a battle and Rochester should be pretty beat up from it.
Colorado is off to 3-0 start putting them atop the NLL standings. John Grant Jr. is averaging ten points a game, 30/3 is how I figured that out, and has forty-two shots on goal. Chris Levis’ GAA is 12.6 and there is understandably little pressure on him when Jr. is good for ten points a night.
I will take a rolling and rested Colorado in this one. As long as the boys can lay off the cheap American beers Friday they should be fine.
Toronto Rock Vs Calgary Roughnecks - 9:00 PM – Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, AB
Toronto plays the night before in t-dot and makes the trip west to the arena that is shaped like a saddle. Toronto should have a pretty intense game the night before and will likely be sore and fatigued.
Calgary is off to a very strong start sitting at 2-1 with their only loss coming in overtime. Their scoring is spread out with Dane Dobbie leading the team with only six goals and Jeff Shattler leading the team with only thirteen points in three games. Spread out scoring is not only hard to strategize against but if someone forgets to show up that night it is easier to make up for.
I will take Toronto in this one solely because Colin Doyle is due to win a game by himself by swimming in his own ginos.
Edmonton Rush Vs Washington Stealth - 10:30 PM – Comcast Arena, Everett, WA
Edmonton lost a close one to Colorado 13-12 last weekend in their only regular season game. Ryan Ward had three goals in this game while teammate Shawn Williams was able to chalk up eight apples and a gino for nine points. Aaron Bold allowed thirteen goals, an amount more than most coaches would be happy with. I am not sure if I am sold on this Edmonton roster yet, I will need to see a few more games.
Coming off of a heartbreaker in Philadelphia the Washington Stealth added to their lousy start with a 0-2 record. Rhys Duch is leading the team in ginos, apples, and overall points at 4-5-9 but obviously needs help in this area. Lewis Ratcliff leads the team with twenty-eight shots and only two goals. He has hit more goalies than the Boston Bruins have this season in the NHL. All kidding aside the Stealth are a better team than their record reveals and should be able to turn around their season with a win in Everett.
I will take Washington in this game, as similar to the Rock, they simply need to win it.