Only a few weeks back, the Boston Cannons were seemingly in free fall, sitting in seventh place with a 1-5 record. Since that time, they have changed their head coach, added in a couple of new faces, and rattled off four straight wins. Currently, they are in fourth place, and they looking solid as the playoff race heats up.
Although the above changes can certainly be considered big ones, they aren’t the only thing at play here. In reality, the change for the Boston Cannons has come from the little things:
– Aggressive, But Not TOO Aggressive – The Cannons were extending out, throwing checks, and getting beat on defense a little too often early on. Without time to settle the defense, this was resulting in far too many open looks on Jordan Burke, often early in the shot clock. Lately, Boston has been sitting back a bit more early in the shot clock, and then pressing out. In each possession, it’s only a matter of 10 seconds, but this slight delay is paying big dividends for the Cannons’ chemistry on D. The Cannons’ D is still aggressive, they are just timing it up a lot better.
– Threatening Midfielders – Mike Stone has re-emerged as a huge threat, and bonafide scorer over the last couple of games, and Kevin Buchanan is getting a lot of good looks. Is this because Paul Rabil has been playing more midfield? Yes, yes it is. Both Stone and Buchanan have been in SSDM heaven lately, as Rabil is almost always drawing a pole. Rabil is also scoring on the LSMs for the most part. The Midfield is producing!
Add in Cam Flint as a legit dodger and all around mid, and this group is looking more and more dangerous. An extra goal here and there from D-mid Brent Adams never hurts either. This group just went from Boston’s biggest weakness to a huge strength.
Fun Fact: Brent Adams is the third Adams brother to play in the MLL, and all 3 have played for Boston at one point. Glenn (Wesleyan) and Owen (Stony Brook) also suited up for the Cannons in the past.
– Attacking Your Role – The attack for Boston has, much like their midfield, started clicking, and this group definitely has some relatively set roles for each player. Right now, Ryan Boyle, Will Manny, and Matt Poskay give Boston a QB, a dodger, and a finisher, in that order. While Boyle and Manny are more than capable of doing other things, all three have committed to doing what they do best, and it is providing match up problems all around.
Ari Sussman gives Boston another good option, and he can fill the shoes of Boyle or Manny, or give Boston a triple dodging threat, if he plays on a line with them. Poskay is a little more limited, but he puts the biscuit in the basket like few others, and I don’t ever think I’ve seen him try to do “too much”. He knows his game, and puts up points.
– Face Off Eck-cellence – The Cannons’ entire face off unit looks much improved. Better wing play, less transition given up, more generated… it’s all looking pretty solid. But the biggest change has seemingly come from Chris Eck. It’s like someone said, “hey Chris, remember when you were good?” and then Eck got pissed, and decided to start winning face offs like a man possessed. When Eck doesn’t win, he’s delaying and defending pretty well. Maybe Eck just hit his stride again, but he’s looking better than ever right now.
The Attitude And Intensity – Boston had the talent early in the year to win games, but they didn’t. They still have the talent now, so maybe it’s the attitude that has changed? The Cannons are filled with guys who have won at every level, and they all know that you win games consistently by focusing on what you do, playing hard, and doing your job. Boyle, Rabil, and Belisle have all seemingly doubled down their efforts in this area, and it’s clearly trickling down from the Captains, and no doubt, their new coach, John Tucker.
In the end, not that much has changed for Boston. They are still aggressive on D, Eck is still facing off, and Rabil is still the focal point on offense. The difference is that everyone knows what they need to do to make the Cannons successful, and now they are doing it.
The above may seem obvious and trivial to some, but that fact is, when you’re playing in the MLL, it’s not all about the stars having big games. Winners share the ball, play their roles to perfection, and get the little things right. I can say with some confidence now that Boston is one of those teams.