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PLL Week 2: What Did We Learn?

With the first-week jitters officially out of the way, the Premier Lacrosse League was able to really just focus on playing some lacrosse. Of course, that is only true for the players and coaches, since the front office and support staff had to shift everything from Gillette Stadium to Red Bull Arena. Such is life as a touring league. But the bigger deal that everyone had to get ready for was not just a new location, but this was also the first weekend where the league would have a lacrosse game featured on NBC Main, over the air and all for free. Let’s take a look at PLL Week 2.

PLL Week 2

Scores

Whipsnakes 12 – Chrome 11

Archers 10 – Redwoods 9

Chaos 18 – Atlas 13

Standings

Team Record
Archers 2-0
Whipsnakes 2-0
Redwoods 1-1
Chaos 1-1
Chrome 0-2
Atlas 0-2

The PLL team who actually was the most impressive this week was not one of the teams at the top of the table. The Chaos lived up to their names and opened their Sunday PLL-NBC debut against the Atlas with a flurry of transition offense and an extremely fast pace to build an early lead. The reason why? Two-pointers. Week 1 saw few teams really pushing the two-point limits, but the Chaos really changed that. They had two-point shots in their opener against the Whipsnakes, but only connected on one. This time, they took seven, scoring on three. All three of those happened in the first quarter to put them up 8-3 after the first. It put the Atlas on their heels from the very beginning defensively. This opened-up a ton of room for Connor Fields and Miles Thompson to work their magic at attack, growing the lead to 13-6 at halftime. It was a lead that was just too much to overcome for the Atlas.

The two really intriguing teams to me right now are the Archers and Whipsnakes. It seems like the Whipsnakes are playing like the team with the highest potential to be the best lacrosse  team in the PLL while the Archers may be the most complete team in the league out of the six. What I have loved about the Whips after two weeks of PLL games is they play with the most controlled aggression. What I mean by that is they are playing quickly, but within their limits, and are spreading the ball around well. The Archers on the other hand seem to just have superb balance. They could just toss it to their attack every possession and let them take care of things. And honestly, it would work. Out of their ten goals this week, five were from the attack and five were from midfield. And even though Bones Kelly isn’t dominating faceoffs, he has managed to score in each game so far. Combining him with Scott Ratliff means this group is always a threat in transition.

If those are the three Premier Lacrosse League teams I feel best about, the one most concerning to me is the Chrome right now. Their faceoffs are great thanks to the emergence of rookie Connor Farrell, who has so far out performed fellow Chrome FOGO Drew Simoneau. But outside of that spot, the Chrome are struggling to find an identity. Even with that issue, they’re still close in games which does show how much raw talent they have. On defense, they still are not quite forcing teams to do anything too crazy to beat them. They are losing some individual matchups too quickly, and their slides are not covering quick enough. On offense, this team is overly reliant on their midfield to initiate. Great things are happening for them when the attack, especially Jordan Wolf, has the keys to the offense. But it seems they regularly just lob a pass up to the midfield and sit back to see what someone does. The good news for the Chrome, though, is that ALL of this is fixable. And it could be done this next week rendering this entire paragraph moot.

After two weeks, it appears that teams are still adapting to the new rules a bit and the pace. Not too many players are interfering on faceoff tie-ups yet, but I think that it something which should start changing. Of everything that’s different from level-to-level in lacrosse, this is an ability new to everyone and players are still trying to see if it helps or hurts them at all. The other rules getting the most attention are the two-point line and the shortened field. The two-point line being a yard closer does seem to be increasing the attempts slightly, but we’re still not into basketball three point attempt involvement yet. I don’t want to dig into this too much just yet until there’s a larger sample size later in the season. For the field length, this does seem to be a popular change, and but I personally am neutral. I don’t dislike it, but I’m also not going to say it should be the new standard. It’s interesting. It sets up an environment where you get the first look on a fast break, and that’s it. The second wave break aren’t happening nearly as much. I would also like to see a shorter field where all the space is taken away from behind the cage. Quicker run outs, more congestion in front of the cage, and tighter picks behind. But that’s a different conversation.

After PLL Week 2, the absolute biggest Premier Lacrosse League rule change in terms of impact on the game has been the shortened time for quarters and games. Going from 15 minutes down to 12 minutes creates an environment where back and forth runs are just not developing. I was having a conversation with someone last week about the number of overtime games the PLL is having so far. When trying to compare how rare this frequency of extra time may be, my thought is rather than comparing the situation to overtime MLL games, perhaps it makes sense to see how many MLL games were tied after three periods. 45 minutes versus 48 minutes. It’s still not perfect, but it’s worth watching. Coming off of a box tournament recently where 30-minutes running time decided the winner, it makes you feel for how little time that is. The result there was shootout after shootout as they tried to keep schedule as often as possible. The points just didn’t add up, just like they aren’t in the PLL. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for a team to break 20 goals.

The final point from this week was the NBC game on Sunday. I said right after the PLL was announced that having games on NBC main was the biggest deal of everything they’re doing. Success there could have significant ripple effects through the sport. So far, it looks like there were somewhere around 400,000 viewers, but I’m putting some massive qualifiers on that. One, I haven’t dug into the source of those numbers. Two, I have no background in TV ratings and lacrosse television audiences figures. So my initial thought it just a straightforward “awesome”. But as more games go on NBC main, are on NBC Sports, and more figures are released, we can really gauge for how well this new platform is performing. Numbers without context do not tell a story. You need to know what they mean, what they don’t mean, and how do they stack up to similar measures. Until then, happy watching.

PLL Week 2 and the big game on NBC is over. Now, off to Chicago.

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