top of page

The New York Atlas are hot. Their play in the :32 is hotter.

All major professional sports leagues tend to tinker with the rules to try and reach a level of play and competitive balance that is best for fans. The Premier Lacrosse League is no different. In the past two seasons, the PLL has made the most notable and recognizable changes to the faceoff spot.


Prior to the 2023 season, the league announced that the shot clock immediately following a faceoff win would be set at 32 seconds, down from the original 52 seconds. A change in possession would reset the clock to the familiar 52 seconds, and shot clock resets would bring the clock to 32 seconds. The impact of this rule change was felt rapidly. In Week 3, the Waterdogs abandoned the use of a faceoff specialist completely. The Cannons did the same a week later. Both teams instead opted to use a long stick midfielder to force the opposing faceoff specialist backwards, turning the 32 second clock against them by forcing hurried, poor offensive possessions in short clocks. The Atlas struggled to navigate the change, as did most teams with a regular faceoff specialist, and to handle the prevent with consistent success.


In 2024, the rules changed again. The PLL would ban the use of LSMs on a faceoff, a clear attempt to reduce the use of the prevent. Surely good news for reigning Paul Cantabene Faceoff Specialist of the Year Trevor Baptiste and the New York Atlas. The rule change, coupled with Atlas Head Coach Mike Pressler and staff emphasizing the play in the :32 second clock during camp with different schemes and strategies, looked like a sign the Atlas would no longer be punished by short clocks. And in the early goings, they haven’t been.


The Atlas won their first game against the Cannons by a score of 19-12. The game featured 33 total faceoffs, 27 of which were taken by Baptiste. To no surprise, he won 25 of those 27.


A key part of the prevent in 2023 was forcing the opponent backwards to eat shot clock and force longer substitutions. The later in the 32 the other team finished subbing, the less the chances of the offenses scoring a goal. In the first half against the Cannons, following Baptiste wins, the Atlas finished subbing and had all offensive personnel on the field with an average of just over 24 seconds remaining in the 32. That’s if they subbed at all. Dox Aitken would score on the first possession of the game with 25 seconds left on the shot clock while the last player was still making his way onto the field.


This was accomplished by lining up an offensive midfielder in the defensive zone at times, and using an offensive midfielder on the off box side of the faceoff spot. Following a faceoff win, the O middie on the wing is already on, the O middie in the defensive end steps over midfield, the box side wing player has a short run, and Baptiste subs through the midfield line to get the third defenseman back on. It’s very efficient with the clock.


The Atlas would score a goal within the 32 seconds on nine of those 25 Baptiste wins in the game, seven of them coming in the first half. Another goal came after they shot in the initial 32, but backed up their shot and kept possession, scoring on the reset. They had a total of four possessions where the clock expired, and two of those came following the Atlas getting a shot that missed the net. One of those was also a flag down situation, and let the Atlas get to the extra man.


Scoring on 36% of their opportunities in the 32 game one is extremely good. Game two is a different animal for a few reasons. First, the Whipsnakes were not going without a specialist, so there would be fewer clean and easy wins for Baptiste. Second, it’s the second game in as many days. Legs are tired, injuries are popping up, and subbing won’t be as crisp or rapid as it would be on fresh legs. In game two, the Atlas frequently didn’t sub Baptiste on the offensive end following wins at all, instead using him as a picker for the ball or picking the help defender. The game saw 30 faceoffs, on which Baptiste took 27 and won 20. Ultimately they were successful again, beating the Whips 17-13.


Despite the tired legs, Atlas were again great in the early goings. In the first quarter against the Whips, Baptiste took nine draws, and won six. The Atlas scored on five of those six wins, a ridiculous 83.3% mark. In that stretch they forced a matchup change with their attack, and forced a goalie change from the Whips. On two of the scores, they didn’t even complete subbing, as one goal came from a quick dodge out of the win,and another was a scoop and score or Baptiste himself.


After the first quarter the tired legs started to show. Baptiste would win 14 more draws, and just three of those would end with a goal. Three would end with a save from the goalie, four had shots that went wide, and six were ultimately turnovers or clock violations, some following those wide shots. The Atlas also finished subbing later, if they subbed everyone, starting the possession with an average of just under 22 seconds left on the clock, a full 3 seconds later than they were starting things the day before. Still a good mark, but a sign of things happening a bit more slowly.


Finishing with eight goals in the :32 on 20 Baptiste wins is a clean 40% on the day, and that’s an outstanding mark for the 32 second offense.


There’s another important piece of context here, and that’s what happens on draws Baptiste doesn’t win, or that don’t end in a good look or a goal. Three times against the Cannons Baptiste would win the faceoff and the Atlas would draw a flag. With a flag down, the Atlas were more than happy to let a lower percentage shot go since they were heading to the power play anyway, and that’s how all three of those possessions ended.


On another three occasions, the Atlas deployed Danny Logan to the faceoff spot to hockey the ball away. Since the Cannons didn’t dress a specialist, Logan could use his physicality to get position on the ball upon the whistle. Then he just wouldn’t pick it up. He’d shovel it as far as he could into the Cannons defense end, or slap shot it down to that end of the field. Doing this means the 32 second clock doesn’t start, because he never possesses the ball. Instead, the Cannons get the ball in their own end, having to clear, and they have to deal with running a 32 second offense. It’s a clever way to turn the tables, and to punish the other team for not dressing a specialist.


This tactic didn’t work at all in game two against the Whipsnakes, because Petey LaSalla got the ball out to himself against Logan. Also of note, one of the shot clock violations in the 32 for the Atlas in this game was on a late 4th quarter possession where they were just killing clock.


No pole to force Baptiste backwards to his own arc, or to his goalie to clear the ball, has been a huge. In two games of taking a total 54 faceoffs, Baptiste was forced to win back to inside of his own arc just four times. Against the Cannons he actually didn’t go forward a ton, you could see the emphasis was on quick subbing. He’d win it to himself within a yard or so, pick it up, and look for one of the two O-middies right away so Atlas could get their third middie on immediately.


The emphasis on being better in the 32, and the schematic looks that Atlas has shown through two games, represent a massive improvement from where they were a year ago. On the Sticks In podcast, Xander Dickson said Jeff Teat told him, “32 might just be enough.” The Atlas are playing like it.

コメント


bottom of page