Editor’s Note: Welcome to Ryan Conwell’s new series focusing on “Examining”, well, whatever he finds most interesting each week in the NLL. Mark Donahue will jump in time to time, providing his thoughts and analysis from other matchups. We’ll continue with the two teams with the rockiest starts, the Roughnecks and Stealth, and how they grew through week two!
Last week, I said how my game to watch was Vancouver vs Calgary. Each team was coming off a loss and their offensive stars were not on their game yet.
Both seemed poised for a change, finally time for the rust to be knocked off and for the scoreboard to light up. That actually wound up being mostly true, but not in the way I expected it to shake out.
Examining: A Close One in Calgary
Examining: Getting Back in/on the Saddle(dome)
Starting with Calgary, their six point outing in Rochester was atrocious. I don’t think you can find anyone on that team who could just shrug that off.
The response? 15 goals to open the Saddledome for the season.
Curtis Dickson led the way with a hat trick and three helpers, while Holden Cattoni and Riley Loewen also chipped in three. Overall, the Riggers were very balanced and used their set offense to generate points in addition to a very strong transition game.
Examining: Currier’s Comfortability
Who really stole the show for me, though was rookie Zach Currier. Expectations were sky high for Currier going into this season and what I saw from him in this game backs it up. The best way to describe him right now is comfortable. Many rookies do take a few games before the NLL game comes to them. Sure, they’re physical and athletic from day one (they wouldn’t make it out of camp if they weren’t), but what I watch for is what they do when the ball is not in their stick.
Yes, Currier had a crazy highlight diving goal, but, I was most impressed by him on loose balls and his play in transition. He was very aware of all the defenders around him and was positioning himself in places where he could take advantage of an unsettled defense. This didn’t result in any looks for him this time around, but seeing him already trying to do those high IQ plays this early in the season is a great sign.
The other thing he was great on was loose balls. It was something I saw Randy Staats doing quite a bit of in his rookie season early as well. Basically, you have the youthful exuberance of running head first into a loose ball in the corner, and then you have the ability to position yourself in a way that upon picking it up, you are already in a great spot to escape and make a play. Seeing Currier go after a ball in the corner to extend a possession, or to get one back is already a joy to watch.
The best example of him working in broken situations was him killing off the last ten seconds of the game almost by sheer willpower. He’s already something special.
Examining: Ready for Rhys Duch
For Vancouver, they are now 0-2 in the division, so it’s not even 2018 in the 2018 season yet and they have an uphill battle ahead. I was expecting this to be Rhys Duch‘s game, but for now we are still waiting for that. Somehow, he still only has a single goal after two games.
His five total points (four assists) this season have him way behind last year. 2017’s first two games were also against the West rivals, Mammoth and Roughnecks, but Duch had 16 points in the those two, including a six goal game against Colorado.
So this is…weird.
Examining: Saving Grace
Fortunately, the Stealth had Logan Schuss. For parts of this game, it felt like he could not miss. He ended the night with five goals on only eight shots on goal.
Compare that to Duch’s 1/15 and Corey Small’s 0/12.
If it wasn’t for Schuss, this game could have been significantly uglier. That does offer up some major optimism, though. If the whole team comes together, they could put up some big numbers. That’s kinda been the narrative since moving to Vancouver. With so much potential, it’s time to put the pieces together or makes some massive moves.
Looking forward to this week, you cannot choose a bad game. The only team with a loss playing this weekend happens to be the defending champs.
The Swarm go on the road to Colorado in what should be a fantastic game.
Then, the Black Wolves are up in Saskatoon in the battle of teams who swapped goalies. Another bit of must-see action.
The final game that I’m going to go with is the good old fashioned Thruway Rivalry of Buffalo and Rochester. Both look like they have seriously rebounded from last year and each would be making a statement with a strong win. The fans are always into this one and that should add to the atmosphere in the Blue Cross Arena.
But, that doesn’t mean I won’t be catching the other two games, either.