10 Man Ride: Tripleheader Preview
CLEAR! The ride is on. It’s gameday. Chrome-Chaos kicks off the action at 5:30PM ET on NBC Sports Gold. Redwoods-Waterdogs face off at 8:00pM ET on NBC Sports Gold. Atlas-Archers bring us home at 10:30PM ET on NBC Sports. Here are a few things to focus on as we glue our eyes to the television tonight.
1. Jordan Wolf vs. Jarrod Neumann, Round II
Jordan Wolf is the most explosive attackman from endline to GLE in the world – and the reigning DPOY Jarrod Neumann could not contain him in pool play. Wolf buried three goals (all unassisted) in the first quarter.
Between quarters, Neumann candidly admitted that Chaos was switching Jack Rowlett onto Wolf. “We gotta play better defense,” Neumann told the NBC crew. (“You gotta play better defense,” was Matt Gaudet’s response.) Rowlett held Wolf to 0-for-3 shooting in relief; he’s out today in the brain health protocol.
In his PLL career, Wolf has shot 4-for-6 (66.7%) off the dodge against Neumann – and 2-for-17 (11.8%) against Rowlett (1-for-7), Johnny Surdick (1-for-5), and the rest of the Chaos defense.
Neumann notoriously requests the top matchups each week. Does he want another shot at Wolf? Does head coach Andy Towers trust his DPOY?
2. John Galloway, fired up
Upstate New York’s favorite sweatpants-donning, outlet-tossing, never-satisfied goalie is back. Galloway is saving 58.8% of shots and leading a defensive collection of rookies and waiver wire pickups.
We highlighted John Haus’ celebrations for teammates’ goals yesterday. Watch Galloway whenever his teammate blocks a shot. He pumps his fist! He shouts! He feeds off those energy plays – and his enthusiasm makes the defense want to block even more shots. Mike Manley eats this fast break attempt and Galloway gives a classic Galloway fist pump.
3. Bucky hunting pick assists
Chaos has a collection of playmakers on the lefty side. Austin Staats tossed a #SCtop10 dime the other day. Let’s see more of him! Josh Byrne is impossible to guard on the wing. Most defenses push those players upfield and out of range; Byrne’s range has no limit. He led the league in shooting percentage between 10 and 15 yards last summer.
The man who could free up both of those players: Kevin Buchanan. Few players hunt pick assists like Bucky. A lot of players (especially Americans) would give up on the two-man game after Josh Byrne pursued GLE. Not Bucky. He stalks Byrne’s man, anticipates the rollback, then WHAM! creates space and a screen for Byrne.
4. Can someone help Blaze Riorden, please?
There were three 20+ save games in all of 2019. Blaze Riorden has three 20+ save games in his last three games.
This defense has been canceled from the Crease Collapse of the Day/Week until further notice. Shooters are perpetually open from quality spots. It’s ugly.
The late, great Dave Huntley found that saves per game has a negative correlation with winning. For non-numbers folks: The more saves you make, the less likely you are to win. The best defenses deny shots on goal. Blaze has bailed this unit out repeatedly; it’s time for them to reciprocate. 5:30PM ET on NBC Sports Gold.
5. Waterdogs picks vs. Redwoods switches
The Waterdogs have generated a ton of quality two-pass shots. When they start falling, this offense will be scary.
Keep an eye on how the Redwoods rotate behind these two-man games. They will switch almost everything on the perimeter to avoid sending a third to the picker like this. The Archers try to trap the ball carrier, and get exposed when the Waterdogs flip fields. The screen-and-roll by Connor Kelly is slick – and the ball moves from Wes Berg to Ben McIntosh to Kieran McArdle to Kelly in a hurry.
The Waterdogs draw a double on the two-man game and as the ball moves from Berg to McIntosh to McArdle to Kelly, Kelly screens the close out and works to the ball.@PLLWaterdogs @wes_berg @BenMc90 @kieranmcardle6 @connor21kelly pic.twitter.com/iDSnV8yZ4E— PLL Highlights (@PLLHighlight) August 4, 2020
(Bonus: How will the Redwoods defend picks involving FO Jake Withers? Trevor Baptiste and the Atlas scored a crunchtime goal against the Redwoods by putting Greg Puskuldjian in a pick-and-roll situation. Withers is the best picking faceoff specialist in the league.)
6. THE PRIDE AH LINCOLN-SUDBURY!
John Sexton (8CT, 8GB) is landing over-the-head checks with absurd accuracy. He tied up Sergio Salcido late in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime. He sits on the Connor Buczek split-to-roll here and starts a fast break.
(Shoutout to Trevor Baptiste, the only player I’ve seen survive this check all series.)
Sexton and the Redwoods defense have shuffled pieces around. Garrett Epple is taking LSM runs. Finn Sullivan (THE PRIDE AH WEST ROXBURY!) is settling in at close defense. They’ll get their first look at the Waterdogs at 8:00PM ET on NBC Sports Gold.
7. Two FO systems
Greg Gurenlian has preached the value of bringing two faceoff specialists to the island. We’ll see how much faceoff fatigue comes into play tomorrow. Two games are rematches: Tommy Kelly gets a second shot at Connor Farrell and Hunter Forbes, then Trevor Baptiste takes on the two-headed monster of Stephen Kelly and Brendan Fowler.
Will the units with depth dominate the rematches after Kelly and Baptiste have grinded through pool play? Greg Gurenlian gives his predictions on The Stripe.
8. Atlas crease offense
Rob Pannell leads the league in assist opportunities (27). Take that number with a grain (or shaker) of salt. Many of those are for 14-yard stepdowns. Too many of those are for 14-yard stepdowns. His teammates converted 4-for-9 (44.4%) from the doorstep and the hole; they shot 4-for-18 (22.2%) everywhere else.
To beat this defense, Eric Law and Ryan Brown will need to capitalize on high-low crease cuts. The Whipsnakes found seams in the Archers’ defense by putting two players on the crease – and then swinging to Matt Rambo on the wing. We’ve seen Pannell jam lever passes into tight spaces in the past; he needs more feeds to the inside, and fewer for long range time-and-room shots. When he plays the two-man game with John Crawley, it creates a four-on-four above the cage – the perfect time for cuts like this one by Paul Rabil.
9. Costabile and Buczek taking faceoff wings
Sergio Perkovic’s breakout began on the faceoff wing last August. The Redwoods let Perkovic dodge during four-on-four situations as the faceoff personnel substituted. He scored on the opening possession in two of his first three games as a wingman. It’s instant offense.
Atas head coach Ben Rubeor is trying to create chances for Bryan Costabile and Connor Buczek by doing the same. I love this strategy – especially with Baptiste.
10. Tucker Durkin vs. Grant Ament
Durkin missed the first matchup between these teams due to COVID-19. He’s back. And he’ll draw the Rookie of the Year frontrunner.
Will Ament and the Archers force Durkin to duck under razor picks over and over? Or will we finally see them get into their twins offense? Does it matter if Atlas cannot stop either? We’ll find out at 10:30PM ET on NBC Sports.
Thanks for reading!
Spread the word, submit any questions you want to see answered in this space to me on Twitter (@joekeegs), and I’ll talk to you tomorrow!