February 29, 2012

NLL Notebook: Calgary's Offense Leads Them All

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Edmonton's Shawn Williams stands within seven points of 1,000 for his career.
© Edmonton Rush

Calgary's offense is producing a league-best average of 13.6 goals a game, and the Roughnecks have continued to victimize goalies despite the absence for the last three games of Dane Dobbie, one of their best shooters.

The diversified attack is clicking on all cylinders as four players have 12 or more goals: Curtis Dickson leads the way with 15; Jeff Shattler and Daryl Veltman have 13 each; and Shawn Evans has 12.

''Everybody is on the bus,'' says head coach Dave Pym. ''We've slowly found the right seat for each guy.''

How the offenses stack up in goals per game: 1. Calgary 13.6; 2. Colorado 13.3; 3. Rochester 12.7; 4. Minnesota 12.6; 5. Toronto 12.1; 6. Buffalo 11.7; 7. Philadelphia 11.3; 8. Edmonton 10.6; 9. Washington 9.3.

Injury Bug Feasts on Stealth

Scrutinize Washington's list of injured players and it becomes easy to figure out why the Stealth have the worst record, 1-6, in the National Lacrosse League this season.

Goaltender Tyler Richards and forward Rhys Duch, who was leading the team in scoring at the time, were both hurt during a 15-12 loss in Rochester on Feb. 18 and were unable to play at home last Friday when their teammates fell 15-7 to Minnesota. Also missing were defensemen Kyle Sorensen, who sat out his third in a row, and Chris McElroy, who missed his second straight.

Forward Jeff Zywicki, the main threat from the side of the crease, got into only two games in January before getting hurt and he's just now ready to come off injured reserve.

Eliuk Was Fabulous

Dallas Eliuk's number 35 will be retired in Philadelphia on Saturday night, and mention of the former Wings goaltending great brings back memories for this writer of the 2001 title game in Toronto.

Eliuk was fabulous in the first half as the Wings seized a 6-1 lead, and by game's end he had earned MVP honors by stopping 40 shots in a 9-8 thriller. Toronto's Bob Watson was the NLL's goalie of the year in '01, but Eliuk got the prize that mattered most.

''If I could, I would divide this award into 17 pieces for my teammates,'' he said at the time. ''They played a tremendous game in front of me.''

Philadelphia's head coach was Tony Resch back then and Resch had his defense primed for its best effort of the year. Tom Marechek made it 8-3 in the third quarter when he beat Watson with an over-the-back gem, and then Eliuk made big save after big save as the Rock rallied.

His performance that night even topped his memorable appearance in a colorful shirt on the TV game show "The Price Is Right."

Helping Hand

Toronto forward Josh Sanderson needs only five more assists to become the second player in league history with 700.

The all-time leaders in helpers: 1. John Tavares 842; 2. Sanderson 695; 3. Colin Doyle 691; 4. Shawn Williams 591; 5. Gavin Prout 553; 6. John Grant 540; 7. Gary Gait 530; 8. Blaine Manning 504; 9. Jim Veltman 493; 10. Dan Dawson 486.

1,000 Point Club

Edmonton forward Shawn Williams is within seven points of 1,000.

The all-time points leaders in regular-season play: 1. John Tavares 1,582; 2. Gary Gait 1,165; 3. Colin Doyle 1,129; 4. Josh Sanderson 1,052; 5. John Grant 1,036; 6. Shawn Williams 993; 7. Gavin Prout 835; 8. Dan Dawson 814; 9. Blaine Manning 798; 10. Lewis Ratcliff 777.

Not a Chance

Some NLL players don't try to score goals. They make absolutely no effort to do so. They are usually described as stay-at-home defensemen.

Calgary's Scott Carnegie and Mike Kilby, Philadelphia's Tom Hajek and Jeff Reynolds, Rochester's Rory Glaves and Kyle Laverty, Washington's Jason Bloom and Bob Snider, Toronto's Bruce Codd, Colorado's John Gallant and Edmonton's John Lintz are among regulars who haven't taken a shot on goal this season.

Bold Stays On Top

Aaron Bold, who is in his first NLL season as a first-stringer, continues to have the best save percentage among goaltenders.

How they stack up (minimum three decisions): 1. Bold, Edmonton, .795; 2. Tyler Richards, Washington, .775; 3. Mike Poulin, Calgary, .774; 4. Chris Levis, Colorado, .771; 5. Brandon Miller, Philadelphia, .754; 6. Mike Thompson, Buffalo, .748; 7. Matt Vinc, Rochester, .746; 8. Matt Roik, Toronto, .743; 9. Tyler Carlson, Minnesota, .742.

Take A Bow, Gentlemen

Coaches don't like to see their players take penalties and what they hate most is being at a manpower disadvantage because of a penalty taken in the opponent's zone.

So, let's congratulate the following players who have played important roles in their teams' offenses while avoiding spending a minute in a penalty box so far this season: Minnesota's Callum Crawford, Toronto's Josh Sanderson, Dan Carey and Kasey Beirnes, Edmonton's Cory Small and Zack Greer, and Buffalo's Luke Wiles.

Four Games On Tap

Rochester (3-5) at Philadelphia (4-3)

Knighthawks coach Mike Hasen says he's harping on the need for defensive improvements because his players gave Toronto shooters too much space in which to work last Friday, when the Rock beat his team 16-12.

''This is the point where the mistakes we've been making have to occur far less often,'' says Hasen. ''If we don't play the game we need to play, we know (the Wings) are going to jump way ahead of us in the standings.''

Washington (1-6) at Toronto (4-3)

Toronto captain Colin Doyle suffered an ''upper body injury'' early in the second quarter of that home win over Rochester and he's unlikely to dress against the Stealth, GM Terry Sanderson said during the NLL's weekly coaches' conference call Wednesday.

The Rock will be playing their third of five straight home games. They need more wins on this home stand if they hope to finish first in the East. That's because five of their last six games will be on the road.

''There's no way we're happy with our record,'' says Sanderson.

Washington head coach Chris Hall says Jeff Zywicki will return to the lineup but ''Tyler Richards won't make the trip and it looks like Duch won't either.''

''We've got a lot to work on,'' Hall added. ''We're at the halfway point in the season this weekend and time will soon start to run out on us.''

Colorado (6-1) at Buffalo (2-4)

Buffalo has been idle since losing a fourth consecutive game back on Feb. 12.

The big question: Will coach Darris Kilgour continue to go with Mike Thompson in the nets or will he see if recently-acquired Anthony Cosmo can supply an energizing lift? Associate GM Derek Graham said Wednesday the decision will be made after the Saturday morning shootaround.

''He looks good,'' says Graham. ''He's a little bit rusty because he hasn't played in a few months . . . I'm not sure he's ready to go Saturday night . . . and we still feel we have an excellent goalie in Mikey Thompson.''

Colorado is still smarting from being spanked by Calgary.

''They'll be hungry after that loss so it'll be a big test for us,'' says Graham. ''We need to get a win for our fans.''

Graham pointed out when asked about lack of offensive production from Mark Steenhuis that Steenhuis has more defensive responsibilities this season and they reduce his scoring opportunities.

''Mark is playing phenomenal,'' says Graham.

Minnesota (4-3) at Calgary (5-2)

Calgary forward Dane Dobbie has sat out three games with a shoulder injury and coach Dave Pym says he could probably be back in the lineup by now but with so much lineup depth up front there's been no need to rush him into active duty.

''He'll be a game-time decision,'' Pym said during the conference call.

Calgary's decisive win in Denver has stamped it as No. 1 overall in most evaluations this week, and it certainly puts the 'Necks in a positive frame of mind.

''Confidence is an ugly beast at times,'' says Pym. ''You can go from having none at all to being completely arrogant. You have to maintain a balance.''

Minnesota is going to have a much tougher time in Calgary than it had in the Seattle burbs last weekend.

''It'll be the biggest challenge of the year for us especially after what they did last weekend,'' says Swarm coach Joe Sullivan.

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