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NLL Weekend Primer: Week 8

Eight games last week, with San Diego having a particularly busy weekend. Well, seven games, Saskatchewan and Philly had to postpone. This weekend there are five games, but there are a some good ones to watch. Albany and San Diego battle on Saturday night, as San Diego gets a chance to impress with a win against a top team, and Albany gets to try and keep their perfect start alive. Georgia and Toronto is another battle of upper echelon teams set for Saturday and should be a great Swarm offense vs Rock defense matchup. The Riptide start a brutal stretch of schedule with a visit to Banditland on Friday night. 


Last week, I went 2-5 against the spread and 5-2 on game totals (seven games on record, eight on schedule because of postponed Saskatchewan/Philly game).


For the season, I am 17-20 against the spread and on 21-16 game totals.


All spreads/odds come from DraftKings. If you are serious about picks/wagering, you should line shop across all sportsbooks. I don’t actually bet these games, just picks.


NEW YORK RIPTIDE (1-4) VS BUFFALO BANDITS (3-2)


When: Friday, January 19th. 7:30pm EST

Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Buffalo favored by 3.5, game total set at 22.5


The Matchup:


Before even getting to the matchup, it’ll be a special night in Banditland. It’s Tucker Out Lymphoma night. If you don’t know the story, it’s very much worth your time to go learn about it. Tucker Williams, son of former Bandit and current NLL coach Shawn Williams, lost a battle with lymphoma in 2014. This game will have special jerseys, items available for auction from the game, all sorts of other memorabilia and items like that available for purchase or auction, and the proceeds go to pediatric cancer care. It’s a special cause that’s very dear to everyone in the lacrosse community, so if you have the ability please offer some support. 


To the game itself, this is a tall order for the Riptide. It looks like captain Damon Edwards, a stalwart defender, may miss this game due to injury, his third straight. Being without your captain and a top defender is not a great way to take the floor against Buffalo. Jeff Teat comes in having play a hell of a game against PCLC, and now has 6+ points in three straight games. He’ll get his, it’s just too hard to stop him. Connor Kearnan only has one less point than Teat currently, and his production on the right side has been exceptional. The question is, without Edwards, can New York withstand the onslaught of the Buffalo offense. There are weapons after weapons. Halifax put up 14 on the Riptide this year, as did Toronto. Buffalo’s offense is probably better than both.


The Bandits come in off a shootout, or at least half of one, with Rochester. They scored 10 first half goals and five more in the second half to win their second game in a row. With wins over Rochester, San Diego, and Colorado, but losses to Georgia and Albany, Buffalo is able to say they are seriously battled tested and it’s still only January. Something to watch is, and I can’t believe I’m even writing it, the play of Matt Vinc. Already a legend an all time great, Vinc has put a few rough performances out there this year. The opener against Albany saw him allow 17 goals, and he surrendered 10 in the first half against Rochester. He currently has a GAA of 11.2, and a save percentage under 80, both a long way down from where he was just a year ago. Father time is undefeated, and the New York offense is a far cry from Albany’s or Rochester’s, but if the Riptide have a hot shooting night, Buffalo will need to be ready to respond with quality offense of their own. 


The Pick:


New York’s path to victory here is a tough one. Equal parts Jeff Teat virtuoso performance, Cam Dunkerley lights out game, Matt Vinc down game, and the best defensive Riptide effort of the season. Asking for all those things to happen is a tall order. The line here is a big one, 3.5 goals is as big as it gets in the NLL. But against team’s this good, New York hasn’t been able to keep it close. I’ll take Buffalo, even a somewhat vulnerable looking Buffalo, and the over.


GEORGIA SWARM (4-2) VS TORONTO ROCK (4-0)


When: Saturday, January 20th. 7:00pm EST

Where: First Ontario Centre, Toronto

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:


Georgia enters off a loss to Albany which snapped their three game win streak. The Swarm got what they’ve gotten all year in that with quality performances from Lyle Thompson and Shayne Jackson, but Brett Dobson had a down game and Albany chased him early. Georgia always was on the bad end of the possession battle, which could be repeated this week. It’s unlikely the Swarm can consistently counter TD Ierlan at the faceoff spot, so Dobson should expect to be under attack again. Thompson and Jackson will see the best goalie they’ve seen all year, and one of the toughest defenses by a decent margin. Dobson at this best can go toe to toe with anyone, he’ll need to get back to his form from the last few weeks and put the Albany game behind him.


Toronto continues to execute well and play smart, quality lacrosse. Watch them play, and you just see a well oiled machine that is playing top tier ball in all phases. Rose and the defense are the key. Stops from Rose start transition where Toronto can be incredibly dangerous. I take great joy in watching Mitch de Snoo run the floor from D to O and look for opportunities to punish poor transition play from the opponent. Challen Rogers transition game is the same story, and he’ll win a matchup in isolation on offense if you don’t send help quickly (he did this to perfection against Halifax). Toronto has seven players in double digit points in four games. Ierlan keeps possession their way, while Rose and the defense steal goals from the opponent. It must be deeply frustrating to play against Toronto.


The Pick:


Toronto plays a stifling defense in front of the best goalie in the league right now. Georgia has gone under in five straight games, Toronto has gone under in three of their four games and the lone over game was by the hook. I’ll take Toronto, and the under.  


SAN DIEGO SEALS (3-2) VS ALBANY FIREWOLVES (6-0)


When: Saturday, January 20th. 7:00pm EST

Where: MVP Arena, Albany

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Albany favored by 1.5 goals, game total set at 22.5.


The Matchup:


An intriguing one for sure. San Diego has been tough to get a bead on. They have yet to win, or lose, two in a row. One week they beat Rochester, the next they lose to Vegas. Last weekend they played two games in two days and split them against Vegas and Colorado. The game in Vegas did not look like San Diego lacrosse. They don’t really score a ton in transition, but their personnel is (on paper) deadly in 5v5. Against Vegas, the balance was all out of whack. San Diego was stuck on three goals into the third quarter. Wes Berg took 15 shots, nearly double the next highest player. That’s not a knock on Berg, but with the Seals personnel, it’s important to spread the wealth. Against Colorado, things were better. Chris Origlieri continues to get better every week in the goal. So far this year, anything but a clean and efficient game hasn’t been enough to beat Albany. San Diego will have to muster one. 


Albany has seen just about every test they could so far. They’ve beaten Buffalo, they’ve beaten Georgia, they’ve beaten Halifax. They’ve been down late and come back to win. They’ve kept a game in control from start to finish. They’ve had all the answers to every haymaker from every opponent. At this point, they’re playing against a history book. Albany will want to try and get to the young Origlieri early and try to chase him, as they did Dobson last week. If they allow Orig to get settled, he’ll turn into a wall. The San Diego defense will have to find answers to the trio of weapons that Albany brings to the party, and so far, nobody has. 


The Pick:


For the first time this year, Albany opened not getting goals on DraftKings. The value hasn’t been good, but finally this week, Albany is a favorite. And so, finally, I will pick against them. That’s right, I’m calling for an end to all the fun. San Diego +1.5 and the over is the pick. 


VANCOUVER WARRIORS (1-4) VS SASKATCHEWAN RUSH (1-3)


When: Saturday, January 20th. 8:00pm EST.

Where: Sasktel Centre, Saskatchewan

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:


Saskatchewan has been hit with some extreme weather, so first and foremost, hope everyone in the area is safe. Temperatures that dipped well below zero fahrenheit are no joke. The weather was so serious, their game last week was postponed, so we haven’t seen them take the floor since New Year’s Eve.


In that game, they took Albany to OT. Prior, they absolutely whomped Vegas. The Rush have been in good form, and are in a good stretch of schedule to notch some wins. Zach Manns has been exceptionally, shooting over 40% on 30+ shots, now the only player in the NLL who can make that claim. His season has been a tremendous leap, producing at a level he hasn’t come close to in prior years. He, Robert Church, and Ryan Keenan are the engine that make this offense go. They all shoot well and punish teams who give them too much space, or sub par goalie play. That could be a key in this one, as last week, Vancouver’s goalie situation was dicey at best. Aaron Bold was chased, and then ultimately returned. Saskatchewan is built to punish uneasy goalies. 


Vancouver is in a tough spot, having lost three straight, including a game to Colorado who look mediocre at best right now. The Warriors set an attendance record last week, so fan support for their team is growing in the community. And they have young stars to be excited about. Adam Charalambides takes strides as their top lefty every week. Owen Grant is a superstar in the making. The Draft List has names like Payton Cormier and Brock Haley, things are only going up for Vancouver, but this year is about development. 


The Pick:


It’s tough to pick Vancouver in their recent form, while despite the weather and the break, the Rush have been hot. I’ll take Saskatchewan to cover at home, and the under. 


CALGARY ROUGHNECKS (2-2) VS COLORADO MAMMOTH (1-4)


When: Saturday, January 20th. 9:00pm EST

Where: Ball Arena, Colorado

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Calgary favored by 1.5, game total set at 21.5


The Matchup:


Last game of the weekend features two teams that are sort of moving in opposite directions. 


Calgary started the year with two tough losses, but has since won two straight in dominant fashion. The Roughnecks beat up on some basement dwellars, outscoring Vegas and Vancouver a combined 31-18. The Mammoth present an opportunity to continue that streak. Jesse King trails only Dhane Smith for the assist crown in the league, and has played one fewer game. He is the straw that stirs the drink for Calgary, part of an overpowering right side that includes Tanner Cook as well. The defense has been solid the last two weeks, and Christian Del Dianco has regained the form that won him MVP a year ago. I’d look for Calgary to push for some transition opportunities and create high percentage looks against Dillon Ward. 


For Colorado, it’s surprising to see them as down as they’ve been to start the year. Back to back years in the finals, winning it all two seasons ago, it’s not often a team goes from that perch to a 1-4 start. The schedule has been brutal, those losses came against Georgia twice, San Diego, and Buffalo, arguably all top five teams. The Mammoth left side of Eli McLaughlin and Connor Robinson has been solid, doing a lot of the heavy lifting in critical moments Colorado. The issues have been on the other end of the floor. Neither Dillon Ward nor Tyler Carlson are over 75% save percentage, and that’s led to tough outcomes. In all of Colorado’s losses they gave up 12+ goals. 


The Pick:


Calgary has been beating up on teams you’d expect them to beat, and that’s very much the case in this one. The Loud House will give Colorado a boost, but Calgary stays hot. Roughnecks is the pick, and the over.


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