Last weekend was a busy one on the NLL schedule, with six games played over three days.
In the East, Philadelphia moved into sole possession of first place, while in the West, Colorado lost some ground while playing two games without the league's top scorer, John Grant Jr.
As has been the case all season, predictions for this coming weekend are shared between Shea Haney and I.
To this point in the schedule, he has been out-predicting me pretty well, but last week I went a perfect three-for-three while Shea was only able to get one of three, so I gained some ground.
Only three games on the slate this weekend, so let's get to it. First, here's Shea's call:
Buffalo Bandits (2-6) vs. Toronto Rock (4-5)
In the only game I am previewing this week, the Buffalo Bandits take on the Toronto Rock on March 16 at 7:30 PM in Toronto.
This east division tilt is very important for the Buffalo Bandits.
The Bandits have lost their last six games and are in desperate need of a victory. I am not sure exactly what is wrong with the Bandits. They are only being outscored 93-105 in their games. The goals must have come at a timely manner in order for the Bandits to fall.
The Bandits are coming off a 13-10 loss against the Rochester Knighthawks. The Bandits didn’t score in the second quarter, which is detrimental to any game.
The Rock are coming off of a loss 12-10 against the Philadelphia Wings. The Rock are currently 4-5 in the Eastern Division and lead in the points category by Garrett Billings with 54 points.
The key to a Rock victory will be an early start to the game. The Rock have outscored their opponents 28-19 in the first frame of their games. If they can get on top of the fading Bandits quickly, it could spell a run away for the Rock.
The key to a Bandits victory will be to overcome the streak. The team must be able to put this losing streak behind them. This is the gut check time for the Bandits squad they must put an end to the streak.
I am going to go out on a limb for my prediction and say the Bandits will overcome the Rock on the road 13-11.
And now for my look at Saturday's action:
Edmonton Rush (2-6) vs. Philadelphia Wings (5-4)
The first game of the night on Saturday is a first versus worst scenario.
The Wings took sole possession of first place in the East last week with a big win over the Toronto Rock, while Edmonton dropped a pair to the Calgary Roughnecks, moving them to the cellar in the West.
The Rush are stumbling badly right now and need a win to get things back on track. After losing a close one on Friday to Calgary, they matched the Roughnecks goal-for goal for three quarters on Saturday before falling apart in the fourth and giving up seven unanswered goals for the loss.
Aaron Bold, who entered the weekend with the best goals against average in the NLL, was pulled, re-inserted, and pulled again in the Saturday tilt. Consequently, he saw his season average balloon by almost a goal per game, to 10.68.
Edmonton will be counting on him to return to form this weekend.
On the good news side of things, Shawn Williams had a typically strong weekend and recorded his 1,000th career point. He continues to pace the offense with a solid 32 points to date.
Kyle Rubisch is continuing to lead a solid defensive corps, having grabbed up 75 loose balls and 19 forced turnovers.
In Philly, Dan Dawson is continuing to power the offense, picking up six points last weekend, which leaves him in second in the league in scoring with 57 points. Rookie Kevin Crowley continues to impress, notching four more points last weekend. Crowley leads the Wings in goals with 25.
Brodie Merrill's transition game continues to be very strong, as he leads Philadelphia in loose balls with 88, while also kicking in 16 points.
At 11.66, Brandon Miller has the fourth best goals against average to this point in the season.
When these two teams met in February, Edmonton got the best of Philadelphia, winning 12-10. Philly will be looking to return the favor on their home turf. I'm expecting the Wings to maintain their momentum and win 12-11.
Minnesota Swarm (5-3) vs. Buffalo Bandits (2-6)
The Minnesota Swarm are having a solid season. The Buffalo Bandits are not.
After a week off, the Swarm will be looking to pick up where they left off in their last game, when they upset the Calgary Roughnecks, 15-11.
The one-two punch of Callum Crawford and Ryan Benesch are continuing to terrorize the league, with both kicking in 46 points to date.
Rookie Jordan MacIntosh is having a solid season, with 24 points, 88 loose balls, and also taking the lion's share of the face offs, with a 53.3 per cent success rate.
Since youngsters Tyler Carlson and Evan Kirk took over sharing the goaltending duties, the team's goals against have dropped significantly, combining for a 9.86 goals against average.
Buffalo, meanwhile, has been in a nose dive after winning their first two games, including being blown out by the Swarm 19-11 in their fifth game. Following a game in Toronto on Friday, they will be desperate to start putting the season back together.
John Tavares continues to lead the Bandits' attack, with 42 points, while Luke Wiles is leading the team in goals with 19.
A big change to the team's complexion is the recent acquisition of Anthony Cosmo. Cosmo has been off to a slow start in his first two appearances, but if he returns to form, he could single-handedly turn the tide for the Bandits.
I'm not holding my breath, however. Look for the surging Swarm to win this one 13-11.
Shea Haney 10-11
Jim Flannery 8-12