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2011 MLL champs - Boston Cannons
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MLL Championship Weekend: Boston Cannons Win Steinfeld Cup

The Boston Cannons finally broke through their playoff blunder barrier and won their first MLL Championship.  They dominated the regular season with the face of the league, Paul Rabil, leading the way, and in the playoffs they switched it up (out of necessity) and were still able to pull of two very close victories; over the Bayhawks in the semi-finals, and the Hamilton Nationals in the finals.  I’ll break down the Championship Game and the major story lines one by one below:

Paul Rabil (and the Cannons) win First-ever MLL Championship

Let’s get to the Rabil issues right away.  On twitter yesterday, people were going OFF on Rabil for “not delivering” in the big games.  I’m not even going to link to it.  If you’re on twittlez, you know I’m right.  Even the announcers (Joe Beninati and Quint) were saying how Rabil still wasn’t on the scoresheet halfway through the game, when in reality, he notched the first assist of the game.  But that’s right, Joe, assists don’t count.  Oh wait, they DO!  Both the Bayhawks and Hamilton paid a LOT of attention to Rabil all day, and that changes how a player plays.

Now cue the Kobe vs. Lebron comparison that Quint made yesterday during the broadcast.  AWFUL comparison.  First of all, basketball and lacrosse are very different sports.  Yes, I know Naismith was a lacrosse coach who invented basketball, but that simply does not excuse the overused bball to lax analogy.  More often than not it is poorly used.  Rabil is NOT Kobe.  Merrill is NOT LeBron.  And Lacrosse is NOT basketball.  Do we have that straight yet?  It was easily one of the shallowest observations I’ve heard all year.

And as it turns out, it was also patently false.  The Lakers NEED Kobe to deliver, they need him to hog the ball and dominate in every single game because the rest of his team just isn’t that good.  But the Cannons simply aren’t built that way, and Quint should know better.  The Cannons have talent, in lots of places, and sharing the ball should never be a concern for them.  Quint made it seem like it would all ride on Rabil’s shoulders, or that Rabil needed to do more.  But unlike basketball, lacrosse is a TRUE team sport, and one guy simply can’t get it done by himself.  I’m shocked that with all the experience Quint has playing this game he didn’t realize this.  Oh well.

The bottom line is that other than the btb thrown about 3.5 minutes into the game, Rabil was great.  In that he did exactly what his team needed him to do, when they needed him to do it, and the Cannons won.  He pulled out of the play when needed, and let players like Boyle, Stone, Buchanan, and Heim do work as well.  He opened up the field for others, and all of those guys ended up contributing in a major way to both of their wins.

MLL_2011_Championship_Rabil Queener
This is what would have happened if Rabil had taken the ball more. Save.

Photo courtesy Laxpower and Ben Mackey

Rabil did NOT need to take the ball more.  Rabil did NOT need to force the issue more.  In fact, that’s exactly why the Cannons have lost in past.  This time, he did it right, won the big game, and everyone still gave him crap.  Poorly played, lax world.

Jake Steinfeld Haters, The Steinfeld “Cup”, and a not so big huge OOPS! Moment

People hate on Jake Steinfeld pretty hard, but give the guy his due!  He is a huge believer in lacrosse, and of course, in the MLL.  When he gets in front of the camera, he is always passionate, but people don’t seem to gravitate to him that much.  That’s a shame, because as far as league founders go, I don’t think you’ll ever find a guy who loves his game as much as Jake.  Sure, he’s a little ridiculous, but he’s also a total giver, and he’s given us the MLL, so let’s lay off Body By Jake, ok?  Even if he’s talking about glowing heads, we need to cut this guy a little slack.  It’s not a great idea, and investing in the fly-wire cameras that the NFL uses would be much better, but he’s thinking ahead and outside the box, and I appreciate that.

Plus if you didn’t have Jake Steinfeld out there, it would still only be a rumor that Rabil has signed with Warrior.  Thanks for confirming that, Jake!  Rabil is now a Warrior guy.  You heard it from 412 in May, but Jake factualized it yesterday.  How long until IL and LPG post that press release?  AmIRight?  Of course I am.

Jake announcing Rabil as a Warrior guy wasn’t news.  412 has said it before, and evidently, IL printed the news in their magazine before Championship Weekend.  So since it was news, and confirmed, I find it even MORE bizarre that Warrior/NB, the MLL and everyone else haven’t made a bigger deal out of it.  Quint didn’t even mention it.  Like I said, bizarre.  I would think this is something they’d want to publicize, and what better time than Champ weekend?

So Jake is great.  And now we all know it.  But can we get a ‘cup’ for the Steinfeld Cup?  The trophy they use right now is atrocious, but since Quint named it the “Steinfeld Cup”, can we just replace it with an actual cup?  Or glue one on top?  I don’t know… something like that.  But if you win the Champ’s Cup, you should definitely be able to drink out of it.

Casey Powell, Hamilton’s Goaltending and Joe Walters’ Disappearing Act

Casey Powell was awesome all game for the Nationals.  CP, now rocking #7 in deference to Cody Jamieson (what a class act that guy is!), led the Nats all weekend long, and was creative and exciting more often than not.  He scored 4 unassisted goals (2 of them lefty) when the Nats needed him to, and is a big reason they were able to stay in the game with Boston in the Finals.  Casey improved that team instantly, and proved just how valuable he really is, even at 35 years of age.  I think it’s safe to say we’re ALL hoping that he wasn’t seriously hurt at the end of the game when he collided with Rabes… the fans definitely want more Casey Powell in the MLL.

Casey Powell Hamilton Nationals MLL championships
Powell was a stud all weekend. So what else is new?

Photo courtesy Inside Lacrosse and Matt Kinnear (IL, Matt, John Jiloty and Kyle Devitte all did a GREAT job of reporting all weekend.  Thanks fellas!  And some great photos as well!)

I liked Scott Rodgers in goal for the Nationals.  But I see why they switched it up to Queener in the second half.  Simply put, this tactic is part of what got them to where they were, and they stuck with it.  I have a very hard time second-guessing that decision.

What happened to Joe “Snipes” Walters in the Finals?  He had a big semi-final, and then made headlines as he mocked the Denver sidelines for choking near the end of the game.  Who does that and then doesn’t show up for the big game?  Maybe Walters was more concerned with Brampton’s upcoming box game.  Totally possible.  I also don’t understand how John Lade can be suspended for playing at Placid while Walters was not, even though he’s been playing for Brampton in Major Series Lacrosse.  That’s a lot closer to pro than the LP Summit tourney.  Maybe Walters got a waiver.  That might explain it, but still… seems a little hypocritical.

I can’t see so good. Is that Harry Houdini?

Photo courtesy Hamilton Nationals

But JW1 pulling a Houdini in the Finals is still the story.  He just didn’t seem as confident initiating, and he didn’t seem to pick his head up as quickly looking to dish the ball.  But to be fair, and give him the benefit of the Rabil Doubt (see above), a lot of the explanation probably has to do with the great job of the Cannons’ D-mids did on Walters.  They made him go right, and even when he worked back to his left, they overplayed him.  It made him a one-dimensional player, and predictable.  This was one of the areas where the Cannons probably won the game most.  Eliminate Hamilton’s unpredictable offense, and you can slow them down.  The Cannons did just that by focusing on Walters.  But I really thought Joe would bring a little more to the table in the Finals.  He just seemed SO pumped after the Semifinal win.  And if he didn’t I thought others like Jordan Hall and Jeremy Thompson would get more looks.

Mike Stone Proves That D-III players can play with the Best of the Rest

Do you know who Mike Stone is?  If you watched the MLL playoffs and were paying even a small amount of attention, that answer should be yes.  Stone was a HS All-American at Wellesley HS in Massachusetts and then went on to Middlebury College in VT where he was 2x NESCAC player of the year (’08 and ’09) and could easily have been named player of the year in either season.  Well, this weekend, he got a bunch of good looks in the Semis while running with Rabil, and then scored a couple sweet goals in the Finals.  Stone looked awesome all weekend, and definitely proved just how good DIII lax truly is.  Combine him with guys like Eric Martin, Kyle Hartzell and Stephen Berger, and the proof is right there in the pudding.  DIII lax is legit.  Is it Crotty/Rabil/Merrill good?  No, but it’s closer than most D1 guys would like to admit!

Mike Stone at Middlebury versus Cortland.
Mike Stone at Middlebury versus Cortland.

Photo courtesy

Jordan Burke Will take an MLL Championship over Goalie of the Year any day!

A lot of people, mostly Boston fans, were outraged that Burke lost out on Goalie of the Year for the MLL to Drew Adams of Long Island.  Seriouly, who cares?  Burke has a Championship ring from this season and won Finals MVP.  Can we drop this conversation now?  And no, at no point should he have been pulled for Kip Turner.  You can’t say he is the best goalie in the league AND then say he should get pulled for Turner.  Consistency.  Get some.

Final Thoughts

The MLL Playoffs were GREAT.  At least from the safety of my couch anyway.  The rain and wind on Saturday was insane, but the guys played through it and came out looking tough and professional.  The league looks like they know the weather as well as anyone, since they were pretty solid on playing the games no matter what, but I still think that was a risky move.  Sure, it worked out well, but disaster was just around the corner.  Luck was their Lady that night!

The level of skill and play has never been higher.  The reffing, while still questionable at times, was actually some of the best I’ve seen in the league.  The venue was great, the fans that did make it out were into it big time, and the TV broadcast was really solid.  Overall, it was a great weekend of lacrosse, and another big step in the right direction for the MLL.  I would have liked to see them be more proactive with weather announcements, but overall, things are definitely looking up!

2011 MLL champs - Boston Cannons
Cannons Win! Cannons WIn! – Harry Caray