There were a bunch of great games this past weekend. The Bandits solidified their stranglehold on first place in the East and the middle of the pack in both divisions got even more muddy. The Bandits may have clinched their playoff spot, but the rest of the spots are still up for grabs.
I tweeted this after Saturday’s game but there are two facts related to Dan Dawson’s record-setting night that are so mind-blowing, I’ll repeat them here:
- Dan Dawson has played one more game in his career (307) than John Tavares did (306), and has exactly the same number of assists (934).
- Consider how great a goal-scorer Dawson is; now consider that Tavares scored 277 more goals in one fewer game than Dawson
That second one is more an amazing JT fact than an amazing Dawson fact, but this weekend was about Dawson. There was a pre-game celebration before the Rock / Swarm game, which included a video where a bunch of Dawson’s current and former teammates and coaches sent well wishes and congratulations. Particularly touching was a message from his brother Paul (who has played 159 NLL games as Dan’s teammate and 14 as an opponent), where he expressed how proud their family is. Just about every message was about Dan being a great teammate and how hard he has worked to keep his game at the highest possible level. He’s another one of those players about whom I have never heard a bad word spoken. It seems that every NLL player, whether teammate or opponent, has nothing but the utmost respect for Dan Dawson. I am no NLL player but I will add mine here. Congratulations to the Dangerous one.
Christian Del Bianco
CDB has had a tough season. He’s had five different games this season where he was under 70% save percentage and over 13 GAA. That’s more than the rest of his career combined (2 in 2019, 1 in 2018). He’s under .500 and his team is currently outside of the playoff picture looking in. But on Saturday night, we saw the CDB we’ve gotten used to seeing over the past few years – energetic, athletic, constantly moving, making amazing outlet passes, and stopping everything he needs to stop and a few he had no earthly business stopping. As we know a great goalie can steal you a game here and there. When your offense only scores eight goals (props to Eric Penney) but you still win, that’s a good sign that your goalie and defense have stepped up their game and we certainly saw that on Saturday in Saskatoon.
Mike Poulin has also had a tough season. If we look at the same criteria we used for Del Bianco, Poulin has had six >13 GAA and <70% games. But like Del Bianco, Poulin was outstanding on Saturday against a division rival. Nick Rose also played very well but the Swarm got out to an early lead and kept the pressure on. The Rock had their trouble on offense but threatened a few times; they never tied the game but got within one four times. But time and again, the Rock got a clear shot or even an open look on the edge of the crease, but Poulin was there to shut the door and prevent that tying goal. The Rock only scored back-to-back goals once, so they were never able to pick up any momentum. Poulin was a big reason why.
On Thursday, the Thunderbirds shocked the lacrosse world by releasing Kyle Jackson, simply saying that “Kyle has decided to seek out new opportunities elsewhere in the NLL”. This news came out of nowhere; even NLL insiders didn’t see it coming. Of course, he wasn’t a free agent for long. A day later the Philadelphia Wings announced that they had signed Jackson and he’d be suiting up with them on Saturday. I didn’t see much of the game (just a few minutes) so I can’t tell you how well he played or meshed with his new teammates, but a goal and five assists, second star of the game, and a win to pull the Wings out of a four-game losing streak tells me it wasn’t bad.
What parity means
The top four teams from the East will make the playoffs. We know the Bandits are in, but the other three are anybody’s guess right now. With the records right now, it’d be the Rock, Thunderbirds, and Swarm but the Wings and FireWolves are certainly not out of it. At 4-8 and 3-10 respectively, the Riptide and Knighthawks have a long hill to climb, but they’re not technically out of it either.
The top three teams from the West also make the playoffs. The Seals will very likely make it, but the other two could be anyone. The Roughnecks and Rush will have the toughest time but could make it in if they finish strong. That would also require one or two other teams to falter. The eighth playoff spot goes to the 5th place team in the East or the 4th place team in the West, whichever has the better record. Right now the 6-7 Wings would take it over 6-8 Panther City, but each team still has 4 or 5 games left. The middle of the pack could change quite a bit.
We’re in for a wild finish.
What parity also means
I really wanted to weight them all as 1 because I wasn’t really confident about any of them, but the dumb ol’ web site wouldn’t let me.