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NLL Weekend Primer: Week Two

Opening weekend in the books. We had incredible individual performances, comebacks, upsets, a potential goal of the year from Ryan Barnable, really not a bad way to kick off the indoor season. Just enough to get the blood pumping and get fired up for week two, when the defending champs will raise their banner, and a few teams who fancy themselves contenders for the cup get their season going. 


As always, the Weekend Primer is the place to come to see who is playing, where, when, how to watch, and some matchup info. I’m also making picks, though don’t expect much there. 


If you’d like to track everyone’s record against the spread, overall, totals, and results cumulatively throughout the season, that’s all tracked for you on the 2024 Results Spreadsheet. Everything you need to spot trends and become an NLL sharp. Or just have some fun. Note that all lines come from DraftKings and are from when this is written, typically mid week. They may not be totally current. If you are serious about picks and wagering, you should definitely line shop across books. 


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


For the season, I am 2-3 against the spread and 3-2 on totals.


Here’s this week’s rundown:


PHILADELPHIA WINGS (1-0) VS TORONTO ROCK (0-0)


When: Saturday, Dec. 9, 7pm EST

Where: FirstOntario Centre, Toronto

How to Watch: TSN, TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:

Philadelphia on the road yet again. They spoiled New York’s home opener last week, can they do it again in Toronto? I saw the Wings in person in New York and, as anyone who watched on ESPN2 or otherwise can tell you, the left side duo of Blaze Riorden and Mitch Jones looks very hard to handle. And it’s not like it gets any easy if you manage to deal with them on the left, because both Cattoni’s are ready to pick up the slack.  It’s a very formidable group to scheme for. The right side isn’t exactly easy to handle either, as both Ben McIntosh and Joe Resitarits still bring plenty of firepower. I saw a lot to like in the Philly offense. Without Baptiste they obviously take a step down facing off. Isaiah Davis-Allen is getting the full time duty, but that won’t be the possession machine that Baptiste was for them. 


For Toronto, the injury bug has bitten hard even though they haven’t played a game yet. A knee injury sustained during the summer season will keep Latrell Harris on the PUP list for the entire year. Nobody can easily replace the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. On top of that, this week Chris Corbeil hit the Injured List, and Tom Schreiber, a bona fide MVP candidate, is on the Injured List as well. The Rock are a deep and extremely talented team, but that’s a set of injuries that nobody can handle with ease. Chris Boushy, acquired in the offseason can (and will have to) pick up the slack on the offensive end with Schreiber out on the right. Mark Matthews, another offseason addition, should help on a left side that’s got a ton of experience. 


The Pick:

Philly is getting 1.5 here at nearly even money. While I love their offense, Toronto isn’t the same animal as New York. The Rock should have a significant edge facing off with TD Ierlan, giving them plenty of possessions and opportunities. Despite the injuries, Toronto is still stacked with transition players and defenders that are among the best in the league. Brad Kri, Challen Rogers, Mitch de Snoo, they’re all still going to be on the floor. Nick Rose is still going to be in net. Toronto fancies itself a serious contender, and this is their home opener. They make a statement and show everyone even without a couple stars, the Rock are ready to hang with anyone. I’ll take the Rock -1.5 and the over. 


BUFFALO BANDITS (0-0) VS ALBANY FIREWOLVES (1-0)


When: Saturday, Dec. 9th, 7pm EST

Where: MVP Arena, Albany

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Buffalo favored by 3.5, game total set at 23.5


The Matchup:

Albany got things off on the right foot last week. As an underdog in Vegas, they grabbed the lead late with a sensational goal from Tye Kurtz and pulled out a win. The expectations aren’t high for the Firewolves this year. Basically, it’s about getting some experience for their young stars and trying to compete. They currently have the third longest title odds for a reason. That doesn’t mean they won’t pull some wins out there. Kurtz and Alex Simmons both showed you a lot in that first game. Marshall Powless was the game leader with four assists and loose balls. Dougie Jamieson can keep them in games. Albany is a team with heart that’ll get written off a bit, but the second you fail to take Albany seriously as an opponent you’ll be taking a loss. The talent is there. 


All that said, Buffalo is the defending champ. They are loaded.  The line is 3.5 for a reason. If you’re a field fan it’s a roster full of stars you recognize like Dhane Smith, Josh Byrne, Chase Fraser, Chris Cloutier, Ian Mackay, and Cam Wyers. Add the primary box players like Tehoka Nanticoke, Steve Priolo, ageless wonder Matt Vinc (an active player older than me!) in net. The Bandits will almost certainly be there in the mix come championship time again, even if they are a little dinged up. Despite it being a lopsided matchup on paper, this one has the potential to post some serious highlights and scoot-to-the-edge-of-the-couch-and-lean-forward type moments. 


The Pick:

Albany has heart. Make no mistake about it, and I’ll be pulling for them as the year goes on because they have a roster full of players that are easy to cheer for. But they’re stepping into the ring with the heavyweight champ in this one. I’ll take Buffalo even with the big line, and I’ll take the over.


COLORADO MAMMOTH (0-0) VS GEORGIA SWARM (0-0)


When: Saturday, Dec. 9th, 9pm EST

Where: GAS South Arena, Georgia

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:

The only matchup this weekend between two teams who haven’t played a game yet. Colorado won the title two years ago and lost in the championship to Buffalo last year. Georgia had a nightmare start to the year, losing their first 7 games, before catching fire and going 8-3 over the next 11 games. They had a stretch of 8-1, with the one loss being by a goal in a shooter with Rochester. Two losses to close the year kept them out of the playoffs, but the second half charge really showed what the Swarm can do.


The Mammoth will be without Dillon Ward, who starts the year on the PUP list. The other injury of note is Ryan Lee, who is dealing with complications from his last knee injury and is out long term. The Mammoth added Connor Kelly in the offseason, but he is on the Holdout List. They’ll still have plenty of weapons with Zed Williams, Eli McLaughlin, and Connor Robinson leading the charge. Robert Hope is back on defense, as is Warren Jeffrey. The Mammoth have a roster full of proven winners, and plenty of experience. Even with some personnel gaps, they’re well equipped to be where they alway seem to wind up, in the mix at the end of the year. 


The Swarm are great on paper, with one of the best young goalies in the world in Brett Dobson and offensive firepower led by Lyle Thompson, Shayne Jackson, Andrew Kew, Ryan Lanchbury and budding star Brady Kearnan. The transition personnel is also strong with plenty of quality veterans. 


(Note: Ryan Lanchbury was traded to Rochester for two first round picks after this piece was completed.)


The Pick:

Those big swings in record last year were in part due to Georgia getting better, and in part due to who was on the schedule. The 0-7 start included two losses to Buffalo, two losses to Toronto, and a loss to Colorado. In the 8-1 stretch, they had three wins over Albany, two wins over New York, and a win over Saskatchewan. This year, Georgia needs to stack wins against the top end of the league and not just feast on lesser opponents if they’re going to take the next step into the playoffs. There is some serious plus money on Georgia -1.5. With that, and the fact that they drew decent crowds last year and this is the home opener, I’m going to take the value on the Swarm here. Georgia -1.5 and the over. 


ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS (1-0) VS SASKATCHEWAN RUSH (0-1)


When: Saturday, Dec. 9th, 8pm EST

Where: SaskTel Centre, Saskatchewan

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:

Rochester had an 8-0 run and hung on for an opening weekend win over Calgary, while Saskatchewan got blitzed by Jake Withers and Halifax. Last year, Rochester started the year 6-0, a darling of the league as they obliterated low expectations. Connor Field was masterful. To start the year, it was basically that again. Fields had four goals, his last being the goal that put Rochester up two with less than three minutes to play. His finished with six points, as did teammate Ryan Smith. Field added 11 loose balls. They also forced 50 saves from Christian Del Bianco. Rochester, again, is looking quite sharp to start the season. A bit of a slow start, but a nine goal second half explosion showed just what the team is capable of at their best. 


Saskatchewan, on the other hand, got rocked early and could not come back. They gave up nine goals in the first quarter, in no small part due to the fact that Jake Withers kept the ball with Halifax so much. Ryan Barnable gave us a goal of the year candidate and Holden Garlent looked like a better quarterback than anyone currently on the New York Jets. Robert Church had five points, Zach Manns had six. I was hoping to see more scoring from the newly acquired Patrick Dodds for this Rush team. The Rush will have a better chance this week if for now other reason than they certainly won’t be 4-33 facing off again. Withers may be in their nightmares but he won’t be on the floor. The Rush can flush that first game performance and get comfortable at home, they’ll be ok.


The Pick:

Rochester looks like it has that early season magic again. This year, the challenge will be to make sure it isn’t just early season. There is ridiculously high -160 juice on the +1.5, but I’m taking it away. Rochester +1.5 and the under. 


CALGARY ROUGHNECKS (0-1) VS SAN DIEGO SEALS (0-0)


When: Saturday, Dec. 9th, 10pm EST

Where: Pechanga Arena, San Diego

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:

This is one of the more intriguing games of the weekend.  Last week, Calgary let one get away from them, giving up a big run to Rochester and ultimately dropping the game despite being a road favorite. With a 10-5 halftime lead, Calgary looked in control, but things can just change that quickly if you take your foot off the gas. Jesse King had seven points, Tyler Pace had six, Haiden Dickson had a hat trick, they got production where you’d expect, but giving up an 8-0 run just can’t happen. That’s a taste Calgary is going to want to rinse out immediately with a sharp, clean game. 


The challenge to that, is they have to do it for San Diego’s home opener. The Seals have been on the cusp for a few years, and every year add pieces that you’d expect get them over the hump. They still have yet to make it to the Championship, getting knocked off by Colorado in each of the last two years. This year’s additions include Trevor Baptiste, who will surely deliver a significant faceoff edge every game. He’s got a few perfect games to his name in the NLL. They also added Kyle Jackson, Mike Poulin, and Kyle Rubisch, while saying goodbye to veterans Kevin Crowley, Casey Jackson, and Frank Scigliano. Young phenom netminder Chris Origlieri is the netminder of the future, and the future is now. Brodie Merrill retired, but Dane Dobbie is back for another run at a ring with San Diego, as is Curtis Dickson. On paper, the Seals really do have it all. But titles aren’t won on paper.

 

The Pick:

The Seals narrowly trail only Buffalo as the odds on favorite for the NLL title. There aren’t many places on the roster to point to and say there’s a hole. But that’s been the case for the past two years and San Diego hasn’t been able to break through. Calgary will not want to start 0-2, particularly after losing in the fashion they did a week ago. Both teams have an opportunity for a statement in this game, even if it is still very early. San Diego can be dominant with their new additions and elite veterans, starting on the right foot to getting over the hump. Calgary can knock off one of the league’s best teams, proving that last week was not a true indicator of the Roughnecks level of play.  I’m going to take San Diego in this one to cover, but with that sort of storyline it’s the type of game I’d typically stay away from. Seals -1.5 and the over. 


LAS VEGAS DESERT DOGS (0-1) VS PANTHER CITY LACROSSE CLUB (1-0)


When: Sunday, Dec. 10th, 4pm EST

Where: Dickies Arena, Texas

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

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


The Matchup:

Both teams with a game under their belt already. Vegas surrendered a lead late in the 4th to Albany and took a loss. Panther City took care of business against Vancouver, although they got out to a bit of a slow start. 


Vegas is an interesting group. On offense, it feels like the team is just starting out their career, or a long time veteran, and no in between.  Charlie Bertrand, Jack Hannah, Sean Westley, and Dylan Watson are all 25 or younger with only a year or two of experience. Then there’s Rob Hellyer (31), Zack Greer (37), and Casey Jackson (33). In a way, that’s a great way to set things up. Three veterans who are still very good scorers to play alongside the young stars of the future on the team. The defense and transition players are similar, and all the goalies are 25 or younger. With a team that young, you’re going to get some games with mental errors. Albany went to the power play nine times against Vegas last week. In a testament to the Desert Dogs penalty kill, Albany went 0-9. But when I saw that nine I reacted like Ferris Bueller’s mother. Stunned. Spend that much time man down, you’re going to lose games. Vegas will need to play cleaner in this one. 


One reason to play cleaner, Panther City went 2-3 on the power play last weekend against Vancouver. They’ll punish your mistakes. Speaking on punishing mistakes, apparently someone called Callum Crawford washed before last week’s game. So he had five goals. Panther City scored 11 in the game, and nobody else had more than one. Still four points for Donville, four points for Will Malcom, Matt Hossack and Matheiu Gautier hoovering loose balls, PCLC basically followed their formula last week. 


The Pick:

Vegas, as noted, may have ups and downs. PCLC is young and may also have the occasional weird and/or bad game. It happens. I liked the look of Panther City more in week one, but that can change in a hurry as these teams mature, grow, and get more comfortable. This week I’m going to take the goals and go with Vegas +2.5, and the under. 


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