By MLL Insider | 6/7/13 11:10 AM
As MLL enters its sixth week of action, only two teams remain without a loss. Those two teams will square off for first place in the mile high city as the unbeaten Outlaws host the 5-0 Hamilton Nationals. While the Nationals franchise is only in its third year in Hamilton, these two squads have quite a bit of history between them dating back to the 2009 campaign. In head to head matchups, Denver has been able to control Hamilton for the most part posting a 8-3 record and scoring 15 or more goals in every win. While Denver appears to have the Nats’ number, Hamilton has been impressive when it counts. In two postseason meetings between the two, the Nationals have won both times, including a 10-9 victory in the 2009 MLL championship game when the team was still based in the Toronto area.
While both seem to be on pace to grab a playoff spot early on in the year, this game means more than just a tally in the win column. A victory on Saturday night presents an opportunity for one of these two clubs to assert their dominance atop the MLL standings, as well take a stranglehold on the race for Championship Weekend’s number one seed. With both teams at the top of their game early on in 2013 the question can be asked, who has the advantage?
Both of these teams have the ability to light up the scoreboard, but who has the more potent offense?
Denver’s ability to shoot from the outside, which happens to be a weakness for Nats’ goaltender Brett Queener, is a dimension of offense that Hamilton doesn’t have right now. Additionally, the Outlaws man-up unit has the ability to score every time they possess the ball. Denver’s offense is extremely talented and is a key for them to come out of this game with a victory.
Despite Denver’s strong defense, Hamilton’s defenders have the ability to be play makers as well as shut down opposing offenses. Don’t be surprised to see Brodie Merrill take a couple of caused turnovers to the Denver cage, the former defensive player of the year has four points so far this season. In a game that will largely be powered on momentum, the National defenders have the potential to provide a spark on either end of the field at any given moment.
In a game that will likely produce 30 goals or more, goaltending will be the tipping point in this matchup of the MLL elite.
Even though Jesse Schwartzman has been good so far in 2013, Brett Queener is playing the best lacrosse that we’ve ever seen from him. His unique ability to develop saves into scoring opportunities with his legs is something that Denver hasn’t seen yet this year. If Queener can hold onto the ball when he darts for the midfield line, his skill set is going to be a game changer.
While statistics may be able to help determine who has the advantage in this game, the truth is that both of these two teams have an “X” factor that can’t be measured by statistical analysis. Even though these stats have shown that Hamilton may have the advantage in this matchup, Denver’s toughness and ability to win hard fought games is something that can’t be accounted for with numbers. No matter who comes out of this one on top, be prepared for a game that’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.