NLL 3 Stars

John Tavares (right) was front and centre for the Bandits as they swept their two-game weekend. (Photo: Buffalo Bandits)
John Tavares (right) was front and centre for the Bandits as they swept their two-game weekend. (Photo: Buffalo Bandits)

What a difference a two-game weekend can make to a team’s fortunes. Three teams played a pair of games in the National Lacrosse League’s Week 3. Buffalo won both of its games to jump to 2-1; just imagine how differently things would look if they were sitting at 0-3. Neither Philadelphia nor Colorado have to imagine how tough it can look coming out of an 0-2 weekend, since they both suffered that fate. Now the Mammoth, who could have been sitting in first place at 3-1, are 1-3 and coming off a horrendous performance in Edmonton. The Wings were more competitive, even clawing back to get to overtime with the Bandits, but the end result is still a pair of losses that drop them below .500. What does it all mean for the NLL 3 Stars? Well, expect to see more Bandits than Wings and Mammoth combined, for one thing. And make the jump to see just how high Bandits players climb on this week’s list.

First Star

Dhane Smith, Buffalo Bandits
3 goals, 10 assists, 9 loose balls
Not only did Smith lead all players in scoring this weekend, he did it coming primarily from the defensive zone. Smith is so fast that he doesn’t seem to be running hard a lot of the time that he’s bringing the ball up the floor, but he covers a lot of ground in a little time with his long strides. Even some of Smith’s power play points came when he transitioned the ball into the offensive zone. The key is that, once he’s there, he’s showing excellent floor vision and making great decisions with the ball. He had many quality assists: those leading directly to scoring chances as opposed to just passing the ball to someone who happened to go and create a chance. He also showed he can score in close or with his cannon of an outside shot.

Second Star

Tyler Richards, Vancouver Stealth
45 saves, .900 save percentage
The Stealth defence did their best Knighthawks impression, generally giving up the shots that they were comfortable with allowing and not high-quality chances. Still, Richards made the saves he was expected to and plenty that you can’t count on. With Vancouver holding a slim lead in the second half, he turned aside some rebound chances and naked looks that could have swung the momentum Minnesota’s way.

Third Star

John Tavares, Buffalo Bandits
6 goals, 4 assists, 14 loose balls
Tavares showed he can still go strong to the net and finish, and he still has his shooting eye and the ability to hit his spots from mid-range. The fact that he looked so good in the second game of the weekend suggests he may be ready for a bounce-back year at 45 after a season in which his health limited his effectiveness.

Honourable Mentions

Mark Matthews (Edmonton): 5g, 4a. Huge night is undermined somewhat by the fact that it looked like I might have been able to score a couple of goals against Colorado Saturday, but still a good sign for the Rush that Matthews may not suffer a sophomore slump…Kyle Buchanan (Philadelphia): 4g, 6a, 13LB. Continues to show nice offensive flair for the Wings and a knack for creating second chance possessions…Dane Dobbie (Calgary): 4g, 2a. In addition to his scoring, Dobbie drew three penalties with his drives to the net. Given the success rate of power plays this year, that is a huge asset…Colin Doyle (Toronto): 3g, 2a. Toronto’s Friday night game seems so long ago after the first busy weekend of the season, but don’t forget how instrumental Doyle was to the Rock’s offensive success…Mike Grimes (Vancouver): 1g, 1a, 3LB. His goal came on a quick-stick in an offensive set. He’s mostly being recognized,though, for leading a defence that held the Swarm to 5 goals with solid team play…Cody Jamieson (Rochester): 2g, 6a. Another strong night facilitating the Rochester offence…Anthony Cosmo (Buffalo): 95 saves, .819 save percentage, 2 wins. Found his game part way through the comeback win over Toronto. Cosmo is at his best when he looks still and settled in the net, and that’s how he was looking this weekend. Good news for Banditland…Adam Jones (Colorado): 4g, 5a. Jones has become the pulse of the Mammoth offence…Zack Greer (Edmonton): 5g. Man, can he ever shoot the ball…Kiel Matisz (Minnesota): 2g, 1a. What a great goal his second against Vancouver was, sprawling to bat home his own rebound. I still think his toe was on the crease, but it was a beauty play that counted after review, and it wasn’t Matisz’s only good play in the game…Jeff Shattler (Calgary) 4g, 1a, 4LB. Just another strong night from the former MVP…Aaron Bold (Edmonton) 40 saves, .870 save percentage. It’s easy to forget how good Bold was because of Edmonton’s offensive onslaught, but he was really good…Jarrett Davis (Edmonton) 3g, 5a. Really developing into a good slasher, in the offensive sense of making sharp, effective cuts.

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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