Week 8 Power Rankings, Oshawa barely holding on to Top Spot
Has there ever been a week that did more to shake the very foundations of a set of power rankings than Week 8 of the Arena Lacrosse League's debut season? Consider the following:
Top-ranked Oshawa scored only 7 goals in losing to fifth-ranked Peterborough
Second-ranked Paris allowed 7 goals in the second quarter alone en route to getting dumped by fourth-ranked St. Catharines
Third-ranked Six Nations scored 8 power play goals but still lost 12-10 to Toronto, ranked last in the six-team league.
The Monarchs scored 4 shorthanded goals in their win over Six Nations Saturday night in Oakville then hit the floor in Peterborough about 17 hours later and dominated St. Catharines from start to finish in a 15-8 shellacking.
1 (1) Oshawa Outlaws (5-2)
Last week: L10-7 @ Peterborough
This week: @ Six Nations
I don't buy the argument presented by some that Oshawa would likely have beaten Peterborough had the Outlaws played leading MVP candidate Zach Higgins between the pipes Sunday instead of Lukas Coote. The loss wasn't on Coote, who was good but didn't get enough support. More important was not having Matt Spanger and Zack Tomkinson in the lineup. That pair are the engine of the Outlaws transition game, which is what has driven Oshawa to the top of the standings. They need to find a way to get more production from the forwards when the running game isn't on.
The Outlaws were outworked and outplayed. Normally, a top-ranked team laying a clunker like that would fall from the penthouse suite, but with the next three teams behind them all losing as well in Week 8, the Outlaws get a reprieve. Last time they lost was also a poor effort and they rebounded with a thoroughly dominant win over Toronto the following week; it will be interesting to see if Oshawa can do the same against the Snipers in Week 9.
2 (6) Toronto Monarchs (4-4)
Last week: W12-10 v Six Nations, W 15-8 v St. Catharines
This week: @ Paris
On paper, Toronto has looked like one of the best teams since before the season began. It's taken a while for the team on the floor to match those expectations but the time may have arrived for the Monarchs to play consistently well and establish themselves as championship contenders.
Sunday's performance was impressive, but it came against a ShockWave club that didn't look like it was ready to play. Saturday is the game that really showed what the Monarchs can do. In particular, it was a showcase for Jordan Critch and Dustin Caravello, who put on as fine a performance by a pair of players as the ALL has seen. Between them they had three shorthanded goals and Caravello sprung Critch for a breakaway and what could have been a fourth that was stymied by an excellent Chase Martin save.
The additions of transition player Cody McLeod and goalie Steve Fryer in the trade with Paris for Connor Brown make the Monarchs deeper and tougher, and give them a goaltending tandem (with Craig Wende) where they can ride the hot hand and expect solid backstopping whichever keeper that is.
3 (3) Six Nations Snipers (5-3)
Last week: L12-10 @ Toronto
This week: v Oshawa
I waffled back and forth about whether to move the Snipers ahead of Paris last week. After the RiverWolves stumbled against St. Catharines, it appeared the way was cleared for Six Nations to move up at least one spot. Falling to Toronto put those hopes on hold until Sunday, and the Monarchs' domination of St. Kitts vaulted Toronto all the way to Number 2. That leaves the Sniper treading water in third spot but with a golden opportunity to assure a rise if they can handle the Outlaws in the coming week.
4 (5) Peterborough Timbermen (2-6)
Last week: W 10-7 v Oshawa
This week: v St Catharines @ ILA
Peterborough had its best game of the season to that point when the Timbermen fell by a single goal to Paris to fall to 0-6. Since then they've put together an explosive offensive performance to trounce Toronto followed by a defensive and goaltending gem to take out the Outlaws. Another solid effort against the ShockWave this week could pull the Timbermen firmly into the playoff race. Getting one of the four spots is all you need to have a shot at a championship and this team looks like it is improving each time it hits the floor.
5 (4) St. Catharines ShockWave (4-5)
Last week: W15-10 v Paris, L 15-8 v Toronto
This week: v Peterborough @ ILA
Really good against Paris, really bad against Toronto. Which is the real St. Catharines team? I suspect it's somewhere in between, as is usually the case when a team produces such diametrically opposed performances back to back. So much of a team's confidence can be traced to its goaltending. Craig Seneca was sharp Saturday until he had to leave after tweaking something in his lower body making a save and had to be replaced by Grant Crawley. Crawley was fine on Saturday but didn't play as well on Sunday as he had been for most of the year. It's such a chicken and egg question, though: was he playing poorly because of the team's performance in front of him or did they hang him out to dry and sap his confidence as the game went on? The ShockWave have been a very up and down team all season. They'll want to be up this week to try to avoid letting the Timbermen really start breathing down their necks for a playoff spot.
6 (2) Paris RiverWolves (4-4)
Last week: L15-10 v St. Catharines
This week: v Toronto
This is a big drop for a Paris team that was missing a handful of players in Week 8. The sequence of results in Week 8 dropped a big old stick of dynamite into the rankings, though, and I just didn't know where else to put Paris. Someone was going to take the big fall for all the bedlam and it wound up being the RiverWolves. The bad news for the RiverWolves was that even many of the players they can usually rely on weren't very good against St. Catharines, which really doomed them as much as the players who were missing. The good news is they're now primed for a big rebound if a more representative lineup can pull off a win over Toronto this weekend.