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NLL Weekend Primer: Week 9

Last weekend was a slate full of upsets, surprises, and great performances. As bottom of the standings teams knocked off top of the table teams, everyone was reminded just how thin the margin is between victory and defeat in the NLL. New York hit a clutch goal to win in Banditland, Vancouver rattled off a 6-0 4th quarter to beat Saskatchewan. If you turn a game off early, you are probably missing a comeback. This week we have a six game schedule, starting Friday night with some lax after dark in Vancouver in the TSN Game of the Week. Buffalo gets to take their shot at top dog Toronto, New York tries to keep climbing when they host Georgia, and Philly returns to action after a long break.


Last week, I went 2-3 against the spread and 4-1 on game totals.


For the season, I am 19-23 against the spread and 25-17 on game totals.


All spreads/odds come from DraftKings. 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.


COLORADO MAMMOTH (2-4) VS VANCOUVER WARRIORS (2-4)


When: Friday, January 26th. 10:00pm EST.

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver

How to Watch: TSN, TSN+ ESPN+

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


The Matchup:


The moneyline in this one is close to even. The Warriors have shown some flashes this year where the offense cooks. Despite not being really regarded as a contender, this team put up a 15 spot against the Swarm. They entered the 4th quarter down 9-5 last weekend, and own 11-5. These teams met back on December 30th and Vancouver lost in overtime. The rub there was that Vancouver led 11-5 at halftime, and didn’t score the rest of the game. Tyler Carlson completely shut the door. With a team like Vancouver, the lessons taken from that game are critical. Coach Curt Malawsky will make sure they’re better for it. Young weapons like Adam Charalambides are getting better every week, and the Warriors have one of the best young defenders in the game in Owen Grant.


Colorado has one two games this year, one of them over Vancouver as just described. The other was last week against Calgary at home. The Mammoth haven’t won on the road yet. The defense still hasn’t been great this year. And yes, they shut out Vancouver for a half, but a lot of that had to do with Carlson morphing into Panoptes, seeing everything at all times and allowing no shots through. Vancouver may not be as potent as some other teams in the league, but they can be plenty dangerous on offense. They just haven’t been consistent, which is what happens with a young team. Having already played this matchup should make Vancouver more comfortable. 


The Pick:


Vancouver is at home and coming off a nice win. They held a six goal lead and if managed a single second half goal in the first meeting, they’d have been victorious. I’ll say they get it this time around, and take the Warriors +1.5. Vancouver has gone under in five of six games this year and Colorado hasn’t been a scoring machine by any means. That said, 21.5 is a really low number, I’ll say this one goes over. 


ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS (3-2) VS HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS (2-3)


When: Saturday, January 27th. 6:00pm EST

Where: Scotiabank Centre, Halifax

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Halifax favored by 1.5, game total set at 25.5


The Matchup:


Shootout on deck? This has the highest total of the week, and with the personnel on the floor it’s not hard to see why. Connor Fields and Ryan Smith are 10th and 11th in points in the NLL, respectively, despite playing just five games to this point. The Knighthawks have surrendered 14 goals per game, the worst mark in the league. The league average is 11.6 goals per game against. Rochester’s questions won’t be on offense, they’ve shown themselves to be effective there in every game, as while they are the bottom of the league in goals against per game, they are best in the league in goals per game. They give up 14 per game, they score 14 per game. The shootout is just how it’s been. The place to watch is once again going to be in net, as Rylan Hartley has not returned. Riley Hutchcraft made 47 saves against Buffalo, but still let up 15 goals. He’ll be under attack once again from Halifax, and will need to post better than 75.8% save percentage for Rochester to pull this out. 


The Birds don’t have any single player in the top 25 in the league in points. But they have five different players with 20+ points. Two of those, Randy Staats and Austin Shanks, are at that mark in just four games played. Halifax won’t beat you with one or two individuals carrying the load, they’ll use all five players on offense to shoot over and through your defense. They’ll also smother you in possession courtesy of Jake Withers, who is facing off at 77.6%, and Ryan Terefenko, who has more loose balls this season than some faceoff specialists. Terefenko will also keep you on your heels with pace and tempo, sprinting up the floor to try and squeeze an opportunity out of every possession. 


The Pick:


The shootout narrative will abound, and this one should be fun. The Hawks have some serious weapons on offense. Terefenko, Hossack and company going up against Fields and Smith is must see TV. Halifax has lost three straight and badly needs a win. I’ll say they get one in front of their home fans and get things back on track. And of course I’m on the over, let’s see some goals.


BUFFALO BANDITS (3-3) VS TORONTO ROCK (5-0)


When: Saturday, January 27th. 7:00pm EST.

Where: FirstOntario Centre, Toronto

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:


The defending champ against the top contender for the throne. Toronto is the last remaining unbeaten in the NLL, sitting at 5-0 after last week’s win over Georgia. The injury report will be something to watch, as TD Ierlan hit injured reserve this week. Ierlan is at 83.5% facing off, his impact on possession can’t be overstated. To me, Ierlan is half of a pair that can break the spirits of an opponent. Ierlan wins faceoffs to give Toronto extra possessions, while Nick Rose robs the other team of goals. Rose is currently sporting a save percentage just under 83%, and a sub-nine GAA. In front of him is an experienced and dangerous defense and transition group. Toronto, despite being this good, will have to exorcise some demons here. Dating back to 2022, Buffalo has won six of the last seven matchups, with four of those games being Eastern Finals.


Buffalo has that history on their side, but they are coming off a tough game. A home loss to the Riptide is not part of the NLL script.  I’m not quite ready to call this a championship hangover, but I also wasn’t quite expecting the Bandits to be 3-3 after six games. Their losses are to Albany, New York, and Georgia, their wins are San Diego, Colorado, and Rochester. Not an easy schedule. At the start of the year both the Albany and NY games were probably penciled in as wins by the fans, and that’s not crazy, but that’s why we play the games. Buffalo has done plenty of scoring this yearn over 12 goals per game. But they’ve conceded plenty too. The good news is Buffalo has given up just six fast break goals this year. That could be the key. If they neutralize Toronto in transition and finish good looks on Rose, the Bandits can win.


The Pick:


Toronto has title aspirations, and Buffalo is a team to go through to get there. The past meetings have all gone Buffalo’s way. But the Bandits are looking vulnerable this year, while Toronto seems to have an answer for everyone. I’ll take the Rock, and the under. 


GEORGIA SWARM (4-3) VS NEW YORK RIPTIDE (2-4)


When: Saturday, January 27th. 7:30pm EST

Where: Nassau Coliseum, New York

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:


New York notched a massive win last weekend, going into Banditland and coming away with a win. No harder place to play, and a game against the defending champs, but the Riptide had the building sounding quiet with a massive run in the second quarter. Jeff Teat has been on a tear, and the acquisition of Stephen Keogh has been a major success. Something to watch for here is the power play. New York has the only power play in the league that is over 30% efficiency. Georgia has allowed more power play sets than any team in the league at 79. New York’s offense in settled situations is getting hot, and the power play remains effective. If the Riptide get the extra man a few times, it could mean the difference in the game. 


Georgia comes in having lost back to back games to Albany and Toronto. Lately, their games have all been decently close. In their last four games, the largest margin either way is four goals. The talk of New York lately, other than Teat, has been rookie defender Callum Jones, who has been playing like a home run of a draft pick. This game will be one of his most difficult tests yet when Lyle Thompson, Shayne Jackson, and Andrew Kew take the floor. All three are over 30 points on the season. Georgia will need to attack and win matchups against the young, but talented, New York defense in this one, while making sure to stay out of the penalty box so Brett Dobson gets plenty of savable looks. 


The Pick:


New York is riding high after their last game, and a win in Buffalo means you can win anywhere. It’s a hard schedule for the next seven or so games, New York started in the right foot, I think they stay focused and competitive, so I’ll take the Riptide +1.5. Georgia has gone under in six straight. New York has gone over in three straight. Add that up and you get, I don’t really know what. I’ll take the over. 


SAN DIEGO SEALS (4-2) VS PHILADELPHIA WINGS (2-3)


When: Saturday, 27th. 7:30pm EST

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:


It’s been a long break for Philly. Their last game was plated on January 7th against the Riptide. Their January 13th game against the Rush was postponed, and they were idle last weekend, so here we are 20 days later and they welcome one of the best teams in the NLL to town, San Diego. Philly is something of an enigma, compounded by the time off. They have a win over New York, and then a seven goal loss to New York. They also have a win over Halifax, but that isn’t doing as much for them lately. Philly had to deal with significant injuries on the offense, but those look to be resolved now with Blaze Riorden and Holden Cattoni back. For Philly, it’ll be about the defense. Zach Higgins is averaging seeing just under 56 shots per game, a startlingly high number. Allowing that kind of volume to San Diego is not a recipe for success; they’re built to well on offense. 


For San Diego, they’ve been about settled offense all year. They have just four transition goals on the season, by far the lowest in the league. However, Philly has allowed 14 fast break goals; they are one of the worst at denying transition goals. San Diego is built to beat you settled, but there could be some unsettled scoring in this one. Trevor Baptiste will be at the faceoff spot for the Seals, and Philly has struggled mightily in that area. The Wings are sub 20%, San Diego is over 70%. It might not look like the up and down sort of fast break that comes to your mind when you think transition, but Baptiste being dangerous off the draw, pushing even numbers, could create some of the “transition” goals that San Diego can use to deliver a win.


The Pick:


Trevor Baptiste is a key for me. He should be consistently able to win draws, and if he can create quick, early offense out of them to plays like Austin Staats, the Seals should win comfortably. I’m going to take San Diego off their big win to stay hot, while Philly is slow out of the gate because of their near three weeks off. Seals is the pick, and the over. 


PANTHER CITY LACROSSE CLUB (2-3) VS LAS VEGAS DESERT DOGS (2-3)


When: Saturday, January 27th. 10:00pm EST

Where: Michelob Ultra Arena, Las Vegas

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:


Last game of the weekend, out in the Vegas desert. Panther City is off a bye week, having beating New York the week before, and played close games with Georgia and Toronto before that. I don’t personally like giving teams credit for losing close games when it comes to things like rankings, but in assessing the way they played, tough to knock PCLC. They have hung tough with some of the best in the league. This is also a rematch of the December 10th matchup that saw Vegas score a buzzer beater to send the game to OT, and then a heroic game winner from Zach Greer to steal a win for the Desert Dogs. Panther City played about 59:57 of winning lacrosse, but the last few seconds were all it took. Nick Damude has been very good outside of a rough game with Georgia, if he gets a rhythm like he did against New York, he can be tough to beat. 


Vegas was idle last week, but notched a massive win over San Diego at home the week before as a heavy underdog. Jack Hannah put up four goals in that one and looked outstanding as a dodger and finisher. His growth into a star in his role on the offense has been fun to watch. He went 1-11 shooting in that first matchup, and I’m not bettering on a repeat performance. The question for Vegas may not really be the offense. They’ve given up 17 goals in a game twice already this year, in just five contests. Landon Kells save percentage is at 75.2%, that number will need to come up. Callum Crawford and Jonathan Donville are not the type to waste their shots, it’ll take a strong team performance focused on those two first and foremost for Vegas to get a win.


The Pick:


That December 10th game featured eight different go ahead goals. It was tight from wire to wire. Panther City is, to me, the better team and in better form than Vegas. I still think this could be a tight game. Vegas should be feeling good after the San Diego win. I’ll take the goals in this one, and take Vegas getting 1.5, and the under.


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