January 21, 2011

NLL Week 3 Floor Pass: Previews, Audio

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

This week's National Lacrosse League Floor Pass includes a clash of East Division titans Friday when Boston visits Toronto, where Blazers rookie coach Matt Sawyer sowed his oats; a couple of bitter teams on the rebound when Washington visits Calgary; the first meeting between the Rock and Buffalo Bandits since their already-infamous preseason brawl; some soul searching for the Philadelphia Wings; and a ton of talk about the heavily-padded men between the pipes taking over in the season's early going.

Here's a look at this weekend's five games, including several sound bytes from Wednesday's conference call with coaches. Check back to laxmagazine.com each week for game-by-game breakdowns and more audio from around the NLL.

Boston Blazers (2-0) at Toronto Rock (2-0) – Friday 7:30 p.m. Eastern

Scandalous halftime lap dances aside, Boston has won both of its games by minimizing mistakes and playing strong defense. Despite the hubbub over Casey Powell, Josh Sanderson and Dan Dawson on offense, the Blazers have allowed a league-low 13 goals in two games.

"Everyone is talking about the Blazers' offense and the Big Three. We are focused on our defense," said Boston's rookie coach, Matt Sawyer. "If we are the team we want to be and we have that success, it will be because of our defense and goaltending."

Makes sense, considering Sawyer learned the ropes in Toronto. The Rock defense ranks second with 16 goals allowed, with 40-year-old goalie Bob Watson (53 saves in Week 2 win over Rochester) playing arguably the best lacrosse of his career. "Whipper is Whipper," said Toronto assistant coach Terry Sanderson, "and he'll go down as one of the best to ever play the game."

Listen to Boston coach Matt Sawyer talk about returning to Toronto and the role defense has played in the Blazers' 2-0 start.

Listen to Toronto assistant coach Terry Sanderson talk about Sawyer's return to Toronto.

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Toronto Rock (2-0) at Buffalo Bandits (1-1) – Saturday, 8:30 p.m. Eastern

"It's no secret there's no love lost between these teams," said Toronto assistant coach Terry Sanderson. No kidding. How else would you explain the need to suspend a preseason game -- yes, preseason game -- because of a bench-clearing brawl that resulted in 32 players being disciplined by the league?

Still, coaches say, don't expect any carryover.

"It's on the media's mind more than on ours," said Buffalo head coach Darris Kilgour. "That's part of the game... We're going to give them our 'A' game and I'm sure they'll have their 'A' game for us. Sometimes things get heated. But I haven't though about it since it happened."

When it comes to Toronto and Buffalo, familiarity breeds contempt.

"It's like playing a mirror image of ourselves," Kilgour said. "Every time we play against Toronto, it's about execution."

The game is Buffalo's home opener after splitting its first two games on the road. It will also be future Hall of Famer John Tavares' 20th home opener with the Bandits.

Listen to Toronto assistant coach Terry Sanderson talk about the Rock-Bandits rivalry.

Listen to Buffalo coach Darris Kilgour talk about John Tavares' work ethic.

Edmonton Rush (0-2) at Minnesota Swarm (1-1) – Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Central

A bright spot for the Rush in a 10-7 loss to Boston was rookie Kedoh Hill, who scored two goals in his professional lacrosse debut. There's huge upside with Hill, the 29th overall pick in the NLL draft, who's only 20. "I thought he played well," said Edmonton head coach Derek Keenan. "But he made some mistakes, too, and that's what going to happen with a young player. He's an exciting guy. He's got lots of skill and he's got some special talents that not everybody has."

Minnesota, meanwhile, got its first win last week against the defending champion Washington in convincing fashion. The Swarm pasted the Stealth, 16-8. Minnesota head coach Mike Lines emphasized that the Swarm executed "the little things," and stressed continued focus on defense. "Don't expect that every week," he said of the blowout win.

Philadelphia Wings (0-2) at Colorado Mammoth (1-1) – Saturday, 7 p.m. Mountain

Philadelphia has been shooting blanks, with just 12 goals in two games. Head coach John Tucker said the Wings started to turn the corner last week, however, in a 9-6 loss to Buffalo. That they are banking on major contributions from Athan Iannucci and Brendan Mundorf -- two forwards that did not play last year -- does not help. The sooner those two shake off the rush, Tucker said, the better.

Philadelphia also hopes to arrive in Denver early to give the team more time to get acclimated to the altitude. Colorado is coming off a dramatic 8-7 victory over Calgary sealed with three seconds left by Cliff Lee.

Listen to Philadelphia coach John Tucker talk about the Wings' early-season offensive woes.

Listen to Colorado coach Bob Hamley talk about the crazy final seconds against Calgary.

Washington Stealth (1-2) at Calgary Roughnecks (2-1) – Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Pacific

Washington certainly didn't invoke fans' faith it could compensate for Jeff Zywicki's absence. With the star forward out six weeks due to a lower body injury, the Stealth sputtered to a 16-8 loss against Minnesota. Zywiciki's replacement, Craig Conn, managed just an assist.

"[Injuries are] not a good enough excuse to perform the way we did last weekend," said Washington head coach Chris Hall.

The Stealth will get back the other half of its goaltending duo with Tyler Richards active this week and ready to give Matt Roik some relief.

Calgary head coach Dave Pym certainly wasn't reading too much into the defending NLL champs' 1-2 start. "The switch could get turned on at any moment," he said. "When they get all their cylinders firing, they're going to be a dangerous team in this league."

Listen to Washington coach Chris Hall talk about last week's struggles and the development of Craig Conn up front.

Listen to Calgary coach Dave Pym talk about the fallout from the stunning loss to Colorado and what he expects from Washington.

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