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LAXMetrics Week 21: Fields’ Ridiculous Weekend

Connor Fields saved his best for last. When his team needed a borderline miracle, Fields seemingly bent space and time to lift the Rochester Knighthawks into the unlikeliest of playoff spots.

Entering Week 21, just over 3% of the remaining playoff scenarios involved the Knighthawks. To say that their chances of making the postseason were remote before the weekend started would have been an understatement. Yet, with the playoffs squared to open this weekend, the Knighthawks sit as the 8-seed, having overcome the longest of odds. How did it happen?

In addition to receiving some help from around the league, the Knighthawks received one of—if not the—most remarkable individual efforts in a single weekend this season. This edition of LAXMetrics powered by the NLL is an ode to Connor Fields’s heroics and an effort at providing context for one of the league’s most superb individual efforts this year.

In two games—both wins—Fields scored 11 goals and accounted for a total of 16 points. Fields ascended to rarified air, becoming the first and only player this season to eclipse the 10-goal threshold in a weekend. Prior to the weekend, only seven players had accounted for eight or more goals in a single weekend. Of those seven, three managed to bury eight goals in one game. The remaining four—Robert Church, Will Malcom, Connor Kelly, and Chris Boushy—each used back-to-backs to achieve the feat. Boushy, who scored nine times in a pair of Rock wins in Week 14, had been the league’s single-weekend goal-scoring leader. Fields breezed past Boushy’s mark and did so while accounting for a significantly higher percentage of his team’s goals.

While Boushy accounted for 29% of Toronto’s goals in their Week 14 sweep, Fields chipped in 47.8% of Rochester’s goals in their playoff-clinching Week 21 sweep. The only player to account for eight or more goals in a weekend who scored a greater proportion of his team’s goals was Las Vegas forward Casey Jackson, whose eight goals against Vancouver on March 15th accounted for 61.5% of the Desert Dogs’ scoring total. By scoring seven of Rochester’s 12 goals on Sunday, Fields accounted for 58% of his team’s scoring—the second-highest single-game mark in the league this year. No player has accounted for a greater percentage of his team’s goals in a back-to-back weekend than Fields.

Fields’s scoring wasn’t only impressive in the context of a single weekend, it was one of the best two-game stretches in the league this year. Overall, Fields’s 11 goals tied him with Panther City’s Callum Crawford for the 3rd-best two-game stretch (regardless of week) in the NLL this year. Only Jackson, who netted 13 goals between Weeks 15 and 16, and Keegan Bal, who scored 12 times between Weeks 17 and 18, piled up more goals in a two-game stretch this season. Again, no player accounted for more goals in a single weekend than Fields did in Week 21.

From a points standpoint, Fields posted the 2nd-best weekend in the NLL this year. Only Toronto’s Mark Matthews, who piled up 17 points in Week 14, compiled more points in a single weekend. But while Matthews’s 17 points factored into only 54.8% of Toronto’s goals in Week 14, Fields’s 16 points in Week 21 touched 69.6% of Rochester’s goal total.

What is particularly remarkable about all of these numbers is the fact that Fields was able to lead his team to a perfect 2-0 weekend. Of the players to score eight or more goals in a back-to-back weekend, only Chris Boushy and Toronto join Fields in having won both games. In fact, each of the other three players to score eight or more goals in a back-to-back lost both games. Historically speaking, relying heavily on one player to score goals in a back-to-back weekend is a recipe for trouble, not for success. True to form, Fields beat the established odds in leading Rochester to consecutive wins.

From an advanced stats perspective, Fields’ Week 21 performance provided his season numbers with a significant boost.

Per LaxMetrics.com, Production Rating (pRating for short) is an advanced metric that considers the totality of a player’s production as a passer and scorer. Fields entered the weekend with a pRating of 2.11, which was one of the five best marks in the league. After Week 21, Fields boasts a pRating of 2.55, making him one of just four players with pRatings of 2.50 or better. The other three players to accomplish the feat are Buffalo’s Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne and New York’s Jeff Teat.

Rochester Nighthawks at Georgia Swarm 04.19.24 (Photo: Asher Greene)

Similarly, Fields saw a massive jump in his scoring efficiency numbers. Goals Over Expectations is a stat that uses a player’s shot total to project approximately how many goals he should score to be in line with a league average efficiency mark. If a player’s Goals Over Expectations is 0.00, then his scoring efficiency is perfectly in line with the league average. If his Goals Over Expectations number is above 0.00, then his scoring efficiency is better than the league average. If his Goals Over Expectations number is below 0.00, then his scoring efficiency is considered to be below the league average. Fields entered Week 21 with one of the most underwhelming scoring efficiency numbers in the league. He had scored -7.50 Goals Over Expectations, illustrating a scoring efficiency well below the league average and actually among the bottom 10 percent of forwards.

After Week 21, Fields now claims a Goals Over Expectations of -3.45. While his season scoring efficiency is still below average, the fact that Fields was able to add more than four full goals to his efficiency numbers is staggering. Callum Crawford’s eight-goal outburst against Las Vegas is the only other instance in which a player improved his Goals Over Expectations mark by more than four goals in a single weekend.

But even in the face of these incredible stats and milestones, the most impressive part of Fields’s explosive weekend was the degree to which his team needed his contributions. Fields accounted for nearly half of his team’s goals and factored into well over half of them in two absolute must-win games. There may have been a handful of more impressive or historic statistical performances this weekend, but none came under the pressure and with the stakes faced by Fields’s Rochester team in Week 21. Great players perform every weekend, but legendary players save their best games for the most important moments. Add Fields to the lexicon of all-time clutch NLL performances. His Week 21 effort is one of the most impressive in league history given the stakes.