Week Two of the National Lacrosse League saw both surprises and blowouts, making this week's slate that much more interesting.
There are four games over two nights on a schedule that features seven of the league's nine teams.
Shea Haney has graciously offered to share the bylines with me on the previews, so we're going to alternate weeks as the lead writer.
Since the previews are Shea's baby, I'll start with his predictions for the weekend:
Colorado Mammoth (1-0) vs. Edmonton Rush (0-0)
In Week 3 of the season we will finally see the debut of the Edmonton Rush, as they take on the Colorado Mammoth at 9 p.m. Friday in Edmonton.
Being the last team to debut is both a disadvantage and advantage for the Rush.
They are the only team that others have not been able to see this year. This will help them as teams can’t establish a game plan using game film. They have also had two more weeks of rest.
The Rush should be lead by their captain, Jim Quinlan, and should expect a typically small home crowd.
The Mammoth should be full of confidence, coming off an opening night rout of the Swarm, 20-14. They received contributions from all positions on Saturday and look for much of the same against the Rush.
This is the first of back-to-back games in Canada for the Mammoth. Look for the fatigue to not show itself until Saturday night against the Calgary Roughnecks.
I am predicting another huge night for John Grant Jr., who put up 11 points in the opener.
Look for the Mammoth to beat the Rush 15-11.
Washington Stealth (0-1) vs. Philadelphia Wings (0-1)
In an East vs. West matchup, both the Wings and Stealth will look to gain their first win of the season.
The Stealth lost a close battle with Roughnecks last week, while the Wings were blown out at home against the Knighthawks. This game will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday in Philadelphia.
The Wings must have a strong showing at home to show fans that they are not the same team they were last year. After losing by 10 goals, there has to be doubt creeping into their heads.
While it is only the second game of the season, the Wings need to at least keep this game close.
Brandon Miller must lock down the net for the Wings. Miller has a 21.44 GAA percentage after the blowout last week. The Wings have enough offensive weapons to be in the majority of games.
Their weaknesses are on the defensive side of the floor.
The Stealth are the defending West Division champions, but they dropped their home opener to the Roughnecks last week.
Rhys Duch had 40 percent of the offensive output last week. The rest of the team needs to help him as the season wears on.
Washington has a balanced team on both sides of the ball and should be able to showcase it against the Wings.
This could turn into a slugfest if the Wings are subject to the rout they received last week.
I picked the Wings last week to come out inspired against the Knighthawks and that didn’t happen. Losing in that fashion at home shows that this team may lack heart.
I think the Stealth take the game 13-11 on the road.
And now my previews:
Buffalo Bandits (1-0) vs. Rochester Knighthawks (1-0)
Buffalo and Rochester are coming off big wins last weekend and are looking to continue their winning ways Saturday evening in Rochester.
The Bandits handed the defending NLL champion Toronto Rock their second straight loss with a convincing 14-10 victory. Buffalo scored nine times in the second half and were a perfect three-for-three on the power play.
The ageless John Tavares led the way for Buffalo with an eight-point night. Scott Self added five points, and Luke Wiles had a hat trick.
Mike Thompson was outstanding in net, turning away 41 shots and shutting out Toronto on the power play.
Rochester blew the doors off the Philadelphia Wings last weekend, winning 22-12 on the road. The game got very chippy at the end, with a total of 204 minutes in penalties doled out, resulting in a combined 16 power plays.
Rochester's attack was led by Mike Accursi, who scored a hat trick and a total of 10 points. Accursi also led the way in the loose ball category, collecting 10 in the game.
Matt Vinc was solid as always, stopping 32 shots.
With Buffalo's experience and poise, I have to give them the edge.
The 'Hawks almost scored at will in the second half against Philly, but they're still learning to play as a unit and can't be expected to have that kind of offensive output every night.
Look for a 13-12 win for the Bandits.
Colorado Mammoth (1-0) vs. Calgary Roughnecks (2-0)
This will be Colorado's second game of the weekend as it makes the swing through Alberta. After a visit to Edmonton on Friday, the Mammoth journey to Calgary for a Saturday night game.
Not surprisingly, Swarm superstar John Grant Jr. led the way with four goals and 11 points against Colorado, with Gavin Prout chipping in a hat trick and nine points overall.
Goalie Chris Levis had a solid night for Colorado, turning away 41 shots.
The power play was clicking with the rest of the offense, tallying four goals in six tries.
A potential red flag might have been seen on defense, however. The Swarm got off 55 shots on Levis, which is on the high side. Also, the Mammoth were outworked by Minnesota in both loose balls (96-67) and forced turnovers (19-15).
Matt MacLeod and Scott Stewart are not so tough in the faceoff circle.They only combined for 10 faceoff wins in 39 tries last weekend, and this weekend they will be going up against one of the best in Calgary's Geoff Snider, who already has won 33 of 49.
Calgary, meanwhile, has gotten off to a blistering start. Having beaten the defending NLL champs, the Toronto Rock, and the runner-up Washington Stealth in consecutive weeks—both on the road—the Riggers are looking like early favorites to win it all this year.
Dane Dobbie has been leading the way, picking up back-to-back hat tricks in the first two games.
Offensive support has been coming from all directions. In just two games, six players have scored two or more goals, and 11 runners have scored at least once.
Goalie Mike Poulin has gotten off to a great start as well, making big saves and stopping shots at a solid .804 clip.
Credit also goes to Calgary's defensive system, which has done a good job of limiting high percentage shots, finishing checks and scooping up loose balls.
Calgary has beaten both teams it has played so far in both the loose- ball and forced-turnover categories.
I don't think Colorado's offense can capitalize on Calgary the way they did against Minnesota, especially after what will likely be a tough game in Edmonton on Friday.
The Roughnecks should win this one 13-11.
SHEA HANEY: 1-2
JIM FLANNERY: 1-1
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