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Paul Rabil Boston Cannons MLL Lacrosse lax

MLL Championship Weekend: Finals Preview & Semifinal Thoughts

2 - Published August 28, 2011 by in Major League Lacrosse, Pro Lacrosse

The Boston Cannons will face the Hamilton Nationals in the MLL Championship game today at 3pm.  Both teams played through heavy rain and wind, and had to overcome tough opponents to get to the big game, and playing the Championship game only one day later will prove to be a tough test for both squads.  The MLL doesn’t play a lot of back-to-back games, so seeing how these athletes adjust to that kind of situation is something to watch for.

Thankfully, for the Cannons at least, Paul Rabil was shut off for much of the Chesepeake game.  He was denied the ball quite a bit and other Cannons players had to produce, and bear the brunt of the offensive load.  Thankfully for Boston’s faithful, they were able to do just that.  This means Rabil could be a little more fresh for Sunday’s contest (and it doesn’t hurt him that he trains so hard, so often), and if he’s able to get going early, in dryer conditions, watch out.  He can’t be happy with how he played on Saturday even though they won.  I’m hoping for a gargantuan effort from the big man.

Unless Hamilton tries to Chesepeake him.  They might.  But I think it’s more likely that they put Merrill and Waldeck on Rabil and just match up with him, as opposed to shutting him off with a shortie, like the Bayhawks did at times.  Merrill is the best in the biz, and Waldeck is no slouch either.  I could even see Kyle Rubisch getting a bit of time on #99.  But I think Hamilton will try to pole Rabil as much as they can.

Paul Rabil Boston Cannons MLL Lacrosse lax

I think we'll see a lot of this.

For Boston, their biggest concern has to be on defense.  Denver slid early and often, and Hamilton moved the ball with expert precision, even in the rain.  The simpler two man games with Powell, Walters, Boltus and Bucktooth were well executed, and Denver looked a little unprepared for that.  Losing Eric Martin was a bigger loss for Denver than I had originally thought.  Boston had to be wary of Hamilton’s outside shooters, but they also need to remember how good Burke has been in net all season.  Stay at home on D, make Walters go right, and never lose of your men on the crease.  And then have faith that Burke will make the saves he needs to.

I like Hamilton’s poles, and I was very impressed with Moss and their other SSDMs.  If Rabil isn’t huge in the game, the other Cannons middies will need to compensate for that, and a guy like Mike Stone, who got at least 3-4 good looks on Saturday will need to put some away if the Cannons are to have success.

Defensively, the Cannons short sticks need to be wary of feeding from up top, through Walters and Thompson, and Powell, when he runs through the midfield.  Powell has been looking for the double to come and then flipping the ball through the gap to an open cutter.  Walters has been going lefty (no way!) but the doubles have still been coming and he’s been doing a great job of finding that shortside flashing middie on the run.

The Cannons’ win was one of the most exciting games I’ve seen in a long while.  And just when I thought the Cannons were ready to underachieve once again, they remained resolute and pulled out the W.  They didn’t ever seem to be in doubt, no matter what the rest of us may have thought, and they pulled it out in dramatic fashion.  Hamilton, on the other hand, played with a chip on their shoulder the whole game.  They played physical, Canadian, box lacrosse inspired field lacrosse, and it worked.  They pushed Denver around a bit, imposed their will and slowed the game down a bit.  Denver got anxious, and away from their game plan.  And the Nats capitalized on that opportunity.

I did not care for Geoff Snider’s approach to the face offs.  Not from a fan’s perspective at least.  But it was incredibly effective in slowing down the game and winding seconds off the clock.  If Boston goes up early, I doubt we’ll see this approach, but if Hamilton scores a couple quick ones, expect the Nats to slow it down, and grind it out.  So the key here is for Boston to get off to a quick start, and force Hamilton into playing a run and gun, high scoring game.  If they slow it down, and bog down possessions with only Rabil, it will be a 11-10 game, and that favors Hamilton, or at least gives them their best shot.

If the game does slow down, Boston will really need to draw penalties, and then score on most of their chances.  This can help them speed the game back up if they get down early.   The Nationals will undoubtedly change goalies at half time again, and it’s worked for them so far, so I say they stick with it.  The opposition nevers gets comfortable, and it even makes your own team refocus.  I like Boston to win this one if it’s high scoring, but the Nats to take it if the total goals don’t exceed 21.  Should be interesting no matter what.  In the end, I’m going with Boston.  I just think it’s their time.  And I think they do too.

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