Week 3 NLL Lacrosse Review & Highlights, Part 1

Casey Powell Lacrosse NLL Boston Blazers Top 5 American

Week 3 is in the books.  I made some calls on who would win these NLL games and the majority of them turned out to be wrong.  It happens!  I also did a BlogTalk Radio show with Marisa Ingemi of InLaxWeTrust and Mike Wilson of the NLL Blog where we made lots of predictions and shared our thoughts on the season, all while it was only 2 weeks old.  What can I say, I love being surprised.

The NLL’s overall talent level is so concentrated, and therefore so high, in 2011, that most of the games have been pretty close so far.  Off-season trades seem to be working out well for Minnesota and new players have had an instant impact in Rochester.  Boston is struggling record-wise to the surprise of many and Philadelphia has already won a game to get back in the thick of things.  The season is still early, but the action is already intense.  I love the NLL.

Toronto Rock – Boston Blazers

I was on the money with calling Toronto over Boston by 1 in a mid-teens game as the Rock won 15-14 in OT.  Both teams looked fluid on offense and consistently got good looks even though the keepers for both squads played well throughout much of the game.  For Boston, Cosmo was absolutely electric in Overtime.  He singlehandedly made that the best OT in the NLL so far this year.  Boston lost on a bit of a weak goal, as a pass got through to the net while Cosmo was moving across the face of the goal to defend the intended target of the pass.  Still, the game was awesome and delivered on all the hype.  These teams play again in February so look for another awesome game then.

Casey Powell has proven to be the main initiator on offense for Boston.  A lot of the teams’ looks are derived from where he is on the floor.  This is both a blessing a curse.  If he’s on the wing, they often clear out to let him operate on the wing.  His quickness made the underneath move a constant threat. When Powell moved higher on the right hand side, there were more picks set low and he curled up for a lot of good looks.  This resulted in 5 goals and 4 assists for Powell and also contributed to Dan Dawson’s 2 goal, 7 assist night.  However, the rest of the team combined for 17 points, and 8 of those came from Kevin Buchanan as he exploded for 5 goals and 3 assists.

Boston will need to spread their scoring out a bit more and run a more cohesive team offense as the season progresses and getting Buchanan in the mix more in a big game, early in the season, is a good sign.  Powell and Dawson can obviously do it all, but if they don’t have to do it all, the Blazers will be a lot more dangerous.  Some may rip on Sanderson for what they consider sluggish production but I think he played a team game and still ended up with 3 assists.  Powell is one of the best ever, but at times, I think Boston let too much of their O flow through him.  Overall, they looked good, but not great, and this team is definitely shooting for great.  So there is work to be done.

Toronto, on the other hand, had 6 players with at least 3 points to Boston’s 4.  The big guys on offense for the Rock (Billings, Manning, Doyle, LeBlanc) all produced but they also got scoring from Stephen Hoar (a defender), Matt Mcleod (another option at forward they picked up from Orlando), and Kasey Beirnes (another forward for the Rock who puts up about 30 points a year).  This balance allowed Toronto to look like the better team for much of the night, even though the game came down to the wire.

Even when it was closest, or when Cosmo was literally standing on his head in OT, I always thought the Rock would win.  They just looked more together.  Boston can definitely get there but they’ll need to become a well-oiled machine and not just a team of stars to do so.  I’ll give Boston some more time though; rumor has it these guys barely even got to play together before warmups for the season opener AND they have a new coach in Matt Sawyer.  By season’s end, if Boston’s O looks a little bit more like Toronto’s, the Blazers could be unstoppable.  If they continue to rely solely on Powell and Dawson alone to create looks, they’ll lose in the playoffs when it counts.

Minnesota Swarm – Edmonton Rush

I said Edmonton would win this game but that they would try to win it 8-7.  They lost 9-8.  Even when I’m wrong, I’m right!  Cut me some slack here all right?  It’s still early.  Edmonton didn’t push their whole team forward as much as I thought they needed to score more transition goals.  It was more rare in week 3, that all 5 guys pushed forward and Edmonton seemed ok to wait for settled looks.  They got good production on O from Ryan Ward as he scored a goal and assisted on 3 others while Gavin Prout went 1 and 2 in scoring and was in the Swarm players’ faces all night long.  He was like a constant presence always chirping and checking and pushing.  I think he really helped Edmonton be competitive by playing like this all night long.

Brodie Merrill showed up big and scored 3 goals alongside 2 assists so while Edmonton didn’t always push the ball, when they did, Merrill was involved.  He hung around and got some great looks from late cuts and taking advantage of defensive switch overs.  Very heady play from the big man and he proved, once again, just how important he is to his team’s success.  Disher was good in goal but not quite good enough for the Rush to pull out the win.  Man, he is one big dude.

Minnesota, like Toronto, used a more balanced attack and had 6 players with at least 2 points.  Zack “the Enforcer” Greer dropped 2 assists, but then again, so did the Swarms’ goalie, Nick Patterson.  In addition to the assists, Patterson was great in goal for the Swarm coming up with 47 saves.  Some of his best came late in the night as Minnesota was trying to hold on for the win and Edmonton was knocking on the door.  Wilson, Giles and Crawford all produced some points and Ryan Benesch showed why he was such a great pick up for Minnesota as he had a goal and assisted on 4 others.  Minnesota is looking like a up and comer in the West but remember, they beat Edmonton by one, at home, in a game where they were outshot 55-38.  Something to think about.

Philadelphia Wings – Colorado Mammoth

Philly won a game!  Of course they were eventually going to win a game but I was surprised to see it happen now, on the road, and against Colorado.  I thought John Grant Junior would have a big game and while he peppered the cage with 19 shots on goal, yes, 19 shots on goal, he only scored on 2 of them.  He also had 6 assists, so its not like he didn’t play well, but when your big dog takes 19 shots and only 2 drop, you could be in a for a shocker of a loss.

Coloado had decent overall production as 6 players (including Grant) had 2 or more points.  Brian Langtry went 3 and 1 while Alex Gajic went 1 and 3.  Overall, 9 players scored for the Mammoth and the majority of the offense went through Grant.  When a team relies on a player like Junior, it often works out.  But when Grant can’t quite seem to nail his shot, anything can happen, and that includes losing to Philly.

Max Seibald had a big game for Philly and every time he steps on the floor, it is evident what a great athlete he is.  He scored 3 goals and added an assist and seemed to make a lot of big plays when Philly needed it, whether it was clearing the ball through a couple of players or disrupting an opponents clear; Seibald was a game changer.  As he becomes more and more accustomed to the indoor game, his production should continue to increase.  Ideally, he could make a great forward for Philly… he’d just also be able to play great defense if they needed him to.  He’s athletic and versatile and has a bright future in the league.  Ryan Boyle and Athan Ianucci each notched a goal and 2 assists and Pat Heim dropped 3 assists from D to help Philly win.  Paul Dawson, usually known for kicking ass, scored 2 goals and assisted on other.  His second goal was actually the game winner and I was as shocked as Colorado.  Don’t ever doubt the Dawsons, I guess!

I’ll be back later with more on Buffalo – Toronto, Boston – Rochester, and Washington-Calgary!!


    • Boston has scored a lot of their goals directly because of Powell. No question there. Without him, they would be forced to play a much more team oriented game, which would be better in the long run. Now if, or perhaps I should say when, they can play that team oriented game WITH him? Unstoppable.

      I’m certainly not trying to scapegoat Powell or say he could be playing any harder. Or better, for that matter. It is just about Boston finding a real rhythm, which I think they will. Part of that is involving other players a bit more, and maybe a bit earlier in games, which will only let Powell operate with a little less attention. And since he’s nasty, that’s a good thing.

      Just my humble $.02. I’m sure a lot of people out there disagree with me and think he should get the ball even more. I’m just a grow the pie kind of guy!

  1. I’ve watched Grant in the NLL and MSL (indoor summer league) and he occasionally gets games where he shoots from everywhere, especially when he gets frustrated early. That’s how he looked against Philly. Wasn’t getting anything going early and started resorting to underhand shots on the ground from well outside.

    That being said, you have to let him do his thing. He’s going to win you a lot more games than he costs you, but he will cost you occasionally (like that game).

    Boston’s offence on Friday was too centred on Dawson and Powell. Sanderson is probably the best offensive general in the league and the Rock did a great job keeping the ball out of his stick. Buchanan stepped up, but he was the recipient of a lot of dump passes, generated off drives by Dawson and Powell. Full credit to him for burying his chances, but the Blazers lost a lot of possessions because it was basically one on ones from either side of the floor. If those 2 weren’t as good as they are, Toronto probably wins this game by 10.

    All that being said, 14 goals is often good enough to win you the game and they lost on 2 really flukey goals. Toronto-Boston has to be an early favourite to play for the champions cup… both in terms of play so far and just the potential excitment of 2 high powered offences and 2 really good goalies.

    • it was just SO many shots. 19. wow. and he can rip. I guess even from there, I expected a couple more to go in!

      Dawson and Powell ARE that good though. However, there are definitely other guys who can score for Boston. So by involving them, everyone becomes more dangerous. I think it makes sense, and that we’ll see it happen. Hopefully by mid Feb when these two play each other again… in Boston.

      Thanks for the comment Derek! Why aren’t you writing about the NLL on LAS again?

  2. I am getting slightly worried by Toronto’s sloppy play on defense. 14 goals is a lot, even when facing “the big three”. Even when playing Cordingley’s/Sanderson’s pressure D.

    One other thing I found rather curious is, that recently Toronto just happens to “run into hot goalies”. Is this just bad luck or does Toronto’s shot selection and accuracy need to improve?

    Overall, I really enjoy their style of play and am thoroughly impressed with both Leblanc and Billings.

    • It’s hard to claim the Rock are running into hot goalies when they lead the league in scoring by a decent amount through 4 games. They’ve scored 13,12,15 and 14 goals so far this season and are shooting almost 24%.

      Definitely not a traditional Rock team… generally goals are at a premium but the defence is impossible to score on.

      • You are certainly right about the goalies, the Rock has faced so far. That is exactly why I put it the statement into quotationmarks. It was my general feeling, that most game summaries put a lot of stress on supposedly superb goalie play.
        The stats certainly do not justify such a statement, however, when watching the games many of the goalie saves were quality saves (1 v 1 on a break away or very good looks in front of the cage).

  3. The thing with the blazers is they could be easily scoring 12+ goals a game. They have the backup staff to do so, and with passers/scorers in Dawson and Sanderson they should be. But it really comes down to who the offense is going through. Dawson is easily most effective when drives to the middle and dishes. That’s his game, when he drives he either makes a dump pass to an open guy or he scores, hes just that good. Sandersons the same, as that was apparent in the Blazers knighthawks game. He got 3 of his 4 from right in front of the net he can go to the net easily and he did. They just need him to do that all the time. Ok with Powell, he takes too many shots. Sure he score 3+ goals a game but while shooting from the perimeter with upwards of 14 shots a game. He could do that in Orlando because the supporting cast was good, they weren’t great. But this is q different team, I think for Boston to e great offensively Powell really needs to step up and Distribute to everyone else including Sanderson and Dawson. McNulty has the potential to be rely great, just look at the season he had in Jr a in 2010. Buchanan showed he can play well as he demonstrated in Toronto.

    With Toronto, defensively is all they need to improve on. Not much else needs to be said, offensively they all shoot and pass well, Doyle resolvable up in buffalo and mannig continues to do well with billings beside him and Leblanc across.

    I don’t agree with what you said about Edmonton. Bottom line is thy are terrible right now. It’s also 3 games into the season and there next game has already turned into a must win. Offensively they are baaaaaad. Ward and prout were not good like you said, 1 goal from either of those guys is not enough. Ward was their leading scorer last season and he has completely lost a beat this year. Prout isnonly feisty when he’s not shooting the ball well, and he then becomes a liability. He can take stupid penalties and takes bad shots. Merrill scored all of his goals off transition if i remeber. He played awesome, absolute machine. They are getting great goaltending from disher this season they an do real well defensively as long as they get some goal support. They need guys to step up; small, secore, ward, d. Hill, prout and ward are all inconsistent. Kedoh hill, Merrill and disher and easily their best ball players at the moment but their are getting some pretty decent play out of their defense as a hole.

    Cooooolorado. 2 teams that bunked in the basemen of the league standings squaring off. Both teams have made some improvements, but I’ve been more impressed with Colorado. Although they didn’t win, they proved they can play D well, and do offensively. I feel like they’re the opposite of Boston, they need grant to shoot, they are like a mirror image of Orlando in that sense. They hav some great up and comic players in the gajic’s, Wasson smith and shewchuck but they are a young team and they need someone to take over sometimes and olafainst Philly it was one of the games. Grant was one the catalyst for that game. Although shewchuck did have his best year last season he really needs to be that 1-2 punch with grant until Dan Carey comes back from injury. Langtry needs to be release, or traded or retire. He’s bad, takes dumb penalties and bad shots. Defensively, they’ve really been great. they’ve improved by getting levis playing well, adding Mac Allen and getting rid of Murray and gettin Nenad Gajic healthy. Although I don’t like having Ilija playing d, he’s far to valuable for that and should be coming out the front gate.

    Minnesota is playing really good, great balanced offense, great, athletic defense by adding suitor and smith and having Patterson play his best ball in a while. I watched him play in the Summer for the shamrocks and he’s improved since then.

    Phili played ok, got a lot of transition goals, but need mundorf and Boyle to step up and configure. Getting their first goals in the 3 game of be year is baaaaad. I really like having turner signed, hes a great hometown kid that’s inally getting the minutes hebdeserves in the nLL. He played real well this summer for langely and desverves this gig. Nooch is gonna be gooood. He’ll gear up and easily score 30+ goals this season. Miller has been playing alright and really need him to play well if they want to win. Their d is soft, not a lot of punishment of the Philly d outside of pauly Dawson. I’d like to see McCelland get some more minutes because he is a great defeanive guy and can score off transition.