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NLL Weekend Primer: Week Three

Two weeks down, and now everyone has played at least one game. With every team seeing at least a little bit of action, the first NLL Power Rankings are up. For now, Seals are at the top of the league, though Toronto and Buffalo are not far behind. Albany remains the most fun story so far, as they are out to a 2-0 start, the most recent victory being a win over the defending champion Bandits. Albany scored 10 in the first half in that game, as their young core led by Alex Simmons apparently never got word the team wasn’t supposed to win a lot this year.


This weekend’s slate has five games, kicked off on Friday night. The big ticket game will be Saturday night, a matchup that could be a championship preview between San Diego and Buffalo.  Let’s go through the slate.


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


For the season I am 7-4 against the spread and 6-5 on game totals.


SASKATCHEWAN RUSH (0-2) VS LAS VEGAS DESERT DOGS (1-1)


When: Friday, Dec 15, 10pm EST

Where: Michelob Ultra Arena, Las Vegas

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:

Vegas is coming off a remarkable victory. With less than a second to go, rookie Sean Westley tied the game, and then Zack Greer won it in overtime, breaking the hearts of PCLC. Vegas still is figuring things out a bit. The win they pulled out against Panther City is a sign of a team going in the right direction, but it’s still a very young group, bound to have some ups and downs. Greer and Rob Hellyer can steer the ship on offense as this team gets their legs under them, but every weekend might be a bit of an adventure.  Saskatchewan is winless to start the year, but have had bright spots. Zach Manns has been outstanding to start the year, already notching 12 points on six goals and six assists. Jake Boudreau is top five in the league in loose balls. Robert Church is still really damn good at scoring goals. 


The Pick:

Vegas comes in riding the high of last week’s incredible win. Their week one loss to Albany all of a sudden doesn’t seem so bad, because it turns out Albany might be good. Saskatchewan comes in with two losses to explosive offenses in Halifax and Rochester. Vegas has scorers, but not the depth of weapons of those two clubs. Still, the Rush haven’t been able to keep goal totals down, giving up 33 in total in their first two. Vegas hasn’t scored a ton, but this is a game in their home barn after a big win. I’ll take Vegas +1.5, and I’ll go under 23.5


ALBANY FIREWOLVES (2-0) VS PHILADELPHIA WINGS (1-1)


When: Saturday, Dec 16, 1pm EST

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+ 

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


The Matchup:

How bout those Firewolves? A team that had some of the longest title odds (translation: nobody expected much) is out to a 2-0 start, and just beat the defending champs. Alex Simmons is a clear early front runner for Rookie of the Year, and the core of him, Tye Kurtz, and Ethan Walker is just a lot for defenses to handle. The young team is not playing young. They charged late in the game to beat Vegas in week one, they were able to get timely goals late against Buffalo to keep their lead secure. Both the kinds of things that vets do. Philly got brutal injury news this week. Blaze Riorden and Holden Cattoni both are on the Injured Reserve, and both will miss fairly significant time. Riorden was out to an excellent start to the year, instantly connecting well with Mitch Jones on the left side. His injury is particularly sad to see for fans who know him well from the field game and enjoy watching him play on the offensive side of things. The Wings managed just seven goals against Toronto, so the blow to the offense could not come at a worse time. Philly will need to put together a solid defensive game plan and not give up any cheap ones. If they can get on the power play, they’ll be solid, as the extra man group looks outstanding. But you can’t rely on power plays to win 60 minute games. 


The Pick:

Albany has been an underdog twice. They’ve won outright twice. The Philly defense has some questions, and with Riorden and Holden Cattoni out for a while, I’m going to play the hot hand. Albany +1.5 is the pick, and the over. 


HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS (1-0) VS NEW YORK RIPTIDE (0-1)


When: Saturday, Dec 16, 7:30pm EST

Where: Nassau Colisum, New York

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:

Both teams are back in action after being off a week ago. Halifax offense thoroughly thrashed Saskatchewan in week one. On top of that, Randy Staats was moved to the Active Roster this week. Word is it’s not a lock that he’ll play on Saturday, but even without him, the Thunderbirds represent a major test for the Riptide defense. Code Jamieson, Clarke Petterson, Ryan Benesch, all getting the ball from Jake Withers, Ryan Terefenko, and Graeme Hossack. It’s tough to find weak spots. New York activated top draft pick Callum Jones this week, who should be a bolster to the defense. This is a hell of a matchup to get your first pro action, but might as well jump right into the deep end. In week one  the Riptide got out to a slow started and basically spotted Philly four goals before playing them even the rest of the way, even closing to within a goal. Their offseason had a lot of moves, the rebuilt team can do some damage if they get on the same page quickly. 


The Pick:

New York starts with two home games, fans have to hope they’d at least split them. They had opportunities against Philly and couldn’t convert. It’ll take a consistent and well executed game to beat Halifax. For the Thunderbirds, it’s going to start with Jake Withers again. His dominance facing off, on loose balls, and on the defensive end was a major key to the week one win. I don’t think the Riptide have the answer for Withers at the faceoff spot. They’ll battle, but I’ll take Halifax -1.5 and the over 25.5. I’ll feel real good about this if Staats is officially a go. 


SAN DIEGO SEALS (1-0) VS BUFFALO BANDITS (0-1)


When: Saturday, Dec 16th, 7:30pm EST

Where: Keybank Center, Buffalo

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:

This will get the billing of a possible championship preview. The Seals come in off a win against Calgary in their home opener. Buffalo is coming off a loss in Albany that was definitely a surprise. But make no mistake, the KeyBank Center will be rocking. This is the Bandits home opener, first home game off the championship victory, the place will be packed. On ticketmaster Thursday afternoon, basically the entire lowe bowl was sold, and just some seats in the back of the upper deck were left. It’ll be electric. The Bandits have weapons galore, their downfall against Albany was the defense being a little disjointed and Matt Vinc having his worst game in literally 10 years. San Diego can’t count on those things happening again. That said, San Diego is good enough that they don’t need to rely on those things to happen. Trevor Baptiste joining the Seals makes a massive impact, as he’ll keep possessions tilted San Diego’s way. Dane Dobbie and Curtis Dickson still get it done as well as anyone in the league on offense. Wes Berg can make goals appear out of nowhere. The Seals are an offense that can have you feeling good one second, and picking the ball out of your net the next because of some spectacular shot or defense shredding feed. 


The Pick:

In some books, Buffalo actually was getting goals in this game at open. On DraftKings now they are -1.5.  I think about just how good Buffalo is, how they rise for big games, and the crowd that’s going to be on hand. There’s just no way to pick against the Bandits here, even against a team atop the power rankings for most experts. I’ll take Buffalo -1.5 and the over. 


GEORGIA SWARM (1-0) VS VANCOUVER WARRIORS (0-1)


When: Saturday, Dec 16th, 10pm EST

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver

How to Watch: TSN, TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:

Georgia comes in off a win against Colorado in which they put up 16 goals. There were ugly moments, with some fighting that got well out of hand and impacted an official. This weekend, Georgia takes on Vancouver, who was idle a week ago after dropping their week one contest to Panther City.  The Warriors put up just seven goals in week one, although their defense didn’t look bad, particularly in settled spots.  The Warriors have plenty of exciting young players, with Adam Charalambides and Owen Grant leading the way on their respective ends of the floor. Keegan Bal went 0-10 in that first game for Vancouver, those nights won’t happen often. The Swarm put up those 16 goals after trading Ryan Lanchbury, a testament to both how much depth they have, and how much they like that depth. Brady Kearnan is a budding star, and as long as Lyle Thompson is taking the floor for you, you have a shot to win. Brett Dobson continues to impress in net as the Swarm build a contender. 


The Pick:

Vancouver with their second home game, and their second TSN Game of the Week already. It’s good to be the Warriors. The Swarm present a whole different level of offensive firepower than Panther City. The Warriors offense needs to manage more than seven goals to have a shot in this one too. Georgia gets the emotions in check, leans on their stars, and takes care of business on the road. Swarm -1.5 and the under. 


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