Wednesday, February 22, 2012

NLL Midseason Awards and Playoff Projections

With the National Lacrosse League All-Star Game coming up on Saturday in Buffalo, its time to hand out some midseason awards and update the playoff predictions.

Midseason Most Valuable Player- Jon Grant, Jr., Colorado. If you need me to explain this, you haven't watched much lacrosse. Junior is having one of his best season's which is saying a lot for one of the all-time greats. He is either leads the league in goals and points and second in assists and power play goals. On top of that, he is leading Colorado to an undefeated record and has done a great job working with a lot of young talent.

Midseason Offensive Player of the Year- John Grant, Jr., Colorado. Again, no contest, see above.

Midseason Defensive Player of the Year- Pat McCready, Rochester. The veteran is top 10 in loose balls among all runners and one of the top scoring defensemen with 12 points.

Midseason Transition Player of the Year- Geoff Snider, Calgary. Snider leads the league in loose balls and faceoffs won.

Midseason Goalie of the Year- Chris Levis, Colorado. Levis has been a great story for the undefeated Mammoth. He is second in the league in goals allowed and save percentage and leads the league with six wins.

Midseason Rookie of the Year- Adam Jones, Colorado. The Canisius alum leads all rookies in goals, assists and points. His 15 goals is tied for 6th best in the league.

Midseason Coach of the Year- Bob Hamley, Colorado. There were a lot of questions coming out of the Rockies on what exactly to expect from the Mammoth this year. The answer was not a whole lot. Hamley has been masterful at meshing veterans with some very talented rookies to be the class of the league at the midway point.

Midseason prediction: East Final- Philadelphia 10, Buffalo 9

Midseason prediction: West Final- Colorado 14, Calgary 10

Midseason prediction: Champions Cup- Colorado 15, Philadelphia 11

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NLL Game Balls and Power Poll Week 6

A little late this week, but with some off field news going down on Monday and Tuesday, I wanted to wait and see what was going on. On field, the games have been very unpredictable, which has made this season one of the most exciting and for some very frustrating. Off field, a huge trade that very well could shake up the league balance in the second half of the season came down earlier this week.


Ryan Benesch, Minnesota: The All-Star has scored a hat trick for the fouth time this season notching the game winner Friday night in the second-longest game in NLL history as the Swarm beat the Edmonton Rush 10-9.

Jeff Shattler, Calgary: Shattler gave Calgary a two-goal lead late in the fourth to seal the win over Washington. He finished with a game high four goals, an assist and a game high 12 loose balls.

Evan Kirk, Minnesota: Not one, but two strong rookie goalies for Minnesota. Kirk got the start Sunday after Tyler Carlson played in the marathon OT win over Edmonton. Kirk turned away 46 shots and surrendered only six goals, including just one over the final 28 minutes.

Drew Westervelt, Philadelphia: Westervelt had two fourth quarter goals, the first was the eventual game-winner 13-12 and then he made it 14-12 100 seconds later which proved to be the difference after John Tavares scored on a penalty shot. Westervelt finished with three goals, one assist and five loose balls.


1- Colorado Mammoth 5-0(Last Week 1). A well deserved week off for the leagues only undefeated team.

2- Toronto Rock 3-2 (2). Also a week off so Toronto stays put.

3- Calgary Roughnecks 3-2 (3). Calgary defeated a struggling Washington team by one goal after two straight losses in OT.

4- Minnesota Swarm 3-2 (8). The Swarm get the nod here for two wins over the weekend. Both rookie goalie's now have stepped in with wins as Evan Kirk held Rochester to just six goals on Sunday. There is a lot of young talent on this team which is quickly gaining confidence.

5- Philadelphia Wings 3-2 (9). Good Philly showed up with a big win over Buffalo. Unfortunately, week in and week out, bad Philly can show up just as much as good Philly.

6- Edmonton Rush 1-3 (7). The Rush fell to Minnesota in overtime, but they get the #6 spot for their win on Monday by trading for Paul Rabil. They gave up Athan Iannucci who would not suit up for the Rush. Rabil's arrival may propel the Rush into the top half of the league.

7- Washington Stealth 1-4 (5). Washington has struggled on offense this season but did get a lot of help with the Iannucci trade. He is one of the most explosive scores in the league of the last decade although they had to give up the best transition player to get him.

8- Buffalo Bandits 2-5 (6). The next three weeks are not going to be fun for the Bandits. No games until March 3. Maybe in that time they can figure out how to get out of their uncharacteristic funk with a rare four-game losing streak.

9- Rochester Knighthawks 2-4 (4). Not a good weekend on or off the field for the Khawks. We will see if they are at full strength when they host Washington on Saturday. If not, things could get worse.

Monday, February 06, 2012

NLL Game Balls and Power Poll Week 5

After five weeks, we know Colorado has established themselves as the elite team in the National Lacrosse League. After that, the other eight teams are hovering around .500. What teams are primed for a run over the next few weeks? That is hard to tell. Toronto has played better, but has some key injuries. Washington got their first win, but will that propel them into a win streak? Rochester snapped a losing steak and Calgary had the weekend off and their matchup with Washington this weekend is crucial for both teams.


Matt Roik, Toronto: Roik has 38 saves and allowed only six goals vs. Philadelphia. He shut out the Wings in the second half and only allowed two goals in the second quarter.

Rhys Duch, Washington: Duch was clutch scoring the game winner in OT in Buffalo. He finished with four goals and four assists.

Cory Vitarelli, Rochester: Vitarelli had two fourth quarter power play goals, both of which put the Knighthawks ahead with his final one being the game winner. He finished with four goals and three assists.

John Grant, Jr., Colorado:
Junior continues to be on a record scoring streak with another eight points this weekend. He finished with three goals and five assists along with five loose balls.


1- Colorado Mammoth 5-0 (Last week 1). Colorado is off to their best start in franchise history. John Grant, Jr. continues to put tons of points on the scoreboard and the rookies are playing like seasoned veterans. Jordan McBride and Adam Jones each had hat tricks.

2- Toronto Rock 3-2 (2). Toronto is averaging 14 goals game over their three-game win streak. An impressive stat considering Toronto is missing Colin Doyle (lower body injury) and Blaine Manning (broken collarbone). The Rock defense looked solid shutting out the Wings in the second half over the weekend.

3- Calgary Roughnecks 2-2 (4). Calgary was idle this week and looking to snap a two-game losing streak.

4- Rochester Knighthawks 2-3 (8). The Khawks snapped their losing streak with a solid home win over Minnesota. Their three loses have been 4th quarter breakdowns so if they can clean that up, they will stay in the top half of the league.

5- Washington Stealth 1-3 (9). Washington finally got in the win column picking up the victory on the road in Buffalo, possibly the toughest barn to play in. They got balanced scoring this weekend and a road win against the Bandits may be what they need to get started this season.

6- Buffalo Bandits 2-3 (7). Buffalo has dropped three games in a row. The Bandits have been slow out of the gate the last few games and have been playing from behind. Mark Steenhuis leads the Bandits in penalty minutes with 26 and has two game misconducts. They need the goal scoring Steenhuis to make a comeback.

7- Edmonton Rush 1-2 (6). The Rush ran into the hottest team in the league in Colorado this weekend and both losses are to the Mammoth. Still not sure what to make of them yet.

8- Minnesota Swarm 1-2 (5). Minnesota played well on the road in Rochester, falling by two goals. It does look like the Swarm has an emerging star in Jordan MacIntosh who posted his first career hat trick in the same town he played his college ball.

9- Philadelphia Wings 2-2 (3). The Wings got hammered by Toronto 15-6. Ouch. They have looked solid in their two wins, but down right awful in their two losses. They have lost by a combined 19 goals and have only scored 41 goals this season. This is a team desperate for an identity.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Super Bowl XLIV Prediction

The two weeks between the conference championship games has proved that it is way too much time to hype a game. So far, I have heard every analyst tell me their thoughts on Rob Gronkowski’s ankle, yet, no one decided to ask a medical professional about how the injury will affect him. I’ve heard a QB have to answer questions about his older brother even though his older brother didn’t play this year, while little brother had a career year leading his team to the Super Bowl. I have heard another QB bag a division rival’s local hotels and spend way too much time defending himself for his opinion, which he is entitled to have. Lastly, I have been told if I am rooting for the New England, I am disrespecting the Giants and if I am rooting for New York, I am a Patriots hater. So, which one am I?

First off, the Super Bowl they played four years ago is irrelevant. The game they played in the regular season is irrelevant. What each did in the conference championship games is very relevant. Both teams got very lucky breaks to get here. New England at least should have been in OT if not for Billy Cundiff fanning on a chippy. If not for a novice punt/kick returner not knowing to stay away and then protect the football, the Manning brothers would both be watching from a suite. Either way, both found a way to win a game they probably should have lost.

Cool Super Bowl stat: Giants coach Tom Coughlin was an assistant on Bill Parcells Giants staff when they won Super Bowl XXV. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was the Giants defensive coordinator that year.

Cool Super Bowl stat 2: This will be the Giants fifth Super Bowl. This is Belichick’s fifth Super Bowl appearance as New England’s head coach. Both the Giants and Patriots under Belichick are 3-1 in those Super Bowls.

Tight Ends: For those thinking Gronk will be a factor need to remember high ankle sprain’s are not fully recovered in two weeks. If he does play, sitting for 30 minutes at halftime will be a struggle because that ankle will tighten up. Don’t be surprised if he is a non-factor. Without a healthy Gronk, the Patriots are not at full strength, putting more pressure on Brady and the rest of the WRs and Hernandez to step up, which will be difficult seen as New England doesn’t really have an outside threat at WR. The Patriots will focus on the Giants’ top three WRs leaving Jake Ballard the possible breakout performer making him the most effective TE in this game. (Before you send me hate mail. Yes, I know he is the least TALENTED, but we are just talking one game.)

Quarterbacks/Offense: By Tom Brady’s own admission, he was not good in the AFC championship. Eli Manning is playing the best football of his career. Manning was the best 4th quarter QB in the league this season. Without his top threat and facing a better pass rush, Brady will not be the normal Brady. He will put up good numbers, but he may also put up a few INTs. Manning has a full arsenal of healthy WRs and a better running game. For tomorrow, Eli will be the better QB. (Again, no hate mail, yes, Brady is a Hall of Famer, just not tomorrow.)

Defense: The Giants ranked 27th overall and the Patriots 31st. New York has four studs that can rush Brady. New England has Vince Wilfork and not much else. The Giants have an above average secondary. The Patriots sometimes are forced to play a backup WR Julian Edelman at corner. Seeing this, who do you think will have an easier time making plays in the pocket? Again, not historically, not who is the Hall of Famer, who will be better tomorrow knowing this…Eli Manning.

Random Super Bowl nugget: Each Super Bowl champion since 2000 has had an above average QB and at least two defensive players who could be game changers and disrupt an offensive flow. Only one team in Sunday’s game has both. That’s the Giants.

Prediction: Tom Brady will have 300 yards and three TDs, but his best weapon will be limited and the Giants offense will be able to put up more points on the Pats defense. New York 35, New England 31.