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NLL Takeaways: Week 3

The Rush found their groove


Saskatchewan was shout out of a cannon against Vegas. They scored every which way. Zach Manns scored 45 seconds in to stay hot. Mike Messenger scored short handed, the Rush’s league leading 6th of the season already. A quick hat trick from Robert Church. Scigliano made several early saves, some were not saves you’d expect to get made. They played like a team that looked itself in the mirror after an 0-2 start and said this ain’t us, and then their leaders took over early and often. All said and done, it was all Rush from wire to wire, and they finished with a 17-5 win. The short handed goal stat is remarkable. They had three last year, and at the conclusion of their game this weekend, they’re already up to seven. That’s a damn good season total. Speaking of record books, holy Ryan Keenen. He had 10 points in this, nine of which were assists. Zach Manns has also emerged as a must watch player in the league, already up to 17 points which ties him for 4th in the league.


Albany Firewolves are a story I don’t want to end


To paraphrase Moneyball, how can you not be romantic about lacrosse. A miserable season a year ago. Expectations coming into this season were something like, “if they can win a few and the young guys improve, it’s a success”. Forget all that. Albany is now 3-0, the offense is cooking people, and they have wins over Buffalo, Philly, and Vegas. Alex Simmons has a stranglehold on Rookie of the Year, as he looks like he’s a lock to be a serious weapon in the league for years. Currently there are two players in the NLL with 20 points: Simmons and his teammate Ethan Walker. Kurtz, Sam Firth, and Travis Longboat each have 15. I am more impressed with Marshall Powless every week. It’s a team that’s winning games, but just by the look of them, they also are leading the league in having fun doing it. It’s a joy to watch the Firewolves through three weeks.


Philly might be in trouble


The Wings had some spells of good play Albany, but ultimately got beat pretty soundly this weekend. After an opener that had us thinking the Wings might be a real force, they’ve had a brutal two weeks. Blaze Riorden and Holden Cattoni will be out for at least a month each with injuries, a devastating blow to the offense. Mitch Jones is still special, and makes several plays each game that will remind you he’s one of the best in the league on the left side, but the Wings need someone to step up to fill those spots. On top of that, they’ll need to find more sound team defensive play. Too many times in this one did we see Alex Simmons or Tye Kurtz, players at the very top end of the Albany offense, receive the ball or get to goal without much at all in the way of physical disruption, No cross check to their hip, no leverage to push them out, nobody closing out into their body to stop a shot. It needs fixing in a hurry. The week one win was against New York, and that’s not exactly looking that great these days. 


Banditland is the gold standard for lacrosse


Buffalo had their home opener this weekend, as players got their championship rings and they raised a banner in the KeyBank Center. It’s no secret that Buffalo sports fans are as crazed as they come, feverishly supporting all the local teams, and the Bandits are no different. The announced attendance was 17,200. Buffalo and San Diego played an outstanding game, filled with highlights from some of the best players in the sport, with the Bandits ultimately winning 12-9. As the clock wound down, it looked like every one of those 17,200 people was still in their seats, screaming like it was the 1st quarter. I had written it as the PLL first announced their home city moves, but really it applies to any pro lacrosse team in any market. The goal shouldn’t be to be the NFL, or the EPL, or any other big four team. The approach needs to be “how can I make games here like Bandits games.”  There is no better environment in lacrosse, no better fan base, and no better time. It takes time to cultivate it, but once it’s up and running, a fan base like that is as good as any in the world. 


Welcome back Randy


The Riptide got a touch break mid week, because Halifax put Randy Staats on the active roster. There might not be a smoother shooter in lacrosse than Staats. He had a hat trick against New York (and three assists for good measure) and was the game’s leading point scorer. His first goal came less than two minutes into the game, wasting no time getting back to his scoring ways. Staats is difficult to defend because he’s always a millimeter from scoring. Close out and body him late? He’s getting a good shot off. Misplay a pick? He’s getting a good shot off. Take a bad angle as a defender? He’s getting to the middle and, you guessed it, getting a good shot off. His whole body hides where his shot is going, be it with a hitch, a lean, head and shoulder deception, and then he can shoot from just about any release point. For goalies, I don’t know if it’s all that crazy to suggest that if you see a shot from Randy, you won’t see the same shot again the rest of the game. He can mix things up that much. 


Vancouver back to the mean


A few times since their last game, I wrote that the Vancouver we saw week one had some uncharacteristic things happen that probably wouldn’t be repeated often. One of them was Keegan Bal’s performance, as he went 0-10 shooting in week one. Can’t exactly count on that being a regular thing. Didn’t take too long to get back to the norm. Bal took 11 shots against Georgia, and finished with three goals and four assists. Kevin Crowley and Adam Charalambides had seven points as well, and that trio didn’t even lead the team. Ryan Martel put up nine on four goals and five assists.That’s the balance Vancouver is striking on offense. Veterans like Crowley doing the damage you’d expect, while young stars like Charalambides stay involved and get theirs as well. There’s enough young talent in Vancouver that as long as one or two of their stars step up every week, they’ll compete. Owen Grant is a defensive superstar in the making, he had some battles with Lyle Thompson in this game. Of course, you’ll also get some inconsistency, and that happened even within this game. Vancouver led 4-3 at the half. Then, Vancouver put up 13 second half goals. When they’re cooking, they’ye cooking with gas. 


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