If the regular season is just a warmup for the playoffs, the Saskatchewan Rush are playing things just right.
Hills and hurdles over the past three months are starting to level off and the Rush head into the lone doubleheader weekend of the season on the verge of playing their best lacrosse of the season. The Rush, who are coming off wins over Vancouver, Colorado and now San Diego, host the Philadelphia Wings Saturday night.
The Rush’s win over San Diego secured the Rush a season-series victory over the Seals and gives them a leg up on finishing first in the West division, which matters for securing home-turf advantage throughout the divisional playoffs. After Friday night’s win, the Rush lead the Seals by half a game in the West division.
“We don’t feel we had our best game the last time we saw San Diego,” said Rush forward Marty Dinsdale.
The Seals’ success in their first season has raised a few eyebrows but it’s not entirely unexpected. They’ve found a mix of young stars and veteran talent, helped in part by departures from the Rush – forward Dan Dawson, fan favorite transition Adrian Sorichetti, and transition Tor Reinholdt – all of whom played a role in last year’s championship campaign.
While the Rush came out hot against the Seals, the coaching staff is doing their due diligence when it comes to Saturday’s home-turf return against the Wings. The original version of the Wings haven’t faced the Rush since 2014, and then going further back in time, the Rush actually won their very first home game in franchise history against Philadelphia back in 2007.
This edition of the Wings hasn’t found the same level of success as their expansion brothers from San Diego, but they are far from being pushovers. The Wings, who are led by original Rush GM/head coach Paul Day, are 1-4 in one-goal games (three losses against Toronto and an OT loss to Buffalo) and 0-4 in two-goal games.
“Their offence is really outstanding and they have some big bodies up front,” said Keenan. “They’ve had their struggles on defence, but they’ve had some good games, too.”
POWER SHORTAGE: The Rush have boasted the league’s best power play all season currently at 59.1%, and are coming off a year when they had a nearly record-setting 67.8% proficiency on the man-advantage. But what’s gnawing at them lately is a lack of power-play opportunities. Entering Friday night’s games, the Rush have had only 44 power plays, 13 fewer than the next lowest team, the New England Black Wolves, who, entering Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Rock, have played 15 games. Buffalo has had a league-high 86 power plays in 16 games.
So far this season, the Rush have enjoyed 26 power-play chances in seven home games and racked up a 65.4% scoring rate. On the road, though, the Rush have had just 18 power plays in seven games and sit at 50.0%.
“I’m not sure I can explain it,” wondered Keenan. “We play hard, we get to the dirty areas. We’ll just keep working at it.”
NET PRESENCE: Two-game weekends are hardest upon the league’s netminders and teams often utilize their backup in one of the matchups. The Rush went with Adam Shute in net on Friday night, while Evan Kirk is nearly ready to get back into action from his injury. Including Friday’s win against San Diego, Shute has gone 3-1 in Kirk’s absence and Pete Dubenski is prepared to step in as well. Could be interesting to see Kirk get back into the lineup just in time to face Philadelphia, his former team, before the franchise moved to New England.