Both the Buffalo Bandits and Vancouver Stealth are facing an oddity in the National Lacrosse League as both teams will not play for three weeks, not back in action until March 8. Vancouver this weekend is coming off of a win and a loss while Buffalo is coming off of a blowout win over Philadelphia.
Both teams are heading in drastically different directions as they head to this break. Buffalo is 6-2 while Vancouver is 3-7 and coming off of a 20-9 loss to the Calgary Roughnecks.
To start with the Stealth, in three of their last five games they have been lost by seven or more goals. In their wins they have drawn 29 power plays compared to their losses they have 18 power plays. In their wins it is evident they are relying on those special teams to score. However, in five games they have scored less than 10 goals, another trend of their inconsistent offense.
Even Tyler Richards, one of the bright spots for the Stealth this year, has an 11.92 goals against average. So what should we look for the Stealth to improve on?
Defense Allowing Too Many Shots
The Stealth defense has been allowing a ton of shots. Tyler Richards has 372 saves on the year and his goals against average is over 11, nearly at 12, so he is facing a ton of shots. The Stealth defense needs to step it up to stop that from happening. Their defense has some talented names, it’s not the lack of players that is the problem, they just need more defensive production.
Duch a Bright Spot
Rhys Duch has been about all the Stealth have had to cheer for this season. He is second in the league with 50 points, third in the league with 22 assists and second in the league with 89 shots. The Stealth offense has surprisingly struggled this season with several players disappointing, but Duch has stepped up.
Sorensen a Key
Kyle Sorensen returning might be the fix to the Stealth’s defensive woes. He has played in only three games this year but is their captain and leader, on defense and just as a floor general. Him being back also adds incredible depth on the right side of the defense which includes Tyler Garrison, who is having a good year. To rebound from this season long slump, the Stealth need Sorensen.
Which Bremner Shows?
Cody Bremner, the Stealth’s first round pick, has been extremely inconsistent. In nine games he has 19 points for the Stealth, and he was scratched on Friday when the Stealth had their best offensive output of the season. He scored six points in his third NLL game and four in his sixth, but has just a five point total since then.
Bucktooth an Answer?
Bucktooth has been back for three games and already has 18 points, just one less than Bremner. He has exploded and been a force for the struggling Vancouver offense, with 10 goals and eight assists. He might be a spark they need when they return.
Now onto the Bandits, a team going in a wildly different direction. Buffalo had lost two weeks ago after five straight wins but now are 6-2 and are first place in the east, right ahead of Rochester. They have a lot good going for them, but can they keep firing on all cylinders?
Mitch Wilde a Keeper?
Wilde got his first shot at the Bandits lineup last week when they defeated Philadelphia, and he was one of the reasons why they won. The rookie put up two shots with two loose balls for the Bandits, and he might stick in the lineup for a while now.
Cosmo in the Zone
Cosmo struggled last season so him finding a rhythm in 2014 was key, and he has arguably been the Bandits MVP this season. Cosmo leads the league with six wins, plus is third in goals against average with a 10.21 and second in shots faced with 337. If he keeps things up for the Bandits they can beat anyone.
Benesch Working Out
Ryan Benesch has to have been the acquisition of the year in the NLL. Since joining the Bandits he leads the team with 40 points, 27 of which are assists that leads the team. Buffalo has succeeded with several trades with Minnesota the past few years, with Cosmo, Shawn Williams (who wasn’t there long after a trade from Edmonton) and now Benesch is on that list.
Even with Benesch leading the club in points, the point distribution on the Bandits has been interesting as no one really stands out. Dhane Smith has 33 points, Mark Steenhius 32, John Tavares 28 and Shawn Williams 26. So all of their point getters have worked together well to form a strong offense.
How Does Watt Return?
Andrew Watt is on the Injured Reserve for 21 days, which means by the time the Bandits come back he will be ready to go. Currently their lefty transition spot is empty with Watt out, but he will fill that void. Watt has played just six games this season with eight points, and the left side defense is strong, so the question is, where does his role fit in?