NLL 3 Stars

Stephan Leblan (left) and Colin Doyle were key cogs in Toronto's season-opening win. See where they stand in this week's 3 Stars.
Stephan Leblan (left) and Colin Doyle were key cogs in Toronto's season-opening win. See where they stand in this week's 3 Stars.

So many terrific individual performances in just two games makes it a tough week to be picking the National Lacrosse League’s 3 Stars for Week 2. There are always value judgments to make when choosing the stars of the week. This time the challenge is an age-old one: balancing the value of goals versus assists. Eight players had hat tricks this week, including three that scored more than 3 goals, yet none of them was one of the three leading scorers overall. So the big question for Week 2 is, how do the big-assist games stack up in terms of overall performance? What’s worth more: a few goals or lots of assists? We come down pretty solidly on one side of the argument this week. The honourable mentions for Week 2 include some familiar names but also a couple of rookies and one player making a feel-good return to prominence after some seasons marred by a scary and career-threatening injury. Make the jump to see how everything plays out in this week’s NLL 3 Stars.

First Star

Stephan Leblanc, Toronto Rock
5 goals, 2 assists
Leblanc is listed at 6′1”, 205 pounds, but he just seems bigger than that. And this week he certainly played like a big-body guy, albeit with a ton of skill to boot. Leblanc was a physical presence on the Rock offence and he took full advantage of the space he got, burying most of his goals from mid-range. He was quick to deflect credit to the space he gets because he plays with guys like Colin Doyle and Josh Sanderson, which is legitimate. But equally legitimate was how outstanding Leblanc was in leading the Rock to a huge 16-11 season-opening win over Calgary.

Second Star

Adam Jones, Colorado Mammoth
3 goals, 1 assist
There are hat tricks and then there are hat tricks. Jones gets the second-star nod for coming up with big points at absolutely critical times for the Mammoth in helping them edge the Stealth Saturday. Bob Chavez talked in a post earlier today about the turnaround at the end of the third quarter, where Colorado went from trailing 9-7 to leading 10-9 in 30 seconds. Well, Jones set up the first of those three quick goals and scored the second. And then he scored their final two goals late in the fourth to secure the win. The last one, he simply demanded the ball at the top of the offence and ripped it home when he got it. Clutch goals scored with panache.

Third Star

Jeff Shattler, Calgary Roughnecks
4 goals, 2 assists, 8 loose balls
Shattler scored at even strength, on the power play and shorthanded. He created first chances with passes and second chances by corralling loose balls. He was the most dangerous and effective played on a Calgary offence that took three-quarters of the game to start to find its rhythm. Before the final quarter, the best way for Calgary to score was to just give it to Shattler and let him spin and find a hole past Nick Rose’s left foot.

Honourable Mentions

Rhys Duch (Vancouver): 4g, 2a. Duch showed why he led the league in goals last year, connecting with pinpoint precision on his four markers…Garrett Billings (Toronto): 1g, 9a. The leading scorer for the weekend, Billings had about as quiet a 10-point night as you’ll see. He didn’t make a lot of spectacular passes, but he consistently made the right ones…Shawn Evans (Calgary): 1g, 7a. Evans certainly would have liked to come away with more than 1 goals for the 10 shots he took, but he was a big part of the Riggers’ offence none the less. Some of his passes were exquisite. An example: the one in the early fourth quarter where he looked high in the zone just enough to get a defender to take one step that way, opening a lane for him to quickly fire a lateral pass to Shattler for an open look…Alex Gajic (Vancouver): 1g, 7 assists. Be honest: before you looked at the score sheet did you have any idea that Gajic had so many assists Saturday? Me neither. But he certainly looked like he’s back to being comfortable on the floor, which is great news for the Stealth…Cam Holding (Colorado): 1g, 3a, 8LB. If the league were still selecting players of the week, he’d have to be a top candidate for the transition honours. Holding is carrying the momentum from an excellent summer with the Brooklin Redmen into the NLL season…Jesse Gamble (Toronto): 1g, 8LB, 3FT. Holding’s competition for top tranny would be Gamble, who had a second goal called back because his toes landed on the crease. He’s a constant threat and with his speed and skill and continues to show he’s solid in his own end…Drew Westervelt (Colorado): 3g, 2a. Westervelt got serious consideration for second star. He scored his hat trick on only five shots and slammed home the goal of the week from behind the Vancouver net. A very efficient performance…Dillon Ward (Colorado): 30 saves, .789 save percentage. For the second straight game, Ward stepped in off the bench and was excellent for the Mammoth. That is a stunningly good job for a rookie goaltender in a pair of tough situations. Adam Jones called him the team’s MVP in a post-game interview and while we’d still go with Jones, you can make a valid argument for Ward…Colin Doyle (Toronto): 2g, 2a, 8LB. Scored important points when the Rock needed to regain momentum and stepped in to stand up for a teammate in the first quarter, showing Toronto won’t be pushed around. That’s why he’s the captain…Tyler Digby (Vancouver): 3g, 3a. Digby’s emergence in Stealth camp was a big reason the team felt comfortable in releasing Athan Iannucci. Now the whole league can see why they like him so much. Digby was coolly efficient in his NLL debut (3 goals on just 5 shots) and showed no signs of any pro debut jitters.

Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at stamplax@hotmail.com.

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