“There are a lot of positives to having a guy like Casey Powell on your team” – Bayhawks head coach Dave Cottle, going way out on a limb, July 17, 2013.
That’s right folks, the wait has finally come to an end. After the “retirement,” after being picked out of nowhere in the supplemental draft, after weeks of “will he/won’t he” speculation, Casey Powell has finally touched down in Annapolis.
Cottle went on to say “there’s a very good chance he’ll be in the lineup,” (which is about as close to a “yes” as you should expect when coaches aren’t obligated to disclose lineups days in advance) and now with Powell, Boyle, and John Grant Jr. (more on him later), we’ll get to see the top three scorers in MLL history on the same field tonight, certainly not a bad transition from last weekend’s All-Star festivities.
Speaking of highly-publicized comebacks, the Boston Cannons, the hottest team in the league without a horse on their stadium, have officially risen from the ashes, all the way to a previously inconceiveable playoff spot.
While their four-game winning streak is impressive in it’s own right (and a win’s a win no matter what), it has a slight caveat to it: none of those wins came against teams with winning records. If the Cannons want to lock in their plans to be in Philly next month for Championship Weekend, the Bayhawks (and next week, the Hamilton Nationals) stand in the way.
Boston head coach John Tucker says his defense will need to stop John Grant Jr, and for good reason – with 16 points in three games, Junior’s spent his time in Chesapeake making the Cannons look downright foolish. Unfortunately for Bayhawks fans, there’s a catch to this stat as well: the Bayhawks are 1-2 in those three games, and they’ve lost two in a row.
Since we’re analyzing stats, let’s take it a little bit further, shall we? How about this: Junior led the team in shots for both of those losses, but not in the game they won. Hmm… maybe it’s actually been Boston’s old defensive strategy, let Junior do his damage, don’t slide to double-team him, cross your fingers, hope Jordan Burke comes up big in net, and otherwise just focus on containing the rest of the team?
Considering he was inches away from winning their last matchup with seconds left in regulation, let’s go ahead and strongly emphasize the ”maybe” portion in that theory. As far as Boston’s offense goes, they’re coming off their highest point total of the season, but they’re also bringing their fair share of question marks into tonight’s game.
As you know, an injury held Paul Rabil out of the All-Star game – how effective will he be tonight (Tucker says he’s at 90%, though it should be noted Michael Simon, Rabil’s defensive counterpart from the 2012 semifinals, is back in the lineup for Chesapeake)? Cam Flint is slated to return, but has he lost his place on both the first and extra-man midfields with the addition of Stephen Berger? Oh, and speaking of Berger, have cooler heads prevailed since his slash on Kip Turner kicked off that Lizards-Bayhawks skirmish back on Randall’s Island, or are Spallina and Polanco looking to pick up where they left off?
These teams have had their share of epic battles through the years (Ryan Boyle’s OT goal in week four secured Boston’s first win, and Chesapeake’s first loss, of the season) and tonight looks to be no exception. A Boston win, and they continue to play out one of the league’s more remarkable turnarounds. A Boston loss, and the Ratters and Hounds head into the weekend knowing a win moves them into a tie for that final playoff spot.
Can the Cannons complete the season sweep, or will Powell and the Bayhawks defend their home turf? We’ll find out tonight, 7:30 EST on CBS Sports.