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NLL Weekend Primer, Week 12

Some teams don’t have quite nine games under their belt yet, but we are very much in the second half of the NLL season. Midseason award time, contender or pretender time, put up or shut up time. Teams at the top need to take it up a notch to stay there, because teams at the bottom will be making their push to crack the top eight.  Just five games on the calendar for the weekend  but at this point, every game is big. 


Last week, I was 3-3 against the spread and 5-1 on game totals.


For the season, I am 28-34 against the spread and 38-24 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.


BUFFALO BANDITS (5-3) VS HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS (5-3)


When: Friday, February 16th. 6:30pm EST

Where: ScotiaBank Centre, Halifax

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Bandits favored by 1.5, game total set at 24.5


The Matchup:


A first meeting for these two this year, and it’s coming at a good time. Buffalo has found their groove, winning four of their last five including a win over the Rock. They have, however, been living dangerously during that time. In their last four games, opponents have scored at least 13 goals, and that’s not a great number to concede. But when Buffalo is on, for me, there is still nobody better. Josh Byrne has had seven points in three straight games. Dhane Smith hasn’t had below six points in a game yet this season, and never fewer than four assists. Regardless of opponent, Buffalo stars produce.


Halifax comes in on a three game winning streak. Clarke Petterson has put up three and three in each of the last three games, which has to be some kind of good luck charm. Randy Staats remains out, but the Birds can still hang plenty of goals on people. This one should be exciting, and the highlight potential is off the chart. An X factor will be how Halifax attacks Matt Vinc. The Buffalo netminder has finally started to show some age, and has had some very up games and very down games. In Buffalo’s loss to New York, the Riptide went on a scorching hot run through the second quarter that chased Vinc from the game for a while. Halifax should be looking to do the same. Jake Withers will make it all go. Whether it’s with faceoff wins or with CTs and possession win backs that way, Withers can keep the opportunities coming for the Birds. If they cash in consistently they can get ahead, and lean on the Buffalo all night.


The Pick:


Marvel Night in Halifax, as the Birds will wear Thor gear and the Bandits play the part of Loki. This could be one of the more exciting games of the weekend, both teams are playing like the class of the league. I’ll take Withers to be the game’s most important player, and take Halifax getting goals, with the over. 


TORONTO ROCK (6-2) VS NEW YORK RIPTIDE (5-4)


When: Friday, February 16th. 7:00pm EST.

Where: Place Bell, Montreal

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:


The NLL UnBoxed game will take place in Montreal, a neutral site affair to showcase the game and grow the sport. Montreal isn’t exactly a stranger to lacrosse, but that makes it all the more likely this is a good one. It should be a good crowd of fans who are knowledgeable and into the game. 


The game itself is shaping up well. Toronto comes in off a loss to Calgary, and a surprising one at that. Even after the loss and the down game, it’s hard to think of anyone other than Nick Rose as goalie of the year right now. Toronto has been built on defense and transition this season, and it’s start with big games out of Rose. In their loss, the Rock had more shots, more loose balls, dominated faceoffs, and had the same amount of penalties, they just didn’t convert their good looks at the net. It’s tough to imagine that happening for two weeks in a row. They’ll have to solve Cam Dunkerley who has been one of the league’s hottest goalies. He comes in off a 52 save, 86.7% effort in goal against San Diego. Quality shooting is a must.


New York has won five of six and is on a four game winning streak, most recently extended with an incredible comeback against San Diego. Three big factors have been part of this. 1st, the aforementioned Dunkerley. His play in net has been tremendous. Second, the defense in front of him is much improved, and a lot of that is owed to rookie Callum Jones. He plays a physical, gritty brand of defense that can inspire an entire unit. He has looked immediately comfortable with pro level offenses in front of him. And of course, Jeff Teat. It’s been nearly two months since Jeff Teat had less than four goals in a game, and two months since he had fewer than six points. He is currently the league leading in points with 60 on a perfectly split 30 goals and 30 assists. It’s not hard to make an MVP case for Teat right now, he does it himself every week.


The Pick:


I can’t bring myself to pick against the Riptide now. Their offseason roster moves, bolstered by early season trade acquisition Stephen Keogh, are really coming together at the right time, and Jeff Teat is playing MVP level lacrosse. I’ll take New York and the goals, and the under.

 

PHILADELPHIA WINGS (2-5) VS LAS VEGAS DESERT DOGS (3-5)


When: Friday, February 16th. 10:00pm EST

Where: Michelob Ultra Arena, Las Vegas

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Philadelphia favored by 1.5, game total set at 23.5


The Matchup:


Philly is on a three game skid, having dropped games to New York, San Diego, and Halifax. Not exactly a cakewalk schedule, but two of those teams were teams that Philly had already beaten. Philly’s story this year has been the defense, or really lack thereof. They surrender 13.43 goals per game, the second highest mark in the league trailing only Rochester. Zach Higgins has been good in net, but he sees entirely too many good shots. The Wings have given up 17 more goals than Toronto, and the Rock have played an extra game. The way to victory here for Philly might be just floor it. Pedal to the metal, play a track meet, and try and win a shootout. Landon Kells has been a very hot or very cold goalie for Vegas, if they can rattle him early and force him towards one of those cold nights, Philly can win. They have the firepower to do it, the Wings offense is excellent. 


For Vegas, Zack Greer is reportedly back with the team which is good news. Veteran shooters and offensive players pay dividends against a shaky defense. Last week, Vegas hung tough against Halifax. Rookie Dylan Watson saw an increased role with Greer gone and looked excellent, he earned the right to keep that larger role now. Even as a rookie. Five points from Watson against Halifax was an impressive outing. Sean Westley was another rookie who played well. With veterans that know how to attack a weak defense, and rookies playing with confidene, the Dogs offense could be in for a big night.


The Pick:


I can’t bring myself to trust the Philly defense, regardless of the opponent. I’ll take anyone getting goals against them. Giving me Vegas and the over. 


COLORADO MAMMOTH (3-6) VS ALBANY FIREWOLVES (6-2)


When: Saturday, February 17th. 7:00pm EST.

Where: MVP Arena, Albany

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Albany favored by 1.5, game total set at 2.5


The Matchup:


The shine has come off for Albany a bit. They have lost two straight, and now sit at 6-2. It could be worse, they are still at the top of the standings and looking pretty firmly in control for a playoff spot. But in those two losses they haven’t scored more than seven goals. Albany was off last weekend so they can reset themselves and get back to what they do best, scoring goals in bunches. Colorado hasn’t faced Albany yet this year, but they also have yet to beat a team with a winning record, and most of the leagues top teams have run up the goal total on the Mammoth. Albany three headed monster of Simmons, Kurtz, and Walker will need to get their groove back. 


Colorado has plenty of veterans who, despite the rough season, will be prepared for a game like this. Dillon Ward has been too good for too long to not be ready for a young team like Albany. Early in the year, because their primary weapons were so young and relatively unknown, preparing for Albany was difficult. Now that they’ve played eight games, the film is out there. The scout is available. Teams like Colorado will be ready to take away option one, and if you can’t score with option 2 or 3, it’ll be a long night. That goes for any matchup in the league. 


The Pick:


I’m a little hesitant to take Albany here. Even with the week off, I think Colorado has had the time to put together a plan, and they’ll force Albany out of what they what they want to do most. I’ll take Colorado -1.5 and get nuts, and the under.


HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS (5-3) VS CALGARY ROUGHNECKS (3-5)


When: Sunday, February 18th. 7:00pm EST.

Where: Westjet Field at ScotiaBank Saddledome, Calgary

How to Watch: TSN, TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Calgary favored by 1.5, game total set at 23.


The Matchup:


We talked Halifax a bit already, the same applies here. Withers will be an X factor as he is every week. Possession will likely tilt the Birds way, making every touch the ball important for the Riggers. 


Calgary has to be feeling good about their play last week. They had a 10-5 lead heading to the 4th against Toronto. Christian Del Bianco had what was probably his best game of the year. Eight different players scored at least one goal. It was a 4-0 3rd quarter that really pushed the game into Calgary control. Jesse King’s torrid assist rate continues; only Dhane Smith has more. Calgary has the advantage of catching Halifax in the second half of a double header weekend, and they get them in their home building. The Roughnecks should try to follow the same formula as they did against Toronto. Strike early with transition and high quality offensive looks, protect a lead by going from defense to offense to apply pressure and keep Halifax on their heels, and try to grind them down for a victory. Lining up and trying to trade blows with Halifax in settled situations isn’t a winning formula for just about anyone, but Calgary gets up the floor well enough to steal a win.


The Pick:


Tough to get a read because it’s the second half of the double dip for Halifax. Who knows what will happen Friday that could impact this game. But win or lose, if the Birds come through healthy, I’m leaning their way and on the under.


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