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NLL Weekend Primer, Week 11

Just writing down “Week 11 Primer” felt odd. Where did those 10 weeks go? And after two and a half months, do we really have any strong answers as to who the best team is? Or who the eight playoff teams will be? Or who will win major awards? That’s the mark of a competitive season, and a competitive league, more than anything else. Down the stretch, teams and plays will set to answering those questions. We’ve got some good matchups this weekend that will help us figure it all out. Six games this weekend, nobody has the double dip. 


Last week, I was 4-4 against the spread and 6-2 on game totals.


For the season, I am 25-31 against the spread and 33-23 on game totals


All spreads/odds come from DraftKings. In case you can’t tell from the records, I’m not good at this. If you are serious about picks/wagering, you should line shop across all sportsbooks and consider the odds you are getting. I don’t actually bet these games, just picks.


LAS VEGAS DESERT DOGS (3-4) VS HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS (4-3)


When: Friday, February 9th. 6:30pm EST

Where: ScotiaBank Centre, Halifax

How to Watch: TSN, TSN+ ESPN+

The Spread: Halifax favored by 3.5, game total set at 24.5.


The Matchup:


Vegas puzzles me. Their last three games are a win over San Diego, a borderline historic level blowout loss to Panther City, and a win over Albany where they held the Firewolves to six goals. In a lot of ways, Vegas has gone the way Landon Kells has gone. He’s either been over 80% or under 70% in six of the seven games for Vegas this year, and those six are their last six games. He’s been really good, or bad enough to get chased at some point. Teams have shot over 20% against Vegas three times this season. Halifax, for all their weapons, is actually middle of the road in terms of shooting percentage; seven teams have been better than the Birds this year. Vegas could make it a game late. Their second best scoring quarter this year is the 4th. Halifax has conceded more goals in the 4th quarter in this year than in any other quarter. If the Desert Dogs can stay close, a late charge is possible.


Halifax defense held Rochester to just eight goals two weeks ago. And then the Wings put up 14 last week. Vegas surrenders 3.5 fewer goals per game when they are on the road. And Halifax is hosting Vegas this weekend. The health of Randy Staats will be worth watching as the week goes on. He’s one of the best shooters in lacrosse when he’s healthy. Halifax is the much better team on paper in this matchup. They’re also better on paper than Philadelphia and have had two OT games with the Wings. The Birds are still deep and experienced, and as a result, they typically beat the teams they are supposed to beat. Their losses are to the aforementioned Wings, plus close games with Albany and Toronto. Jake Withers will, as he is every week, be an X factor. He has a point in five games this year, already has a preposterous 117 loose balls, and is facing off at 76%. It takes multiple players to cancel out his impact. 


The Pick:


Vegas has gone under, in two cases way under, in all three of their wins this year. Playing for the under against Halifax is tough to do, the Birds are going to bring it on offense with depth and top level shooting. That said, 3.5 is a very big number, so I’ll take the goals here and count on a big game from Jack Hannah to keep the Dogs close. I’ll also be on the under. 


COLORADO MAMMOTH (3-5) VS PANTHER CITY LACROSSE CLUB (3-4)


When: Friday, February 9th. 9:00pm EST.

Where: Dickies Arena, Texas

How to Watch: ESPNU, TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Panther City favored by 1.5, game total set at 22.5


The Matchup:


Colorado comes in off a pretty rough loss at San Diego. While we are starting to get more repeat matchups in the NLL, this is a first meeting this season between these two. Colorado has had a hard time finding their footing this season, in no small part due to a very difficult schedule. They’ve already played Buffalo, Georgia twice, and San Diego twice, and that accounts for their five losses. Their wins are against bottom of the standings clubs, Calgary and twice over Vancouver. If the Mammoth fancy another deep run, it’s getting to be that time where they need to start beating quality opponents. Dillon Ward is having a not Dillon Ward like season. His current save percentage and GAA would both match career lows, with the GAA being a full 1.5 goals worse than his career average and his save percentage being 2.5 percentage points worse. Wardo, as noted, has seen five games against five elite offensive clubs, so his numbers are a little skewed by the competition. He’ll see some more quality shooters in this one, and a solid outing against Callum Crawford, Jonathan Donville, and Will Malcom would signal the start of a Colorado turnaround. 


Panther City followed up their offensive explosion two weeks ago with a low scoring loss at the Rush. That’s just lacrosse I guess. Last week, we saw what can happened when PCLC runs into a hot goalie. Donville was 0-9 and Crawford 2-11. If those two go combined 2-20, PCLC will struggle, and Rush goalie Frank Scigliano was a big part of making that happen. Dillon Ward could present a similar challenge for them. Colorado’s defense will need to step up, they are one of two teams in the league that has allowed 100 goals at this point. Panther City has the same goal differential as Albany, and a better on than Buffalo. That’s bolstered by their thrashing of Vegas but nevertheless speaks to the way they can hang with anyone. 


The Pick:


Colorado’s record this year is 1-4 as an underdog, covering just once. They’re 2-6 against the spread overall. Panther City is 3-2 as a favorite, and very easily could be 4-1 if not for a miracle comeback by Vegas in Week 2. I think the Mammoth still have plenty of good lacrosse in them, and McLaughlin and Robinson could do some damage in this one, but I’ll take Panther City. I’ll also be on the under. 


GEORGIA SWARM (5-4) VS ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS (3-4)


When: Saturday, February 10th. 7;00pm EST

Where: Blue Cross Arena, Rochester

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Georgia favored by 1.5, game total set at 25


The Matchup:


Rochester needs a win in the worst way. They’ve now lost four straight, and are struggling mightily on the defensive end and in goal. The Hawks haven’t held a team under 13 goals since before Christmas, and that was Vancouver, the only team not break 13 against the Hawks this year. To look at the Rochester roster is to behold a team that’s excited to play in and win shootouts. It’s just what they’re trying to do. Connor Fields can pile up points with the best of them, and is coming off a nine point game. Ryan Smith has the same story, and had 11 last week. The problem is, the Hawks still lost that game. Live by the sword, die by the sword for Rochester. The offense that comes into their building Saturday night will include Lyle Thompson, Shayne Jackson, Andrew Kew, Seth Oakes, and a plethora of weapons to come at them non-stop. 


Georgia had to fight off a Vancouver team that just wouldn’t quit last week, and escaped with an OT win. That snapped a three game losing streak for the Swarm. They’re getting back on the right track and regaining some of the form they had early in the year. This is a matchup that could be very valuable for them. With their weapons, they should be able to score in bunches against Rochester. The recent challenge for the Swarm has been playing with a lead and closing out games. They’ve allowed comebacks to bring a score close, or even to lose the game, in several games this year. They have the shooters to come out and jump all over Rochester in this one, and I’ll safely wager that at the Swarm will hold a multi goal lead in this game at some point in this game. Closing out a game against the Rochester offense will be a great test for Georgia. 


The Pick:


Rochester is hard to pick right now. Four straight losses, and a defensive end of the floor that just doesn’t have enough answers. And now they get to deal with Georgia’s offense? Not an enviable position. The value is horrid, but I’ll take the Swarm in this one, and the over. 


CALGARY ROUGHNECKS (2-5) VS TORONTO ROCK (6-1)


When: Saturday, February 10th. 7:00pm EST

Where: FirstOntario Centre, Toronto

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Toronto favored by 2.5, game total set at 22.5


The Matchup:


A very rough stretch for Calgary continues. They lost their two games last weekend by a combined three goals, the latter of which was a home game against Toronto. This weekend it’s the second half of a home and home with a visit to Toronto, certainly about as tough a matchup as it gets. Calgary’s two wins are against Vegas and Vancouver. Their losses are basically all to good teams by close margins, they’ve been knocking on the door, but haven’t broken through. Watching the Roughnecks play, you can see a lot of effort to find transition opportunities. Christian Del Bianco is the best in the business at getting the ball up the floor and putting pressure on a defense, and I have loved the play of Shane Simpson to find those opportunities. There are multiple NLL teams who have played more games and have fewer transition goals/opportunities than Calgary. 


The challenge there is, Toronto defends and does transition incredibly well. Only three teams have more transition goals than the Rock. Only Vegas and Saskatchewan have surrendered fewer, and the Rush have played one less game. Toronto has given up just 66 goals against this season. Nick Rose back stops it all; he’s the best goalie in the league to this point. But the entire defense is built like a fortress. In both of Calgary’s wins, they’ve been able to run up goal totals, scoring at least 14 in both games. Lower scoring, tight games, haven’t gone their way. Toronto will be more than willing to play the low scoring, methodical, counter attacking type of game in this one. Tom Schreiber has returned for the Rock, who only bolsters the offense. 


The Pick:


I like the matchup of counter punching styles. It’s a balance between holding and leaning on defense, then finding the best moments to counter and try and steal a goal or two. TD Ierlan can be a difference here, he went 70% last week against the Roughnecks. That bit of extra possession can be the decider between a win and loss in close games. I’ll take Toronto here, and the under. 


SAN DIEGO SEALS (6-2) VS NEW YORK RIPTIDE (4-4)


When: Saturday, February 10th. 7:30pm EST

Where: Nassau Coliseum, New York

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: San Diego favored by 2.5, game total set at 23.5


The Matchup:


I’ll be attending this one, and if you’re anywhere near Long Island you should too. Pregame there’s a CityLax event with food, drinks, and a chance to meet Riptide players, and a meet and greet with Jeff Teat after the game. Plus going to the event gets you a ticket to the game. Then the game itself is Marvel night, free custom comic book to the first 3,000 fans. And on top of that, if the playoffs started today, this is what one of the matchups would be. 


New York is a team nobody wants to play. They’ve won four of their last five, with quality wins against Buffalo and Georgia in there. The offense has found a groove, putting up 15 against Buffalo and 14 on Georgia. Something I’ll be watching here is the special teams. New York, according to Ty Merrow, currently sits at 32.79% power play efficiency, the best mark in the league. San Diego’s penalty kill is at 75.71% efficiency, the worst in the league. San Diego hasn’t allow a ton of power plays, only four teams have allowed less, but they have not been able to kill penalties with routine success. New York will be shooting on a great goalie in Chris Origlieri, and high percentage looks will be hard to come by. Capitalizing on special teams play will be crucial. 


San Diego comes in on a four game winning streak, making this a matchup between the two hottest teams in the league. The streak comes with Origlieri getting more and more comfortable. In net. In the Seals first three games, he had a save percentage of 76.5%. Over the last five, it’s up to 82.2%. He was under 80%, regarded as the mark of a very good goalie, just once in the last five games, and gave up double digit goals just once. If he just stays true to form right now, New York could have a long night. The other matchup to watch in this one is how New York handles Austin Staats. Last week, Staats had a sock trick, the first of his career, and has had at least six points in each of the last four games. Physically, he’s as difficult a matchup as their is in the NLL. Callum Jones has been excellent on defense for New York, but he’ll be giving away about 35-40 pounds to Staats in a matchup. San Diego should lean, quite literally, on New York with Staats as much as they can. 


The Pick:


Both teams are red hot, on a big night, a playoff type atmosphere is possible. With a win, New York will be over .500 for the first time ever, and they’ll make it clear that they’re a playoff caliber team. San Diego can announce themselves firmy as the top team in the league with a win and keep marching through their schedule. It’s a great contest. I’m torn, and so I’m going to take the goals. New York +2.5 is my pick. San Diego has gone over once this year. New York has gone under once in the last five games. I’ll be on the under in this one, leaning on Origlieri to be sharp. 


SASKATCHEWAN RUSH (2-4) VS VANCOUVER WARRIORS (2-6)


When: Friday, February 10th. 10:00pm EST

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Saskatchewan favored by 1.5, game total set at 22.5


The Matchup:


Saskatchewan notched a solid win last week at home against Panther City behind some very good goalie play from Frank Scigliano. Each of the Rush's last three games has been decided by two goals or less, and one of those was with Albany in OT. Early in the year, transition looked like a major part of the Rush identity. They had seven short handed goals in their first three games. They’ve slowed considerably since then, with just 12 transition goals now on the tyear and one shorthanded goal since that start. Vancouver has given up 12 transition goals this year, signaling an opportunity for the Rush to possibly get back to their name sake and push the tempo a bit. 


In the last meeting, Vancouver won 11-9. It’s one of their two wins this year. In that game, the Warriors trailed 9-5 heading to the 4th and went on a 6-0 run in the final frame to win. Adam Charalambides had three goals in that last quarter alone, and assisted the go ahead, game winning goal. To stop Vancouver you have to limit the knowns at the top of the lineup. Charalambides, Keegan Bal, and Kevin Crowley are where it starts, and in the last game, the Rush couldn’t do that. Vancouver played with purpose against Georgia last week, and played well enough to win but couldn’t get the victory. They are 4-4 against the spread despite their 2-6 record, and with all the spreads being 1.5, you can see just how close they keep these games. 


The Pick:


I think Vancouver has been knocking at the door and is due. I’ve got a decently close game here, I’ll take the goals and go with Warriors +1.5 and the under.


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