Which National Lacrosse League stars showed up for their teams in NLL Week 7? Check out a preview of Stephen Stamp’s Three Stars below for a recap of top performers from an eventful weekend featuring five games around the league.
“Great players make teams great,” Stamp writes. “There’s not always a direct line connection, but to excel as a team you need to have players who make a difference. When Shawn Evans went to the New England Black Wolves, it was obvious that he would make a difference. It just wasn’t obvious how quickly he could lead them to contention given the number of holes it appeared the team needed to fill.”
Nature abhors a vacuum. With John Tavares nearing the end of his storied career in Buffalo, someone had to step up and be the leader of that team. The torch has effectively been passed to Dhane Smith, who leads the league in scoring by a much wider margin than the one point he’s ahead of Callum Crawford, given that Smith is producing 8.3 points per game.
The 3 Stars don’t often align so perfectly with the top overall players in the National Lacrosse League. In Week 7, though, they just may correspond to the leading early candidates for league MVP.
Shawn Evans, New England Black Wolves
6 goals, 6 assists
Evans scored the first goal of the game. A little over 58 minutes later he scored the last goal of regulation time, tying things up at 15 with six seconds to play after Stephan Leblanc had scored what looked like it would be the game winner with 18 seconds left. Evans also earned an assist on the overtime winner. His impact on the team has been immediate and inspirational. He’s the captain, the leading scorer and the heart and soul guy who is making everyone around him better. If things keep going the way they have for the first third of the season, this could be Evans’ most impressive year in the NLL. That’s really something for a player who has won two of the last three MVP awards.
Dhane Smith, Buffalo Bandits
5 goals, 8 assists
Smith is averaging 9 points per game over his last five and 8.3 per game for the season so far. He is the most dangerous one on one player in the game because of his quickness, skill and versatility. He’s on pace to score 63 goals, 87 assists and 150 points. He almost surely won’t keep up those rates for the full season. The way he’s playing, though, it just doesn’t seem impossible that he could. That’s how impressive Smith has been.
Logan Schuss (Vancouver): 2g. 8a. 28 points in his last three games. Schuss is developing into an all-around threat who has to be accounted for every time he’s on the floor…Johnny Powless (Georgia): 4g, 4a. Lest anyone think the Stealth are cleaning up on the trade, Powless appears here because he’s also been fantastic since the lefty forwards were swapped for each other. It’s the classic good-for-both-sides trade…Cody Jamieson (Rochester): 4g, 5a. When Jammer wound up to shoot in overtime Saturday, was there anyone who didn’t think the ball was going in? He’s as clutch as they come and the most dangerous shooter in the world from the top of the offence…Rob Hellyer (Toronto): 3g, 6a. Lost among the rubble that has been Toronto’s season so far is the performance of Hellyer, who is having another great year for the Rock…Ryan Dilks (Saskatchewan): 3LB, 7CTO. Dilks is the runaway leader in caused turnovers with 4.4 per game and is making a legitimate case for himself as the best defender in lacrosse…Robert Hope (Colorado): 14LB, 5CTO. On a game in, game out basis, not many players have been more consistently excellent in the defensive zone than Hope…Cory Vitarelli (Rochester): 4g, 3a. One of his goals, on which he sent a defender reeling through the crease by driving his shoulder into him before stopping to shoot, showed why Vitarelli is the prototypical power forward…Angus Goodleaf (Rochester): 29/36, .806 save percentage. Completely changed the complexion of the game when he stepped in for an ineffective Matt Vinc. There’s no goalie controversy in Rochester, but there’s also no hesitation to turn to Goodleaf if he’s needed…Garrett Billings & Rhys Duch (Vancouver): 3g, 5a each. Duch is there for the Stealth every game; Billings is getting back to being one of the best players in the league as he completes the recovery from his knee injury…Pat Saunders & Kevin Crowley (New England): 4g, 2a each. When I spoke to New England GM Rich Lisk after Shawn Evans was acquired, he said they thought Saunders…