The NLL has now finished its 2nd week of action in 2011, and I’m starting to notice some verifiable trends emerge which will guide us for the rest of the season… or at least until the playoffs start. Then it’s probably back to total confusion.
With the talent levels so high and so deep in the NLL this year (due to the recent league shrinkage and growth of lacrosse), every game has the potential to be a battle and many have turned out that way so far. Calgary even started out 2-0 and shocked a number of prognosticators; especially after they dispatched the Washington Stealth, last year’s Champion. Of course, then Calgary lost this weekend in OT and Washington got smoked by Minnesota, of all teams, so yeah… it’s a season of parity and turmoil! Perfect.
People were shocked when Calgary won their first two games, which is ridiculous. They have a good goalie who can get hot (pretty much everyone in the NLL has one now), some crafty veterans and skill players, a couple of talented youngsters and the best indoor face-off man in the world, Geoff Snider. Of course this team is going to win some games! They will also lose some games as their offense is still kind of anemic.
They get good production from the left side of the floor in Dickson (who has been playing very well early on) and Dobbie (who is doing well but isn’t a Dickson/Shattler/Ranger type of offensive player), but they tend to initiate with their righties. The righties seem content to take outside semi-screen shots or try to work a face dodge underneath to score. Both are good ways to generate chances… unless you do them all the time and become predictable, which Calgary did on Satruday night.
The end result was an 8-7 loss in OT to Colorado and the Mammoth goalie, Levis, had 54 saves. They needed to be more patient and get more off-ball movement. Standing around watching Scott Ranger dodge is a great way to go .500 in the NLL, even if Snider is winning 15 of 19 face offs and dropping a couple points. Ranger had 2 goals but took 12 shots. He needs to finish better if the Roughnecks hope to succeed this year.
In the end, Colorado was kind of lucky to win this game but they got the W through the hard work of Brian Langtry, who was all over the place agitating and assisting, and some decent defense by the Gajics. Calgary couldn’t get inside so they settled for outside shots and the Mammoth just packed it in. John Grant Junior didn’t put up a ton of points, but he drew A LOT of attention from Calgary which let guys like Langtry operate more efficiently.
In the Minnesota – Washington game we also had someone take a TON of shots. His name is Ryan Benesch. He took 13 shots total, but unlike Ranger, he buried his chances with 7 of those shots becoming goals. Benesch also chipped in with 3 assists for an impressive 10 point effort on the night.
Minnesota had 4 other players chip in with 2 goals, one of those being Zack Greer. Their keeper, Nick Patterson, had 50 saves in net. Lewis Ratcliff, Rhy Duch and Paul Rabil led Washington in scoring but it was never enough to get on track against the Swarm, even though Jamison Koesterer won 20 of 28 face offs.
The 2nd quarter of the game proved to be the deciding period. Minnesota was up 4-3 and then outscored the Stealth 6-1 in the second frame. Washington never made much of a push after that. They have a ton of talent on their roster and should be back in the playoff hunt, but there is some serious work to be done in Stealth-land. Team D, getting back in the hole, playing with heart: these are things your team has to commit to and it doesn’t look like the Stealth have done that… yet.
I’ll be back later today with recaps and highlights from the remaining 3 games!