Here is a breakdown of Saturday’s National Lacrosse League West Division final between the second-seeded Washington Stealth and the top-seeded Calgary Roughnecks:
The Roughnecks had the most potent offense in the NLL in the regular season, scoring a league-best 222 goals. They continued to score in the opening round of the playoffs, putting up 15 goals against Colorado.
Calgary forward Shawn Evans was the top scorer in the NLL in the regular season with 112 points (32 goals, 80 assists). Evans serves as more of a facilitator than a goal-scorer, but has teammates who can put the ball in the net. Forwards Curtis Dickson (42 goals) and Dane Dobbie (40) finished third and fourth, respectively, in the NLL in goals scored during the regular season. Forward Jeff Shattler was tied for eighth with 33 and Evans was tied for 10th with 32.
The Stealth’s offense is dangerous, but was wildly inconsistent in the regular season. The constant for Washington has been veteran forward Rhys Duch, whose 45 goals led the NLL. The Stealth finished fifth in goals scored in the regular season and put up 12 on Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs. They likely will need at least 12 to beat Calgary.
As good as the Roughnecks’ offense was in the regular season, their defense was equally bad. Calgary finished tied with Buffalo for most goals allowed in the regular season (211).
Washington, on the other hand, relies on its defense. Just three teams in the NLL gave up fewer goals than the Stealth during the regular season. The Stealth allowed 11 goals (four in the second half) to Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs and the Rush have one of the most potent offense in the league.
Veterans Mike Grimes, who finished second in voting for the NLL’s Defensive Player of the Year, and team captain Kyle Sorensen have combined with a talented group of young defenders to give Washington one of the best units in the league.
In terms of wins, Calgary’s Mike Poulin (9-7) was one of the best in the league. Other stats tell a different story. Poulin gave up 202 goals in the regular season, the most in the NLL and had a 12.70 goals against average. However, the Roughnecks should be happy with the way Poulin played in the team’s opening-round playoff victory over Colorado. He gave up just eight goals in 57 minutes and posted an .800 save percentage.
Stealth goalkeeper Tyler Richards was one of the best in the regular season. He finished with an 8-5 record, a 10.92 goals against average and a .795 save percentage. After a shaky start to last week’s playoff victory over Edmonton, Richards settled down, saving 41 shots.
Saturday’s game features the always-entertaining matchup of brothers Bob and Geoff Snider in the faceoff circle. Calgary’s Geoff is generally considered the best faceoff man in the world, but his younger brother is not far behind. Look for this battle within the battle to be close, with a slight edge going to the older sibling.
The Roughnecks had the NLL’s top power play in the regular season, scoring on 65.9 percent of their chances. Their penalty kill unit was nowhere near as successful, finishing seventh in the nine-team league at 44.9.
Washington started out the season awful on both ends of the power play, but improved as the regular season progressed. The Stealth finished seventh on the power play, scoring on 45.9 percent of their chances, and third in penalty kill at 49.3 percent.
The Stealth had the overwhelming advantage in the first round of the playoffs, finishing first in the league in scoring on the power play at 57.1 percent and first in penalty kill at 80 percent.
Unlike last week, the Stealth (10-7) are facing a team they had considerable success against in the regular season. Washington won two of three games against Calgary (10-7) and likely would have won the third game if it wasn’t for a Richards’ high-sticking penalty in the fourth quarter that allowed the Roughnecks to stage a comeback. The drawback for the Stealth is that they are on the road, but that hasn’t bothered them in the past. Washington won two consecutive road games in 2011 to advance to the championship contest. For whatever reason, the Stealth match up well with Calgary and that should help them advance to the Champion’s Cup.
Prediction: Stealth 12, Roughnecks 10