Premium Gouda: Philadelphia Wings at Buffalo Bandits

Wings' Zach Higgins
Wings’ Zach Higgins

After a week of rest, the Philadelphia Wings are heading into a back to back away game weekend. If the Wings are going to show that they are a legitimate NLL playoff team, this would be the weekend to put the league on notice. First, Philadelphia has to travel to New York to take on the Buffalo Bandits. The following night, the Wings will be in a revenge game against the New England Black Wolves. Like the Black Wolves, it is time for Philadelphia to cross the line.

Before the ideal revenge scenario, the Philadelphia Wings’ first opponent this week has shown that they are no pushover. The Buffalo Bandits are 6-2 in a tight division race for a playoff spot in the North Division. If the Saskatchewan Rush can defeat the Halifax Thunderbirds, the Bandits are side-by-side for first place in their division. It’s sort of the same for the Wings in the East Division. With a two-game sweep this week for Philadelphia, the Wings could be in first place by Monday morning.

These franchises have yet to face each other in the 2020 NLL regular season. So far, the Philadelphia Wings are undefeated against any team from New York in 2020. Every team that the Wings have defeated are under .500 this season. Adversely, Philadelphia is winless against teams over .500 so far. That has to change this week.

Tale of the Tape

Minus the face-off win percentage, the Philadelphia Wings are the underdogs tonight against the Buffalo Bandits. Every piece of analytics tells you that this will be a close game. Both teams have played the same amount of games this season, so the sample sizes are on point in comparison. Where the Bandits are losing out on the face-off draws, they seem to make up for in hustle statistics, such as ground ball recoveries. To defeat a quality team such as Buffalo, the Wings need to take the open shot when it is available.

Players to Watch

On the Buffalo Bandits, Dhane Smith is going to play a key role on offense. He is second in the NLL in overall points, first in the NLL in assists, and fourth in the NLL in shots on goal. The guy is the epitome of a playmaker. Josh Byrne is second in the NLL in goals. The Smith and Byrne connection needs to be cooled down by the Philadelphia Wings defense.

For the Philadelphia Wings, the go-to player on offense is Kevin Crowley. He ranks fifth in the NLL in goals scored. I bet that he will be shadowed by Matt Spanger of the Buffalo Bandits, who is a top ten defenseman in the NLL this season. Trevor Baptiste will have to be dominant on the face-off tonight to provide extra possessions. It cannot be stressed enough that this is a must-win for the Wings.

Face-off tonight is at 7 pm from the KeyBank Center. The game can be viewed on NBC Sports Philadelphia, Bleacher Report Live, and online at NLL Live.

Mandatory Credit – Alex McIntyre