March 17, 2011

National Lacrosse League Notebook: Tavares Shows No Signs of Slowing

by Neil Stevens |

John Tavares' go-ahead goal in the Buffalo Bandits' 12-10 victory over the Boston Blazers -- ducking past a defenseman, diving through the crease and lofting the ball so it crossed the goal line a fraction of a second before his chest hit the green carpet -- exemplified his still-sharp scoring abilities at age 40.

© Larry Palumbo

John Tavares is having a terrific 20th season.

One might guess that Tavares, at age 42, would struggle to keep up with much younger players, but that is not the case. Example: he scored a game-winning goal last Saturday night by ducking past a defenseman, diving through the crease, and lofting the ball so it crossed the goal line a fraction of a second before his chest hit the green carpet.

Chris Corbeil added an empty-netter and the Bandits had a 12-10 victory over the Boston Blazers in a nailbiter of a battle for second place in the East Division.

Tavares scored four goals and assisted on two. He's got a team-best 21 goals this season and has padded his pro record to 713 in regular season play and 785 including playoffs. With six games left in his team's schedule, he'll likely stretch his grand total beyond 800 before Easter.

He says he wants to play another year or two. Given the way he's performing these days, he might want to rethink that. He could go another 10.

What, me worry?

Calgary goalie Mike Poulin had to answer this question to complete his biographical sketch at What is the best advice you ever received?

The sketch was done before the season began and, given the team's financial woes, it proves that Poulin has the right kind of constitution to deal with the situation. He formed his answer from something he gleaned from the 2002 movie "Van Wilder."

"Worrying is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere."

Ones that got away

Rhys Duch of the Washington Stealth has taken over the lead in goals scored with 29. The 24-year-old Canadian and former Stony Brook All-American is in his third NLL season.

Flash back to the 2008 entry draft: Boston had the first pick and selected Daryl Veltman, who was traded to Calgary last year in the deal that sent 2010 scoring champion Josh Sanderson to the Blazers; and the Stealth, then based in San Jose, Calif., took Paul Rabil with the second pick and Duch with the third.

Boston's Casey Powell, Toronto's Stephen Leblanc and Minnesota's Ryan Benesch have each scored 27 goals. Benesch has two games in hand, so he has the highest goals-per-game average in the league.

Leblanc, 25, was the 2010 NLL Rookie of the Year and has upped his game another notch.

Flash back to the 2009 entry draft: Toronto used the sixth pick to get Garrett Billings and the seventh to grab Joel Dalgarno, since traded to Washington. Rochester, Minnesota, Colorado, Boston, Edmonton and Buffalo all could have selected Leblanc, who was still available when the Rock got him 11th.

Watson still the top goalie

Bob Watson's goals-against average of 9.00 and save percentage of .812 for the Toronto Rock keep him first among first-string NLL goaltenders in both categories.

Mike Thompson of the Buffalo Bandits and Matt Vinc of the Rochester Knighthawks are next in save percentage at .789, followed by Nick Patterson of the Minnesota Swarm at .786. Tyler Richards of the Washington Stealth slipped to .785 after allowing 17 goals to the Calgary Roughnecks last Sunday.

Chris Levis of the Colorado Mammoth has the sixth-best save percentage, .778, and Calgary's Mike Poulin is seventh at .775. Philadelphia's Brandon Miller has slipped to .773, Boston's Anthony Cosmo has just the ninth-best save percentage, .771, and Edmonton's Matt Disher is 10th at .748.

Both Sniders good at faceoffs

Bob Snider has proven just as adept at winning faceoffs as older brother Geoff, going 134-of-183 for Washington since being given the assignment by coach Chris Hall.

© Richard Olson

Geoff Snider and younger brother Bob Snider are among the most successful faceoff specialists this season.

Geoff, 29, was getting the job done for Calgary, with the Roughnecks gaining possession 131 times off his 202 draws, but he's been injured. Nolan Heavenor (12-of-30) has had less success.

Bob, 25, has been most successful player of late, going 134-of-183 for Washington since being given the assignment by coach Chris Hall.

Boston has gone exclusively with Ryan Hotaling, who is 134-of-238. Toronto usually uses Stephen Hoar, who is 93-of-187. Colorado goes with Matt Leveque, who is 92-of-183 and Philadelphia has given the job to Jeff Reynolds, who is 113-of-193.

Other teams don't seem to have an answer.

Buffalo has used Brandon Francis (75-of-124) and Jay Thorimbert (60-of-110), Minnesota has done poorly with both Travis Hill (36-of-113) and Andrew Suitor (31-of-79) and Rochester has been alternating Craig Point (45-of-95) and Sid Smith (29-of-72).

Edmonton has struggled. Scott Stewart (28-of-76), Bill Greer (12-of-47) and Brodie Merrill (8-of-47) haven't done as well as Pat Jones, who was 51-of-103 before being dropped.

Donation fights breast cancer

The Toronto Rock has pitched in to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer and will have an examination room at a city hospital bear the team's name as a thank you.

An auction of game-worn jerseys brought in $11,950. Raffles of helmets worn in a March 14 game swelled that total, as did a $1-per-ticket-sold donation that night by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. In total, this season's blitz took in more than $30,000. Last season's effort was just as successful, and Rock donations to the Sunnybrook Foundation total $65,000.

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