Buffalo Bandits Season Outlook
The 2019/2020 NLL season began with a bang. New England upset two popular franchises. Colorado stunned Calgary in overtime. Know who no one seems to be talking about? The Buffalo Bandits. For a team two wins away from winning it all, Bandit hype has been noticeably low. This is a worse crime than those train robbing, saloon packing, and gunslinging bandits commit. Don’t worry Buffalo fans. For I am here, with my Buffalo Bandits season outlook. Let’s see what these horse riding, hat wearing bandits of eastern suburbia look like.
Buffalo was so close to winning it all. Unfortunately, their days of robbing title dreams were smothered in Calgary. The Roughnecks were unstoppable at that point. Buffalo was merely in their way. Despite getting swept in the NLL finals, Buffalo has the pieces for a 2020 title run. They’ve entered 2019 seeking their first title since 2008.
Buffalo’s campaign started on the right foot. Cheered on by 10,685 raucous New Yorkers, the Bandits beat a gritty San Diego 13-10. What ultimately made the difference? Buffalo performed better in the second half. Entering the third quarter tied at four, Buffalo outscored the Seals 9-6 in the second half.
There’s lots to like from game one; yet, some corrections are needed. First, Buffalo was 1-4 on the power play. Score on all four, and the final isn’t close. Second, San Diego won the loose ball battle 78-63. Keep losing the groundball battle, and Buffalo is guaranteed to lose a close one. Third, the Bandits finished 9-27 on faceoffs. Ian MacKay, Brent Noseworthy (scouted this guy at Air Force), Nick Weiss, and Bryce Sweeting were ineffective. The Bandits don’t have to dominate on faceoffs; but they can’t go 33% at the dot. Bump win percentage up to 50% and they’ll cancel out extra possessions for opponents. Bad news aside, let’s get to the good stuff.
Simply put, Buffalo’s offense is deadly. It should be a crime to have this much offensive firepower. Five Buffalo forwards stood out. Please remember, Buffalo has only played one game. These five are franchise face Dhane Smith (3 goals, 3 assists), North Carolina standout Chris Cloutier (3 goals, 2 assists), Corey Small (3 goals, 2 assists), Dallas Bridle (1 goal, 4 assists), and Chaos star Josh Byrne (1 goal, 3 assists). 12 Bandits exited game one with one point or more. That’s insane.
The defense played out of their mind in the second half. Transition specialist Matt Gilray tallied 1 assist, 12 loose balls (leads team), and 2 turnovers. He’s a threat to stop and create fast breaks. Defensemen Matt Spanger (7 loose balls, 2 turnovers) and Justin Martin (1 assist, 2 loose balls, 1 turnover) clubbed any Seals who got too close. Defensive player of the game must go to Mitch de Snoo. Number twelve was an animal. He won 8 loose balls and forced 5 turnovers. I don’t know everything, but I do know de Snoo must really hate seals. Don’t let him near the seals exhibit at SeaWorld!
With such a dominant defense, it’s no wonder Matt Vinc (goaltender) has impressive numbers. Granted, he’s only played one game; however, a .831 save percentage is nothing to scoff at. If his protection stays strong, expect Vinc’s save percentage to hover around that.
The gang is back together and looking to continue their quest for gold. Next game is in Buffalo against Halifax before a road trip to Georgia. Then, Buffalo returns home to host Toronto (big divisional matchup) before galloping west to rough up Colorado. All four games are winnable, but 3 wins during this stretch would be a success. Having Georgia and Toronto back-to-back is tough. They’ll be beat up going into Colorado, who’s defense may be the best in the league.
Buffalo fans, forget about last year’s title loss. This year’s squad may end up winning it all. The pieces are there. Buffalo is one of the select few who actually has the depth to win it all. The Buffalo Bulls won their first bowl game in school history. Bills mafia is gearing up for another playoff year. The Sabres are solid. And the Bandits look as good as ever. What a time to be alive for Buffalo sports fans. So, get your butts down to KeyBank Center on December 28 and welcome Halifax to the NLL. They have yet to face a fanbase as hostile as you.
Do you agree with my Buffalo season outlook? Disagree? Is Buffalo good enough to reappear in the NLL finals? Whatever your thoughts, air them by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can also comment directly onto this article by subscribing. By subscribing, you’ll be notified whenever I publish a new article. Any and all support is appreciated! Regardless, thank you for reading! Good luck to the Buffalo Bandits! Try not to rob too many banks on your western excursions.