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On the verge of greatness

March 18, 2016
The 8-0 start by the Denver Outlaws this year has the lacrosse community as a whole in awe, but the early season dominance brings to mind another historic start in MLL history, one that was able to reach nine straight victories to start a campaign. In 2005 the Baltimore Bayhawks put together what is widely regarded as the greatest single season in MLL history. The Bayhawks exploded to a 9-0 start, a record which still remains intact eight years later. The dominance of Baltimore in the first nine weeks of the 2005 campaign is a spectacle that hasn't been seen since, until 2013 that is. The lights-out play of the Outlaws has some lacrosse experts wondering, is this Denver team the best of all time? Let’s break down these two powerhouse squads by the numbers and let the stats decide.

2005 Baltimore Bayhawks:

The Bayhawks were one of the original six MLL teams, and between their first game in ‘01 and the 2005 season, they proved that they were an annual powerhouse. In those first four seasons, preceeding 2005, the Bayhawks reached four semifinal games, three championship games, and won a title. 

The success of the 2005 Bayhawks was mostly dependent on the success of their offensive unit. Baltimore was led offensively by player coach Garry Gait, as well as the legendary Mikey Powell. The two Syracuse alums lit up opposing defenses during their dream season scoring 63 (42 goals, 21 assists) and 44 (27 goals, 17 assists) points respectively.

The sheer dominance by the Bayhawks on the offensive end of the field is something that has yet to be replicated since that dream season. The average margin of victory for Baltimore through the first nine games of 2005 was 10.3 goals, a reign of unstoppable play which was highlighted by a 31-9 beat down of the Philadelphia Barrage. Over the span of their record start the Bayhawks found the back of the net an average of 21.7 times per game.

Even though the offense had the superstars and got the majority of the praise during 2005, the defense gave the scoring attack enough breathing room to be more aggressive on the other end of the field. Solid play in net by Trevor Tierney, who posted a .537 save percentage for the season, was more than enough for the duo of Powell and Gait to take over games. On the season, Tierney allowed just 12.6 goals per game, good enough for second in the league.

2013 Denver Outlaws:

Historically, the Outlaws have proven to be a force to be reckoned with.  They have been in existence for six years, making the semifinals each and every year and the championship game four times, but have yet to win a championship.  Will this be their year?  

Offensively in 2013 there is no team that is even close to the production of the Outlaws.  They are putting up 17.5 goals a game, good for first in the league by a landslide, 4.5 goals higher than the number two team in the League, the Charlotte Hounds.

The number one team this summer is led on offense by a plethora of sharp-shooting All-Stars. Chris Bocklet, Zach Greer, Anthony Kelly, Jeremy Sieverts, and Drew Snider will all represent the Outlaws in the 2013 MLL All-Star Game presented by Moe's Southwest Grill.  Add to that reigning League MVP, Brendan Mundorf and you have six productive players on the offensive side of the field for the Outlaws.

Mundorf and Bocklet are the players that this offense needs to move through in order to be effective. Without them putting up mile-high numbers, the offense would have a much different identity. Bocklet is leading the league in goals scored with 26, and is third in the league in points with 32. Mundorf is third in the league in assists with 13, fifth in points with 29, and tenth in goals with 16. 

Defensively, the Outlaws are playing better than anyone else in the league, allowing the fewest goals against per game with 9.63. Lee Zink, who played for both the ’05 Bayhawks and the current Outlaws, has been a shutdown defender this season, limiting each team's top scorers to less than average performances. Schwartzman has been solid between the pipes for Denver, starting all eight games for the undefeated squad. He has put up a league leading goals against average, 9.66 per game, as well as the third best save percentage at .573. The stingy veteran has also allowed the fewest two point goals, and most importantly has recorded a league best record of 8-0. 

What does our MLL Insider think?

On paper and on the field, the Outlaws team couldn't be playing better than they are right now. One more win and they will be known as only the second team to start the season off 9-0. But does that make them better that the 2005 Bayhawks? Both of these teams share the ball well on offense, and play a good enough defensive game to protect the lead late in games. The similarities between these teams are remarkable, but in terms of overall play, my vote goes to the 2005 Bayhawks. Their ability to toy with opposing defenses, as well as their dominance over high caliber teams on a consistent basis makes them the best mid-season team ever. However, the Outlaws have a chance to do something that Baltimore couldn't, finish an MLL season with a perfect record. The 2005 Bayhawks lifted the Steinfeld Trophy with a blemished 12-2 record eight years ago, a perfect campaign for this year's Outlaws would unquestionably make them the best MLL team in history, period.