Of the teams to benefit from the summer’s expansion draft, the Philadelphia Wings would be in the conversation of the most fortunate. Dan Dawson was their most prized acquisition in a very busy offseason.
The Wings had an ugly first week, but dispatched the 2011 finalists last week in an impressive bounce-back effort. Philadelphia made a strong statement in beating Washington last week and have been fueled by their big names, as to be expected.
Dan Dawson is a truly unique talent who makes every player around him better. Darris Kilgour’s approach against Dawson in recent years hasn’t been to isolate and lock down on him, but rather to eliminate his weapons. Dawson is certainly a shooting threat, but is a pass-first player. Forcing him to play alone is likely the approach Kilgour will try and take.
The Wings also boast a few other impressive threats. Brodie Merrill is among the league’s best in the transition game. His defensive skill set is certainly the hallmark to his game, but his two-way skills are second to none. In my eyes, Mark Steenhuis is likely the most offensively talented transition player in the league and Merrill is the best defensive transition player.
The Bandits have the added weight of attempting to continue their brief winning streak early in the season. Considering the talent level throughout the league, remaining unbeaten will be a daunting task. However, considering the implications within the division of tonight’s game, getting a win tonight will be important later in the season.
Expect the Wings to focus on John Tavares on the offensive side. Tavares’ early contribution (16 points) is only slightly less impressive than the ridiculous scoring pace set by Colorado’s John Grant Jr. Buffalo’s secondary scoring should be expected to fuel their game plan and may even be the key to a victory.
Brandon Miller is the reigning Defensive Player of the Week, Mike Thompson earned that same honor after week one. Miller, like the rest of his teammates, had a difficult season debut but rebounded with a great effort last week. Depending on what kind of performance Miller gives each week, the Wings could be among the league’s best or in the basement.
Thompson has benefitted from some great defense this season. His teammates are allowing him to see shots and keeping chances low. That is the cornerstone to Kilgour’s defensive system, the fact that Thompson has come up big when called upon has made things even easier on the Bandits this season.
Both teams have players who have seen plenty of success playing field lacrosse. Philly’s Brodie Merrill, Max Seibald and Matt Danowski all had great careers playing field lacrosse at the collegiate level. Buffalo’s Frank Resitarits, Kevin Buchanan and Jeremy Thompson were also studs playing the outdoor game.
How these players adapt to the indoor game is key. For example, Casey Powell established himself as a star in the NLL after a revolutionary career with Syracuse. In addition, Paul Rabil has shown that the skillset from the outdoor game can translate indoors.
Tom Montour was acquired prior to the 2009 season and has been an effective addition as a transition player. However, he has not seen time this season. Unless there is an undisclosed injury, Montour has been a healthy scratch for the first two games. Between Steenhuis, Harasym and even Jeremy Thompson may have had an effect on where Montour fits in the lineup. We will see tonight if he is going to dress.