Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Good old fashioned Lacrosse commericals..

By Avry Lewis-McDougall


After a long time on YouTube I stumbled upon this gem of a lacrosse video, a 1991 promo for a New England Blazers and Philly Wings game. Theres a few things in it that I just love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrqgY-SXh_M

1. Those shorts are basically speedos that they were wearing in the early days of the MLL.

2. The blurry woman that said the action made her heart stop I hope she didn't go back to as many MLL/NLL games because that's not really good for your health.

3. I love the recycled NFL Films sounds being used in the video for every single body check.

4. If someone has one of those 1000 pairs of Brine sunglasses that were given out for the Philly-New England game email me at fightingpike1@hotmail.com, I want them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stealing From InLax: Minnesota Swarm Season Recap

Stolen From The Desk of Bryan Reynolds


Ryan Benesch helped the Swarm accomplish a big goal in bringing a playoff game to Saint Paul.
Ryan Benesch helped the Swarm accomplish a big goal in bringing a playoff game to Saint Paul.
At the beginning of the season, Swarm ownership set a goal. According to co-owner Andy Arlotta, that goal "was to bring a playoff game home to our fans." After finishing 8-8, and beating the Colorado Mammoth in the final game of the season, the Swarm accomplished that goal. Arlotta said , "In only our third year [as owners], having a home playoff game means the world to us. It makes our fans happy. As far as the importance of a home playoff game, it is very important."
The NLL puts fan experience at the top of its priority list, and the Swarm take that to heart. The Swarm also understand that a winning team is the best way to bring in fans. You can have all the giveaways, promotions, and advertising you want,  but what puts fans in the stands is a winning program. With new ownership, the Swarm have put a winning program on the field, and the 2011 season was their best yet.
Make the jump to read more on the 2011 Minnesota Swarm.
Star-divide
Looking at the results over the course of the season, the Minnesota Swarm were never too high, never too low. Win one, lose one, win two, lose a couple. GM Marty O'Neill called the April 9th game against the Washington Stealth "the most exciting game I've ever seen." The battle, the tenacity of this Minnesota Swarm team was unending. They abttled some consistency issues, which Coach Mike Lines pointed out after the season, but with All-Star goalie Nick Patterson, and league scoring champion Ryan Benesch, the Swarm were certainly never out of any of the games.
Benesch lit up the NLL this season for 95 points (46G, 49A), but the Swarm also got plenty of scoring from other sources. Callum Crawford had the second best season of his career with 70 points (27G, 43A), and players such as Aaron Wilson, Mat Giles, and Jamie Shewchuk chipped in when needed.
The Swarm also received an outstanding rookie season from defenseman Andrew Suitor, the Swarm's first round pick in 2010, who also added some needed grit to the team, grabbing 108 loose balls, and placing second on the team in PIMs, behind "bash brother" Rory Smith. Suitor, whose bright yellow shoes make him stand out on the field, had a career night, potting four goals against the Calgary Roughnecks, and finishing the month of April with seven of his ten points. 
Another rookie, transition Tyler Haas showed he has what it takes to be a very good player in the NLL as well. While Hass did not have a break out game, he was consistent throughout the season, putting up ten points (8G, 2A), he added 44 loose balls and 18 PIMs. None of what he did made him stand out, or receive any rookie of the year consideration, but at 6'6", 205lbs, Haas will be around awhile if he continues to be a presence on the field.
Washington head coach Chris Hall said the 2011 Minnesota Swarm were "the best Minnesota team there's ever been and they're really deep throughout. They improved their offense, and their offense is a lot deeper. Made some really good moves at the back end, and of course their goaltending can be spectacular at times." 
Hall could not have summarized the 2011 Swarm team better. Outstanding goaltending, offensive prowess, grit, toughness, and solid defense. The Swarm of 2011 were different from any other Swarm team up until this point. They have a growing fan base in Minnesota, are putting together a winning program, and with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, will only add to the talent of the team.
With the team that was on the field in 2011, any improvement next season will make the Swarm a very dangerous team. Expect more playoff games, and perhaps even that elusive playoff victory, in 2012. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Replacing a Legend

By Graeme Perrow

How do you replace a legend, and one of the best players ever to play the game? We don't know much at this point about what changes Terry Sanderson and Troy Cordingley might be considering for the Toronto Rock this offseason, but one thing's for sure – they need a new #1 goaltender to replace the retiring Bob Watson, the only #1 goalie the Rock have ever had. How do you replace someone like Watson?

With all due respect to Pat Campbell, he'll be 35 next year and has been a solid backup goalie most of his career, so I don't see the Rock tossing him the keys to the franchise. The Rock have had a definite #1 goalie for their entire history so I don't see them going the route that the Bandits and Stealth have used – having two main goalies and "platooning" them (to steal a baseball phrase), so going with both Campbell and Gee Nash is unlikely as well.

Not going with Campbell or Nash means they will have to try to acquire someone from another team. I don't have of a list of goalies who are free agents this summer, so let's ignore that route for the moment and just assume we're talking trade. The top goalie on the "would be nice" list would have to be back-to-back Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc. Suuuuuure. The Knighthawks gave up John Grant for this guy so unless we offer Doyle, LeBlanc, and a few prospects, he's not going anywhere – and definitely not to a division rival. Mike Thompson? Suuuuuure. Thompson is coming off of a fabulous season in which he had the second-lowest GAA and third highest save percentage in the league. If Ken Montour is able to return from his injury, the Bandits may consider trading Thompson, but Stephen Stamp's article about concussions didn't give much reason for optimism there. I hope I'm wrong about that. Brandon Miller from Philly? Maybe, although he was one of the few bright spots in Philly this season and was the reason they fought for a playoff spot as long as they did. Anthony Cosmo? Possibly – he had the lowest GAA in the league last year though I wouldn't call it one of his better seasons. It'd be ironic if Cosmo actually did replace Watson in the Rock net, like we thought he would many years ago. Cosmo himself mentioned that possibility recently in an interview with ILIndoor.com.

Let's look west. How about Poulin from the Roughnecks? That'd be great for the Rock, but why would Calgary do this? Do they want Palidwor as their #1 next year? Not likely. And it's not like the team has some glaring weakness that could be addressed by making a big trade, so file that idea under the "Suuuuuure" category as well. (Not to mention the fact that making roster changes to his lacrosse team is not exactly at the top of Brad Banister's To-Do list these days. Hey Brad, if you're actively trying to sell the team, surely there's a better way to convince some sucker astute business person to buy them than publicly whining about how little support the team gets and how much money you're losing.)

So what about Edmonton? I'm sure they wouldn't mind some extra firepower given that they traded Gavin Prout back to Colorado. But which Edmonton goalie to choose – Matt Disher or Rob Blasdell? Ummmm... no thanks. Chris Levis from Colorado? Another "Suuuuuure". After years of mediocre goaltending the Mammoth finally have a strong #1 so I don't see them trading him, though they could also use some help in the offense department. (Aside: It seems unbelievable that a team that just acquired John Freakin' Grant still needs help on offense.) How about Washington? I didn't think Tyler Richards had that great a 2011 season, but he was certainly the second-best goalie in the playoffs. But how likely are the Stealth to trade him to the team that beat them in the finals? Similar to Calgary, they're a strong team to begin with, so what could we offer the Stealth for them to give up Richards? Would Minnesota give up Patterson? I doubt it, though I know nothing about Kevin Croswell – if they have enough confidence in him, maybe they would if they got enough in return. That's a team that should have made big changes in the off-season last year and didn't, so perhaps a big shake-up would be good for the Swarm.

There are lots of possibilities here, some of which I can't address properly because I don't know much about the backup goaltenders. Philadelphia backup goalie, Ray Hodgkinson, is only 23 and only played 46 minutes this year. But maybe the Wings think this kid is the next Dallas Eliuk – if they have enough confidence in him, maybe they would give up Miller for the right price. Hell, for all I know the Rock have some young goalie in their system (is there such a thing as a "system" in the NLL? It's not like there are AAA affiliates like in baseball, or the OHL/AHL like in hockey) that is the heir apparent, though I've never heard mention of one.

So we have a few "maybe"s and a few "not bloody likely"s, but there aren't really any "no chance in hell"s. (In a league where Gary Gait can be traded three years after retiring, nothing's impossible.) But trades run two ways – the other question would be "Who could the Rock give up to get a #1 goalie"? Doyle, LeBlanc, and Billings are untouchables. Blaine Manning is a possibility, or maybe a rookie with potential like Aaron Pascas or Rob Hellyer. (Or more likely, the combination of a Pascas and a veteran like Manning or Cam Woods.) It's not unlikely that a team trading away a goaltender may want defense in return rather than a goal scorer, so perhaps 2010 NLL Defender of the Year Sandy Chapman (though I'd prefer if he were untouchable as well), or hard workers that get little fanfare like Drew Petkoff, Jeff Gilbert, or Creighton Reid.

Trade speculation is fun but ultimately pointless, as there are a zillion factors that we as fans don't know about that affect whether deals can be made. Are there no-trade contracts in the NLL? If not, could there be "gentlemen's agreements" between players and GMs that effectively mean the same thing? Are there personality conflicts between players or between a player and a GM that mean that some trades are impossible? Are there players who might simply refuse to be traded? Since this is a part-time semi-pro league, it's certainly possible that a player may decide that travelling across the country for the majority of games is just too difficult with work or family commitments, and would prefer to retire than be traded to a team on the other side of the continent. I remember a rumour that the Rock were not allowed to trade Dan Ladouceur because of his position with the Durham Region Police.

So after all that, here's the net result of this discussion:

  1. The Rock need a new #1 goalie.
  2. I don't know who they should get.
  3. I don't know who they should give up to get him.

My work here is done. This is why the NLL Blog pays me what they pay me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Stealing From InLax: Boston Blazers Season Recap

Stolen From Marisa Ingemi



 A season mired with disappointments, the Blazers were just that. A disappointment, underachievers, any adjective you want, they were not as good as they should have been. Not even close.
In what was the most talented roster in the NLL the players also suffered some bad seasons. Josh Sanderson disappeared for long periods and Dan Dawson just did not shoot the ball enough. Sometimes the team looked emotionless and sometimes their star goaltender Anthony Cosmo looked like Brian Boucher.
And with most of this roster laden with two year deals, as odd as it is to say the Blazers are stuck with these players. Now 36 year old Casey Powell who did not seem right the second half and Sanderson who was lost out these at times. And now Cosmo may be the biggest concern of all.
The Stats-
Dan Dawson and Casey Powell were in the top five in scoring, which is nice. Not so much when it seems every single one Dawson had was an assist, but we will look at that more later. Cosmo somehow led the league in goals against average despite costing the Blazers some big games.
Sanderson suffered one of his worst offensive seasons after coming off leading the league in points.
The Pros-
Sanderson, Powell and Dawson are all great players and can turn it on whenever, we assume. They have all been MVPs of some sort in the NLL and Sanderson led his Roughnecks to a cup in 2009. Cosmo did play very well in the first half of the season and players like Jamie Rooney and Kevin Buchanan stepped up big time this season. Rooney, in fact, played maybe the best streak of lacrosse as anyone in the last five games of the season.
Kyle Rubisch also is developing into a star defenseman and he is amazing on the loose balls. And don't forget, Damon Edwards and John Orsen will be back next year.
The Cons-
The team just plain underperformed and seemed lifeless most of the season. They typically used an excuse of their warmups were not where they wanted it to be. I watched every warmup they had and it was the same routine every time.
Poor excuses and a poorly managed team equals disaster, especially when you have the inevitable egos of having the best players in the game. I wonder if Matt Sawyer will be kept around next season, or if he should be.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jersey Bracket Round 1: Ninja!!!

More jerseys coming your way...if you can see them...

VS.

The green Wings jersey advance from the last match-up. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Momentary Lapse of Reason

By Graeme Perrow

As I mentioned in my write-up on the Championship game, the reffing was pretty good on the whole, with the exception of one notable play. There were no significant in-game repercussions of this play, and I don't know if there will be any coming, but their certainly could be. The player in question certainly needs to take responsibility for what happened, but I think that a big mistake was made by the ref and without that mistake, the whole incident could have been prevented.

It's near the end of the first quarter, and the Rock are up 3-1. They have possession in their own end, but are having trouble getting the ball out. Just before Blaine Manning crosses the centre line, the ref blows the whistle for a 10-second violation. Everyone on the floor stops, and Manning turns around and heads towards the bench, still holding the ball in his stick. Kyle Sorensen must not have heard the whistle and ran from well beyond his own restraining line towards centre, and knocks Manning down while trying to get the ball out of his stick. This must have been at least five seconds after the whistle. It's not like he hit Manning overly hard, but Manning certainly wasn't expecting it since play had long since been whistled dead.

At this point, several players from each team approached the centre circle where this was happening and there were a couple of shoves. This is when the mistake happened. For some reason the ref, standing less than ten feet away from the scuffle, blew the whistle to start play. Kyle Ross immediately cross-checked Sorensen in either the neck or head, and Sorensen dropped like a rock (no pun intended). The ref blew the play dead again, there was a little more shoving, and Ross was sent to the box for five minutes. Sorensen remained on the ground for several minutes before being helped back to the bench by the trainer. He remained in the game. (For those fans sitting near me calling for a diving penalty, watch the replay and then STFU.) At the same time, the Stealth were given a too-many-men penalty.

I have three questions about this play:

  1. Perhaps Sorensen didn't hear the whistle, but did he not wonder why none of his teammates were going after Manning – or moving at all? Manning was not looking at the defenders, and was walking slowly back towards the centre line, neither of which he would do if the play wasn't dead. So why did Sorensen run so far to go after him? Did he really think that the ball was live?
  2. Sorensen hit Manning before the whistle (i.e. while play was dead), and then a small scuffle began. Why did the ref blow the whistle to start play at that point? Why not wait until things had calmed down a bit?
  3. If the Stealth were getting a penalty (too many men), why did the ref begin play at all? Possible answer: Another ref was about to call the bench minor and didn't blow his whistle because the play was dead anyway.

For me, number 2 above is the biggest question. Ross waited until the whistle was blown before he hit Sorensen. If the ref had not blown the whistle, would he have hit Sorensen at all? Obviously there's no way to know, but instead he's in the box for five, and could have been thrown out of the game. In addition, there may even be other repercussions (i.e. a suspension) for this blatant hit to the head. Sorensen was down for a long time and if there was a concussion involved, he may not even know about it for a few days.

It's amazing what one little mistake in judgement can lead to.

One slip, and down the hole we fall.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Toronto Rock are the 2011 NLL Champions

By Graeme Perrow

The ending to Bob Watson's incredible NLL career couldn't have been scripted any better. Not only did he win his sixth championship with the Toronto Rock after an 8-7 victory over the Washington Stealth, but he was named game MVP for the second time in his career. And this was no "it's his last game, let's just give him the game MVP" thing, he deserved that puppy. Watson put on a goaltending clinic in his last-ever game, stopping 46 of 53 shots and keeping the most potent offense in the league to just 7 goals. Tyler Richards played a great game in the opposing goal, keeping the third-most potent offense in the league to only 8 goals, and only one in the entire second half. This was a strong defensive battle on both sides, especially considering the offensive firepower of both of these teams.

Rookie defender Glen Bryan of the Rock opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game, thereby doubling his career goals total. Cliff Smith answered a few minutes later, with a weak shot that went over Watson's right shoulder. Watson looked quite awkward on the play, but then he and the Rock defense shut the door, not allowing another goal until twelve minutes into the second quarter. "The defense was Rock-solid!" said my eleven-year-old son Ryan, very proud of his pun. Both teams played excellent defense as I said, and many of the 50+ shots taken by each team either hit the goalie square in the chest, or occurred with a second left on the shot clock.

The Rock D kept the pressure on the entire first half, and the Stealth forwards started to make mistakes when they realized their game plan wasn't working. When the Stealth did manage to get a decent shot off, Watson closed the door. Lewis Ratcliff was denied on one of Watson's brilliant saves and when the ball ricocheted into the crowd, Ratcliff simply stopped and looked at the floor, frustration written all over his body.

On Teddy Jenner's Off-The-Crossebar podcast last week, Rhys Duch said that they couldn't afford to let the Rock get off to a big lead early: "If we're going to spot Toronto a 5-1 lead like we did Minnesota, that's a hole we might not be able to dig ourselves out of". Duch was more accurate with that statement that he likely wanted to be. The Rock led 6-1 late in the second and 7-2 at the half. In Stephen Stamp's live blog of the game, he even used the word "blowout". That said however, everyone in both the Rock and Stealth dressing rooms (and I suspect many fans in the building) remembers the seven goals the Stealth scored in the 4th quarter of last year's final on their way to a comeback victory. At halftime, despite the five goal differential, nobody thinks this game is over.

The second half was more of the same at the Rock's end of the floor. Solid defense, frustrated Washington offense, and brilliant goaltending. The Stealth did start to put things together though, scoring two in the third and three in the fourth to get back to within one – while at the other end of the floor, Tyler Richards was more than doing his part and making his own bid for game MVP, keeping the Rock scoreless in the third and only allowing one in the fourth. As the Stealth slowly climbed their way back into the game, the crowd got quieter and quieter, praying they weren't about to witness a repeat of last year. But as Whipper and the D continued to stone the Stealth forwards, the clock continued to wind down.

As an aside, "Whipper and the D" would be a good name for a rock band.

The Stealth got within one at 7-6, then Stephan Leblanc put the Rock up by two once again. But just thirteen seconds later, Paul Rabil got the Stealth back to within one with an absolutely blistering shot. Rabil was circling around the offensive zone when there was only a second or two left on the shot clock. He turned towards the net and fired, while still running, what might have been the hardest shot I've ever seen. The shot hit Watson so hard it knocked him down and then trickled underneath him across the line. An unbelievable goal. Rabil's shot has been clocked at over 110 mph, so for all of you who laugh at the amount of padding lacrosse goalies wear, that's why.

In the end, despite the strong play of Richards as well as Paul Rabil, Mike Grimes, and the Stealth D, the offense just couldn't get it done. When Cam Woods picked up a loose ball with 15 seconds left, he did not shoot at the open net but just burned the clock until the horn sounded, and then joined his teammates in mobbing Watson.

Once the handshakes had been done, many of the Stealth players remained on the floor to watch the Cup presentation ceremony, and even applauded when Bob Watson approached the podium. They were given a well-deserved ovation by the crowd after a strong season and a great game. It was no surprise that Watson was named game MVP, as he was in 2002. There was really nobody else that could have been game MVP – the Rock played very well as a team but nobody other than Watson really stood out. (If I had to choose second-place, I might go with Kasey Beirnes.) After Watson thanked Commissioner George Daniel and the crowd, Daniel told Colin Doyle to come up for the presentation of the Champion's Cup, but Doyle sent veterans Cam Woods and Kasey Beirnes up to get it. (Daniel later tweeted "Colin threw me a curve ball with that classy move...") Woods and Biernes had each played ten-plus years in the NLL with no championships, so this was indeed a classy move by Doyle, a six-time Champion. After Biernes gave Doyle the Cup, he gave it to Watson, who got the biggest ovation of all.

The Rock are now tied with the Philadelphia Wings with six championships each. But if you only consider the NLL itself (not the MILL or Eagle Pro leagues), the Rock have won three times as many championships as anyone else, since no other team has won more than two since 1998.

After the game, a bunch of us went for dinner at Fran's Restaurant. On our way back to Union Station to catch the train home, we were crossing Yonge at Front when we heard someone yelling "Yeah Rock! Wooooooooooo!" (Note that this was close to three hours after the game ended.) An SUV drove by (going south on Yonge) with the windows down – they must have seen a few of us with our Rock jerseys. I didn't see the driver, but there was a smiling man in the front seat, and another very excited man in the back seat with his head and right arm out the window who was waving at us and still yelling "Wooooooo!" We laughed and waved as Troy Cordingley (in the back) and John Lovell (in the front) continued on their way to the next victory party.

Other game notes:

  • Paul Rabil was all over the floor, and did a great job killing time while the Stealth were down by two men.
  • The refs stayed out of it for the most part – no really stupid penalties were called, though I think one ref made a big mistake at the end of the first quarter that could have caused a severe injury to Kyle Sorensen and may result in a suspension to Kyle Ross. I'm going to write about that in a separate posting.
  • The Rock were hitting posts and crossbars all over the place. Kasey Beirnes took a shot in the second quarter that hit the right post, the left post, and Richards' back but it still managed to bounce out.
  • If you recorded the game or get a chance to see it on the NLL network, go to the 11:05 mark of the second quarter (i.e. 11:05 left in the quarter). You will see Bob Watson make one of the best lacrosse saves you will ever see. As Stephen Stamp said, "He doesn’t look like a man who's half a game away from retiring."
  • The Stealth were given an interesting too-many-men penalty in the first quarter. Usually "too many men" refers to a player leaving the bench just a little early and getting involved in the play before his counterpart leaves the floor. In this case, the Stealth actually had six attackers out on the floor, none of them within twenty feet of the bench. Oops. The crowd noticed this long before the refs did, and a number of people near me were yelling "too many men!" before the whistle was blown.
  • The Rock have really gotten into this Air Gait thing lately. For a while they were illegal, and then the rules were changed a couple of years ago. Since then they have been fairly rare, but in the last few Rock games, there have been several attempts (many successful!) at these leaps from behind the net. There was another attempt by Colin Doyle in this game, though it was disallowed because Doyle was touching the line when he jumped. Actually, since the goal was immediately waved off and there was a review, it's more accurate to say that there was no evidence that he wasn't touching the line.
  • Creighton Reid was given a goaltender interference penalty in the third, which you could describe as "two minutes for not knowing what to do when you're in the offensive zone". He took a shot which was trapped on the ground by Richards, but then he hit Richards' stick with his own. As soon as he did it, he had this look like "Oh crap, I don't think you can do that." But how often has Reid even seen the other side of the centre line? I'm sure he'll remember next time.
  • Garrett Billings scored a beautiful over-the-shoulder goal near the end of the second. While standing slightly to Richards' left with his back to the goalie, he looked over his left shoulder and then fired the shot over his right.
  • The attendance at the game was 14,488. I was sure I read on Twitter through the week that over 15,000 tickets had been sold, and the last time a Championship game was held in Toronto, an NLL record was set when over 19,000 showed up. From those points of view, the attendance was a little disappointing, but I think it was also the highest attended game in Toronto in several years, so that's certainly a good thing. Hopefully that carries over into next season.
  • In the Rock's six championships, they have only had three Championship Game MVPs – Doyle won it three times and Whipper twice. The other winner was also in attendance – Stealth assistant coach Dan Stroup won it in 2000. Watson and Doyle are two of only three players who have won the award more than once – Philadelphia legend Dallas Eliuk won it in 1998 and 2001.
  • Interesting stat: Number of League MVP awards won by Gary Gait, Paul Gait, and John Tavares combined: 10. Number of Championship Game MVP awards: 0.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

NLL Players on Twitter

A little while ago I noticed a trend regarding NLL players who are active on Twitter. I made a list of all the NLL player accounts that I know about to try to confirm this trend – see if you can spot it. (Please let me know if I've missed anybody.) Some players are quite active (Duch and Ratcliff especially) while others have an account but don't tweet often (Pat Maddalena hasn't since becoming a member of the Rock, and Brodie Merrill tweeted once a year and a half ago), so I've broken them up into "Active" and "Less active".

West Division

Active

Less active

East Division

Active

Less active

In case you missed the trend, here it is in a nutshell: East players won't say anything, west players won't shut up.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Jersey Bracket Round 1: Green and Blue

I don't have a clever joke or connection for these jerseys so...uhh...uhh...enjoy!
|
VS.

Crazy WTF moves on from the Swarm battle.

Playoff Predictions: Final Round

By Graeme Perrow

After two rounds and six games, it comes down to this. Well, for the Rock and Stealth anyway. In the Battle of the NLL Bloggers Who Don't Work For ILIndoor.com, not so much.

After a perfect first round, Marisa went 2-2 in the second round and leads the overall standings with a amazing 6-0 record. With only one game left and nobody else better than 4-2, she has guaranteed herself first place in the aforementioned Battle, finishing at either 6-1 if Toronto wins or a perfect 7-0 if the Stealth take it. Avry and I have had the exact same picks in each round so far, and Mike nailed the second round to pull into a three-way tie for second. And Melissa.... well, she got the Buffalo game right anyway. In the first round.

Here are our picks for the 2011 Championship game:

  Record Was @ Tor
Avry 4-2 Rock
Graeme 4-2 Rock
Marisa 6-0 Stealth
Melissa 1-5 Rock
Mike 4-2 Rock

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Blackout!

By Graeme Perrow

I travelled with my wife and sons to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario this past weekend for a family thing, which meant that I wasn't able to travel to Buffalo to see the Toronto Rock's victory over the Buffalo Bandits. I knew the game was being televised on TSN2, so I was hopeful that I would be able to watch it at the hotel. I checked in advance and the hotel did have free wifi, so worst case, the hotel doesn't get TSN2 but I'll be able to stream the game over the internet, right? Wrong.

Blackout

When we arrived at the hotel, one of the first things I did was to check to see if they got TSN2. No such luck. We went about our family stuff and after dinner on Saturday, we returned to the hotel where I planned on firing up the ol' laptop to watch the game. I connected to nll.com, clicked "Watch Live" as I have done so many times this season, and waited in anticipation to see the score, since we had missed the first quarter. The game came up, I saw a score of 6-4 Rock, and a second later the screen went blank. A message came up saying something like "The content owner has blocked access from your current location, you LOSER", and it was then I remembered the whole blackout thing. When Rock games are televised on TSN or TSN2, they are generally blacked out in Canada on the NLL Network. I have never really paid much attention to this before, since I am at the home games, and I watch the away games on TV. This time, I'm over nine hours away from HSBC Arena and I can't watch on TV, so the internet is the only option.

I ended up "watching" the game by bringing up the boxscore from NLL.com and hitting Ctrl-R now and again to refresh it. This was less than satisfying so I tweeted NLL Commissioner George Daniel asking why. To his credit, he responded quickly. Here is our short conversation:

@GraemePerrow: . @NLLCommissioner Why is the Toronto/Buffalo game blacked out on NLL.com? It's impossible for me to watch the game any other way

@NLLCommissioner: @GraemePerrow should have only been blacked out if you are in Canada because game was on TSN2

@GraemePerrow: @NLLCommissioner I'm in Sault Ste. Marie ON, in a hotel on the river. I could throw a rock and hit Michigan. My hotel doesn't get TSN2

@NLLCommissioner: @GraemePerrow sorry about that but we did publish the blackout in advance on nll.com.

Mr. Daniel was absolutely right, they did publish the blackout in advance, I just didn't pay attention to it. And the fact that my hotel was a few hundred feet from the American border was irrelevant – they have to draw the line somewhere, and if you're on the wrong side of that line, too bad. (OK, so maybe I couldn't throw a rock from the hotel and hit Michigan. But if I walked down towards the water a little, I could definitely hit the cut-off man.) I suppose I could have driven across the border to Sault Michigan, found a Starbucks with free wifi, and watched the game from there.

But Andrew McKay from The Laxist also chimed in, saying "IMO, shouldn't be blacking out game that's on an opt-in digital channel." But he quickly changed his mind: "actrually [sic] I take it back. Agreement makes sense because TSN does move games to main channel." I was a little disappointed that Andrew had pulled his support for my predicament, and we had the following exchange:

@GraemePerrow: @apmckay IF they move it to the main channel, fine, but otherwise it shouldn't be blacked out

@apmckay: @GraemePerrow yeah but I can see signing blackout rights in return for main channel possibility.

There it is. That's the thing that made me change my mind and see reason. The NLL must have negotiated a deal with TSN that says "All games televised will be blacked out in Canada. In return, the occasional game will be televised on TSN rather than TSN2." I believe that Rock owner Jamie Dawick paid TSN to televise Rock games during the regular season, so I don't know how the regular season blackouts worked. But I did confirm with Mr. Daniel (again, via twitter) that the Championship game rights were negotiated with the league, not the Rock. I would assume that deal included all the playoff series.

So yes, it sucked that I couldn't watch the Rock-Bandits game last weekend, especially since it sounds like it was a great game. (On the upside, I did get to visit the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, which is much more interesting than it sounds.) But in the end, having lacrosse televised (even occasionally) on the most-watched sports network in Canada is worth a little inconvenience.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Transition Player That Wasn't

By Graeme Perrow

Last week, Calgary's Jeff Shattler was awarded the 2011 Transition Player of the Year award. There is no question that Shattler had a great season, and I would even list him in the top few MVP candidates. I congratulate him both on his season and this award. But Shattler wasn't a transition player for most of 2011, he was a forward, a significant part of the Roughnecks offense.

According to ILIndoor.com (a couple of typos left intact):

...apparently as long as a player is classified with a “T” by their name (which is done by the team, not league), they can be a contender for the NLL’s Transition Player of the Year Award. Andyone with D or F by their name (defender or forward), no matter what role they appear to be playing during the season, cannot be considered for the honour.

So Shattler was considered a transition player by the league because Calgary listed him as one at the beginning of the season, regardless of how he was actually used. This is silly. Surely the GMs and coaches and whoever else votes on these awards are lacrosse-savvy enough to be able to distinguish which players should be considered based on their play, not based on a letter on the roster list?

If you look at the Toronto Rock roster on nll.com, the only person listed with a "T" by their name is Ryan Sharp, who missed most of the year. Does this mean that nobody on the Rock was even considered for this award? I don't think anyone on the Rock had a Transition Player of the Year type season quite honestly, but to completely disqualify players like Marshall and Chapman and Merrill because the Rock listed them as defenders is silly and unfair.

Whether a player is a "defender" or "transition player" is hard to nail down. Many transition players play a lot of defense as well, and some defenders are involved in transition while others aren't. But as I said, the people voting on the NLL awards know lacrosse. They don't need to be told that Brodie Merrill is a transition guy while Cam Woods is not. They are not going to vote for Colin Doyle for Defender of the Year, and they don't need to look to see if there's a D beside his name to make that decision. Having said that, enough of them did vote for Shattler which is why he got the award. Can't say I understand that.

There were a couple of travesties in the NLL awards this year – Dave Pym should have been a lock for Coach of the Year, and Matt Vinc had a very good season but Mike Thompson's was better. Many people are disagreeing with the choice of Pat McCready as Defensive Player of the Year. No disrespect to Shattler intended, but the league got this one wrong as well.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Jersey Bracket Round 1: Swarm it Up!

It's Friday! Friday! Time for some more jerseys!

VS.
New York may not have a franchise, but their jersey gets a first round win!

Game preview: East Division Championship

By Alex Hinkley

The Toronto Rock head into HSBC Arena tomorrow night to take on the Buffalo Bandits in the Eastern Division Championship match. The Rock previously knocked the Rochester Knighthawks out of playoff contention last weekend and will be looking to ride this momentum to the NLL Championship.

This was a matchup that many fans in the East expected to see happen and it could really go either way at this point. Toronto and Buffalo met three times during the regular season. The Bandits ultimately came out on top winning two of those three games and they will hold home field advantage tomorrow night.

Both teams have benefited from solid goaltending all season long. The outcome of this game could very well be decided by the goalies. Mike Thompson of the Bandits finished the season with the second lowest GAA in the league (9.67). But will he be able to hold Colin Doyle, Blaine Manning, Stephan Leblanc, and Garrett Billings at bay?

Bob Watson has been stellar when the Rock seem to need him most and he held the Knighthawks to just 8 goals in last weekend's win. Considering Watson has already announced he is retiring after this season, this could very well be his last game. That fact undoubtedly brings Watson's game to the next level.

Speaking of veterans stepping up in the playoffs, John Tavares had 7 points (3G, 4A) in last weekend's game against Boston. If he can match that level of production again tomorrow, the Rock are definitely in some trouble.

The ball drops tomorrow night at 7:30pm EDT. Watch all the action as it happens on the Toronto Rock's livestream page online or on TSN2 in Canada. It will also be re-aired on VERSUS Sunday afternoon at 2:00pm EDT. The winner will meet either the Calgary Roughnecks or the Washington Stealth in the Championship Game.

(Originally published on Examiner.com)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Playoff predictions: Round Two

By Graeme Perrow

The NLL Blog writers all made their first-round picks (except those who didn't) and here are the results so far. Congrats to Marisa for going 4-4! Not a single one of the experts over at ILIndoor.com got all four games right. Avry and I both went 3-4, both missing the Washington game, but it must be pointed out that I originally did pick Washington. However, I had a sudden loss of confidence on Saturday afternoon and changed my pick to Minnesota. Bad move. Mike missed the Washington and Toronto games so he went 2-4, and Melissa... well, she got the Buffalo game right anyway.

Second round picks:

  Tor @ Buf Was @ Cal
Avry Rock Roughnecks
Graeme Rock Roughnecks
Marisa Rock Stealth
Melissa Bandits Roughnecks
Mike Landsharks Arizona Sting

I told Mike I'd make up some picks if he didn't get them to me soon enough. But for posterity, Mike's picks were actually Toronto and Washington.

Jersey Bracket Round 1: Orange

Orange you glad the next match-up is up? HAHAhaha...haha...ha...ok i'll stop.
Vs

Note: The Jax jerseys moved on.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jersey Bracket Round 1: The Teams of Yesterday

After a long weekend of doing secret-agenty things, here is the third jersey bracket match-up:

VS

Note: Toronto's Blackout Jersey won last time around so they move on.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Game Review: Toronto 10 Rochester 8

By Graeme Perrow

The Toronto Rock moved one game closer to the Championship game on Sunday with a 10-8 win over the Rochester Knighthawks. Bob Watson, in what might have been his last-ever game in Toronto (only one of the four possible outcomes of next week's games means another Rock home game), was great but Toronto's defense was even better, only allowing 41 Rochester shots and keeping the Knighthawks scoreless for over 30 minutes from the first through the third quarters. The offense seems to have overcome the problems they had in the last few games of the season, though there were still a few situations that looked like a drill where the idea was to pass as much as possible and not shoot at all. Shawn Evans, Jordan Hall, and Mike Accursi each had 2 goals for Rochester, while Garrett Billings and Colin Doyle each had hat-tricks for the Rock.

The Knighthawks took an early lead but down 3-1 after ten minutes, the Rock scored seven straight goals to take an 8-3 lead. The first was a beauty by Colin Doyle, diving from behind the net to stuff the ball in behind Vinc in a mirror-image of a Tracey Kelusky goal against Boston the night before. Rochester didn't score their fourth goal until ten minutes into the third, but then scored four in the 4th to make it close. One of those four included a rare penalty shot, scored by Jordan Hall after a Rock defender left the bench a touch early when Hall was on a breakaway.

The game was a fairly typical Toronto-Rochester matchup, a close game with no fights and not much chippiness. Somehow Shawn Evans was not aware of this, and seemed to think that more chippiness was just what this game needed. At one point Evans (5'9", 180 lbs) got into a pushing match with Jeff Gilbert (6'4", 215 lbs) and even managed to take Gilbert's helmet off, but Gilbert just stood his ground and didn't retaliate or let it develop into a full-blown fight. I'm not sure he even knew there was someone hitting him, actually. In the end, nobody was even penalized. There weren't that many penalties called at all, actually; I thought the refs did a pretty decent job for the most part, though there was one "warding off" call early in the game – that happens all the time, but when is it ever called?

Toronto's third goal was scored by Aaron Pascas, and I don't think the ref had brought his arms down from signalling the goal before Mike Hasen had thrown the challenge flag. It looked pretty cut-and-dried to me – Pascas shot the ball, Vinc got a piece of it, Pascas ran through the crease, and then the ball crossed the line. Pascas was definitely in and through the crease before the ball went in, so I thought it was a no-brainer – no goal. So when the ref came out of the video booth and signalled that the goal was good, we (as Rock fans) were pleased but thoroughly confused. It turns out that if the player goes into and gets out of the crease before the ball goes in, the goal counts. This makes no sense to me, but I'll take it. Pascas later left the game on a painful note – in the 4th quarter, a Knighthawks player fell on him in the Rochester crease and after the Knighthawk got up and ran off, Pascas half-crawled half-dragged himself through the crease, in obvious pain. The Rock trainer went out and after a few minutes, Pascas was helped off the floor, making sure to put no weight at all on his left leg. It didn't look good, but according to TSN, Pascas should be ready to go for next week's game.

Note to Rock promotional staff: it was nice to give the white "rally towels" to everyone, but you are aware of the phrase "waving the white flag" and what it signifies, right? Or "throwing in the towel"? That said, seeing ten thousand people spinning them around at the same time was pretty cool.

The Rock travel down the QEW to Buffalo to meet the Bandits in the Eastern division final next Saturday. The game is televised on Versus on Sunday afternoon, for those of you who get Versus (i.e. not Canadians). The winner of that game makes it to the Championship game – the winner either travels to Calgary or hosts Washington.