IL Indoor Roundtable: How rough is Roughnecks situation, who’s the goalie in Colorado and who’ll win the scoring title?
How much can–or should–you make of one game? Not too much, obviously. But still, you know there’s been lots of conversation in Calgary about the porous nature of the Roughnecks defence in Week 2’s loss to the Toronto Rock. After giving up the most goals in the league in 2013, it’s a disconcerting start to the season to allow 16 in Game 1 of 2014. IL Indoor’s Teddy Jenner, Marty O’Neill, Ty Pilson and Stephen Stamp kick around that topic as well as the goalie situation in Colorado and who the favourites are for the 2014 National Lacrosse League scoring championship in this week’s roundtable.
STAMP: In 2011 and 2012 Calgary was one of the top defensive teams in the NLL, helping Mike Poulin to win goalie of the year in the latter season. Last year they gave up the most goals in the league and Friday against Toronto their defence looked porous. How worried should Curt Malawsky and Bruce Codd be about their defence and what can they do to get back to the good old days?
PILSON: At first glance it looks like an ugly outing for the Riggers defence. However, it’s not fair to heap the blame on them. The Roughnecks were outplayed in every single aspect of the game and all share the credit for the lopsided loss. Poulin struggled mightily in the first quarter and the Rock were firing lasers and picking corners — put those two together and Calgary trailed 7-3 after the first quarter. Poulin played much better in the next three quarters allowing just eight goals (a ninth was an empty-netter) to keep the game closer than it could have been. Calgary’s offence was terrible and the team took too many penalties, yet again. Those things put even more pressure on a defence with three new players in the lineup. Yes, the defence needs to be better going forward, no debating that, but Poulin has to be more consistent and have better first quarters and the offence needs to play waaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy better.
O’NEILL: You guys have touched on most of the issues here with Calgary. They didn’t play smart or poised across the board. Curtis Dickson actually looked lost out there. Snider had troubles in the circle too. Collectively they had a bad night and for their sake maybe it was good to get it out of the way all in one shot. Poulin wasn’t the issue Malawsky and Codd need to address, injuries are. The Roughies are without Scott Ranger, Peter McFetridge, Travis Cornwall and Scott Carnegie for a while. Add any more to that and were looking at 4-5 starters out of the defensive lineup. Discipline has to be emphasized. Some of Calgary’s goals in Toronto were fortunate to say the least. That the offense wasn’t 11 goals good Friday night.
JENNER: I think we all need to just take a deep breath and calm down here a bit.. Its one game and no need to sound the alarms. The Necks have only beaten the Rock twice in the past three seasons and lost the season opener to the Rock last year as well. This is a team that often struggles against Toronto but always ends up there in the end so let’s give them some time. The biggest issue for the Necks has to be their discipline which has often been their achilles heel. Calgary was also outshot 61-51 Friday night so that will obviously be a concern for Mouse but this is a team that will compete at the end of the year, especially once healthy.
STAMP: Okay, I’ve taken my deep breath and calmed down. But now it’s time to move on to another pressing topic: the goaltending controversy in Colorado. Before the game against Vancouver, coach Bob Hamley appeared on screen saying that Tye Belanger is their starter and they have plenty of faith in him. That lasted for 19 minutes and 14 seconds Saturday night. Belanger was pulled after the Stealth’s fifth goal and Dillon Ward once again looked good in relief. Is it already time for the Ward era to begin in Denver? I’m going to say that, with a two-game trip to Alberta coming up this weekend, each goalie can get a start and see how things play out. What do the rest of you think?
O’NEILL: Teddy’s advice holds true here. Take a deep breath etc. etc. Belanger was strong at the start of that game and he faced more quality shots in 19 minutes than Ward did in 40. Credit the goalie change for working 2 weeks in a row now to get Colorado a jump. That isn’t something anyone wants to gameplan for and it will get old if it continues. Bottom line for me is Belanger carried the team as a starter last year and proved himself for awhile there, Ward hasn’t started an NLL game yet. Both are young and capable and it’s obvious both will be needed over the course of the year.
PILSON: The Mammoth used their first-round pick on a goalie and in a league where first-round picks usually become a team’s star players, Colorado picked Ward eyeing him as their starter. In two straight games he’s looked very good and Belanger has struggled. I think Ward has earned the chance to get a start and see how he fairs. The Mammoth have two young ‘tenders battling to be No. 1. Let them battle.
JENNER: Steve Govett told me in the preseason that when you get the chance to draft a goalie like Ward you don’t pass it up. They got him for the specific reason for him to be their future #1 and maybe that time is now. I don’t think you throw Belanger to the wolves just yet but this would be a great chance to let Ward start Friday in Calgary and if he gets the W, let him go back to back to see if he can indeed be the man.
STAMP: There were three players with 8 or more points on the weekend, and they all provide interesting stories for different reasons. First of all, how great is it to see Alex Gajic back in the NLL and posting a goal and seven assists in a game after all the trouble he had with his eye, looking like he may never be the same player he used to be? It’s a real feel-good story. Second, we didn’t predict the season award winners this year, so I’ll put you all on the spot here: who do you think will win the scoring title this year? Will it be one of Shawn Evans (1g, 7a in the Calgary/Toronto game) and Garrett Billings (1g, 9a) or someone else?
PILSON: My money is still on Billings or Evans to win the title. They are both so versatile. On a night when the Roughnecks offence was horrific, kudos to Evans who still collected eight points. Lucky for him Jeff Shattler had some finish. As for Gajic, nothing is better than a true feel-good story in sports, especially when the players isn’t making millions a season. Seeing a guy who loves the game come back and have a big night like that warms even the coldest heart.
O’NEILL: I often say to goalies “Some nights your grandma could be in there and have 35 hit her in the pads and other nights guys are missing the net only to have it hit the boards then your leg then the back of the net”. Some games are just easier than others. Guys who are at the top spots of a PP in this league start the season with an extra 36 points just for being out there as far as I’m concerned. Crease guys need to work a little harder for their points. I don’t think Evans or Billings would be happy about their games the other night with the lack of goal scoring. Gajic on the other hand, would be ecstatic just to play. You gotta be good to be lucky.
JENNER: This is the NLL where anything can happen- Two years ago Evans was 9th and then 14th the year before. Billings went 2nd, 2nd and 9th in the past three seasons. This could be a year where Rhys Duch or Callum Crawford rise to the top, or we could see Cody Jamieson take his game to an even higher level. But the most consistent guy the past couple seasons has been Billings and I don’t see that changing in 2014.Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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