Inside Lacrosse recently ran a post titled “Twitter Reactions to New Rules on ESPNU“, and I was surprised to see that so many of the reactions they selected were overwhelmingly negative. As someone who likes to look at both sides of things, I’m here to provide a little balance, and maybe even some perspective. I mean… was the game really that bad?
Let me answer that for you right away: No, it wasn’t bad at all.
In fact, the game was MUCH better than the same game last year. So what’s with all the complaining at 140 characters or less? I said the game was vastly improved myself, but evidently Matt Kinnear doesn’t follow me. Wait, he does follow me? I guess my opinion just doesn’t matter. Sad face.
Why was the game better? How did the new rules help?
Please, allow me to count the ways:
Hopkins went up early, but unlike in years past, they didn’t just take the air out of the ball and slow it down on the way to victory. That makes for a boring and slow game. Instead, Hop continued to attack the cage, and while this let Siena put in a couple goals, and tighten things up, it eventually led to the superior team winning by a wide margin. It also kept me engaged for the entire game as a viewer. A possession in the third period never turned in a 6 minute offensive stall cycle, and the threat of action was notable.
When a blowout remains engaging, something is working.
The Game Was Sped Up
Siena wanted to slow the game down a bit when they had the ball on offense, especially in settled situations. They didn’t look confident dodging the Hop poles, but definitely went 1-on-1 more than they did last year, when the Saints really only dodged on shortsticks. Dodges often came within 45 seconds of a possession beginning, and this was a huge step up. Hopkins also sped up their offensive play making, and pushed the ball in transition much more. Hopkins’ athletes really stood out because of the new rules.
John Ranagan could hit the cage with his shot, and looked much better than he did in 2012. Passing was pretty decent, and few passes were of the ankle-high variety. Both teams cycled the ball more fluidly than they had the year before. There were some ugly passes to be sure, but by removing the horn, these turnovers did not slow the game down at all. Both teams were able to dislodge the ball with more ease, and Tucker Durkin almost scored two goals off of takeaways. I don’t know if that happened once last year. Takeaways are back!
There was also some bad with the new sticks, like the high passes I mentioned above. but overall it was good. Like 90% good. Transition, passing, relatively accurate shooting, and takeaways. That’s what good lacrosse does.
No Goalie Slow Downs
This was one of the few positive points in the IL post. Goalies not chasing after every shot, and getting a 5 second reset period was awesome. It sped the game up in a major way, and led to more cohesive possessions for offensive teams. Another great rule change.
Ok, so now we know what the “good” was. But what were the complaints? And do they have any real weight behind them?
Lots Of Penalties
Was EVERY hit called a high hit, as some of the Twitterers claimed? NO. Only the high ones were called. Want to see less penalties in the game? Hit guys in the head less and don’t cross check. It’s called proper technique. This is VERY simple, and as players adjust, the number of penalties will go down. Unfortunately, high hits were becoming de rigeur, and something had to be done to tone that down. Since you can knock the ball out of an opponent’s stick, you no longer need to take their head off.
The above complaining is even more evident when you look at the comments on the IL post. Commenters downplay safety, and claim the game is unwatchable because the hitting is gone. This is patently ridiculous. Legal hits are still fine, as long as they avoid the other player’s head. Launching yourself headfirst with arms extended is a penalty. It’s not tough, it’s dangerous. Call me soft if you’d like, but head to head contact isn’t something to be valued. Supporting head to head hits is like calling the advent of the helmet the worst thing to ever happen to lacrosse. You can say it, but…
There were also plenty of hits that were not called penalties in the game, but people only focus on the ones that were called penalties. A crosscheck to the head is a penalty, and it always has been. Props to the refs and Committee for actually calling it now. More penalties can slow a game down, but like I said, they will taper down as teams adjust. Let’s not lose out minds over this yet.
Trend: Lots of Saves
Is that a bad thing? I’m not sure. It means teams are shooting more, and it means goalies can push transition more. I like transition lacrosse and will take 50 shots games over 25 shot games any day. So goalies make more saves… they also see more shots, and I think that means more goals. Isn’t that the idea? Didn’t we find 20 shot games with a final scoreline of 5-3 to be boring? This seems like a nonsense complaint to me, or a non-complaint, when it should be a positive. Try to be excited, people, at least when things are good.
Really, people were complaining about the high hits, and penalties, the most. Feel free to “educate” me on how this is “ruining” the game in the comments if you’d like, and I’ll be sure to converse with you. Just make sure your argument is strong, because I’ve rewatched this Siena – Hopkins game a couple times now, and in no way does the game look “ruined” to me.
The game was faster, offered more action throughout the course of two hours on TV, and never slowed down to the point it got boring. Even when a penalty slowed things down a bit, the high hit replays and shots of coaches yelling filled the short void, and then we got right back to the action.
You may have complaints about the new version of the game, and I’m not saying some of these complaints aren’t valid. But if these complaints are rooted in the loss of high hits, you’re going to need to work really hard to convince me. Overall, it’s just not that big of a loss.