Bombshells v Garda Belts
Rockits v Dagger Dolls
Saturday night. Think you've seen this one before? You're right. And you're so wrong.
The MNRG home teams return to the Temple of Derby, the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, on February 28th for the "Circus of the Scars." This will be a big night. You're going to see the newly-dominant Garda Belts and the Red Menace that is the Rockits work to sew up their reservations for April's season championships, and the other two must put their back in it to beat the odds. The Atomic Bombshells and the Dagger Dolls must win their next two games to have a chance to move on to the Big Dance, and win by significant margins. I don't think either team is going to cede their chance at this, so let's not waste time with pontificating on the notion that they're going to give up. Let's talk instead about what needs to happen for the four teams to succeed.
Rockits v Dagger Dolls
The Rockits have had a phenomenal year thus far. Here's what an observant fan should see:
- Best janitors this side of Wet Spot. Honeydew Felon and Vuedoo Prodigy are sweeping machines. Whether it's Felon's close-and-personal slowing or Vuedoo's blind corner hits, they are very effective at keeping a jammer constantly re-engaging the pack.
- Overlapping blocks. You will not see a lot of jammer takedowns from the Rockits; however, Rockit blockers will delay a jammer just long enough for another blocker to come up and push her to the back of the pack or dink her out of play into a potential track-cutting violation.
- Jammer awareness. We all know the tactic of taking the lead, scoring points, and calling off the jam before the opponent has the opportunity to score. The Rockits do this in spades; they did not allow a single point to be scored against them when they had the lead in their first meeting against the Dolls.
This has been a hard couple of bouts for the fans of our Dolls. A solid rout by the Rockits followed by a comeback by the Garda Belts means that the Dolls must win against the Rockits to have a shot at the finals. They have a better mathematical chance than the Bombshells to make this happen (we'll talk about that at the end), but here's what we should see:
- Power jam capitalization: Roxanne, MTR and Sparkle Ninja all work their butts off throughout the match, but you'll cheer them at their best when an opposing jammer has been cleared off the track and the Dolls peel away the other team's blockers. The Dolls scored 40 of their 53 points against the Gardas during power jams. They just keep accelerating.
- Hard hitting: jammer takedowns a-go-go. The Dolls play a flamboyant blocking game. You will see more shoulder-blocking after drawing a bead on an opponent than any other team.
- Independence: The Dolls play a strong woman-on-woman defense. When this is working and they get a good line on their opponents, watch out. Individual players in the Doll pack have reps; we haven't yet seen good team-ups like Candi Pain and Marilyn Monrogue or Candi/Barbie this year.
The Dolls must, must, must delay the Rockit jammers on the initial pass. The Rockits like their clean runs; they prefer to own the clock, so would much rather start again and get the lead than walk through the pack without it. The more they can keep Jawbreaker and Dudezilla in the pack, the greater chance they can break out themselves or fluster the Rockits into the penalty box and take advantage of the power jam. If the Rockits are allowed to play their clean-jamming game, it's going to be the end of the run for the Dagger Dolls.
Now. What about that other match?
Garda Belts v Atomic Bombshells
What can you say about the Gardas? It's a great bunch of players who have been underrated for years. They are one game away from clinching a berth in the finals, and the play a team that they won by 20 points against in December. I suggest a Garda fan might watch for:
- The Jammer and the Hunter: We've discussed at length Suzie's contributions to the team. She scored 75% of the points for the Gardas in their bout against the Dolls. But if Suzie is the core of Garda Belt scoring, Tiki Torture has been busting her ass to cause no end of pain to the opposing jammer. Although she played with a bit of a knee injury at the last bout, Tiki's been hunting so consistently that she needs probably needs an Artemis tat.
- Help or hurt? HURT: Never let it be said that Garda blockers don't protect their jammers. But given a choice between troubleshooting for Hanna, Rumblebee, and Suzie or shooting for trouble on the other team, the Gardas will take out the opposing jammer. Every time.
- Interlocking on the inside: The Gardas try hard to control the front; whether it's Citizen Pain, Demora Liza, or Lola up front, you will see a Green striped pivot holding the line as they wait for a blocker to zip up through the inside corner to flank and send the jammer back or into the outside corner.
It's make or break time for the Atomic Bombshells. They must win this game to stay in the running long enough to take on the Dagger Dolls in March. If you're wearing orange in the seats, here's what you're hoping for:
- Ascendance of the new blood: there's so much that's good about this crop of this year's rookies, and the ABS got a metric ton of them. We still haven't seen the limits of the Bombshell rookies. If they have the stamina, this may be the game that will show who co-captains Misfit Maiden and Mitzi Massacre have placed the most faith in. Can the ABS rookies get good enough, fast enough?
- Wait a sec...when hasn't she been in there?: With the large number of new players, Mitzi and Misfit have been playing a strong rotation of vets as the rookies get used to their roles. Misfit Maiden put herself in over 75% of the jams, drawing only two fouls. The vets are no afterthought in the Bombshells...CTO is clearly relishing her expanded position up front; hopefully, we'll also see more of Flora Flipabitch, who was out last game.
- Blockers in the rough: I just have to mention this: watch for Diamond Rough and the other rookie blockers when Suzie jams for the Gardas. Rough took down JB in the last bout to raucous cheers from the crowd and bench; although over-committing as a blocker will cause no end of pain and time in the penalty box, watch for the rookies to gun for Ms Smashbox.
I continue to find this match enticing as a fan, even more so than the DDs v the Rockits. Why? This matchup between a veteran team and a team full to the brim with rookies was far closer than I thought it would be. If the Garda jammer rotation continues to succeed and the girls in green can stay out of penalty trouble while sticking to their guns on supporting one another, I think we'll see the Gardas at the season championship. If, on the other hand, a genuine breakout Bombshell jammer star shoots through the pack and the ABS find the solution to Suzie...well, this could become very interesting in April.
One last thing: a little numerical analysis.
The season championships are determined first by number of wins, then overall point differential:
Rockits are 2-0 (pd: 132)
Next opponents: DDs
Final opponents: GBs
Gardas are 2-0 (pd: 35)
Next opponents: ABS
Final opponents: Rockits
Dagger Dolls are 0-2 (pd: -71)
Next opponents: Rockits
Final opponents: ABS
Atomic Bombshells are 0-2 (pd: -96)
Next opponents: GBs
Final opponents: DDs
It will be very, very hard for the Rockits to not make the finals. To be knocked out of the running, they would need to lose both games AND lose a point differential that is...well, it's pretty big.
The question really is at this point: can the ABS or the Dolls catch the Garda Belts? One team will need to win two games while the GBs must lose their next two. Both teams with an 0-2 record can't do this; they play each other in the March bout, so only one has a shot at it. And all the Gardas have to do is win one of their next two, and they're in for the finals.
So this, Derby fans, may be the moment when it all comes together. We'll see you at the Roy on Saturday.