10 Man Ride: Family Style

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Aug 3, 2021

CLEAR! The ride is on. Six teams (Atlas, Waterdogs, Archers, Redwoods, Whipsnakes, and Chaos) have clinched a playoff spot. Cannons and Chrome will fight for the final spot next week in Albany. Let's recap the penultimate weekend of the regular season.

1. #TradeWard

Heading into Week 5 in Minnesota, the Waterdogs were 2-3. Dillon Ward’s save percentage was 38.5%. Their remaining schedule: Cannons, a red hot Chrome club, the back-to-back champion Whipsnakes, and the first-place Atlas.

There was a real chance that the 2022 first round pick Andy Copelan coughed up to Chaos in the Ward deal could have turned into the first overall pick.

Ward has been lights out since.

The Waterdogs are riding a three-game win streak. Ward has denied 67.9% of shots over that stretch.

Ward is staying closer to the cage lately. We occasionally see that signature high arc of his…

...but for the most part, Ward is reading shooters from within his crease.

This is the Dillon Ward who Copelan pushed all his chips into the middle of the table for — and who has the Waterdogs headed for a showdown against Atlas with a first-round bye on the line.

2. Chaos moves from trips to twins

Through five weeks, Chaos had shifted offensive schemes — from a 2-2-2 with big-littles behind back to their trips offense from last year’s postseason run. The trips had its usual pros (lots of shots from the middle of the field, lots of assisted shots) and its usual cons (a league-low 77% run out rate, some congestion around the crease).

Chaos has moved from a trips set to a twins set with two players behind at X.

The move to a twins set is giving Josh Byrne (a career 35% shooter off the dodge!) room to operate. With Mac O’Keefe — from whom nobody wants to help — as his picker, Byrne can navigate to high percentage areas on command.

O’Keefe has shot 4-for-6 (66.7%) off feeds from Byrne. It’s a small sample size. He’s going to shoot a high percentage off feeds from everyone throughout his PLL career. In Albany (and in the playoffs), I hope we see more Byrne-O’Keefe pick-and-rolls above GLE. Chaos experimented with its inverse (Byrne picking for O’Keefe). Meh. Don’t mess with perfect. Stockton didn’t pick for Malone. Run these actions as often as possible.

3. Tre Leclaire playing both roles in the righty twin

Ben McIntosh was a perfect picker for Tom Schreiber in 2019. Then the Waterdogs snagged him in the 2020 Expansion Draft. So Archers added Josh Currier… and then the Cannons snagged him in the 2021 Expansion Draft.

Tre Leclaire is playing that role (and then some) in 2021.

The rookie from Ohio State might not have McIntosh’s inside game, but he has capital-R range. This hangup two-man game with Marcus Holman is teach tape for beating a switch-y defense.

Leclaire is more explosive than McIntosh or Currier. He attacks switches confidently. The Archers traded for Connor Fields to add another dodge-to-shoot threat against stingy, slow-to-go playoff defenses. Leclaire might be their answer in the Road to D.C.

4. Family style offense

Everybody eats in the Atlas offense. When Trevor Baptiste is winning 80% of faceoffs, there’s a big pie to share. And this offense shares it equally.

Jeff Teat was the first overall pick for many reasons. One of them: He doesn’t need the ball in his stick to create offense.

Teat is shooting 8-for-19 (42.1%) off the dodge and 7-for-17 (41.2%) off the catch. It doesn’t get much more balanced or efficient than that. Skip lanes and cutting lanes open for Teat before anyone else recognizes them. He sees the game unfold in slow motion.

With the defense hung up here, Teat and his teammates are being faceguarded. Some offenses look like electrons bouncing around an atom when they get a hangup. Teat waits for his chance, then capitalizes. Watch him grab his defender’s stick to wrap him around Jake Carraway (who accidentally racks up a pick assist here).

5. Crease Collapse of the Week: Ben Randall

Ben Randall has blanked his last three matchups.

Lyle. Jackson Morrill. Zed.

Zero points. Zero points. Zero points.

Oh, and he’s contributing off-ball, too.

6. Cannons' struggles at the stripe

Four of the Cannons’ six losses have been by one goal. They’re facing off at a league-low 35% (barely higher than their league-high 33% shooting percentage). If they could get just one more possession — one more out-of-timeout heroic effort from Lyle — then those games could swing in their favor.

In Albany the Cannons will face off against Connor Farrell and Chrome in a de facto playoff game.

Farrell has had his own struggles. He wins 55% of clamps, but only converts 60% of those into wins. (League average win rate after a clamp win is 68.9%.) Who will the Cannons roll out to compete with Farrell? Kevin Reisman? Peyton Smith? Brendan Fowler? Will they trade for someone prior to Friday’s deadline?

7. Dylan Molloy's debut

The 2016 Tewaaraton winner gave Chrome a (bull) dodge-to-shoot punch in Colorado Springs. In classic Brown fashion, Molloy (4G, 2A in two games) was at his best in early offense.

This semi-transition two-man game with Justin Anderson is impossible to defend when the slide is in the substitution box. The stick protection. The sidearm shot around a screen. The downhill determination. Vintage Dylan Molloy.

Molloy led some of the best fast break offenses of all-time. He’s so much more in space than a time-and-room point sniper. He caught Cade van Raaphorst cheating after James Barclay’s booming slide sparked a numbers advantage.

In the six-on-six, Molloy’s head-down charges to the middle of the field got him into trouble. Atlas squeezed some double teams. Johnny Surdick welcomed his physical dodges. Chrome’s settled offense is the worst in the league right now. They’ll need to value possession against the Cannons in Albany much more than they did in Colorado Springs.

8. Whipsnakes without Rambo

Veterans win games in this league. Matt Rambo is a veteran and a superstar — there’s no 1:1 replacement for him.

One of Rambo’s best skills is his poise. He embodies the “Hittin’ singles” philosophy. His assist-to-turnover ratio during the first two years of his career? 0.50. From 2019-21? 0.94.

The Whipsnakes miss him. Their usual dodge-pass-pass-dodge sequences have devolved into dodge-shoot sequences. They’re settling for the first shot. In their last four games, the Whipsnakes have shot 17.5%.

Head coach Jim Stagnitta says he’s hoping to have Rambo back in Albany. He’s also not waiting for Rambo to swoop in and save the Whips’ season. Ahead of Friday’s trade deadline, Stagnitta acquired attackman Justin Guterding from Chrome LC.

9. RP3 PNRs

With Charlie Bertrand in the lineup, the Redwoods are rolling out some big midfield lines. As a result, some giant obstacles are drawing short-stick matchups, and turning into roadblocks at X.

Rob Pannell is running off more picks than usual. Since 2015, Pannell has been more comfortable shooting off isolations (31.2%) than off picks (13.8%). That’s a puzzling stat with a healthy sample size to back it up. Has Pannell never had the right pick-and-roll partner? Does the pick’s direction detract from Pannell’s two-handedness? My gut is little bit of that, and a lot of this: Pannell has never needed a step on his man at GLE to win; he can be covered perfectly until he gets to the island. As long as he gets to the island. Then it’s over.

On Saturday night Pannell used this pick from Bertrand to gain a step on Graeme Hossack for a dunk.

We’ve seen the Woods work some slam picks into their offense as well, both for Pannell on the righty side and Matt Kavanagh on the lefty side. The timing hasn’t been right on those yet. When the Whipsnakes are at their best, those picks are being set as Zed and Rambo catch the ball.

10. Adjacent Two Slide of the Week: Joel White

Joel White picks off passes in every way possible. On-ball nuggets. Adjacent shutoffs. Weakside 1-on-2s. He’s length disrupts everything.

This pull pass by Bryan Costabile was ambitious, for sure. It looks like he tried to pump fake to Teat on the pop then hit Daniel Bucaro on the skip. Joel White rolled adjacent and denied both lanes.

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