The Crease Dive's NLL Week 2 Preview: A New Era Begins On The West Coast
NLL Week 1 Scores
- Buffalo Bandits 17 @ Philadelphia Wings 15 | BUF 1-0, PHI 0-1
- New England Black Wolves 12 @ Georgia Swarm 16 | NE 0-1, GA 1-0
- Vancouver Warriors 14 @ Calgary Roughnecks 13 (OT) | VAN 1-0, CAL 0-1
- Jordie’s Picks: 3-0
So I’d say that week 1 of the 2018-19 NLL season was a great success. It all started off with the Philadelphia Wings making their return to the NLL after 4 long years of being gone. Over 11,000 fans packed the Wells Fargo Center to watch the Wings season opener so right off the bat, that’s a massive win for the NLL. The Wings couldn’t pull out the win in their home opener but they kept the game close and exciting until the final minute. Buffalo had Shawn Evans pop off for 10 points on the day (2,8) and also had Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith each chip in 8 points on the day with Byrne picking up a goal and 7 assists, and Smith getting 2 and 6. So that right there is 26 points via just 3 players, which goes to show how goddamn loaded Buffalo Bandits will be this year.
Then down in Georgia, things went pretty much as expected with Kevin Crowley not in the lineup for the Black Wolves. They just didn’t have the fire power to keep up with the Thompson brothers. Lyle had 2 goals and 5 assists on the night. Miles had 2 goals and 2 assists. Holden Cattoni also had a 7 point game for Georgia. Crowley led the league with 51 goals last year so yeah, it’ll be a little tough to make up for that lost production.
And then finally the Vancouver Warriors delivered the first “upset” of the season. I don’t think many people have too high of expectations for the Warriors this year. They’re not a new team but they have new ownership (the Vancouver Canucks), they have a new venue, they have a new name and new uniforms, and their roster isn’t necessarily loaded with weapons. They have former #1 overall pick Logan Schuss leading the way and he put up 9 points last week with a hat trick and 6 helpers. But outside of Schuss, they just have a ton of grinders. Meanwhile, the Roughnecks are supposed to be one of the best teams in the west. Unfortunately for them, they’re without their 2 best offensive players Curtis Dickson and Wes Berg, who are both currently holding out. Both Dickson and Berg were top 10 in goals and points last season so not having them in the lineup definitely hurt Calgary. But even still, it was the defensive end that kind of fell apart there for Calgary at the end of last week’s game letting Vancouver come back to win in overtime.
So now we have another 3 games scheduled for this week. Two of them are tonight and then we’ll have the San Diego Seals playing their first game in franchise history tomorrow night. So let’s get into a little preview here, shall we?
NLL Week 2 Schedule
Toronto Rock (0-0) @ Buffalo Bandits (1-0) | Friday December 21, 7:30pm ET
The Buffalo Bandits had 5 players score 5 or more points last week. Shawn Evans led the league with a 10 point season opener. Corey Small led the league with 5 goals in the season opener. Granted it wasn’t necessarily the greatest defensive performance out of the Philadelphia Wings and they gave up 10 goals in the opening half before making a goalie change. But still. Buffalo has weapons on top of weapons on top of weapons on top of weapons. And one of their biggest weapons isn’t even running out of the front door. In fact, he’s not running out of any doors because he’s in the net. Matt Vinc is a 6x goaltender of the year and now he’s been added to this wagon of a team in Buffalo. Now he didn’t exactly look dominant against the Wings last week but that was the 1st game of the season and his preseason was cut short due to the lockout. So I’d expect to see him look a lot more solid this week.
As for the Toronto Rock, well I think they’ll be able to do a better job at defending the Bandits than Philly was able to do last week, even after losing Brodie Merrill. For starters, they have Nick Rose in net who has the ability to be one of the better goalies in the league and offers some veteran stability between the pipes. And then out of the back door they have a bunch of bad ass individuals. Challen Rogers is the new captain of the squad and he’s a goddamn animal. Latrell Harris is a veteran at this point at only 20-years-old and has already solidified himself as one of the best defenders in the league. Brad Kri is right up there as well. So Toronto has some proven talent on the back end to defend Buffalo that Philly just doesn’t quite have yet.
And then out of the front door this team will go as Tom Schreiber goes. He’s quite possibly the best lacrosse player in the world right now if you take both field and box into consideration. He’s had some injury troubles in recent years but a healthy Tom Schreiber is a certified weapon out there. Then Toronto also has Rob Hellyer out there who was top 5 in scoring last year, and then guys like Adam Jones and Kieran McArdle provide some depth scoring. Toronto can be a very strong team this year, but I just don’t know if they’re Buffalo strong.
Jordie’s Pick: Buffalo
Calgary Roughnecks (0-1) @ Vancouver Warriors (1-0) | Friday December 21, 10pm ET
It’s only week 2 of the season and we already have our first rematch of the year. This time around it’ll be Vancouver hosting the Riggers and they’ll be playing in Rogers Arena for the first time instead of out in Langley. So it’s a big night for professional lacrosse in the city of Vancouver even though the city is probably pretty focused on hosting the World Juniors coming up on Wednesday. Either way, this is a great pregame show for the World Juniors.
Now I already talked about these two teams playing above so we won’t go too long here. Even though Calgary still doesn’t have Dickson and Berg in the lineup, they still had their way with Vancouver for most of that game last week. I’d imagine that they probably left that game with a bad taste in their mouth and won’t take their foot off the gas this week if they get up again. And even without those guys in the lineup, Calgary still has a loaded roster. They have the goalie of the future in Christian Del Bianco, Dane Dobbie had a 9 point game last week with 5 goals and 4 assists, Tyson Bell is a game changer in transition. So as great of a win as that was for Vancouver last week, I can’t see Calgary dropping two in a row to the same team.
Jordie’s Pick: Calgary
San Diego Seals (0-0) @ Colorado Mammoth (0-0) | Saturday December 22, 9pm ET
The San Diego Seals have a chance of being one of the most exciting teams to watch this year. For an expansion team, this roster is damn solid and a real solid blend between young guys and vets. On the younger end of the spectrum, the Seals have 1st overall pick in the 2018 draft Austin Staats about to make his NLL debut. People say that he is one of the best prospects to ever come through the game and has potential to be one of the greats. He’ll be getting to play on that left side with Zach Miller who you may remember from his time at Denver. So that lefty side for San Diego will be right up there with Georgia as one of the more creative offenses in the league. Then you’ve also got a kid like Connor Kelly who never even played box lacrosse before getting drafted this year. But since the draft, he’s played with Team USA and made a real quick transition to the box game. So much so that he made the opening roster for the Seals.
Then we get to the vets. It’s no surprise that the Seals were able to land legend Brodie Merrill considering his brother is the coach. But having a guy like that to be the captain and the defensive anchor for a 1st year expansion team is huge. Then the Seals were able to pick up Dangerous Dan Dawson last month. Brodie Merrill and DDD might both be 37-years-old but they’re both legends and will be able to show these young kids the ropes. They also have Kyle Buchanan who is good for a steady 50-65 points a year and Cam Holding who spent his whole 6-year career so far with Colorado.
As for Colorado? Well they’re right up there with Saskatchewan and Buffalo this year in terms of expectations. If one team is going to potentially dethrone the Saskatchewan Rush from making it to their 5th straight finals appearance out of the west, it’ll be the Mammoth. Jeremy Noble, Ryan Benesch and Stephen Keogh at forward. Joey Cupido, Dan Coates and Brad Self on defense/transition. And then most importantly, Dillon Ward between the pipes. The Colorado Mammoth are stacked at every position on the floor. There’s a ton of depth all over this roster and when you put them in front of the goaltender who had the 3rd best save percentage in the league last year and is still only getting better? That’s a fucking rock solid group. And it’s a core group of guys who have been together for a while. So while San Diego is still probably getting a little used to each other, Colorado is one of those teams that probably didn’t even need a preseason this year. So I think the Seals are going to be pretty exciting to watch this season but they’ve got a tough ass draw for game 1.
Jordie’s Pick: Colorado