Dirty Dozen: Re-visiting the Edmonton Rush for some perspective, Rochester’s defense is rockin’, and it’s draft time in Canada
We’ve talked about the Edmonton Rush here before, mostly to look at a lack of offense and a lack of wins. And while we certainly don’t intend to pile on the National Lacrosse League team, it’s understandable if it appears that way. And so it took the words of another coach, Chris Hall of the Washington Stealth, to bring us some perspective. Hall not only has this perspective because he’s a coach in the NLL, but because his team is playing the Rush this weekend for the third time this season. And the crux of the issue for Hall? Edmonton’s record may be 1-4, but that is not a 1-4 team. “They’ve been tight battles,” Hall said of Edmonton during the coaches call earlier this week. “Look at the teams they’re playing and this is not a 1-4 team. The key for us is to recognize that there is a lot on the line for us.”
Indeed, “tight battles” is apropos. And you can point to the 4 games the Rush lost last year by 1 goal as an example, but you don’t even need to go back that far. This season, 3 of the Rush’s 4 losses are to teams currently in first place (1 to Toronto and 2 to Calgary). And of those losses, 2 are by 1 goal. A third loss is by 2 goals and the other by just 3. So it’s not like the Rush are outclassed.
The lone victory for Edmonton this year is against the Stealth, and Edmonton won that game by 8 goals. And to the surprise of no one, Edmonton’s defense is the class of the NLL when it comes to the most visible gauge in goals-allowed. The 59 goals the Rush have surrendered are the fewest by any team in the league.
With the way the NLL is set up, 8 of 9 teams make the playoffs so there really is no need to post a superior record in the regular season. Edmonton proved that last year by going 4-12 in the regular season and still advancing to the title game. Still, GM and coach Derek Keenan doesn’t want that again. The Rush want to win in the regular season and with 2 games this weekend against West Division foes, they’re hoping this can be a springboard toward momentum as the second half of the season approaches.
So here’s how the Rush have done so far this season against the West, and what’s left for them to do:
vs. Washington: 1-1 with the rubber game tonight.
vs. Calgary: 0-2 with 2 games remaining, 1 at Calgary and the regular-season finale at Edmonton.
vs. Colorado: 0-0 with a game Saturday in Colorado and 1 more game later this season in Edmonton.
vs. Minnesota: 0-0 with a home-and-home weekend on Feb. 22 and 24.
So before we cast the Rush aside, let’s remember what they’ve been up against so far this season and what they’re capable of doing. They’re in games, but like Keenan said on the coaches call, “we just have to learn how to win 1-goal games.”
HISTORIC DEFENSE? The Knighthawks are on pace for the third-best season ever for a defense in a 16-game season in terms of goals-allowed. They’re on pace to give up just 163 goals. The best-ever is the 2010 Boston team, which allowed just 154 goals. The 2011 Blazers gave up 155 and also in 2011, Buffalo and Rochester surrendered just 159 each.
WELCOME, KID: The fight between Rochester’s Stephen Keogh and Philadelphia rookie Jim Forsythe on Friday wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, except for the setting it was in. As the 11 a.m. game got underway Friday in front of a good crowd of school children, we couldn’t help but wonder if any sort directive had been issued to avoid fights during the game. You know, set a good example. But the game was barely 4 minutes old before Keogh and Forsythe were dancing. At least the kids got a lesson in fight etiquette.
HISTORY 101: Very cool that the Wings did what they did for the school kids in attendance. Packets were handed out explaining the history of the game and the history of the Wings, and who knows how many new fans that helped create. Wings announcer Dave Walls even mentioned early in the broadcast how he attended his first Wings game as a lad and has been a fan of the NLL ever since.
RAPID RESPONSE: Coaches will tell you that one of the best ways to kill momentum for your opponent is to respond in kind. As in, they score, you score. And that’s what the Knighthawks did so effectively against the Bandits in their 15-7 win. On 3 occasions in that game, the Knighthawks answered Bandits goals in 28 seconds, 28 seconds and 24 seconds. Nip it in the bud, they say.
A RARE FEAT: The Washington Stealth held John Grant Jr. without a goal last weekend, the first time Junior has gone without a goal in an NLL game since March 25, 2006, when the Buffalo Bandits held him to just 3 assists when he was with the Knighthawks. The last time he was held to 1 point was more recent, when the Calgary Roughnecks limited him to a 1-0 game on Jan. 15, 2011.
HE SAID IT: “It’s like seeing your ex- girlfriend out, and you want to show her your best.”
Wings forward Jordan Hall to PhillySportsLive.com, in facing his former team, the Rochester Knighthawks, for the first time since being traded in December.
DRAFT TIME: The Major Series Lacrosse draft was Wednesday night and there’s little doubt that the Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks did some major upgrading. An early traded landed them the No. 1 and No. 2 picks, which they used on twin brothers Jeremy and Jason Noble. They also were able to draft goalie Dillon Ward and defenders Billy Hostrawser, Cody McLeod and Brad Gillies. Sensing an Orangeville trend there? The other interesting trend was for the Peterborough Lakers, who hardly need much help with their star-studded offense. So what did they do? They used their picks in the fourth and fifth rounds to tab Ben McIntosh, Jeff Cornwall and Robert Church of the Coquitlam Junior Adanacs. McIntosh was the No. 1 overall pick in last week’s WLA draft. Entry drafts in lacrosse; always fun and always interesting.
THINK YOU WERE BUSY? If you thought you had a hectic week, try wearing the shoes of Steve Dietrich. As GM of the Buffalo Bandits, he’s been orchestrating a roster overhaul and then had to deal with finding a backup goalie when Kurtis Wagar hurt his back. He found Scott Komer to back up Anthony Cosmo. All the while, he was preparing for the MSL draft as GM of the Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks. The Kodiaks had 5 picks in the first 2 rounds, so he had plenty of homework to keep him busy heading into Wednesday’s draft.
FINAL WORD: There were lots of happy faces around the WLA after last week’s draft and the thing is, it’s easy to believe that the happiness was genuine. So often, we hear team execs spinning positive on various issues facing their teams but with the talent available to WLA teams in the entry draft, it was hard for teams to go wrong. Pretty much every single team GM was excited with the picks their teams landed through the first 2 rounds, so it’ll be interesting to see if that faith in the young potential pays off later this summer.Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at email@example.com or go to RochesterSports.com.
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