Dirty Dozen: Finding that killer instinct in Calgary; Doyle’s on fire in Toronto; and Bandits hope to avoid being ‘that’ team

Dave Pym has preached killer instinct to Calgary all season, and the Riggers may have found it. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Dave Pym has preached killer instinct to Calgary all season, and the Riggers may have found it. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

Calgary coach Dave Pym talked up his team’s lack of a killer instinct earlier this season. It didn’t exactly keep the Roughnecks from winning games, but it did make for some tense moments in the final minutes of games. But the message apparently got through to the Riggers and they were able to put together a very impressive string of defense over their last 4 games. In 3 of their last 4 games, the Roughnecks have shut out their opponent in the fourth quarter. Against Edmonton, 7-0. Against Buffalo, 6-0. And against Minnesota, 5-0. That’s a margin of 18-0 in the fourth quarter over those 3 games and it’s a big reason the Riggers are winners of 5 straight, but it doesn’t exactly end there.

In that same stretch, Calgary also shut out Buffalo in the first quarter, 5-0 and also shut out Washington 5-0 in the first quarter. Go back to Game 9 of the season, against Edmonton, and you’ll find a 2-0 second quarter in favor of the Riggers.

That’s 6 shutout quarters out of 20 quarters played. That goes a long way in explaining Calgary’s league-leading 10.44 goals-against average. The 136 goals allowed is second-best, trailing only Edmonton’s 123. And the .785 save percentage is easily is tops in the NLL.

Now, mix that up with a balanced offense that has scored an NLL-most 180 goals on 19% shooting and a transition unit that’s scored 11 short-handed goals (second in the NLL) and has won 70% of its faceoffs, and you have the recipe for one of the best teams in the NLL that is 8-1 over its last 9 games.

Check out these shutout notes from around the league. We’re not counting overtime periods because once a goal is scored, the other team obviously doesn’t have an opportunity to counter. The Buffalo offense, in its last 5 games, has been shut out in 4 quarters … The Mammoth defense has just 1 shutout quarter all season … The Rush have been shut out in 6 quarters this season and even though that defense leads the league with 123 goals-allowed, it has just 1 shutout quarter against an opponent this season … The Swarm have shut out opponents in 5 quarters this season, including 2 against Edmonton last weekend … The Wings have been shut out in 4 quarters and all 4 of those gooseeggs came in the first 4 games … The Rock have 4 shutout quarters this season and 2 of those quarters are against Rochester … The Roughnecks are the only team in the NLL this season to not be shut out in a quarter. Colorado was held scoreless in the first quarter of its 21-10 loss to the Riggers.

En fuego: Toronto’s Colin Doyle battled through injuries this season but clearly, he’s either ignoring the pain or free from it. With just 10 points in his first 5 games this season, the veteran forward has been on fire in his last 4 with 27 points (12-15). So with 37 points this season, that puts him at 1,156 for his career, which is just 9 points shy of Gary Gait’s 1,165 for No. 2 on the all-time points-scored list. John Tavares is No. 1 with 1,608. Already this season, Doyle has moved up in the games-played list, his 9 games giving him 218 games to move past Dallas Eliuk (213) for No. 3 all-time. Bob Watson is No. 2 with 234 games.

It’s been that long? Saturday’s 15-9 loss to Toronto means the Buffalo Bandits are 4-8 and obviously can finish no higher than .500. No big deal as the last time the Bandits finished a regular season at .500 was the 8-8 season of 2010. But one more loss the rest of the way will give Buffalo its first losing season since the team went 4-8 in 1999 under coach Les Wakeling.

Quote of the week: “We have a Spider-Man mask for the game-ball guy who goes above and beyond. Maybe we have to switch it to a light saber.” _ Calgary coach Dave Pym, to the Calgary Sun, speaking on his team’s “power of the fourth” after outscoring Minnesota 5-0 in the fourth quarter of a 15-10 win on Friday.

Quote II: “I haven’t seen anything like that in a hell of a long time. To play shutout ball for that long in pro, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen something like that. We took a team which is pretty deep offensively and shut them down for more than a half. We didn’t give them anything.” _ Swarm coach Joe Sullivan to The Canadian Press on goalie Evan Kirk, who stopped all 21 Edmonton shots in the second half of Saturday’s OT loss.

Remember them? Knighthawks fan doesn’t want to hear this, but 3 of their former players are leading their new team in scoring this 2012 season and a fourth is second in team scoring. In Edmonton, forward Shawn Williams (8 goals, 33 assists for 41 points) is the top scorer for the Rush while forward Scott Evans is right behind him at 38 points (19-19). In Calgary, Shawn Evans at 58 points (23-35) is the team’s leading scorer and in Colorado, John Grant Jr. not only leads the Mammoth with 98 points (43-55), he leads the entire NLL.

Dandy debut: How exciting is it this weekend for the NLL to make its debut on CBS Sports Network? The network has assembled a quality broadcast team and the production crew is no stranger to sports. Best of all, however, is the excitement being generated from the crew. Play-by-play man Brent Stover says he loves the action and the physical nature of the game in such a confined space and color analysts Casey Powell and Mike Powell obviously know the game well. Casey is excited to be breaking down the game he was playing just a year ago and says he has no plans to sugarcoat his thoughts even though he knows many of the players and coaches. The NLL suits obviously are excited to be back on the air – live – and with a desperate Buffalo team playing a rejuvenated Philadelphia team on Saturday, you really couldn’t ask for a better matchup to kick off the season of coverage.

Bravo on the idea, sir! Gotta say that the Colorado Mammoth idea to auction lids with the names of loved ones on the sides via sticker is a fantastic idea. Winning bidders get the helmet after the game, signed by the player, and all proceeds are benefitting cancer research through the team’s Lacrosse Out Cancer Night. Here’s hoping the event raised a ton of money, and interest in doing it again next year for even more money.

Junior lacrosse nearly here: The snow is melting, the days are warming, and the hockey rinks are still open. For lacrosse practice. The junior season is right around the corner, with many teams opening camps and hosting tryouts last weekend. It’s easy to get excited for it and start thinking which team is going to hoist the Minto Cup, which will play for the Founders and not long after that, who’s got the game to win the Mann Cup? It’s summer lacrosse at its finest and it can’t get here soon enough.

Tough lesson, kid: Yeah, Evan Kirk lost 2 games this past weekend for the Minnesota Swarm and yeah, Evan Kirk has lost 4 straight now. But you will be hard-pressed to find an effort better than the half of play he put up against Edmonton last weekend. Twenty-five save son 25 shots? Really? And then, after pitching a shutout for more than 30 minutes against the Rush, an Aaron Wilson goal in overtime spoils the entire evening for Kirk. Now we know he’s not about to take all the credit for the amazing defensive stand, and he shouldn’t take all the blame for giving up the 1 goal that cost Minnesota the game. If anything, it reminds of the old adage that it’s not necessarily how many goals you give up, but it’s when you give them up that counts. It’s a tough lesson learned by Kirk, but he’ll be stronger for it long-term.

Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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