The playoff picture is a little more set, with both Colorado and San Diego clinching post-season spots. I have been unable to come up with a scenario where Halifax misses the playoffs, but neither the team nor the NLL has announced that they’ve clinched a spot, so I assume there’s at least one way it could happen.
It’s interesting that right at the end of the season, a few teams that have looked very strong (or in the case of the Bandits, borderline unbeatable) most of the season, Buffalo, Halifax, and San Diego, have started to look vulnerable. Buffalo has lost two straight, San Diego four, and Halifax are 1-5 in their last six.
Assists Part I: Dhane Smith
In 2016, Dhane Smith picked up 137 points and was named MVP. That’s an average of 7.6 points per game. This season, he’s sitting at 7.9 points per game and is on pace for 141 points. But Smith’s game has changed a little. In 2016, Smith scored 72 goals (still the single-season record) and picked up 65 assists; 52% of his points were goals. This year he “only” has 39 goals but 87 assists, the new single-season record, which means that 31% of his points have been goals.
On the 2016 Bandits, Smith was the guy. Benesch had 92 points and Steenhuis had 72, but they were the only players over 40 points and the only players over 17 goals. This year, they have seven different players with more than 40 points and six with more than 20 goals. And they have two games left. Smith is still at the top in points and goals, but he doesn’t have to be the guy. He can be the guy helping all the other guys.
But how amazing is it that he’s already got the single-season assists record with two games left? He’s on pace for an unbelievable 97 assists. That would beat the old assist record by 17%.
Assists Part II: Dan Dawson
Speaking of a whole boatload of assists, Dan Dawson is now the owner of the NLL career assists record. Dawson is now sitting at 935 assists in his career, ahead of John Tavares with a measly 934. Can he become the first player ever to reach 1000 career regular season assists? Possibly. At his career pace of 3.03 assists per game, he’d need another 22 games to reach 1000, so two more this year, all of next season, plus two games in the 2024 season. Dawson will turn 41 at the beginning of next season. John Tavares played until he was 46, so it’s not impossible for Dawson to do the same, but it’s a pretty tall order.
New York Riptide
The Riptide are 4-10 this season, and few people expect them to make the playoffs. But the possibility is still there, so kudos to the Riptide for playing their asses off on Saturday and managing to beat the Bandits. Beating the Bandits this season is obviously tough, even more so when you’re missing one of your top scorers. Callum Crawford was out but Jeff Teat stepped up with nine points. Nobody else on the team had more than 4 points but seven different players had 2+ points and eight different players scored goals. It’s not surprising that the Riptide offense was able to put up 15 goals, but it’s pretty impressive against a 13-2 team featuring the best goalie of all time.
Three stars in Saskatchewan
In Vancouver’s loss to Saskatchewan, Kyle Killen scored seven goals and Keegan Bal scored five and added five assists. Neither one was named a star of the game. I get that the Rush won and the game took place in Saskatchewan, but come on. It’s obviously a judgement call but it’s common practice (60% of all games that had stars named) that the three stars are two from the winning team and one from the losing team. In some cases, even in a close game, perhaps nobody from the losing team really stood out and deserved to be named a star, but that’s not the case here. Scoring seven goals is pretty rare and special in the NLL, so you’d think that would be recognized. I didn’t see most of the game so perhaps Messenger, Keenan, and Currier had outstanding games that go beyond their stats, but it seems pretty unlikely that all three of them really had better games than Killen or Bal.
Brad Challoner said it well:
I’ve had the privledge of picking the three stars @RogersArena numerous times. You can’t please everybody, but please take that shit seriously. Be objective, and honor the special performances no matter who wins and who the home team is. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
— Brad Challoner (@bradchall) April 10, 2022
Oddly, the Rush have also gone quite a ways in the other direction. In 2017, they beat the Black Wolves 24-11 in Saskatchewan. In a 13-goal rout, the Rush named the Black Wolves’ Shawn Evans the third star for his 3g + 4a performance.