CALGARY, AB — So here’s where we stand after 3 weeks of the 2017 National Lacrosse League season: The defending champs and the team they beat in last year’s Champion’s Cup finals are a combined 0-4 and in last place in their respective divisions.
The leaders (or at least co-leaders) in each division include teams that did not make the NLL playoffs in 2016.
Yeah, that’s about par for the course.
The Toronto Rock are 2-0 after beating the Saskatchewan Rush and share the East Division lead with the Georgia Swarm. Both are 2-0 after their Saturday victories. In the West, the Vancouver Stealth lost their first of the season, but are 2-1 and share the division lead with the Calgary Roughnecks.
It’s just another typical season in the NLL, where the only thing we can expect is the unexpected on a week-to-week basis. Let’s take a look at some of the themes that emerged from Week 3.
First and foremost: Last year’s Champion’s Cup finalists are a combined 0-2 and have been outscored 43-61? Yeah, that’s a bit of a surprise.
The next couple of weeks should be interesting for the Buffalo Bandits and the Saskatchewan Rush. The Bandits play 2 of their next 3 on the road and the Rush finally play their home opener with a pair of consecutive home games.
The Rush may not like how they’re playing, but there certainly is no reason for panic. In the 2015 and 2016 seasons, both of which ended with Champion’s Cup victories, the Rush were a combined 1-3 through the first 2 games of the season.
So maybe the Toronto transition game that we saw against Rochester on Dec. 29 wasn’t a fluke. The Rock runners were lethal again last night in sparking the 13-11 win over Saskatchewan.
In 2 games, the Rock have outscored opponents 17-6 in the first half. Last season, the Rock had 19 through 3 complete games.
So how are the Rock doing this, especially considering they’re without Rob Hellyer and then without Brett Hickey, who was put on IR before Saturday’s game? Having 14 different players score at least 1 goal through games explains quite a bit. Everyone’s involved.
The Rush haven’t been 0-3 since they started 0-5 in 2011 as the Edmonton Rush.
How ‘bout the Georgia Swarm? Scoring 18 goals in each of their first 2 games certainly is a solid start. What makes it even better? The Swarm have opened their 2017 season with wins over both of last year’s NLL finalists.
Shayne Jackson, Randy Staats and Miles Thompson each have 6 goals through 2 games, so that answers the question of how Georgia is getting it done offensively. The Swarm also are getting plenty of secondary support, but when you have all of your top guns producing so well, it makes it that much more difficult for opponents to match up.
Let’s not forget to credit the work of goalie Mike Poulin in Georgia, either. He signed as a free agent in the offseason and last week, he came on in relief to save the big win over the Rush. Last night, he got the start and played the duration to give him a save percentage of .785 against 100 shots faced.
The Bandits have been outscored by a combined 15-7 in the first half of both games this season, and they have just 1 goal from Dhane Smith the NLL’s reigning MVP. He left Saturday night’s game with an injury late in the first half and the Bandits are hoping it’s not serious.
Giving up 8 goals on 14 penalty kills probably isn’t helping Buffalo’s cause these days.
Neither is allowing the first 3 goals in your first game or the first 5 goals in your second game. Overall, the Bandits have been outscored 9-2 in the first quarter of both their games combined.
With John Grant on IR, the Colorado Mammoth needed someone to step in as the offensive leader and Callum Crawford did just that. The veteran right-hander had 4 goals and 4 assists in Saturday’s win over New England, giving him 19 points through 3 games.
With Grant on short-term IR, rookie Zach Herreweyers got his first NLL game and he contributed a pair of assists. Herreweyers was Colorado’s first pick in last year’s draft.
Impressive: The Mammoth are 9-1 in their last 10 games against East Division teams.
Progress? After giving up 9 power-play goals on 14 chances in last week’s loss to Rochester, New England had “just” 6 power plays to kill against Colorado on Saturday. The Black Wolves allowed 2 power-play goals against Colorado, but both came in the first half.
Credit to the Black Wolves, who rallied from an 8-3 deficit in the second half. They outscored Colorado 7-3 in the second half, including 4-1 in the fourth quarter.
If Calgary can beat Colorado next week, the Roughnecks will be 2-1 and over .500 after 3 game for the first time since they were 2-1 in 2012.
Curtis Dickson didn’t just score 6 goals in Saturday’s win over Vancouver, he scored 6 goals on 14 shots. Who wouldn’t be happy with shooting 49% in a game?
The Roughnecks had a whopping 67 PIM on 18 penalties last night, giving them a league-high 83 PIM in just 2 games.
Vancouver’s Rhys Duch is piling up points like they’re going out of style. His 7-point game (2-5) against Calgary gives him a league-leading 23 (10-13) so far.
Corey Small isn’t doing too poorly, either. He had 4 goals against Calgary last night and is second in the league scoring race with 20 points (9-11).
The Riggers appear to be back on track and having goalie Frankie Scigliano back after his 1-game suspension was a big boost. He made just 30 saves but saw just 40 shots, which is a positive reflection on the defense in front of him in the looks allowed to the Vancouver shooters.