Week 16 of the 2016 National Lacrosse League regular season saw some dominant goaltending performances now highlighted by Stephen Stamp in his Three Stars of the Week on Inside Lacrosse via IL Indoor. Preview the rundown of the weekend’s top performers below and click the link for the full story.
“The most important statistic for assessing how well a goalie is performing is save percentage,” Stamp writes. “While it is influenced by the play of the defenders in front of him, save percentage is much more closely correlated to his own play than the other major stat we have available, goals against average.”
Here’s an example. No one, especially before this past weekend, would argue that Aaron Bold is the best goalie in the NLL this year (he isone of the best in the world, but not based on his play in 2016). Yet when you go to the league leaders page of the NLL web site and select goalie leaders, Bold appears at the top of the list. That’s because the default page ordering is based on GAA and Bold leads the league in that category at 10.15. Match that with his 11-4 record and you might guess that Bold is a shoe-in to be a finalist for goalie of the year again.
Guess again, though. Bold’s GAA and won-loss are largely the result of the defence in front of him that has helped ensure the Rush have outshot their opponents in every one of their 16 games this season. Saskatchewan even lost a game 9-7 to Colorado when they outshot the Mammoth 54-34. Saskatchewan has allowed just 42.9 shots on goal per game, which means that Bold’s season save percentage of .760 has enabled them to keep opponents to about 10 goals a game.
The reality is that the Rush have clinched first place in the West Division largely in spite of Bold’s play rather than because of it. Nobody in Saskatchewan is going to care about that, though, if Bold keeps playing the way he did this weekend. Bold looked like his old self, stopping 78 of the 91 shots he faced in a key home and home sweep of the Mammoth. That kind of goaltending would make Saskatchewan awfully tough to beat in the playoffs.
None of this is meant to be a knock on Bold, who has gone through slumps before as any goalie is bound to and has bounced back to elite status, just as he appears to be doing now. The larger point I’m leading to is that 2016 hasn’t been the year of the goalie in the NLL. Whether it’s because the shooters are having a better season or the goalies just aren’t performing as well, save percentages are down in 2016. To whit: in each of the past three years, three goalies have finished the season with a better save percentage than this year’s league leaders to this point (Evan Kirk and Nick Rose, at .790).
Week 16, though, turned all that on its head. Goalies stood out around the league in a busy weekend and none more so than the aforementioned Bold. Granted, Colorado had no Adam Jones Friday night then no John Grant Jr and a noticeably limping Jones Saturday. The Mammoth are still a dangerous team, though, and Jeremy Noble took up the slack Saturday with his best shooting performance of the season en route to a hat trick.
It wasn’t all about Bold, though. Scroll down to see the goalies that dominate IL Indoor’s 3 Stars for Week 16.
Aaron Bold, Saskatchewan Rush
2 wins, 78 saves on 91 shots, .857 save percentage
Bold had a busy 2015 and excelled as he helped the Rush win the Champions Cup, the Victoria Shamrocks win the Mann Cup and Canada win the gold medal at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Did that workload take a toll that has led to his decreased performance this year? Teddy Jenner hypothesized on Boxla Beat last week that it was a factor in the play this season of both Bold and Matt Vinc (who went to the NLL semifinals, the Mann Cup final and started for Canada in the gold medal game), who also hasn’t been his usual dominating self.
It’s a sound theory. Whether it’s accurate is hard to gauge, but whatever the reasoning, Bold seems to be coming out of his funk at the perfect time for the Rush. When he’s on his game, like so many goalies, he makes difficult saves look easy. That’s the kind of zone he was in on the weekend. He appeared to be seeing the ball well, which helps him to catch many low shots rather than just having to smother them, which in turn helps boost the already dangerous Rush transition game because Bold has more opportunities to use his excellent down-floor passing to spring breaking defenders.
Nick Rose, Toronto Rock
1 win, 69 saves on 84 shots, .821 save percentage
It was a bit of a surprise that coach John Lovell chose to go with Brandon Miller in Toronto’s game in Buffalo after Rose was the best player on the floor as the Rock downed the Bandits in Toronto Friday night. Miller, the third finalist along with Vinc and Bold for goalie of the year last season, has had his own struggles in 2016 and they continued Saturday. Rose stepped in and substantially limited the Bandits the rest of the way—a couple of their late goals came while Rose was hustling back to the net after the extra attacker had been on the floor.
While Rose was very good in a losing effort Saturday, it was standing on his head Friday that landed him here as the Second Star. He made a handful of sensational saves and boatloads of solid ones to lead Toronto to a win it had to have to keep its playoff hopes alive. Brodie Merrill was named the game’s first star, and he had an excellent game, but Rose was the key difference-maker and enjoyed plenty of congratulations in the post-game locker rooom.
Randy Staats (Georgia): 4g, 11a, 15LB. Staats had an incredibly productive weekend. He led the Swarm to two critical wins in their pursuit of the playoffs. He pushed himself into a 15-point lead in the rookie scoring race. And he put himself on pace to break the records for points and assists by a rookie. Staats has now scored 30 points in his last four games. That’s Dhane Smith/Shawn Evans territory, should make him a pretty easy pick for rookie of the month in April and the leading contender for Rookie of the Year. That’s quite a stretch he’s having…Johnny Powless (Georgia): 5g, 6a. After the weekend the Swarm had, this section could be pretty much filled with Georgia players. Powless has shattered his career highs for goals and points and looks as comfortable as he’s ever looked in the pro game. He leads the Swarm with 34 goals, one ahead of Shayne Jackson and two ahead of Staats…Ben McIntosh (Saskatchewan): 7g, 3a. McIntosh’s numbers are actually down substantially from his rookie season a year ago, but his goal-scoring is right on pace as he is set to match 2015’s 37 goals. Whatever the reason behind the dearth of assists, McIntosh is still a constant threat either with the ball in his stick or working off ball and he led the Rush’s sweep of Colorado on the weekend…Graeme Hossack (Rochester): 7LB, 3CTO. Hossack came into the league as a near-elite defender and has gotten better as the season has progressed. He may not be the rookie of the year, but if ever there was a case for a defender to win the award, Hossack this year is making it…Brodie Merrill (Toronto): 24LB, 3CTO. While I disagreed with him being named the first star Friday in light of Rose’s performance, Merrill was outstanding, as he has been throughout the second half of the season. Merrill lost his cool and got taken out of his game late in Saturday’s contest, but that was largely because he knew the Rock’s season was over and his competitiveness and frustration just boiled over. Not the worst trait in a lacrosse player…Lyle Thompson (Georgia): 7g, 4a. I said last week was the best I’ve seen of Thompson; well, he was even better this week…Logan Schuss, Rhys Duch & Jordan Durston (Vancouver): 3g, 4a; 2g, 6a; 3g, 1a respectively. I just couldn’t decide in which order I wanted to include these three, so I figured I’d put them all together. Schuss was his usual mix of sniper and setup man, Duch as always was the lynchpin of the Stealth offence and Durston is the burst of energy and talent that helps spark Vancouver’s O when things get a little stale…Dhane Smith & Ryan Benesch (Buffalo): 6g, 1a; 5g, 5a respectively. It’s pretty amazing that the weekend represented a bona fide slump for the Great Dhane. Benesch stepped up Saturday when the Bandits needed to get back on track and just produced…Ryan Dilks (Saskatchewan): 1g, 1a, 7LB, 7CTO. Dilks probably won’t break Kyle Rubisch’s CTO record but he may well break Rubisch’s monopoly of the defender of the year award…Jeff Shattler (Calgary): 4g, 4a. There was some hand-wringing last year when Shattler’s production dropped off from what had been a career high in 2013, the first season of the expanded schedule. Well, he’s quietly smack dab on pace to match that total (actually, his current pace equates to 84.7 points pending Calgary’s final game in two weeks, so with his average game he would break that mark by 1 when you round it off)… Shayne Jackson & Jesse King (Georgia): 4g, 7a, 13LB, 2CTO; 3g, 9a, 7LB, 2CTO respectively. Who had the better weekend between the Swarm’s veteran leader and rookie star? Trick question. The answer is it doesn’t matter because Georgia won two huge divisional games thanks to their overall team effort…Callum Crawford (Colorado): 3g, 5a. Crawford was supposed to be a nice addition to the Mammoth offence. Instead, with Adam Jones hobbling and John Grant Jr nursing what is believed to be an upper extremity injury, he was once again the main man in Colorado. Crawford broke the 100-point plateau on the weekend, the first time he’s done so…Rob Hellyer (Toronto): 2g, 8a. Hellyer is two points away from reaching the century mark himself, which will also be his first time…Curtis Dickson (Calgary): 2g, 4a. Join the club, Superman. 101 points through 17 games for Dickson and he’s just three away from hitting the elusive 60-goal mark…Mark Matthews (Saskatchewan): 2g, 6a. Matthews has been there before, with 115 points last year. He’s five away from a repeat appearance…Joel White (Georgia): 2g, 21LB, 5CTO. Time for a defender, although White did score perhaps the goal of the year when he slalomed (Alberto Tomba-style, given how many players—from both teams—he bashed through like Tomba pounding his way through the slalom gates) en route to the net for a shorthanded marker. It was a signature weekend for a player who’s stealthily evolved into one of the best transition players in the league…Dan Dawson & Cody Jamieson (Rochester): 2g, 4a; 4g, 1a respectively. They were the leaders of the Knighthawks offence, as usual…Tyler Digby (Calgary): 4g. Pretty much the definition of a power forward…Dan Taylor (Saskatchewan): 9a. Almost doubled his season points total (now at 19) in one weekend. Taylor probably cemented his spot in the lineup with his solid performance. Saskatchewan has an awfully tough roster to crack but Taylor has made his case with steady depth play… Shawn Evans (New England): 2g, 3a, 7LB. It was a forgettable game for the Black Wolves—their first clunker of the season—so Evans is the only…
Click here for the Third Star and full list of Honorable Mentions on Stephen Stamp’s Three Stars of Week 16 on IL Indoor.