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Week 5 Power Rankings

Just three games were slated for Week 4 of NLL action, but that didn’t stop the power rankings from going through another big shake up. Outside of the Top 2, the rest of the rundown looks a little different this week. The teams that remain undefeated seem nearly unbeatable, while the middle of the pack is an absolute dog fight. With many teams still trying to find their way, this week we see two new squads enter the Top 8, one of whom is making their first appearance in our list this season.

Here are this week’s rankings heading into Week 5 action.

 

#8 – Saskatchewan Rush (1-2)

Week Result: Bye Week
Week 5 Opponent: vs. Albany FireWolves (3-0)
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

The Rush have made it into the Top 8 for the first time this season, and they’ve done so under unusual circumstances. The Rush didn’t compete in Week 4, but many of the teams surrounding them in the rankings did. With the Vancouver Warriors, Panther City Lacrosse Club, and Colorado Mammoth all losing in Week 4, the Rush vault above those teams that earned a loss. The bump into the Top 8 is also aided by the 17-5 win they had against the Las Vegas Desert Dogs in Week 3. While it didn’t earn them a spot in the Top 8 last Week, it showed us what they’re capable of this season. The Rush face a big early season test in Week 5 against the surprising Albany FireWolves. Will they continue their great play against one of the hottest teams in the league to end 2023? That would surely give them another bump up the rankings.

 

#7 – Georgia Swarm (2-1)

Week Result: 15-8 win at Colorado Mammoth
Week 5 Opponent: at Buffalo Bandits (1-1)
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

The Swarm have loved playing the Colorado Mammoth this season. In two games against their West Coast foes, the Swarm have outscored the former NLL Cup contenders 31-18. In Week 4, Brett Dobson looked very solid in net- the best he’s looked this season many would say. The offense once again looked deep and balanced, and the defense never let the Mammoth get rolling (other than a three-minute stretch in the first quarter.) The Mammoth are hobbled, and that’s an understatement, but the Swarm have taken advantage of the opportunity to grab some important early season wins. Having a 2-1 start to the year is a far cry to their 0-3 start (which became an 0-7 start) last year. When this young team is clicking, they play with a confidence and swagger that is exciting to watch. In Week 5, they face their toughest challenge so far this season heading to Buffalo to battle the Bandits. What happens in that game could give us some clues as to what to expect from them in 2024.

 

#6 – San Diego Seals (1-1)

Week Result: Bye Week
Week 5 Opponent: vs. Rochester Knighthawks (3-0)
Previous Ranking: 5th

Oh boy… The Seals drop in the rankings despite having a Bye Week. That’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes, especially when the teams directly behind you keep winning. As I’ve said every week in the rankings, the Seals are an elite team, and there are few people who follow the NLL that don’t expect the Seals to be a serious contender this season. Their disjointed, early season slate of games hasn’t made it easy for this team to find their way yet, but I have no doubt that that will happen sooner rather than later. A home win against the undefeated 3-0 Knighthawks would be a good opportunity to turn things around after their road loss to the Bandits in Week 3, and it would show the box lacrosse world just how good this team can be this season.

 

#5 – Rochester Knighthawks (3-0)

Week Result: 13-11 win vs. Vancouver Warriors
Week 5 Opponent: at San Diego Seals (1-1)
Previous Ranking: 6th

The Knighthawks move up into the Top 5 after they took down the Vancouver Warriors at home. Connor Fields, Ryan Smith, Ryan Lanchbury and crew looked like they were in mid-season form against the Warriors, and both Rylan Hartley and Riley Hutchcraft did a very solid job in between the pipes, particularly after the first quarter. However, the one big question that now looms over this undefeated team is how things are going to shape up in net. Hartley took a hard shot to the face early in the third quarter and looked out of sorts for a long time. He was then removed from the game. Hutchcraft came in in relief and was masterful once again (his performances this season have been one of the feel-good stories of the year), but how long can this ride go? Last year is a good reminder: this team went 6-0 before finishing 10-8 in the regular season. It’s exciting to see what this club is doing, but can they keep it up for the entire season?

 

#4 – Albany FireWolves (3-0)

Week Result: Bye Week
Week 5 Opponent: at Saskatchewan Rush (1-2)
Previous Ranking: 3rd

The FireWolves move down a spot during their Bye Week because the Rock looked strong for the vast majority of their game in Week 4. That doesn’t mean that the FireWolves stock is necessarily dropping, but it means that there’s a handful of other teams that are interested in challenging their undefeated streak. Everything has gone right for the FireWolves this year, and they’ve yet to take a shot on the chin to show us their response and how resilient they could be. This young and fairly inexperienced team is shocking the lacrosse world this NLL season. Adding another win, this one on the road against a feisty Rush team, would further exemplify that their early season success is not a fluke.

 

#3 – Toronto Rock (2-0)

Week Result: 13-10 win at Panther City Lacrosse Club
Week 5 Opponent: vs New York (0-2)
Previous Ranking: 4th

I’ll be honest, if the Rock had continued to roll after their two power play goals that made it 9-5 against PCLC early in the third quarter on Friday, there was a chance you’d be seeing Toronto at #1 this week. For most of that game, the Rock looked strong, and this was still without Tom Schreiber and Chris Corbeil, who were on the Injured Reserve List. A slow start, and a 15-minute frame between the third and fourth quarters, only slightly soured what otherwise would’ve been a tremendous night for the Rock on the road. Mark Matthews continued to shine with his new club, and Brad Kri and Mitch de Snoo continue to look like the best defensive duo in the NLL. Oh, and there’s Nick Rose who didn’t allow a goal over the final 8:53 of the contest. The Rock aren’t in peak form yet, but they look very much on their way to getting there. Having said that, it already looks extremely difficult to beat them.

 

#2 – Halifax Thunderbirds (2-0)

Week 4 Result: Bye Week
Week 5 Opponent: vs. Philadelphia Wings (1-2)
Previous Ranking: 2nd

The Thunderbirds remain at #2 after the weekend off. Halifax looks like one of the most balanced, complete, and talented teams this NLL season. Offensively, they’re already firing on all cylinders, Jake Withers is looking like one of the most dominate forces in the league, the defense looks strong, and Warren Hill is posting some of the best numbers of his career in between the pipes. Facing a battered Wings team in Week 5, the Thunderbirds could move to 3-0 and sharpen their case for moving up to the #1 spot next week. A lot will also depend on if the team in front of them handles business in Week 5.

 

#1 – Buffalo Bandits (1-1)

Week Result: Bye Week
Week 5 Opponent: vs. Georgia Swarm (2-1)
Previous Ranking: 1st

The Bandits remain #1 in the rankings, and I know that might be controversial to some, especially with them being 1-1 on the year. What we saw in the second half from the Bandits in Week 3 against the Seals was excellent. If they can continue to play like that against a Swarm team that wants to be known as a serious playoff contender this season, the Bandits will make another case for why they should be considered the best team in the NLL right now. When all the pieces on this roster are clicking, it’s hard to argue that they aren’t the best team. And, let’s not forget, the Bandits played extraordinarily well defensively against a potent Seals offense while dealing with a couple notable injuries on the back end.

 

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