Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Preview for Land of 10,000 Aches

The Minnesota RollerGirls have brought their home team season to the halfway point; Saturday's third bout of the season will decide who goes forward this year to play for the league title...and who plays for third. The dominant Dagger Dolls have all but sewn up the a trip to the finals, but must face the second-place Atomic Bombshells before they can claim their spot. Meanwhile, the third-place Rockits must stop the Garda Belts from acting as spoilers as both attempt a last-minute run for a trip to the MNRG's championship finals.

Rockits v Garda Belts

Let's look at this bout in view of the standings.

Garda Belts: currently in 4th place.
Season thus far: 0-2
Point differential: -166
To advance: The Gardas must win and hope that the Dolls defeat the Bombshells. However, the Gardas will need to defeat the Rockits by sixty-eight points to bound into second place against the Dolls. The finals would then be Dolly v Garda. Any other scenario sends the Gardas to the third-place bout.

Rockits: currently in 3rd place.
Season thus far: 1-1
Point differential: -32
To advance: A slew of situations will bring the Rockits into the orbit of the Golden Skate.
  1. If the Rockits win and the Bombshells lose, the Rockits are in. Finals: Dolly v Rockit. The Rockits are in a strange position this year. If they lose, they can still make the playoffs. If they win, they can still come in third. Here's how it breaks down:
  2. If the Rockits lose and the Bombshells lose...and the Rockits' lose by 55 less points than the Bombshells lose, the Rockits are in. Finals: Dolly v Rockit.
  3. If the Rockits win and the Bombshells win...and the Rockits' win by 55 more points than the Bombshells do, the Rockits are in. Finals: Dolly v Rockit.
  4. If the Bombshells win enough to knock the Dolls into second by point differential, the Rockits can also go to the finals if they defeat the Gardas by enough to get past the Dolls' point differential as well. One such scenario would be a Bombshell win by 78 and a Rockit win by 131. Yes, two such blowouts would seem unlikely to us as well.
Now: to the bout.

It's tradition: This is the Rockits' sixth season in the league. They have never missed a trip to the finals; some of these women in red see that streak as big a point of pride as their three championship wins. One of those women?
Rockit returns home: This is great news. Those who follow roller derby on the national scene know that the MNRG's own Harmony Killerbruise recently left Minnesota for the milder climes of Olympia, WA and a spot on the travel team of 2009's WFTDA champion Oly Rollers. Harmony spent the summer and autumn months playing for Oly, but has now returned to Minnesota. More to the point, she has also returned to the MNRG and her beloved Rockits. Harmony has monstered speedsters as a pivot and scored as a jammer herself for years...and she returns to the Roy this Saturday. If you see her, be sure to welcome her back.
String those Rockits out: The first key to the Rockits' defeat by the Dagger Dolls was that the Dolls' jammers would absorb a hit, stay stable, and keep moving. The Rockit pack would stay so focused on capturing the scorer that they wouldn't notice their teammate behind them getting goated...which often led to a '20-foot' penalty as the Rockit defense left the engagement zone. It's not a complicated plan; just one that takes good execution.
She's only human; STOP HER!: The other part of the Dolly plan was placing a tenacious blocker in the back and playing the delay game on the opposing jammer. Both veterans and young Rockits alike - from Scarmen Hellectra to Commander Nix - found the back impenetrable as the back blockers teamed up on the jammer in question. There are many Gardas with the capability to stuff a good jammer; the back of the pack must rise to take them on.
Arise, Suzie Smashbox: We've often spoken in this space about the need for the Gardas to find a second or third jammer to score alongside Suzie Smashbox. Several Garda speedsters have stepped forward this year, while Suzie's been unable to score on jams at the level she might hope. This bout can still mean something for the overall standings; it is time for Suzie to rise to the occasion and lead this star-clad cadre into victory, showing the blazing speed and tenacity that kept her lapping out-of-state pack at Regionals. The Gardas must also escort their jammers past the Rockit walls, and those jammers must trust their defense.
Escort-sniping our specialty: Last year's Rockit/Garda Belt bout was marked by an unusual, successful strategy. Instead of double-teaming jammers Suzie, Angelfire (who played for the Gardas at the time), or Cassie Rolle, the Rockits chose to attack the strongest blockers on the Garda team. That meant blocking Tiki Torture, Citizen Pain, Anita Spankston, Hanna Belle Lector...anyone who could assist their jammer forwards. The strategm was frightfully effective. The idea still holds merit; watch for the Rockits to try to kill the Gardas' best blockers...and see if the Gardas let them.
Returning to the track: In addition to Harmony Killerbruise's return to the track, it is expected that rear blocker Vuedoo Prodigy will be back after an ankle injury at the WFTDA championships. Similarly, Ann E Briated will likely be playing again for the Garda Belts.

Now: to that other match.

Atomic Bombshells v Dagger Dolls:

Atomic Bombshells: currently in 2nd place
Season thus far: 1-1
Point differential: 22
To advance: For the Atomic Bombshells to have a chance at retaking the Golden Skate...they need a win and some help. The Bombshells will want to win and win big against the undefeated Dagger Dolls; no small order. A Rockit loss and a Bombshell victory will allow the ABS to defend the Golden Skate. Otherwise, the Bombshells must score as much as possible and leave it up to the variables mentioned earlier regarding the Rockits. They simply cannot let the Rockits overtake them on point differential.
The safety zone for the Bombshells is a win by 78 points. At that point, no one could keep the Bombshells from going forward. 

Dagger Dolls: currently in 1st place
Season thus far: 2-0
Point differential: 176
To advance: The Dagger Dolls are looking good right now. A win guarantees them their first trip to the finals since the fourth season (three years ago), but they will also move ahead as long as they do not lose by more than 77 points. At that point, the Rockits have a chance of advancing over the Dollies due to point differential (see above).

Something old, something new:: The Dagger Dolls are on a tear. The New Dolly Order is playing smart, hard, fast roller derby with enough heart that you can't help cheering for them while they're whupping your favorite team. The influx of...everyone new (seriously; all six new Dolls have played very well) has been a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Dagger Dolls.
However, it's been the Dolly vets that have surprised. They were always quite good, but something about this new season has converted all of that 'raw talent' into a remarkable machine. We can't say whether it's the new captains, a new training regimen, or just a moment of catharsis for the team...but it is marvelous to see in any case. Can they go undefeated to the championship bout? Well...
So clean, the jammer squeaks: There are two stats that should have Psycho Novia and Wonderbroad reflecting a bit late on Friday night. Atomic Bombshell jammers did not go to the penalty box a single time in the last bout. This is despite the fact that rookies jammed for half of the game: Hurtrude Stein only got three minors, while Freeze Baby blanked the penalty board over seven jams. Not bad.
The jam clock is atomic: In addition to the clean play, the ABS also managed to hold the jam clock for 2/3 of the bout. This didn't keep the Gardas from scoring (in fact, the Garda Belts scored fourteen of their forty-three points against ABS lead jams) from time to time, but the ability for the ABS to take control of the clock makes us remember last year's clock-hogging.
Stop that Psycho: the clear leader of the league in overall points and lead jams is none other than Doll co-captain Psycho Novia. Psycho's been saying that her ability to take the lead and score more than seven points per jam is due in great part to the coverage she's been getting from her blockers.  However, the Dolly jammer has clearly converted her All-Star season experience to the Roy track. If the Bombshells want to go forward, they will need to stop the Dolls scoring big. That means getting in Psycho's way.
Break the pack: Speaking of statistic that we track regularly is a blocker or pivot's ability to disallow points when she's in the pack. All of the top six pivot/blocker positions in terms of the ratio of points scored to points allowed are Dagger Dolls. That's hard to break; the best thing you can do is to attempt to knock out and trap Juke Boxx, Lydia Punch, Olga Ogilthorpe, Norah Torious, Naughty Kitty, and Tiki Torture (the five mentioned above) with track cutting and get them sent to the penalty box.
Speaking of which; credit where due. One of the great joys of watching this sport carefully is noticing certain players quietly wreaking havoc for their team. Can you identify #667 for the Dagger Dolls - the inimitable Shiver Me Kimbers, a third-year veteran? Find her and watch her. When Shiver Me Kimbers is in a pack, opposing jammers don't score. So far, packs that include Shiver have allowed eight points over two bouts.
Dame Not-appearing-in-this-bout: Madame de Stompadour of the Atomic Bombshells suffered a knee injury in the midst of the November bout. Stompy's out for the foreseeable future.

So. Bout night's coming. Two hot bouts...and we've got our beloved house polka band (the Bratwurst Brothers) cranking out the tunes at halftime. Our brosephs on the Twin Cities Terrors will be playing Queen of the Rink for your preshow entertainment. The first two hundred to arrive at the Roy (doors open at 6:30pm) will get a free t-shirt - and this month's design is by the legendary John Kovalic. They'll go fast...but they always do. As with every bout, posters will be for sale as well.

Station 4 will be our afterparty destination, and there are two reasons you need to be there. The Station is putting on a metal tribute night, and our All-Stars are continuing to recoup the cost of their trip to the WFTDA Championship by selling PBR and home-baked goodies. So go on over and donate to unimpoverish your favorite All-Stars.

One last note: something we can't let you go without knowing.

What? ANOTHER new player?: Fans of derby in the great state of Minnesota will be happy to learn that, yet again, a phenomenal player has decided to throw her lot in with the MNRG. So it is that the great green gorgon herself - Medusa - has joined our ranks. She's not expected to be drafted officially into a team until after the new year, but insiders suggest that she may exchange her Femme reds for something a little more Irish.

Enough words. See you there.


433 said...

No mention of the Kovalic poster? Ba nerd!

Garrison Killer said...

Corrected. You don't mess with John Kovalic. HE WILL END YOU.

Seriously, I grew up in Madison with 'Wild Life' in the daily paper and have followed Dork Tower since the beginning; I'm an unabashed Kovalic fanboy.

Our Man Flip said...

Not to pick nits, but strictly speaking, the Rockits and Bombshells are tied for 2nd place with identical 1-1 records. You have the Rockits listed as being in 3rd place here.

Even if you are going to break it down by tiebreakers, the Rockits would currently be in 2nd and the Bombshells in 3rd place by way of the Rockits victory over the Bombshells. Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker, I believe. Point differential is the second.

Garrison Killer said...

[Head shake x 2]

Flip, my understanding from my discussions with the league has always been (and I've written as such) that the first tie-breaker is always overall point-differential.

Head-to-head makes things like the four-game season from Season 5 much more icky.

I've been writing to this for four seasons and no one on the league has yet corrected me.

Rockits and Bombshells are not tied for second. They may have identical w/l records, but the point diff is off by 54. I'm not sure how baseball does it, but soccer uses a ranking system that takes into account tiebreakers...which would seem to make sense in a season with so few games.

But good questions.

Our Man Flip said...

I actually was thinking about Season 5 for this. I thought I recalled that if TEAM A had beaten TEAM B in one head-to-head match-up with TEAM B having a better differential (both having the same W-L record), then TEAM A would advance over TEAM B.

I could easily be wrong, though. I don't have access to the official documentation to be able to look it up. I'm just going off of what I think I remember about tiebreaker scenarios 2 years ago. So, yeah, my info's not rock solid.

It doesn't really matter int he end. This is a 3-bout regular season. If 2 teams are tied, then 3 are tied with each of the three having beaten one another in a rock-paper-scissors kind of way. In that case, it would come down to differential anyway.

I'm just being an overly detail-oriented stats geek.

Shiver Me said...

**blushing terribly**

I know who #667 is...garrison you have a way with words my dear. :)