Preview Stephen Stamp’s Three Stars of NLL Week 18 below for a breakdown of the top player performances of the regular season finale weekend. Stay tuned to see which players will shine the brightest in the postseason with the NLL Playoffs set to begin this weekend with Georgia at New England and Calgary at Colorado.
“An interesting statistic emerged while I was preparing this week’s National Lacrosse League 3 Stars,” Stamp writes. “The top two teams in terms of power play success in 2016’s regular season were the Toronto Rock and Vancouver Stealth. Toronto led in power play goals with 57 while sitting just behind Vancouver in percentage. Clearly, success with the man advantage doesn’t guarantee similar success in the win column.”
The natural corollary to check is whether penalty kill success is a better indicator of how a team will fare. Well, the top two teams in penalty kill success percentage are the regular season division champions, Buffalo and Saskatchewan. Colorado, second in the West, gave up the fewest power play goals—32, largely because their discipline meant they faced only 61 shorthanded situations.
I got looking into those stats because this week’s first star, Rob Hellyer of Toronto, led the league with 30 power play assists and 41 power play points. That’s over a third of Hellyer’s fourth-overall total of 114 points. Week 18 was no anomaly; Hellyer scored 1 of his 7 goals with the man advantage and recorded 5 of his 6 assists on the power play as well.
Rob Hellyer, Toronto Rock
7 goals, 6 assists
Hellyer scored 45 goals on the season even though he tied for the lowest shooting percentage among the top 20 goal scorers in the league. He was accurate Saturday, though, getting his 7 goals on 18 shots for a sizzling .389 mark.
Davide DiRuscio, Buffalo Bandits
43 saves on 49 shots, .878 save percentage
The Big Fish stepped in when Anthony Cosmo went down after a collision in the crease and frustrated the Black Wolves as Buffalo clinched first overall in the NLL. DiRuscio didn’t play a lot as Cosmo’s backup but he was successful when he got his chances: he tied Nick Rose, Matt Vinc and Alex Buque for sixth in the league in wins with five and was fifth in the NLL in save percentage. The Bandits won’t be rushing Cosmo out of the crease—he’s had three straight strong seasons for them after a few years when he was off his usual form—but they have to feel comfortable with DiRuscio ready to step in without missing a beat when the 38-year-old Coz decides he’s done.
Shayne Jackson (Georgia): 4g, 5a. Jackson set career highs in goals (40) and points (83), doubled his previous high in power play goals (12) and had by far the highest shooting percentage in his four-year NLL career…Dhane Smith (Buffalo): 4g, 2a. Remarkable consistency in goal scoring. 14 times this season he scored 4 or more goals in a game. That’s what it takes to break the record…Wesley Berg (Calgary): 6g. 1a. Berg saved the best for last, both on the season by finishing with a sock trick and in the game by scoring Calgary’s overtime winner against Toronto…Mitch de Snoo (Buffalo): 4CTO. De Snoo moved atop the rookie CTO chart and into the top 10 overall. He’s definitely become one of the Bandits’ most reliable defenders…Tye Belanger (New England): 53/63, .841 save percentage. Belanger has as perfect a demeanour as you could ask for in a backup goalie. He happily opens a door when he’s not playing, takes shots at any time of practice or warmup his starter is focused on something else, and most importantly is ready to step in and play an excellent game like he did Sunday to help keep a Black Wolves team that was disheartened by its showing Saturday night in the contest until they pulled their game together and almost managed to pull out a win to close the season…Curtis Dickson (Calgary): 4g, 3a. Became just the fourth player to ever score 60+ goals…Zack Greer (Saskatchewan): 5g. Just 2 goals shy of his career high despite missing a pair of games, Greer tied for second in the league in goals by a lefty (Pat Saunders had 44 to the 42 posted by Greer and Adam Jones)…Rhys Duch (Vancouver): 6g, 7a. Fourth in goals, fifth in points and Duch may well not make an all-star team because the competition is so fierce among righties. A great season with his second 100-point year and a career high by 8 points (111)…Callum Crawford (Colorado): 8a. Finished with a flourish to tie the single-season assists record of 83…Randy Staats (Georgia): 2g, 5a. Speaking of strong finishes, Staats had 43 points in his last six games to break the rookie scoring mark and finish in the top 10 overall…Robert Hope (Colorado): 4CTO. Won’t win the defensive player of they year but should appear on several ballots. He’s as steady a defender as you’ll see and has ratcheted up his nastiness just enough… Brodie MacDonald (Georgia): 35/41, .854 save percentage. Big night for the big man in helping the Swarm advance to the playoffs…Mark Steenhuis & Ryan Benesch (Buffalo): 4g, 3a & 3g, 4a respectively. When New England assigned one defender to lock off Dhane Smith after he’d scored four times, the pair of Bandits highlighted the problem with that system by taking up the slack…Cody Jamieson (Rochester): 4g, 6a. In six seasons in the NLL, Jamieson has scored 28 goals twice, 36 goals three times and 35 this year…John Grant, Jr. (Colorado): 3g, 3a. This was the lowest-scoring full season of Junior’s career, but he still got into the top 20 in scoring…Mark Matthews (Saskatchewan): 1g, 6a. Hit a new high with 69 assists and firmly established himself as the top lefty in the game…